12/03,2012
ISSUE:524

                       


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Comprehensive News List
General Food Safety News/ Outbreak News/ Recall News/ New Methods News/
USDA/FDA News
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Food Safety Bloopers Volume 4
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/food-safety-bloopers-volume-4/
By Linda Larsen (Dec 2, 2012)
The current issue of Ladies Home Journal is the focus of this week’s Food Safety Bloopers. One of their articles suggests that for gift giving, we donate to a charity in someone’s name, then give that person a homemade gift. That is a wonderful idea. But there’s a problem with one of the gifts described.
The magazine gives directions for making rosemary-flavored oil, by putting rosemary sprigs in oil in a pretty bottle. This is an extremely dangerous practice, as herbs can carry Clostridium botulinum spores from the soil in which they are grown. Oil is the perfect anaerobic environment for the spores to grow and produce botulism poison. A tiny amount of that poison, which is odorless and tasteless, can paralyze and kill.
The Colorado State University Extension states that for safety reasons, these oils should be refrigerated (which the directions do not state) and used within three days. Because you have no way of knowing whether the product will be handled properly, it is irresponsible to give as a gift. The risk, although small, is too great.
Commercially prepared herb-in-oil and garlic-in-oil mixtures are perfectly safe to eat because they contain preservatives or have been treated to kill bacterial spores. Choose commercially prepared infused oils instead of making them yourself.
If you want to give a homemade gift using herbs, make herb-infused vinegars instead. The acid content of vinegar discourages the growth of botulism spores and other bacteria, although some vinegars can support the growth of E. coli bacteria. For safety, don’t overpack the bottle, and heat the vinegar to just below boiling before pouring over the herbs. Follow the directions at the CSU site.

Buffalo-Area E. coli Outbreak Victims to Sue Lettuce Supplier
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/buffalo-area-e-coli-outbreak-victims-to-sue-lettuce-supplier/
By Denis Stearns (Dec 01, 2012)
3rd Lawsuit to be filed by Marler Clark and Underberg & Kessler alleges mother and daughter-in-law became ill with E. coli infections after eating salad supplied by Massachusetts-based State Garden.
Seattle-based Marler Clark and Rochester-Buffalo-based Underberg & Kessler will file a third lawsuit against salad supplier State Garden Monday on behalf of a mother-and daughter-in-law who became ill with E. coli infections after eating organic spinach and spring mix in October.  The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Buffalo on behalf of Sanborn, NY resident Beth Duerr and her daughter-in-law, Erica Duerr, of North Tonawanda, NY.  Two previous lawsuits filed by the law firms were brought on behalf of Rochester-area plaintiffs.
According to the complaint, Beth Duerr purchased an Organic Spinach and Spring Mix salad blend manufactured by State Garden on October 18, 2012.  Erica Duerr, her husband and their 2 children—one an infant she had given birth to just 2 weeks before—visited Beth’s home the weekend of October 19.  During the visit, both women consumed the salad mix.
By October 22, Erica had fallen ill with symptoms of E. coli infection, including nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea.  A registered nurse, Erica was aware of the risks of passing an infection to her newborn baby and was therefore unable to care for, nurse or even touch the baby.  The following day, Erica’s stool became grossly bloody and her husband raced her to the emergency department.  After treatment for dehydration and a CT scan, Erica was diagnosed with colitis.  She declined to stay in the hospital overnight since she wanted to be home with her family, but her symptoms continued to worsen to the point where she was too weak to stand.  Her husband brought Erica back to the ER later that same day for more treatment and an overnight stay.
Beth Duerr, who was helping take care of her grandchildren during Erica’s illness, fell ill with an E. coli infection on October 27.  She too sought treatment at the ER, and while there learned that a stool sample Erica had submitted for testing was positive for the strain of E. coli O157:H7 that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has associated with a 28-person E. coli outbreak among residents of 5 states.

USDA announces recall of frozen, butter chicken with rice, imported from Canada
Source : http://www.registercitizen.com/articles/2012/12/01/news/doc50ba133cd9495137215557.txt
By registercitizen.com (Dec 01, 2012)
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is alerting the public of a recall being conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Canadian Establishment 720, Aliya’s Foods Limited, for approximately 4,865 pounds of frozen butter chicken and rice products imported from Canada, which may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
CFIA oversees the recall in Canada and FSIS is overseeing the effectiveness in the United States. FSIS will verify that those companies who have received product from the Canadian-initiated recall have been notified and have removed product from commerce, and will take appropriate action if prohibited activity is found.
Products imported to the United States include:
• 12.5 oz boxes of “Trader Joe's Butter Chicken with Basmati Rice” with product code “2012-10-31” and lot code “30512”
The product being recalled is considered ready-to-eat (RTE) and subject to pathogen testing since FSIS has zero-tolerance for pathogens in RTE foods at time of production, even if that food requires heating for proper serving.
While 19 cartons of product are on hold at the distribution center, 240 cartons have been distributed to Trader Joe’s retail stores. Trader Joe’s has contacted these stores directly and instructed them to pull the recalled product off the shelf.
FSIS is concerned that consumers may have received or purchased this product but have not yet been notified about the recall. The retail distribution list will be updated as information is gathered, and is posted on FSIS' website at: www.fsis.usda.gov/FSIS_Recalls/Open_Federal_Cases/index.asp.
Consumers with questions about this product should contact Trader Joe’s Customer Relations at (626) 599-3817. Media inquiries should be directed to Alison Mochizuki at (626) 599-3779.
FSIS reminds consumers of the critical importance of following package cooking instructions for frozen or fresh products and general food safety guidelines when handling and preparing any raw meat or poultry.
Consumption of food contaminated with Listeria 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 without these risk factors can be affected. Continued...

Report: Almost 70% of pork meat is contaminated with bacteria
Source : http://www.voxxi.com/pork-meat-contaminated-with-bacteria/
By Hope Gillette (Dec 01, 2012)
Sixty-nine percent of pork meat – pork chops and ground pork – sampled during a Consumer Reports study were found to be contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria. According to a report from CNN, 3 to 7 percent of the samples also contained salmonella, staphylococcus aureus or listeria monocytogenes. All of the pathogens found in pork meat are known causes of food-borne illnesses.
“Our analysis of pork-chop and ground-pork samples from around the U.S. found that yersinia enterocolitica, a bacterium that can cause fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, was widespread,” said Consumer Reports in a statement. “Some samples harbored other potentially harmful bacteria, including salmonella. And there are more reasons to be concerned about ‘the other white meat.’”
Many of the bacteria found in the pork meat were considered resistant to multiple drugs or classes of drugs, including antibiotics, which study authors explain is concerning because it promotes the need for more expensive, stronger antibiotic use in order to treat the illnesses caused by those bacteria.
The study also found that no all pork meat was the same – ground pork was more likely than pork chops to harbor dangerous pathogens, and many labels regarding hormone use found on pork products were inaccurate.
Hormone use, states Consumer Reports, is not allowed in pork meat production, therefore labels stating “no hormones added” were considered misleading.
69 percent of pork was found to have harmful pathogens (Shutterstock photo)
The report was met with criticism from pork farmers, and The National Pork Board issued a statement regarding the Consumer Report findings.
“American farmers produce some of the safest pork in the world.   We care about the safety and quality of the pork products that we know our consumers love.  We believe Consumer Reports has not accurately portrayed the safety and quality of pork products,” said the statement.
The National Pork Board does, however, agree with the food safety recommendations listed in the report in addition to the findings.
“For consumers who are interested in food safety, there is one point in the Consumer Report’s story that pork producers can agree with,” Steve Larsen, director of pork safety for the Pork Checkoff, said in the Board statement.  “The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has determined that cooking whole muscle pork cuts to 145 degrees F. and allowing the meat to rest at least three minutes before serving, and cooking ground pork products to 160 degrees F., will destroy all bacteria, even those that might be antibiotic-resistant.  For consumers seeking information about pork safety, preparation, and handling, the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service Fact Sheet on pork is an excellent resource.”

Report Finds High Rates of Bacteria in Pork
Source : http://www.foodproductdesign.com/news/2012/11/report-finds-high-rates-of-bacteria-in-pork.aspx
By Food Product Design (Nov 29, 2012)
YONKERS, N.Y.—A new Consumer Reports' investigation released Nov. 26 found high rates of the bacterium yersinia enterocolitica in pork chop and ground pork samples obtained from grocery stores. A separate test also found very low, but detectible, levels of the antibiotic ractopamine in the meat.
Consumer Reports tested 148 samples of pork chops and 50 samples of ground pork obtained grocery stores in six U.S. cities. Yersinia enterocolitica was present in 69% of the samples; Enterococcus in 11%; Staphylococcus in 7%; Salmonella in 4%; and Listeria in 3%. The report also noted that some of the bacteria found in the pork were resistant to multiple drugs or classes of drugs.
In a separate test, about one-fifth of the 240 pork products there were analyzed detected low levels of the drug ractopamine, which the United States approved in 1999 to promote growth and leanness in pigs event though it is banned in the European Union, China and Taiwan.
As reported by Meatingplace, American Meat Institute Foundation President James Hodges issued the following statement regarding the investigation: “The most critical takeaway for U.S. pork consumers is this: U.S. pork remains among the safest in the world and consumers needn't change their eating habits despite a new article released by Consumer Reports that is based upon a limited sample of the U.S. pork supply. All pork products must be processed under the watchful eye of USDA inspectors or they may not be sold. Consumers should choose the products they prefer knowing that all must meet the same food safety standards in order to bear the USDA seal."
This latest report comes just two months after a Consumer Reports’ investigation “worrisome levels" of arsenic in organic rice baby cereal, rice breakfast cereals, brown rice, white rice and other types of rice products, and just one year after its controversial investigation that revealed 10% of apple juice samples, from five brands, had total arsenic levels that exceeded federal drinking-water standards.

Opposition renews call for outside audit of food safety system
Source : http://www.torontosun.com/2012/11/29/opposition-renews-call-for-outside-audit-of-food-safety-system
By Kristy Kirkup ,Parliamentary Bureau (Nov 29, 2012)
OTTAWA — The opposition renewed demands Thursday for an audit of Canada's food inspection system following reports about an inspection agency memo that seems to suggest the safety of meat bound for Japan trumps the safety of meat intended for sale here.
The internal memo from 2008 was written by a Canadian Food Inspection Agency meat hygiene supervisor at XL Foods, the company at the centre of the recent E. coli outbreak and subsequent nationwide beef recall.
The NDP and Liberals have long called on the government to follow through on the recommendations of the investigation into the 2008 Listeria crisis, including an audit of the food safety system.
In 2010, former CFIA president Carole Swan confirmed the department only completed a "review" of the system.
"Do the audit now," NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen said during Thursday's question period.
CFIA has said an advisory committee will look at what led to the E.coli calamity at XL Foods but there are no plans to audit the system. Kristy.Kirkup@sunmedia.ca

FDA Says Rapid Response Helped Contain Sunland Peanut Butter Salmonella Outbreak
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/fda-says-rapid-response-helped-contain-sunland-peanut-butter-salmonella-outbreak/
By Kathy Will (Nov 29, 2012)
The Food and Drug Administration has released a consumer update, stating that their rapid response helped contain the Salmonella Bredeney outbreak linked to Sunland peanut butter. The product that caused the outbreak was Trader Joe’s Creamy Salted Valencia Peanut Butter made with Sea Salt. The outbreak sickened 41 people in 20 states. Attorney Fred Pritzker, who has represented people in outbreaks like this, said, “Sunland had a responsibility to produce their peanut butter in a clean and safe environment. Ready to eat foods especially must be wholesome and free of contamination, or people will get sick.”
The outbreak was originally spotted in early September 2012, when reports of Salmonella Bredeney infections began. Many of those sickened were children, which raised a red flag with the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) Network. Trader Joe’s peanut butter was suspected as a source, although officials did not know who the contract manufacturer was.
Valencia peanuts are grown primarily around the Portales, New Mexico area. The Denver District Office of the FDA informed officials that a plant in Portales, Sunland, was known to make peanut butter for Trader Joe’s. The FDA went to the plant to investigate. They collected hundreds of environmental swabs from equipment, floors, and other surfaces in the facility, and dozens of samples from finished products. The outbreak strain of Salmonella was found in the environmental samples and finished products. Unfortunately this was not the first time Sunland had had problems. Between March 2010 and September 2012, eight product lots of nut butter containing Salmonella was distributed to consumers. And FDA inspections found problems at the Sunland plant in 2007, 2009, and 2010.
Peanut butter can be a problematic food. The product must be produced in a highly sanitized environment, since Salmonella is in the soil where peanuts are grown, and on the nuts when they are harvested. Roasting the peanuts is the only “kill step” for Salmonella when making peanut butter.
The Sunland recall resulted in dozens of derivative recalls, including products such as ice cream, pet treats, candy, granola bars, whole peanuts, Starbucks protein Bistro Boxes, and Smucker’s Uncrustables, which were sold in the national school lunch program. The FDA worked with Sunland to remove these products from store shelves. On November 26, 2012, the FDA suspended Sunland’s Food Facility Registration, prohibiting them from distributing food. This was the FDA’s first use of its registration suspension authority under the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010.
The last reported illness was September 21, 2012. But some consumers may not know they have a product that has been recalled. Look carefully at the complete list of recalled products at the FDA web site. If you have one of them, discard it or return it to the place of purchase for a refund. And if you ate any peanut products and experienced the symptoms of Salmonella, including vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, chills, or headache, see your health care provider.

CDC: Salmonella from Tahini Sickened 23 Last Year
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2012/11/government-reports-2011-salmonella-outbreak-linked-to-tahini/
By Gretchen Goetz (Nov 29, 2012)
Sesame seed paste containing a rare strain of Salmonella sickened 23 people in 7 states and the District of Columbia last year, reveals a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The article, published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report last week, marked the first time the government has told the public about the Salmonella Bovismorbificans outbreak, which lasted from August through November of 2011.
Illnesses were largely concentrated in the Mid-Atlantic region, with eight in Washington, D.C., seven in Maryland, three in Virginia and one apiece in Delaware and New Jersey. Three cases were also reported outside this region – one in California, one in Michigan and one in New Hampshire.
The hunt for the outbreak source was a long one, complicated by the fact that the vehicle turned out to be an ingredient mixed into a finished product.
While health officials had located the outbreak strain of Salmonella in hummus made at a D.C.-area restaurant by mid-November, it would be another six months before imported tahini was named as the contaminated ingredient in the hummus.
The Investigation
The outbreak was identified September 27, 2011 when the District of Columbia Public Health Laboratory found that Salmonella isolated from three different patients had matching DNA fingerprints. They checked the DNA patterns they had found against PulseNet, the national pathogen subtyping database used for disease surveillance, and discovered that six other infections of this strain had been reported over the last 60 days. A total of 23 cases would eventually be linked to the outbreak.
Interviews with 22 of the victims revealed that 20 had eaten in a restaurant in the D.C. metropolitan area in the week before getting sick. The focus was further narrowed when 14 out of 15 patients asked about restaurant type said they had eaten at a Mediterranean-style restaurant.
Hummus was the most commonly reported food, eaten by 10 out of 15 patients interviewed about specific food types.
When asked about restaurant names, 13 out of 15 patients had eaten at one of three Mediterranean-style restaurants, which CDC deemed Restaurant A, Restaurant B and Restaurant C for its report. All three restaurants turned out to have the same owner. Health officials then learned that food for all three locations was prepared at Restaurant A.
Investigators from the D.C. Department of Health visited Restaurants A and B and collected 15 samples of finished product. The outbreak strain of S. Bovismorbificans was found in a sample of hummus from Restaurant A.
This led health officials to ban distribution of hummus and all hummus ingredients from Restaurant A.
“When the investigation team felt like we had sufficient evidence of a possible exposure associated with one of the three restaurants, we worked quickly to restrict the sale of the suspected food to customers by issuing an embargo,” said Tiana Garrett, officer at CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service and part of the investigation team in an interview with Food Safety News.
“We were really diligent in looking for illnesses with an onset date after that embargo, but we didn’t find any,” Garrett said.
Health officials believed this was a sign that, by embargoing the hummus, they had likely curtailed the outbreak.
Ingredients – A Tricky Outbreak Vehicle to Uncover
But the question remained – what ingredient in the hummus was contaminated?
“We always have to take into consideration if there are particular ingredients associated with preparation of foods that may need to be investigated as well,” explained Garrett. “In this particular outbreak, when it was determined that the hummus was associated with foodborne illness, we knew that hummus was prepared with different ingredients, so we wanted to make sure that we looked at those individually.”
But samples collected from all ingredients used to make the hummus tested negative for Salmonella Bovismorbificans, meaning there would be no proof in the pudding.
And it didn’t look like patient interviews would provide any more answers.
“Ingredients are considered a “stealthy” vehicle for foodborne illness, said Garrett. “Patients may not be aware they were exposed to a particular ingredient used to prepare a food item, and that makes it difficult to trace.”
Another thing to consider was that a contaminated ingredient that ended up in the hummus may have come into contact with other foods, sickening those patients who didn’t report eating hummus.
“It’s also possible that other foods they had eaten may have been prepared in the same environment with the tahini and then somehow some tangential exposure may have happened there,” said Garrett. “We wouldn’t know about those instances if the patient wasn’t able to report them.”
Though the outbreak was over, the investigation into its source remained unfinished as 2011 drew to a close.
The missing link was found in May of the following year, when a traceback by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed that the tahini used to make Restaurant A’s hummus had recently been associated with multiple Salmonella outbreaks in Canada. All tahini linked to these outbreaks had been imported from the same company in Lebanon.
FDA has now mandated that all tahini products coming from this foreign company be tested for Salmonella before entering the U.S. and has recommended that U.S. and Canadian officials partner to inspect the tahini manufacturing plant.
Why Wasn’t the Public Notified?
While a foodborne illness outbreak in ongoing, it is common practice for CDC (in the case of a multistate outbreak) or state and local health departments to issue warnings to the public, naming the implicated food if a source is suspected and illnesses can still be prevented, or simply alerting people that there has been a spike in infections from a certain pathogen.
However, a search of public health advisories issued by the D.C. Department of Health, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Virginia Department of Public Health from the time the outbreak was detected through when it ended reveals that no alerts about the outbreak were issued by the three health departments who reported multiple illnesses in their states.
Garrett explained that the outbreak investigation team, which included state health officials and representatives from CDC, chose not to issue a public health advisory because no more illnesses occurred after hummus was identified and embargoed on November 18.
“We didn’t have any additional cases with onset dates that occured after the embargo,” said Garrett. “As a group we collectively decided that it wasn’t necessary to notify the public; however if we had found additional cases after the embargo we would’ve considered notifying the public.”
While the onset of the last illness recorded was actually on November 21, 3 days after the embargo was issued, it is possible this victim ate the contaminated hummus before the embargo was implemented.
During its investigation of Restaurants A, B and C, the D.C. Department of Health also discovered multiple food safety violations at the establishments, including inadequate food temperature control, insufficient hand washing and the presence of pests and insects, reports CDC. Since these restaurants have not been named, Food Safety News could not access their inspection reports in D.C. Department of Health’s inspections database.
Public Health Lessons
S. Bovidmorbificans is rarely seen in the United States, having been identified in only five other foodborne outbreaks in the country since 2001. This is the first time the strain has been implicated in a Tahini outbreak in the U.S.
However, Garrett says, this outbreak highlights an important public health lesson: tahini, or sesame seed paste, is a known vehicle for foodborne bacteria. The substance is high in fats, and therefore provides an ideal home for bacteria, much as peanut butter does, explains the CDC report.
“The main message that we wanted to convey in the article is how important it is for public health officials and consumers to be informed that products that are made with imported sesame pastes have been shown to be associated with Salmonella outbreaks and that they should be considered as possible sources for foodborne illness in the United States in the future.”
In fact, contaminated sesame seed paste was in the news less than 10 days before the CDC article was published after a supply of tahini was stolen from a California importer’s warehouse, where it was being stored because a sample had tested positive for Salmonella. The tahini, which had been imported from Lebanon, was awaiting destruction. FDA warned the public that the stolen, potentially contaminated tahini may be on the market.
Garrett says this tahini is not known to be linked to the product that caused last year’s outbreak.
“To the best of my knowledge, the tahini manufacturer mentioned in this article is not the same as the one that was implicated in our outbreak,” said Garrett in an e-mailed statement to Food Safety News.

Safe peanut butter, and beyond
Source : http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-fda-peanut-butter-20121129,0,7978260.story
By Los Angeles Times (Nov 29, 2012)
The FDA used new power to shut down a peanut butter plant, but other parts of the Food Safety Modernization Act haven't been implemented.
The bins of peanuts outside were uncovered, food safety inspectors reported, allowing birds to do on them what birds do. Employees failed to wash their hands regularly or to practice other basic hygiene. Salmonella was found in dozens of locations throughout the plant, which had shipped jars of peanut butter even though its own tests showed they were tainted with the potentially deadly bacteria. After more than 40 people were sickened, the plant closed voluntarily in September and the company's products were recalled. And yet Sunland Inc. announced plans to reopen the New Mexico facility, which sold organic peanut butter to Trader Joe's and other markets.
Citing the conditions at Sunland as well as its history of health violations, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put at least a temporary hold on those plans Monday, suspending operations at the plant and exercising for the first time its new authority to shut down potentially dangerous food facilities. Luckily for consumers, this was made possible by the Food Safety Modernization Act, signed into law nearly two years ago — and long overdue even then. But other, much more sweeping changes required by the law haven't yet been implemented.
The law doesn't simply expand the FDA's authority; it calls for an overhaul of food safety enforcement that relies more on prevention than on punishment of errant food producers. Foreign companies, whose products make up an ever-larger share of domestic food consumption, will be required to show that their plants meet U.S. standards, and the FDA will form partnerships with food safety agencies in those countries to bolster its global inspection reach. Domestic food businesses will be required to develop their own science-based safety programs, subject to FDA approval, and inspections will be stepped up at plants that handle foods deemed to be at higher risk for food poisoning, such as leafy greens or salads containing mayonnaise.
Provisional regulations were supposed to be released a year after the law was signed — in January — but that hasn't happened. The FDA did its job, delivering the new regulations to the Office of Management and Budget in late 2011. But the OMB hasn't moved them forward. Some theorize that this was a political decision by the Obama administration, to avoid implementing sweeping regulations during a campaign marked by Republican complaints of over-regulation (though the bill passed Congress with significant Republican support).
The FDA's decisive move to keep the Sunland plant from reopening shows how necessary the new law was. Surely one of the most important regulatory missions of government should be assuring the safety of what we eat. Implementation of the rest of the law is past due.

Canadian Food inspection agency denies standards higher for exported beef
Source : http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/alberta/Canadian+Food+inspection+agency+denies+standards+higher+exported+beef/7628277/story.html
By Canadian Press  (Nov 30, 2012)
OTTAWA — The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the same safety standards apply to meat for domestic consumption and for overseas exports and reports to the contrary are “categorically false.”
The embattled federal food safety agency is reacting to a media report that inspectors at the XL Foods processing plant in Brooks, Alta., were told to ignore contamination on cattle carcasses unless they were destined for Japan.
A memo to inspectors, dated September 2008, does indeed instruct them to ensure all “Japan-eligible” beef has been 100 per cent verified for removal of fecal, intestinal and spinal-cord materials.
The same memo tells inspectors at the “Japan Dura Mater” station on the production line to ignore such contamination for meat that is not destined for Japan.
But a spokeswoman for the agency says the memo was about division of labour and that the Japan inspection station was not the end of the line.
Lisa Gauthier of the CFIA says in a release that there is “zero tolerance for any form of contamination” and that there are multiple points of detection along the processing line.
XL Foods was the scene of the largest beef recall in Canadian history this fall after meat contaminated with E. coli was stopped at the Canadian-American border in September.
People in at least four provinces were found to have been made ill by the E. coli strain and the XL plant only reopened at the end of October.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz issued a release in an effort to assure consumers there is not a two-tier inspection system for domestic and export purposes.
“CFIA continues to ensure the meat sold in Canada is just as safe as meat being exported to other markets — including Japan,” Ritz said.
“CFIA continues to ensure that meat processed in Canada meets our high food safety standards. This is required by law and acknowledged by our global customers as a superior food safety system.”

Help with Food Product Problems
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/help-with-food-product-problems/
By Linda Larsen (Nov 28, 2012)
The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is ready to help if you have experienced a problem with a food product. Whether you find a foreign object in a packaged food, or get sick after eating something you suspect may be contaminated, there are places you can go for help.
Food Poisoning Bulletin has received quite a few questions about how to handle food that has been recalled or who to contact about a potential issue. If you believe there is a problem with meat, poultry, and processed egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. For restaurant problems, call the Health Department in your city, county, or state. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) handles complaints about all other food products. You can reach them at 1-888-723-3366, or write to them.
Preserving the food, if it is something you purchased from a grocery store, farmer’s market, or street vendor, is critical to the investigation. Keep the original container, any foreign object that you found in the food, and uneaten portions. Refrigerate or freeze the food if possible to preserve it. Knowing the UPC number, establishment number, location of the place of purchase, along with date of purchase all help.
If you do become ill after eating food, see a health care provider. He or she can conduct tests to see if you are infected with a pathogenic bacteria. Stool samples are evidence in court cases and help provide government officials with information to identify and stop food poisoning outbreaks.
And here’s the bottom line: “when in doubt, throw it out.” The amount of money you waste by discarding a potentially harmful food is minuscule when compared to the cost of hospitalization, lost wages, and doctor’s bills of a foodborne illness.

FDA flexes new food safety law to shut down Trader Joe's peanut butter plant
Source : http://www.scpr.org/blogs/news/2012/11/27/11274/fda-uses-new-food-safety-law-shut-down-trader-joes/
By Lisa Brenner (Nov 27, 2012)
In September, more than 70 types of peanut butter and almond butter were folded into a large-scale recall of Trader Joe's Creamy Salted Valencia Peanut Butter after 29 salmonella illnesses in 18 states were linked to that product.
On Monday, the peanut butter manufacturing facility — the largest organic processor in the country — was effectively shut down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration when the agency flexed its new food law authority and suspended the company's required registration.
Says the FDA:
In the interest of protecting public health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suspended the food facility registration of Sunland Inc., a producer of nuts, and nut and seed spreads...
...The fact that peanut butter made by the company has been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Bredeney that has sickened 41 people in 20 states, coupled with Sunland’s history of violations led FDA to make the decision to suspend the company’s registration. 
The FDA was able to halt plant operations by way of the Food Safety Modernization Act — a measure they call "the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years" — which was signed into law by President Obama in 2011.
The new food safety measure gave the FDA authority to suspend Sunland's registration based on "reasonable probability" of causing serious health problems or death. Previously, the FDA would have had to go to court.
The plant, which also produced hundreds of different organic and non-organic peanut products for Whole Foods, Safeway, Target and other large grocery chains, closed voluntarily after the September poisoning episodes, but planned to reopen on Tuesday, reports the Associated Press.
Sunland's Katalin Coburn said FDA's decision to suspend the registration was a surprise to the company and Sunland officials had assumed they were allowed to resume operations. The company now has the right to a hearing and must prove to the agency that its facilities are clean enough to reopen.
According to the AP, FDA inspectors found that Sunland shipped products that tested positive for salmonella, and that the company also ran tests that failed to find salmonella when it was present. The agency reported the presence of Salmonella in 28 different locations at the plant, in 13 nut butters samples, and in a sample of raw peanuts.
They also reported open bags of ingredients, unclean equipment, employees putting bare fingers into empty jars before they were filled, and trailers of uncovered peanuts exposed to rain and birds outside the facility.
Many of the same violations were noted in inspections dating back to 2007, however government officials did not take action or release the inspection results until after the illnesses were discovered this year, notes the AP.
Earlier this month, Sunland's president and chief executive officer, Jimmie Shearer, denied in a statement that the company ever knowingly shipped tainted products.

Report: Pathogens Found in Pork Products
Source : http://supermarketnews.com/food-safety/report-pathogens-found-pork-products
By SUPERMARKET NEWS (Nov 27, 2012)
YONKERS, N.Y. —  A Consumer Reports study found strains of harmful bacteria in different cuts of pork.
The investigation, which tested 148 samples of pork chops and 50 samples of ground pork, found the pathogen yersinia enterocolitica in 69% of samples and salmonella, staphylococcus aureus or listeria monocytogenes in 3 to 7% of samples. Chops had fewer bacteria than ground pork.
“Antibiotics are routinely fed to healthy animals at low levels.  This practice promotes the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria which are a major public health concern,” said Dr. Urvashi Rangan, director of safety and sustainability at Consumer Reports, in a statement. “Infections caused by resistant bacteria are more difficult to treat and can lead to increased suffering and costs.”
Consumer Reports also said that 11% of the samples had Enterococcus, a bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections.
One fifth of 240 separate samples contained low levels of Ractopamine, a legal drug used to make pigs lean. The Consumer Union said the drug is illegal in China, Tawain and the European Union.
The different bacteria the group found was most often resistant to one form of antibiotics.
The report is a continuation of Consumer Reports’ Meat on Drugs campaign against meat raised with antibiotics. Earlier this fall, SN reported on an event where the Consumers Union delivered a petition to Trader Joe's.

CFIA Statement on Capital Packers Shutdown for Listeria Monocytogenes
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2012/cfia-statement-on-capital-packers-shutdown-for-listeria-monocytogenes/
By Linda Larsen (Nov 27, 2012)
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has released a statement about the Capital Packers facility  (Establishment 231) in Edmonton, Alberta that produced the recalled Capital brand and Compliments brand ham sausages. Government investigators found a positive sample of Listeria monocytogenes on the sleeve of a worker’s uniform.
The plant was closed when the CFIA found that the company had deficiencies in their recall program and had not corrected those problems. Companies officials told the CFIA that they had control of the potentially contaminated products, but they actually were distributed to retail subsidiaries. The government also found that “adequate controls for food safety are not being fully implemented in the facility and that the company has failed to consistently meet federal food safety standards.”
The suspension notice was delivered on November 22, 2012. The company is also recalling all products produced on the line associated with the detection of Listeria. Capital brand 300 gram ham sausages, and Compliments brand 375 gram ham sausages are being recalled. There are six additional lines that may be implicated. More sampling is being done by the CFIA. No positive samples have been found in food products.
The CIFA currently has control of all products at the plant. Since April 1, 2012, the CFIA has issued 11 corrective action requests to Capital Packers; five of those requests are still open. The company will not be able to resume business until they have fully implemented corrective actions.

Total Recall: Food Safety Precautions Increase Recalls
Source : http://www.equities.com/news/headline-story?dt=2012-11-26&val=755189&cat=goods
By Liz Webber Penton Business Media (Nov 27, 2012)
Industry insiders have noticed a possible unintended side effect of more stringent food safety procedures: more product recalls.
“I think there’s been a lot more recalls since there’s been that final product testing that’s being conducted, a lot of times at the retail level,” said Dan Vache, vice president of supply chain management at United Fresh Produce Association.
Overall food recalls have increased by over 300% since 2008, according to Gale Prince, founder of SAGE Food Safety Consultants, Cincinnati, although fresh food categories have not been disproportionately affected. Prince previously served as director of corporate regulatory affairs at Kroger Co. and has over 40 years of industry experience.
However, the spike in recalls has not impacted all retailers in the same way.
“Industrywide, there does seem to be an increase in the number of recalls,” said Maria Brous, director of media and community relations at Publix Super Markets, Lakeland, Fla. “However, at Publix, we have seen a reduction in recalls. We would like to believe that this can be attributed to our suppliers that have embraced and implemented the Global Food Safety Initiative.”
GFSI is a set of food safety guidelines put forward by an international non-profit industry group.
Such voluntary initiatives could eventually go a long way toward decreasing the number of recalls or at least reducing the impact of a recall by providing a more targeted approach to removing defective products from the supply chain.
That is one goal of the Produce Traceability Initiative, a voluntary program that aims to set up an industrywide system to electronically track cases of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the entire supply chain, from the farm to the individual store.
Read more: Sprout Growers Form Safety Alliance
Such procedures will someday allow retailers and suppliers to recall just the cases that are known to have a problem, rather than every single item from a farm or retailer.
“And if you can do that quickly and consistently then everyone’s confidence is built up and we have a safer supply chain from the fact that we can remove, in a very surgical manner, any product that may be implicated,” said Vache.
PTI implementation started with growers and shippers and has been working its way down the supply chain. Vache said it would probably be 2014 by the time retailers executed the final steps of PTI, but many have started putting the protocols in place.
“On this Produce Traceability Initiative, we have requested our vendors to use the PTI stickers on all the produce coming into our facility. We’re currently at about 50% compliance from the vendors,” said Jack Brown, chairman and chief executive officer of Stater Bros. Markets, San Bernardino, Calif.
“Once we’ve completed this compliance from all vendors, we will be able to integrate that information into our receiving system,” he added.
Publix has also worked with suppliers to use PTI to track the 100 million cases of fresh fruits and vegetables that are shipped from its distribution centers to stores each year.
“As of the first quarter of 2012, Publix was the first retailer to successfully implement this as a requirement with all produce suppliers. We are also working collaboratively with the Institute of Food Technologists as part of a Traceability Working Group to improve traceability throughout other food commodity groups,” said Brous.
Read more: Recall Touches More Peanut Products
Another retailer to watch is Wal-Mart Stores, although the company is “not making any public statements,” said Vache.
“They are working on it. And they expressed to their supply side that, ‘We’re working on this, and we expect you to be following the course of the PTI, too, so that when we do roll out our ability to record and store information that you’re labeling the cases,’” said Vache.
A spokesperson for Wal-Mart declined to comment on the chain’s participation in PTI.
New Ways to Communicate
Another evolving aspect of fresh food recalls is how retailers communicate with customers. With instant access to loyal followers, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are an easy way to reach those who may have purchased a recalled product.
“We also post information on Class I recalls on our website and on our Facebook page,” said Jamie Miller, manager of public and community relations for Giant Food, Landover, Md.
“I would say it’s just another avenue, another communication avenue for us to communicate to our customers for recalls or other situations where there’s a sense of urgency to get the word out to our customers,” he added.
Read more: Food Safety Concerns Remain Constant
But while social media posts can be a convenient method for informing  customers, they can also provoke a negative response if retailers don’t carefully control the conversation.
For example, when Hannaford Supermarkets posted about a national recall on its Facebook page in August, it received multiple negative comments about the perceived high number of product recalls at the chain.
Conversely, one of Wegmans Food Markets’ Twitter followers found fault with the fact that the retailer didn’t announce a particular November recall on the social media site.
“The manufacturer and the retailer must monitor various social media channels and respond to consumer issues immediately. Disgruntled consumers can quickly do damage to a company’s brand equity by spreading inaccurate information regarding a recalled product,” said Prince, the food safety consultant, who is known as the “dean of product recalls.”
As much as social media usage has grown, many retailers still turn to tried and true methods for alerting customers about recalls.
“Consumer research indicates that the leading source for consumers to learn of product recall information is through television,” said Prince.
Stater Bros. often provides information to local TV stations in the event of a recall. “We think they’re an important part of informing our customers, obviously, that there’s a concern,” said Brown.
Ultimately, the most effective way to find out which consumers have purchased a recalled product is through detailed membership card data, like that utilized by Costco Wholesale Corp., because the retailer keeps track of every item each member purchases, said Vache.
“And they have a system that they email you, they will place a phone call to you to say, ‘Listen there could be potential issues with this product. Please return it or destroy it.’ So they’re very proactive.”
Giant Food performs a similar service, but only for customers that used a loyalty card when making the purchase and have provided sufficient contact information.
“We make calls to customers who we’ve identified who may have purchased defective product through the card data information that we have,” said Miller.
Read more: Lots of Citrus
Vache noted that such loyalty cards provide an incomplete picture because they are optional and may not be used on each shopping trip, but he expected more retailers to follow the Costco model in the future.
“Now, the majority of retailers do not have that capability, because they’re not tracking every purchase that you make,” said Vache.
“But I think that eventually we’ll see more and more of that.”
Sidebar: FSIS Adds Online  Complaint Form
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service introduced a new online form earlier this fall for consumers to report problems with meat, poultry and egg products.
Although the FSIS has been fielding complaints since 2001 through a consumer hotline that is staffed during weekday business hours, the Electronic Consumer Complaint Form gives consumers more flexibility in when they submit comments because it is available 24 hours a day, said Dr. David Goldman, assistant administrator for the FSIS Office of Public Health Science.
“Creating the online form was really about providing good customer service and a channel for the public to reach us in a way that is most comfortable for them,” said Goldman.
The ECCF allows for consumer feedback when an item purchased is mislabeled or misbranded, contains allergens or foreign objects, causes illness or injury, or just looks or tastes “off.” As with other FSIS reporting tools, the online form asks for information about the retailer from which the consumer purchased the defective product.
Goldman said he expects the ECCF to lead to more reporting by consumers, and so far that has been the case. Complaints across all channels doubled in October compared to previous months, with ECCF submissions accounting for 37% of total complaints.
“Increased reporting may provide more information FSIS can use to determine whether the source of a complaint originated from the producing facility or if there are trends indicating that the problem may have originated at retail,” said Goldman.

Illinois McDonalds Link to Salmonella
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/illinois-mcdonalds-link-to-salmonella/
By Bill Marler (Nov 26, 2012)
The McLean County Health Department and the Illinois Department of Public Health are currently investigating a cluster of salmonella cases who reported eating at a variety of restaurants in Central Illinois from October 18 through November 11.
The McDonalds on South Main Street in Bloomington was found to have a suspected connection to the salmonella cases. The health department discussed the situation with the franchise ownership, at which time they chose to voluntarily close in an abundance of caution. No substantial information was discovered to connect the establishment with the cluster of illnesses until over the holiday weekend. It is still early in the investigation; however, the suspected link does not seem to be a certain food, but rather human transmission.
The employees of the establishment are being tested and will be allowed to return to work as lab results confirm they are safe to serve food to the public.

 

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