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FoodHACCP Newsletter
02/04,2013 ISSUE:533

Yes, even Organic Food can make you Sick
Source :
By Bill Marler (Feb 03, 2013)
This is another it what will be a long – too long – series of outbreak investigations where we have represented consumers in what I hope will be a cautionary tale, and a learning experience, for manufacturers of food.
On October 3, 2012 the Lake County Health Department (LCHD) learned that stool specimens collected from two students who attended St. Anne Catholic School in Barrington, Illinois were positive for Salmonella.  A third student was symptomatic and stool tests were pending.  The school nurse had seen ten other students with complaints of stomachaches. LCHD Nurse Epidemiologist, Shawn Cesario, reported that the two students with salmonellosis were in different grades, that illness onset dates were one day apart (September 20 and September 21) and that both were on the school hot lunch plan.  LCHD environmental staff inspected the school kitchen on October 4 and found no issues with the school kitchen facility.  They learned that OrganicLife, a foodservice provider with headquarters in Wheeling, Illinois, supplied meals at St. Anne.
On October 9, 2012 the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) confirmed that the three St. Anne students were laboratory confirmed with an indistinguishable strain of Salmonella Enteriditis (SE). Pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) testing revealed the strain was JEXG01.0023. IDPH alerted local health departments in the area about the cluster of salmonellosis in students at St. Anne Catholic School.  Public health officials were advised to report SE illnesses to IDPH. More patients with strain JEGX01.0023 were quickly identified through heightened surveillance.  Case-patients were enrolled at six different private schools located in the City of Chicago, in Cook County, and in Lake County.  OrganicLife provided meal service to all six schools.
Epidemiologic investigation
Patients and parents/guardians of ill children were interviewed about symptoms, foods consumed, contact with ill persons, and other potential exposures for a Salmonella infection.  In addition, all parents/guardians of children who attended school with a confirmed case of SE were asked to complete a survey about foods their children consumed at school.  This allowed investigators to compare answers among ill students (cases) and non-ill students (controls).  A “confirmed” case was defined as a student at one of the 6 schools who was laboratory confirmed with Salmonella Enteriditis Strain JEGX01.0023 with symptom onset between September 10, 2012 and October 12, 2012.  A “probable” case was defined as a student at one of the schools who had diarrhea and/or vomiting and fever in that time frame but who did not test positive for Salmonella.
In total 8 patients laboratory confirmed with Salmonella Enteriditis Strain JEGX01.0023 and 9 probable were identified among students who attended 6 schools in the Chicago area.  Illness onsets ranged from September 14 to October 10. All six schools received food from OrganicLife.  Sixteen of the 17 cases reported eating school lunch.  Information was not available for one case.  No particular meal date or food item was statistically associated with illness.  Investigators attributed the lack of statistically important findings to the fact that students ate lunch on multiple days and issues of case/control recall of foods eaten.
Environmental investigation
While kitchen facilities at all six schools were inspected, the environmental investigation focused on the OrganicLife food service facility located at 281 East Messer Drive in Wheeling, Illinois.  On October 12, 2012 Cook County Department of Public Health staff person, Katie Daley, made the first on-site visit occurring as food was being prepared at the facility.  Ms. Daley noted multiple critical food safety violations including improper storage of potentially hazardous foods (raw shell eggs), improper sanitation of utensils, poor employee hand washing practices, and multiple hot and cold holding errors.  The sanitation score that day was 62 out of a possible 100 points.  Ms. Daley provided immediate training to employees with regard to proper hand washing and glove use.  Inspectors would return to the OrganicLife facility 5 more times in October and twice in November.  Thirty-five of the 41 employees who worked at OrganicLife during the time period of the school illnesses submitted stool specimens for testing.  (Six employees were let go or quit prior to submitting specimens.)  None of the food handlers tested positive for Salmonella.
Public health investigators summarized their investigation in a report issued December 3, 2012.  They concluded that an outbreak of Salmonella Enteriditis occurred among students at six private schools who received school lunches from OrganicLife from mid-September to mid-October 2012.  Investigators theorized that an infected food handler through poor personal hygiene contaminated food.  They attributed negative stool test results to a delay in specimen collection.  Stools were collected nearly two weeks after the last symptom onset in a student.  The report notes that factors that may have contributed to bacterial proliferation included improper cold and hot holding temperatures observed during the inspection.

Green Hope Subject to Permanent Injunction for Violations of Food Safety Regulations
Source :
By Kathy Will (Feb 03, 2013)
Green Hope LLC, doing business as Rosewood Products in Michigan has agreed to a consent decree of permanent injunction for violations of FDA food safety regulations. The decree was signed by Judge David M. Lawson in the Eastern District of Michigan on January 28, 2013. The company was sent a Warning Letter on May 6, 2011 informing them of the problems found by FDA inspectors. The company makes and distributes organic tofu, soy milk, and other products.
FDA inspections of the facility found many violations involving insanitary conditions.  FDA inspectors found that the company employees did not follow hygienic practices while on duty. One employee used his mouth to siphon liquid through a plastic hose from a kettle containing ready to eat tofu. Employees also handled tofu with bare, uncovered arms. Utensils and tools were used and cleaned improperly, causing water residue to come in contact with the food.
In addition, an employee “touched heavily soiled mechanical power switches, covered with a thick black colored residue, then immediately placed his hands into cooling steamed soy milk to remove the film formed on top.” Another employee’s work apron came into contact with the waste container, then came into contact with cloths used for pressing ready-to-eat tofu.
No illnesses have been reported to date implicating Rosewood Products’ food. Green Hope must stop operations until the FDA approves steps taking to bring the facility into full compliance with the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and FDA food safety regulations. The facility must be re-inspected before the plant is allowed to open.

A Beef Company More Interested in Litigation than Food Safety
Source :
By Bill Marler (Feb 02, 2013)
This is another it what will be a long – too long – series of outbreak investigations where we have represented consumers in what I hope will be a cautionary tale, and a learning experience, for manufacturers of food.
Nebraska Beef and its meat-processing plant had a long history of safety and health violations, and had repeatedly been the target of USDA efforts to shut it down, long before I got it in my sights.  Nebraska Beef’s history was summarized in a front-page, investigative news article that was published in the Washington Post, which stated:
Nebraska Beef has a contentious history with the USDA. Over the past six years, federal meat inspectors have repeatedly written it up for sanitation violations, and the company has fought back in court.
From September 2002 to February 2003, USDA shut down the plant three times for problems such as feces on carcasses, water dripping off pipes onto meat, paint peeling onto equipment and plugged-up meat wash sinks, according to agency records.
After the third suspension, Nebraska Beef took USDA to court, arguing that another shutdown would put the company out of business. A judge agreed and temporarily blocked the department. The USDA and the company then settled out of court and inspections resumed. However, when federal meat inspectors found more violations, Nebraska Beef sued the department and the inspectors individually, accusing them of bias. The suit was later dismissed. [1]
The hundreds of safety and sanitation violations from April 2002 through February 2003 include dozens of instances of documented fecal contamination—the major source of E. coli O157:H7—on beef carcasses and other cut meat items. There were also repeated instances where failures were identified in the plant’s E. coli testing program. And nearly every violation for that time period involved the plant’s failure “to prevent insanitary conditions or the adulteration of product.”
Ultimately, it was the history of food safety violations, and the threat the plant and its meat products posed to the public health, that prompted the USDA to conduct a “comprehensive public health assessment…during the week of September 2, 2002.” According to the legal brief later filed by the USDA in its attempt to shut down Nebraska Beef’s plant and operations:
That assessment was conducted because Nebraska Beef was one of the few suppliers of meat products used to prepare ground beef which was identified to contain E. coli O157:H7.  The evidence…will show that Nebraska Beef provided a large amount of the meat products used to prepare the contaminated ground beef.
Accordingly, USDA argued that the Court should not prevent it from shutting the plant down, explaining:
FSIS has determined after extensive oversight that Nebraska Beef’s HACCP system is not working, and that its products are being produced under insanitary conditions that may make them unsafe for human consumption…. Anyone who might handle or consume Plaintiffs’ [Nebraska Beef] products is therefore being exposed to greater than normal risk.
There was ample evidence that Nebraska Beef continued to run its meat-processing plant in a way that put the public at a “greater than normal risk” when consuming its products. This risk was because the plant’s HACCP and other safety systems—e.g., Standard Sanitation Operation Procedures (SSOP’s) and E. coli testing program—were insufficient or simply not working.
In 2006, following an outbreak of E. coli linked to Nebraska Beef meat the USDA once more tried to shut down Nebraska Beef’s plant. Specifically:
On August 3, 2006, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued establishment 19336, Nebraska Beef, a Notice of Intended Enforcement (NOIE).  This decision was based on the finding noted during the Comprehensive Food Safety Assessment performed at [its] establishment from July 10, 2006 through August 3, 2006.
Not coincidentally, this time period was the one leading up to and including the same time period as the 2006 Outbreak.   In late July and early August 2006, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) became aware of an E. coli outbreak among residents of, and visitors to, Longville, Minnesota.  MDH began epidemiologic and environmental health investigations of two clusters of E. coli cases, and learned that one cluster was among members of the Salem Lutheran Church in Longville who had attended one of two church spaghetti meals served in July.
MDH conducted a case-control study; seventeen people met the case definition.  Of these, three people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and one patient died.  Attendance at the church’s July 19 smorgasbord dinner was significantly associated with illness.
MDA and MDH learned that ground beef used to make meatballs for the church meal, as well as the ground beef served by numerous area restaurants, was purchased at Tabaka’s Supervalu, and conducted a trace-back investigation to determine the source of the ground beef.  Investigators found that Supervalu sold ground beef from its July 10 shipment of chuck rolls supplied by Interstate Meat to three Longville restaurants in the same time period as the sale to church members.
The MDA traceback of the chuck rolls from Interstate Meat revealed that the “most plausible” source of the chuck rolls delivered to the Supervalu store was the Nebraska Beef processing plant.  In addition to this, the USDA reported that a sample of beef trimmings collected on June 14, 2006 at a processing plant cultured positive for E. coli O157:H7, and that the isolate was indistinguishable by PFGE analysis to the outbreak strain.  The processing plant was determined to be Nebraska Beef, the company that most likely supplied the implicated chuck rolls to Tabaka’s Supervalu.
Ultimately, MDH concluded that ground beef sold by Tabaka’s Supervalu was the source of the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Longville and that the ground beef was likely contaminated at the Nebraska Beef facility before it was received at the Supervalu store.  Nebraska Beef’s response was to sue the church.
The NOIE Letter that FSIS sent to Nebraska Beef on August 3, 2006 is replete with examples of unsafe and insanitary practices and conditions at the plant in the months—if not years—leading up to the Longville E. coli outbreak.  FSIS notes numerous noncompliances, including: the insufficiency and failure of its E. coli testing program; the failure to maintain or implement SSOP’s in compliance with regulatory requirements; and HACCP system that was inadequate because it “allowed adulterated product to be produced,” and failed to meet numerous other regulatory requirements.
After the Longville E. coli outbreak, Nebraska Beef was involved in another E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked by FSIS, CDC, and other public health officials to contaminated meat products like those implicated in the present case—i.e., 60-pound boxes of Nebraska Beef chuck rolls. See, e.g. FSIS Recall No. 022-2008.  According to FSIS:
[it] has concluded that the production practices employed by Nebraska Beef, Ltd. are insufficient to effectively control E. coli O157:H7 in their beef products that are intended for grinding.  The products subject to recall [including chuck rolls] may have been produced under insanitary conditions.
The cited practices and conditions have also been explicitly linked to insufficiencies that were subject to FSIS Noncompliance Reports as far as April 25, 2002 involving, among other things, insanitary practices in the fabrication area—i.e., the part of the plant where carcasses are turned into primal and subprimals.
As of July 17, 2008, the CDC reported 49 confirmed E. coli O157:H7 cases linked both epidemiologically and by molecular fingerprinting to this outbreak. The number of cases in each state was as follows: Georgia (4), Indiana (1), Kentucky (1), Michigan (20), New York (1), Ohio (21), and Utah (1).
The Nebraska Beef plant operated with a broken safety system for years.  USDA/FSIS had tried repeatedly to shut the plant down, a fact well-documented in the public record.  Nebraska Beef was more interested in fighting the USDA/FSIS – and the ladies of the church – than focusing on the changes it needed to do to make its meat safe.
[1]           Annys Shin and Ylan Q. Mui, Whole Foods Recalls Beef Processed At Plant Long at Odds With USDA, at A01, August 10, 2008; Tice Aff’d, Ex. B.

Russia to Ban U.S. Meat Over Ractopamine Residues This Month
Source :
By Helena Bottemiller (Feb 01, 2013)
Russia will ban U.S. pork and beef imports starting this month over concerns about ractopamine, a veterinary drug commonly used in North America to boost growth and leanness that is increasingly controversial overseas, according to Russian media reports.
“Since the violations continue and we are finding ractopamine in meat shipments from the USA, we plan starting February 11 to impose restrictions on the import of this product,” Sergei Dankvert, the chief of Russian veterinary and food safety service, Rosselkhoznadzor, told Interfax.
U.S. trade and agriculture officials have rebuked Russia’s position as retaliatory and unscientific.
“The United States is very concerned that Russia has taken these actions, which appear to be inconsistent with its obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in December when Russia first announced it would test beef and pork imports for the drug. “The United States calls on Russia to suspend these new measures and restore market access for U.S. beef and pork products.”
U.S. interests believe the ban is a retaliation for the Senate approval of a bill that punished Russian officials linked to the death of Sergei Magnitsky, who died in a Russian prison after accusing authorities of embezzlement. The ban was announced hours after the bill passed. Russian agriculture officials maintain that their new policy, which has been in the works for months, is not politically motivated, but a response to lingering questions about the safety of ractopamine.
On Wednesday, Rosselkhoznadzor said it had informed the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service “that despite the repeated warnings the growth promoter ractopamine prohibited for use in Russia was detected during the laboratory monitoring of imported food product safety in pork consignments produced by plant No.17D and beef liver produced by plant No.235 which was a crude violation of Russian and CU animal health requirements.” (The same day, Russia’s veterinary service announced it was rejecting 22 tons of  fruit, including grapes, apples, and strawberries, from China because of a compliance with plant health requirements and 63 tons of fruits and vegetables, supplied mostly from Poland, for pesticide residues that exceeded Russian standards. Products imported from Turkey and Italy were also rejected.)
In response to the new policy on ractopamine, Canada and Brazil have reportedly given Russian authorities assurance that pork and beef exports will be certified ractopamine-free before being shipped to Russia.
The drug, which is a beta-agonist and mimics stress hormones, is fed primarily to swine and cattle in the weeks leading up to slaughter to improve the rate at which the animals convert feed to lean muscle. It was first approved by the FDA in 1999 for pigs, and has since been approved for cattle and turkeys.
Around two dozen countries have approved ractopamine as safe for use, but the European Union, China and several other countries, including Russia, ban their producers from using the drug. Last year, Taiwan had a contentious debate over whether to accept imports that contained low levels of the drug.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service does very limited testing for the drug, but the agency has never found levels that violate the U.S. residue limits, according to the data posted online. A recent test conducted by Consumer Reports of 240 pork samples found that about one in five were positive for very low levels of the drug — under 5 parts per billion (ppb), which is well under the FDA’s established MRL of 50 ppb for pork. The FDA’s MRL for beef is 30 ppb. The recently-adopted residue limit at the Codex Alimentarius Commission is 10 ppb MRL for both beef and pork.
Advocacy groups recently petitioned the FDA to lower the maximum allowed residue limits for ractopamine in domestic meat products and review the drug’s impact on animal welfare.
The fact that pork producers have reported a high number of adverse reactions to the drug was first reported by the Food and Environment Reporting Network in an report: “The drug has triggered more adverse reports in pigs than any other animal drug on the market. Pigs suffered from hyperactivity, trembling, broken limbs, inability to walk and death, according to FDA reports released under a Freedom of Information Act request. The FDA, however, says such data do not establish that the drug caused these effects.”
The FDA added a warning label to Paylean in 2002, noting that the drug could increase the incidence of “downers.”
The petition, filed by the Center for Food Safety and the Animal Legal Defense Fund, asks the FDA to immediately review the Codex standards and meet them or set “more health- and welfare-based standards.”

Keep These Food Safety Tips In Mind While Serving Snacks On Super Bowl Sunday
Source :
By Mary Beth Quirk (Feb 01, 2013)
You might think that throwing some hot cheese chili dip and shrimp cocktail on the table is all fun and games, and well, it is. But you should still be careful while serving snacks this Super Bowl Sunday so as to prevent getting guests sick. There are a few tips to keep your food safe and make sure your guests leave happy and not clutching their stomachs.
Part of the reason it’s so important to keep track of food safety during the big game is because of the length of the Super Bowl: There’s the pre-game, the actual game, the post-game wrap-up and oh, hey, suddenly that cheese dip has been sitting out for hours on end.
Our wise elder siblings at Consumer Reports note that the four hours the game usually takes is twice the amount of time bacteria need to multiply on any food that’s been sitting out at room temperature. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, a good safeguard against food mishaps is to serve cold items in a bowl nestled inside a bigger bowl with ice in it, and to use a hot plate for the warm stuff.
Anything that’s been left out for more than two hours without being heated or refrigerated should be tossed out, even if you find yourself starving at the end of the game.
A few other tips from the FSIS:
Dirty hands are your enemy: Finger foods are all the rage at such parties, but dirty hands are really good at spreading bacteria. You and your guests should wash up thoroughly with soap and water before and after handling any of the food. Clean up any surfaces bearing food as well, and wash serving platters before putting out more food.
Beware cross-contamination: If you left some raw chicken wings on your cutting board, make sure to either use another board for say, chopping vegetables so that the juices don’t transmit bacteria or wash it in between uses with hot, soapy water.
Don’t under do it: Make sure those meats and poultry are cooked all the way through with the help of a food thermometer. Steaks should be cooked to 145 degrees F followed by a three minute rest time, ground beef should be cooked to 160 degrees F, and all poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F.
If you want leftovers, chill: Put anything you want to save after the party directly into the fridge or freezer, dividing large amounts of leftovers into smaller shallow containers so they cool quickly. If it looks or smells funny already, chuck it.
And go, Baltimore Ravens/San Francisco 49ers! Depending on your preference, of course.

Did CDC Food Poisoning Study Give Produce A Bum Rap?
Source :
By Carla Gillespie (Jan 31, 2013)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a study of 11 years of food poisoning outbreaks this week. The report claims that produce in general and leafy greens in particular cause more food poisoning outbreaks than other foods. But did the CDC give veggies a bum rap?
On Tuesday, the CDC issued an early release of a report appearing in the March 2013 edition of Emerging Infectious Disease entitled: “Attribution of Foodborne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by using Outbreak Data, United States, 1998–2008.”  The study looked at foodborne illness outbreaks from 1998–2008.
Of the 13,352 food poisoning outbreaks that occurred during this time, the specific food source was only identified in 37 percent of them or 4,887 outbreaks. These were divided into 17 food categories:  fish, crustaceans, mollusks, dairy, eggs, beef, game, pork, poultry, grains-beans; oils-sugars [refined plant foods]; fruits-nuts; fungi; leafy; root; sprout; and vine-stalk vegetables. For almost half of the 4,887 outbreaks, the “implicated food vehicle” contained ingredients from two or more of these categories.  Apple pie, for example, would likely have grains, fruits, oils-sugars and dairy. “For each complex food outbreak, we partitioned the associated illnesses to the multiple implicated commodities in proportion to the relative numbers of illnesses in all simple food outbreaks that implicated those specific commodities.”
Leafy vegetables accounted for 23 percent of all illnesses, dairy for 14 percent, fruits-nuts 12 percent and poultry 10 percent, according to the report.  All produce categories combined (fruits-nuts and the 5 vegetable commodities) accounted for 46 percent of illnesses, followed by meat and poultry commodities with 22 percent.
The combined produce category accounted for 38 percent of hospitalizations followed by meat-poultry commodities for with 22 percent, according to the report. Dairy led the single commodities hospitalization rate with 16 percent, followed by leafy greens with 14 percent of outbreak-related hospitalizations, poultry with 12 percent  and fruits-nuts with 10 percent. Most deaths, 43 percent, were attributed to land animals, plants accounted for 25 percent of food poisoning deaths and 6 percent were attributed to aquatic animals.
The report also breaks things down into four broad groups of contaminants bacteria, chemical, parasitic and viral which are also broken down into subgroups. About 60 percent of the 4,587 outbreaks attributed to produce were caused by norovirus. And viruses as a category accounted for about 60 percent of illnesses attributed to produce.
“Unfortunately, this report leaves out some very important details about the causes of foodborne illnesses, specifically how and where pathogens are introduced into the food supply,” Scott Horsfall, CEO of California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) said in a statement on the organization’s website this week. “Because many produce items, particularly leafy greens, are eaten in their raw form, it is extremely important that safe handling is practiced throughout the supply chain,” Horsfall said. Norovirus is “‘almost always spread via food handling after the produce leaves the farm,” he said.

Horsemeat scandal a boon for DNA labs
Source :
By The New Zealand herald (Jan 31, 2013)
Ireland's surprise discovery this month of horsemeat traces in factory-produced burgers is boosting business for one trade: Forensics labs that use DNA fingerprinting to tell you what's on your plate.
Horsemeat, which costs a fraction of beef, might not be bad for you to eat but it's definitely bad for sales of products that are labelled as beef.
Until now, supermarkets and food processors have not used DNA testing to determine whether food products marked as chicken, pork, beef, lamb or fish contain bits of other animals. Experts say that's because such findings don't affect food safety, only the integrity of labeling.
But a growing list of food processors and retailers say they will introduce such testing after the Food Safety Authority of Ireland seeking to confirm whether food labels on meat and fish are accurate used DNA testing to show that even "pure" processed meat products often contain traces of other animals slaughtered in the same facilities or carried in the same vehicles.
Worse, the agency's testing found that bargain-brand burgers produced at the Silvercrest food processing plant for sale by British supermarket king Tesco contained up to 29 per cent horsemeat, a revelation that government and Silvercrest officials have pinned this week to a meat supplier from Poland.
Catherine Brown, chief executive of Britain's Food Standards Agency, told London lawmakers that the undisclosed Polish firm supplied frozen blocks of offcuts slaughterhouse leftovers that were labeled as "beef trim" but actually were a mixture of cow and horse.
Brown said consumers in Britain and Ireland may have been eating horsemeat-heavy burgers for up to a year.
And compounding that impression, another British supermarket chain, the Co-operative Group, has announced its own DNA testing had found 17.7 per cent horsemeat in one of 17 burger products pulled from its shelves earlier this month as a precaution. It blamed Silvercrest and immediately severed its supply contract with the company.
In Dublin, the government has also declined to identify the Polish company. Irish lawmakers accused Silvercrest of endangering the integrity of Irish meat exports by using ill-labeled imports to boost their profit margins.
Beef is Ireland's number one food export, and Tesco is Ireland's number one customer, accounting for nearly one-tenth of the country's annual 1.9 billion pounds (NZD$3.6 billion) in beef exports.
"I want to know how much Silvercrest paid for these boxes of 'beef trim' and if they paid below-market price for the meat," said Irish Senator Susan O'Keeffe.
"Most importantly, I want to know why Silvercrest thought it was appropriate to put 'beef trim' bought in Poland into burgers and label them Irish. I want to know what 'beef trim' is meant to be and how often other meats are added to 'beef trim' to bulk it up," she said.
Tesco, which saw its shares slump following the horsemeat discovery, has announced it will become the first supermarket chain to perform DNA tests on its meat products. Hours later, a second UK chain called Iceland that also received Silvercrest burgers tainted with traces of horse and pig meat said it also planned to start DNA testing.
"These checks will set a new standard," Tesco, the largest grocer in both Britain and Ireland, said in a statement. "We want to leave customers in no doubt that that we will do whatever it takes to ensure the quality of their food and that the food they buy is exactly what the label says it is."
Industry analysts expect other supermarket chains in Europe to follow suit, because the cross-contamination detected in Ireland is likely to happen in processed meat products worldwide.
While government authorities in Spain have yet to conduct such tests, the Spanish consumer rights watchdog OCU announced this week it had commissioned DNA tests on 20 factory-made burger products and found two that contained horsemeat. The OCU tests could only identify the presence of equine DNA, not its quantity.
Ireland conducted the DNA tests in one of its own labs, which found the presence of horsemeat, and sent the samples to a more sophisticated lab in Germany to break down the precise quantities of each species of meat in each sample burger.
"This sort of species testing simply has not been done in other nations. It looks like that's going to change," said Patrick Wall, the professor of public health at University College Dublin and former chairman of the Food Safety Authority for the 27-nation European Union.
Silvercrest supplied most of the supermarket chains in Ireland and Britain. After the Irish findings January 15, Silvercrest withdrew about 10 million burgers from those stores. It suspended all production a week later once a second round of DNA tests found more horsemeat traces in recently produced burgers.
Silvercrest's parent company, ABP Food Group, said in a statement it understood Tesco's decision and would introduce its own random DNA testing of products at all of its facilities in Ireland and Britain. Other Irish processors say they plan to follow suit.
Food policy experts say meat labels may eventually be changed in many countries to reflect the kind of warnings already familiar for people allergic to nuts: This beef product may contain traces of other animals.
Wall said consumers shouldn't be unduly unsettled by the Irish findings, which included results showing that most cheaply produced "beef" burgers also contained minute elements of pork. He said such molecular transfers were almost impossible to prevent though, until now they hadn't been measured.
"People need to understand how sensitive these DNA tests are," Wall said. "This thing will pick up molecules. So if horsemeat traveled in a refrigerated lorry one day and beef was carried in it the next day, molecules would travel over."
He also said if both horse and beef were processed at the same facility "you could get a carry-over of molecules."

Topps Meat E. coli – Two Strikes You’re Out!
Source :
By Bill Marler (Jan 30, 2013)
On September 7, 2005, the Albany County Health Department (ACHD) was notified that a child was hospitalized with a diagnosis of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).  Preliminary laboratory testing of the child’s stool had been conducted at St. Peter’s Hospital, and tests were originally negative for the presence of E. coli O157:H7.  ACHD arranged for the stool specimen to be sent to the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) Wadsworth Center for further testing.
On September 14, ACHD interviewed the child’s parents, and learned that on August 26 the child had consumed a Topps brand quarter pound beef patty that had been purchased at a Price Chopper store.  Most of the patties that came in the package of twelve frozen hamburgers had been eaten.  Two uncooked patties, however, were still in the parents’ freezer.
On September 15, the child’s stool sample results came back positive for the presence of E. coli O157:H7, and NYSDOH asked to test the leftover meat for the presence of E. coli O157:H7.    Six days later, on September 21, the NYSDOH Wadsworth Center reported that E. coli O157:H7 had been cultured in the beef patties collected from the parents’ freezer.
Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) analysis of the meat isolate and the child’s isolate showed the two were indistinguishable, confirming that the meat was the source of the child’s infection with E. coli O157:H7.  Those patties came from Topps Meat Company (“Topps”).
Strike 2 – You’re Out!
Two years later, on August 31, 2007 an online consumer complaint was filed with the USDA/FSIS after a Florida teenager fell ill after consuming a hamburger patty produced by Topps on July 12, 2007.  The 17 year old tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 on September 4, 2007.  This was followed by similar reports of illnesses connected with Topps product in New York State and elsewhere in the following days.  On or before September 8, 2007 the USDA had confirmed a sample from a Topps hamburger had tested positive for E. coli O157:H7 from the Florida teenager’s home freezer, yet no recall was begun.  Additional illnesses continued to be reported.
Topps and the USDA/FSIS took no action to remove its products from the shelves until September 25, 2007.   On that date, the USDA announced that Topps was recalling 332,000 pounds of ground beef due to contamination with E. coli O157:H7.  The initial recall encompassed only products produced on June 22, July 12, and July 23, 2007.   The New York Department of Health subsequently reported that an intact sample with a production date of June 21, 2007 had also tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.  At the same time, a USDA/FSIS conducted an inspection of Topps’ plant in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
The FSIS inspection of Topps’ plant and procedures at its Elizabeth, New Jersey facility on September 26, 2007 revealed alarming deficiencies in the firm’s safety programs.  The problems began with the raw materials.  Topps received boxed sub-primal products, which did not carry Certificates of Analysis (COA).[1]  Topps initially used these boxed sub-primal cuts only for non-ground product.   But, Topps then mixed the trim, the left-overs after butchering, with the raw materials being used for its ground beef products.  The trim was placed into the grinding operation without testing for E. coli O157:H7.  See Comprehensive Assessment of the Execution and Design of an Establishment’s Food Safety Systems.  This practice was in violation of federal regulations.  See 9 CFR 417.5 (a) 1.  The FSIS then concluded that this failure to ensure that product intended for grinding was free of E. coli O157:H7 called into question the “adequacy of the design and execution of your prerequisite program and HACCP [Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point] program.”  See Notice of Suspension.
FSIS inspectors also found various sanitation deficiencies at the facility.  During the pre-operational inspection FSIS personnel noted that “the patty making machine had gouges, cracks, and tears in the neoprene transfer belt used to move raw patties to packaging.”  The inspectors also noted a history of prior non-conformance records relating directly to raw product residue on equipment surfaces.  The FSIS concluded:
The recurring deficiencies of unsanitary equipment documented by USDA…provide evidence that [Topps] failed to re-evaluate the effectiveness of the sanitation SOPs [standard operating procedures].”
Part of the FSIS inspection included a reassessment of Topps’ HACCP plan, the plan ostensibly in place to ensure the safety of Topps’ ground beef.  FSIS reviewers found the HACCP plan severely lacking.  As an initial matter, the HACCP plan only addressed E. coli O157:H7 in one instance, identifying it simply as “a hazard not likely to occur.”   The remainder of the plan failed to address E. coli O157:H7 specifically at any other point.  FSIS also criticized Topps for failing to account for the increased prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 during the summer months, in violation of rules incorporated in 67 FR 62329.  Topps was also noted to lack documentation supporting either its sanitation or temperature control technology in violation of 9 CFR 417.5(a)(1) and 9 CFR 417.2(a)(1).  FSIS ultimately concluded that Topps had:
demonstrated a failure to adequately reassess your HACCP plan based on scientific data related to the prevalence of  E. coli O157:H7 in raw beef products and failure to support decisions that controls are in place for controlling  E. coli O157:H7 in your production process.
Not surprisingly, FSIS suspended Topps’ operations “in the interest of protecting the public’s health.”
As a result, on September 29, 2007, Topps finally expanded its recall to include a total of approximately 21.7 million pounds of frozen ground beef due to contamination with E. coli O157:H7.  The recall included all produces with un-expired sell by dates.  Ultimately, the Topps’ ground beef was linked to at least 25 E. coli O157:H7 infections in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.  See CDC Outbreak Investigation File.
And, shortly after that Topps, a company in business for some 75 years, closed its doors for good.
This is another it what will be a long – too long – series of outbreak investigations where we have represented consumers in what I hope will be a cautionary tale, and a learning experience, for manufacturers of food.
[1] A COA indicates that a particular lot has been tested and found negative for E. coli O157:H7.  Products that do not carry COA’s are not subject to any rigorous testing for the presence of E. coli O157:H7 because they are not intended for use in a grinding operation.

CDC: Fresh Food Makes You Sick
Source :
By Lynn Kuntz (Jan 29, 2013)
Okay, I’ll admit it, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) didn’t actually say “fresh food makes you sick." I just wanted to get your attention with the kind of headline usually reserved to lambast processed foods. But microbially speaking, fresh food is a frequent culprit of foodborne illness. As is just about everything else we eat.
CDC is publishing, for the first time,  a comprehensive set of estimates using data from more than a decade of foodborne disease outbreaks and previously published estimates on how many illnesses can be attributed to each food category. The paper, “Attribution of Foodborne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities By Using Outbreak Data, United States, 1998-2008" is being published in the March 2013 issue of the  Emerging Infectious Diseases journal.
Original CDC analyses  published in 2011 found that about 48 million people (1 in 6) get sick each year from food, with more than 9 million of these caused by the major pathogens CDC tracks. This new paper uses data from thousands of outbreaks to estimate the number of illnesses that can be attributed to each of 17 food categories, which are called “commodities." Researchers attributed 46% of illnesses to produce and found that poultry caused the most deaths in the ten-year period. The biggest, baddest bugs? Salmonella, which was responsible for an estimated one million-plus illnesses and norovirus, which may have caused over 5 million people to become ill.
So why the headline about fresh foods, you ask? The report stated that “more illnesses were attributed to leafy vegetables (22%) than to any other commodity; illnesses associated with leafy vegetables were the second most frequent cause of hospitalizations (14%) and the fifth most frequent cause of death (6%). Previous studies have shown that produce-containing foods were the food source for approximately half of norovirus outbreaks with an identified simple food vehicle during 2001–2008 and the second most frequent food source for E. coli O157 outbreaks during 1982–2002. Outbreaks of E. coli O157 infections transmitted by spinach and lettuce and Salmonella spp. infections transmitted by tomatoes, juice, mangoes, sprouts, and peppers underline concerns about contamination of produce consumed raw." And this timeframe doesn’t even include the recent cantaloupe-based food-poisoning outbreaks.
Not to say processed foods don’t make you sick The report says that “a risk-ranking model for listeriosis among ready-to-eat foods identified delicatessen meat as the highest risk food." During the ten years covered by the report, three large listeriosis outbreaks were attributed to turkey deli meat contaminated in the processing plant after cooking." And of course, we might mention the recent problems with peanut butter that fall outside the time of this analysis. Like the previous peanut butter recall before, distrubuting the peanut butter as an ingredient resulted in a widening circle of potential problems in other processed foods.
Dairy was also a commodity posing a high level of risk. The report stated “the dairy commodity was the second most frequent food source for infections causing illnesses (14%) and deaths (10%)." While those numbers were typically generated by improperly pasteurized products or those contaminated after pasteurization/processing (such as norovirus outbreaks associated with cheese). The researchers point out that the high consumption of dairy and issues related to Campylobacter spp. infection may have inflated the ranking of dairy. Interestingly, they also reported “a relatively high number of reported outbreaks associated with raw milk compared with the quantity of raw milk consumed." Not that raw milk advocates will be convinced that the product is prone to contamination since most seem inclined to ignore microbiology and concentrate on some Big Ag/Big Pharma/CDC conspiracy theory. (Oh and many thanks to the cheery folks at The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) for inspiring me to start off with a somewhat misleading headline with their press release titled: “CDC Results Shows Dairy Products are Leading Cause of Hospitalizations in Food Illness Survey." But, in a surprising moment of camaraderie, I found out they aren’t fond of raw milk, either.)
Oh and by the way, speaking of the my food is better than your food crowd, those vegetarians who smugly point fingers every time there’s a meat-based outbreak--guess what? You’re not all that safe. An estimated 26,000 (46%) annual hospitalizations were attributed to land animal commodities, 24,000 (41%) to plant commodities, and 3,000 (6%) to aquatic animal commodities.
All of this is a roundabout way to say that food science and food processing are not the enemy. I’d be willing to bet the farm (if I had one) that not a single illness was caused by a can of “processed" spinach. (Whether you could keep the slimy stuff down is a completely different issue, however.) But it points to some potential next steps to improve the safety of the food.
This was a very complex analysis and mentioned a host of factors play into interpreting the data. The report ended with some common-sense conclusions:
•The method attributed most foodborne illnesses to food commodities that constitute a major portion of the U.S. diet.
•When the types of food are consumed frequently, even those with a low risk for pathogen transmission per serving may result in a high number of illnesses.
•This type of is useful for prioritizing public-health activities; however, additional data is needed to assess per-serving risk. (While the report didn’t mention it, look for this data to be used to define “high-risk foods" for the purpose of FSMA implementation.)
• Other factors, such as the health benefits of consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables, must also be considered when assessing risk
But as anyone who’s taken a food microbiology class can attest: Food is a risky business. And it’s up to us to make it as safe as we can.

Putting food safety into play for your Super Bowl fest
Source :
By Amy Leap (Jan 30, 2013)
Maybe you don't have tickets to Super Bowl XLVII, but you can still enjoy a game day party at home.
Friends, food and drinks are all you need. A big-screen TV wouldn't hurt either.
Food is a key ingredient to a good party, said Joseph DeFranco, owner of J. DeFranco & Daughters Catering in Bangor. "But, if the food and drinks are not prepared correctly, the host could end up with severely sick guests," he said.
Avoid cross contamination
"The first rule before handling any food or cooking utensil is to wash your hands," DeFranco said.
Unclean hands are one of the leading ways to spread bacteria, and with the flu season in full swing, the U.S. Department of Agriculture warned it is more important than ever to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and hot water before preparing foods.
Cross-contamination happens not just when preparing the food. It can start the moment you put groceries in your shopping cart, according to Kathy Bernard of the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline.
"It is important to keep eggs, meat, poultry and seafood separate from all other foods," she said. "Whether in a grocery cart or in your refrigerator, the important issue here is to guard against cross-contamination."
For example, you do not want juices from raw meat or poultry in the shopping cart to drip onto foods, such as fresh produce — a food that is not usually cooked before eating, Bernard said.
Also, when refrigerating raw meat or poultry, place it on a plate or platter to keep the juices and blood from dripping onto other foods, or into your vegetable crisper, she said.
It isn't just keeping the utensils and plates used for raw meats separated from other utensils. You also need to consider food allergies, DeFranco said.
"It might not seem like a big deal when you use a utensil to stir a seafood dish and then use the utensil to stir another dish that isn't seafood, but it is," he said. "I have a seafood allergy, so it could be a huge problem for me."
In addition to separating utensils, the USDA stated it is important to use one cutting board for meats and one for vegetables and other foods to prevent cross-contamination.
Cook to proper temperature
When cooking foods ahead of time for a party, no matter what method of cooking used — stove, grill or microwave — "foods must be cooked to the recommended minimum internal temperature to be served safely," DeFranco said.
Raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops and roasts must register a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees on a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source, according to the USDA guidelines.
Microwave and cold spots
When using a microwave to cook food, the USDA recommends medium or 50 percent power for longer time periods on larger cuts of meat, in order for heat to reach the meat's center.
Sometimes when food is cooked in the microwave, uneven heat leaves cold spots where bacteria could survive. To eliminate cold spots, stir or rotate the food halfway through the microwaving time, Bernard said.
"If someone wants to serve more than just finger foods, like sausage and peppers, or some type of chicken, I suggest cutting the meat into smaller bite-size pieces," DeFranco said. "It makes it easier to heat the food, and the smaller pieces make it easier to eat."
Serving safe food
If the food has been stored in the refrigerator, it must be reheated to 40 degrees and then held at no less than 40 degrees, according to Bernard.
"On the buffet table you can keep hot foods hot with chafing dishes, slow cookers and warming trays," she said.
Cold foods need to be held at 40 degrees or colder, and a good way to keep foods cold is by nesting dishes in bowls of ice.
Fruits and veggies
Don't forget to wash the fruits and vegetables under running water, just before eating, cutting or cooking. The USDA does not recommend using soap, detergent or commercial produce washes, Bernard said.
Party hints
First, you need to decide how many friends you want to invite, said Haley Hogan, celebration expert at Party City's Stroud Township store.
Don't wait until the last minute to plan your party. The actual day of the Super Bowl is picked in advance, so you will have time to make up your guest list, send out invitations and decide what foods you are going to serve.
Make things as simple as possible. Keep all the food, drinks and eating utensils in one area, Hogan said. "Just make sure you have a variety of food and drinks for your guests. Not everyone will be a hot wings, beer-lovin' football fan."
Hogan suggested a taco bar that includes a variety of toppings and fillings, so guests get to pick and choose what they want to eat.
Use paper plates and plastic utensils. "Nobody is going to want to stick around after the party and help clean up, and you won't feel much like it, either," Hogan said.
When it comes to drinks, Hogan suggests beer and wine, plus one signature drink.
"Set up a margarita fountain or martini bar where guests can get creative. This will save you spending a lot of money on liquor that might get opened and not finished, plus it makes it easier to control how much people are drinking," she said.

CDC: Produce Biggest Player in Foodborne Illness
Source :
By Cole Petrochko (Jan 30, 2013)
Nearly half of all foodborne illnesses are caused by tainted produce, but the greatest number of attributable deaths are caused by poultry consumption, according to data released by the CDC.
Leafy vegetables were the source of the most foodborne illnesses from 1998 to 2008 -- accounting for some 22% of illnesses and 14% of hospitalizations -- and made up part of the 46% of produce-based foodborne illnesses during that decade, according to John Painter, PhD, of the CDC, and colleagues.
The analysis, released Tuesday, showed that poultry was responsible for nearly one fifth of all foodborne illness-related deaths (19.1%), mostly a result of contamination from Listeria monocytogenes or Salmonella bacteria, they wrote online in Emerging Infectious Diseases.
The researchers noted that over an estimated 9 million foodborne illnesses are acquired in the U.S. annually, but that "preventing these illnesses is challenging because resources are limited and linking individual illnesses to a particular food is rarely possible except during an outbreak."
In order to establish this first national estimate of foodborne illness, the CDC organized all state and local health departments' foodborne disease outbreak reports from 1998 to 2008 under 17 "mutually exclusive" food categories, such as leafy vegetables, vine vegetables, fruits and nuts, pork, fish, and eggs.
Reports contained information on whether an agent was confirmed or suspected and how that agent was confirmed, such as statistical evidence from an epidemiologic investigation, laboratory results, supporting data, previous similar experience, or other types of data. The authors noted that a "large proportion" of these reports were missing tests or documentation.
Also included in reports were the number of acquired illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths based on published estimated or available data.
Over the 10-year period, there were 13,352 foodborne disease outbreaks that caused 271,974 illnesses. Over one-third of the outbreaks -- 4,589 -- were associated with nearly half of all outbreak illnesses -- 120,321 -- and were sourced to a food vehicle with a single etiology. These illnesses were caused by a total of 36 viruses or bacteria.
Almost half of the included outbreaks contained complex food agents (49%) -- food agents that contained ingredients from more than one food group.
"Norovirus caused the most outbreaks (1,419) and outbreak-associated illnesses (41,257)," they wrote, noting that it was well above the median of all agents.
Outbreak data was used to form estimates of the 9.6 million estimated food-based illnesses. The investigators attributed 4.9 million illnesses to plant sources, 4 million to land animal sources, and 600,000 to aquatic animal sources.
Nearly half of all illnesses were the result of produce consumption -- sources from the fruits and nuts group as well as five vegetable categories -- and meat and poultry illnesses accounted for less than a quarter (22%). However, by individual category of food agent, dairy was the second most common source of foodborne illness (14%) after leafy vegetables.
"The high estimate for illnesses attributable to leafy vegetables was many times higher than the low estimate, which indicates that leafy vegetables were frequently found in complex foods," they noted.
Most hospitalizations due to foodborne illness were caused by dairy (16%), leafy vegetables (14%), poultry (12%), or fruits and nuts (10%). Most deaths were due to poultry (19%), dairy (10%), vine-grown vegetables (7%), fruits and nuts (6%), and leafy vegetables (6%).
Bacterial illnesses were most commonly spread through dairy, poultry, and beef sources, while plant sources were the most common source of viral pathogens.
The authors noted that overall illness data was based on a number of assumptions, such as the assumption that using the number of outbreak-associated illnesses "would enable better assignment of illnesses to commodities," that outbreak illnesses represented all illnesses, and that complex food-based outbreaks' agents of illness were proportional to the frequency of illnesses tied to individual agents.
They also noted that additional data on specific foods consumed would be needed to measure per-serving risks for various foods, but added that even foods with low risks for pathogens can result in large numbers of illnesses if consumed frequently enough.
"The risk for foodborne illness is just one part of the risk-benefit equation for foods; other factors, such as health benefits of consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables, must be considered," they concluded.
The authors said the study was limited by the absence of outbreaks caused by some agents, such as some that cause fatal illnesses. Other limitations included lack of credible intervals for estimated illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths; lack of data on chemical-based illnesses; and absent quality and quantity of data in some reports.

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Raw Flour Can Cause Foodborne Illness Outbreaks
Source :
By Linda Larsen (Jan 30, 2013)
Most savvy cooks know that raw eggs, meat, poultry, and shellfish should be handled with care because they most likely contain pathogenic bacteria. So they wash their hands after handling these products, take care to avoid cross-contamination, and sanitize surfaces after cooking. Cooking those foods will kill the pathogenic bacteria.
But did you know that uncooked flour can also be contaminated with pathogens? A study published in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease found that a cluster of Salmonella cases occurred in New Zealand in October 2008 linked to wheat-based poultry feed raw material. And raw flour caused an E. coli outbreak in the U.S. in 2009 that sickened 77 people in 30 states. In that case, the flour was in raw refrigerated,prepackaged cookie dough.
Scientists found that eating uncooked baking mixtures was associated with illness, even after adjusting for eggs. In the Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak in New Zealand, the PFGE patterns were the same for all of the isolates tested. The outbreak strain of the bacteria was found in flour taken from four patient’s homes, two unopened packages purchased from retail stores, and packages from three batches of recalled flour.
So when you’re cooking and baking, treat uncooked flour as you would any other potentially dangerous raw ingredient. Make sure you do not eat uncooked dough, even if you use pasteurized eggs. And if children are helping in the kitchen, have them wash their hands after touching flour, as well as raw eggs, meat, and poultry.

A Cannery Out of Control with Botulism and Bankruptcy as the Result
Source :
By Bill Marler (Jan 29, 2013)
This is another it what will be a long – too long – series of outbreak investigations where we have represented consumers in what I hope will be a cautionary tale, and a learning experience, for manufacturers of food.
On July 7, 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”)[1] learned that two siblings in Texas were critically ill with botulism and that their illnesses were likely acquired by eating contaminated food.  The two children were admitted to pediatric intensive care, and there required mechanical ventilation.  The CDC released doses of botulinum antitoxin,[2] which was administered to the children the next morning.
Four days later on July 11, public health officials in Indiana reported to the CDC that a married couple in Indiana was suspected of having foodborne botulism.  Serum samples were collected from each of them on July 10 and then sent to the Botulism Reference Laboratory at the CDC.  On July 16, one day after the lab received the serum samples, botulinum toxin type A was detected by mouse bioassay in the man’s serum sample.  Botulinum toxin was also detected by mouse bioassay in serum submitted by the wife, but the sample volume was insufficient to determine the toxin type.  Investigations conducted by state and local health departments in both Texas and Indiana revealed that all four patients had eaten types of Castleberry’s hot dog chili before symptom onset.
Texas investigators found an unopened can of Castleberry’s Austex Hot dog Chili Sauce Original date stamped with a manufacture date and time of May 7 at 9:41 p.m. at the children’s home and tested it for botulism.  The Texas Department of Health Services laboratory tested an aliquot from this can using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for botulinum toxin and did not detect the toxin.
The Indiana couple had an unlabeled, sealed plastic bag of leftover chili mixture in their refrigerator that local health officials collected and sent to the CDC for C. botulinum toxin testing.  On July 16 the CDC detected botulinum toxin type A by mouse bioassay in the chili mixture.  Empty, well-rinsed cans of Castleberry’s Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original and chili made by another company were found in the couple’s recycling bin. CDC re-rinsed the two cans and tested the rinse water for botulinum toxin by mouse bioassay; both were negative.  The label on the can of Castleberry’s Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original indicated a production-date of May 8, and a time of 2:23 AM—less than five hours after the production-time indicated on the can collected from the Texas home.
On July 17, CDC staff provided information regarding the production-dates and times to the FDA.  The evidence strongly suggested that brands of Castleberry’s hot dog chili sauce were the common source of the four ill persons with botulism.  On July 18, FDA issued a consumer advisory.  On that same day, after being informed about the outbreak, and findings from the FDA investigation of the canning facility, Castleberry’s Food Company issued a voluntary recall that included a limited number of production dates of Castleberry’s Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original, Castleberry’s Austex Hot Dog Chili Sauce Original, and Kroger Hot Dog Chili Sauce. The recall was expanded on July 21 to include all production dates for 91 types of canned chili sauce, chili, other meat products, chicken products, and dog food that were manufactured in the same set of cookers, or “retorts” as the hot dog chili sauce at the Castleberry’s facility in Augusta, Georgia.
By August 24, eight cases of botulism had been reported to the CDC.  In addition to the Indiana couple, the mother of the children in Texas had developed symptoms of botulism, which brought the total number of Castleberry-associated cases in Texas to three.  There were also three unrelated residents of Ohio who had developed botulism consuming Castleberry’s hot dog chili sauce in the week before symptom onsets.  Botulinum toxin was identified in leftover chili sauce collected from the refrigerator belonging to one of the Ohio cases.
The Castleberry’s manufacturing facility in Georgia produces products regulated both by the FDA and USDA-FSIS.  Initial reports of illnesses were linked to meatless hot dog chili sauce and thus, fell under the jurisdiction of the FDA.  The agency’s Atlanta District Office took the lead in the investigation of facilities.
The inspection started on the evening of July 17.  FDA investigators requested company maintenance records, which were not immediately available because they were stored on a laptop of a vacationing employee.  Finally, three days later, under threat of severe penalty, the company produced some of the requested records.  Included in records provided to federal investigators was a 42-page report written by a consultant hired by Castleberry’s to investigate swollen cans of stew, chili, and hash produced in April and May 2007.  The consultant had attributed spoilage to post-process handling operations in one of the plant’s cooking equipment.  Reports by two other company-hired consultants would also implicate post processing as the reason for swollen cans.  Unfortunately, Castleberry’s had not investigated the issues further.
On July 18 and 19, a team of federal investigators was sent to the firm’s warehouse.  Samples of Castleberry’s Austex and Castleberry’s brand Hot Dog Chili Sauce with the “best by May 7, 2009” and “best by May 8, 2009” lot codes were collected and sent to FDA laboratories for testing.[3]  FDA testing of sample 428113, consisting of 17 swollen cans, found C. Botulinum toxin in 16 of the cans.  This sample included the same time-stamp and lot code from the May 8, 2007 production as the can found in the Indiana home. FDA testing of sample 420352, consisting of six swollen cans, found C. Botulinum in four cans.  FDA sample 420353 included one swollen can, and its contents tested positive for C. Botulinum toxin.
Federal investigators conducted extensive tests on Castleberry equipment.  The findings are presented in an FDA report issued on August 10, 2007, FDA Inspectional Observations dated 08/10/2007, (Summary pages only).  Noted observations include:
•The system, equipment, and procedures used for thermal processing of foods in hermetically sealed containers were not operated and administered in a manner that ensures commercial sterility is achieved.
•Each retort did not have an accurate temperature records device.
•Failure to supply a suitable water valve used for water cooling to prevent leakage of water into the retort during processing.
•The condensate bleeder was not checked with sufficient frequency to ensure removal of condensate or equipped with an automatic alarm system for the continuous monitoring of condensate bleeder functioning.
•Required information was not entered on designated forms at the time the observation was made by the retort or processing system operator or designated person.
•Failure to maintain fixtures in repair sufficient to prevent food from becoming adulterated.
•Failure to properly adjust the temperature-recording device.  The temperature recorded on the temperature-recording device chart was higher than the mercury-in-glass thermometer during processing.
The report ultimately placed blame on Castleberry management saying there was no commitment from employees in making the products and there was not adequate management oversight.  As one Castleberry employee noted:  “Two years ago the [implicated reports] were maintained very well, but they are maintained poorly now.”  The FDA plainly agreed, citing Castleberry’s for the “failure to maintain fixtures in repair sufficient to prevent food from becoming adulterated.”
Castleberry made substantial fixes at its plant and then reopened in the fall of 2007.  The company re-branded its line to American Originals, and redesigned product labels. But in March, 2008, the plant was forced to close again after a February 27 joint-inspection by the FDA and USDA revealed deviations in some equipment operations on the processing line.  The line was not related to deficiencies noted in the summer of 2007 but because under-processing caused the botulism outbreak, the plant’s operating permit was suspended.
[1]           The information about the outbreak comes primarily from the CDC-published report issued July 30, 2007. See MMWR; supra note 1, at 1-2.  The information specific to the Castleberry’s manufacturing facility is taken from the FDA Establishment Inspection Report, FEI No. 1010894.
[2]           The CDC is the only source of the therapeutic antitoxin, which is stocked in locations around the country for rapid release. See Sobel; supra note 2, at 1607.
[3]           This was despite Castleberry’s questionable efforts to apparently destroy evidence.  As noted in the FDA Inspection Report, “Castleberry’s personnel had sorted through lots and destroyed most of the swollen cans prior to our visit.”  Although the FDA has not imposed any specific penalty for this conduct yet, it is safe to assume that the conduct would be scrutinized by a court as potential spoliation.

Owning Produce Safety: Industry’s Commitment to Public Health
Source :
By Bill Marler (Jan 29, 2013)
The produce industry takes food safety seriously and will use the recent report on foodborne illness to spur additional research and practical applications to advance public health, according to Bryan Silbermann, president and CEO of Produce Marketing Association.
Silbermann spoke in response to the release of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new paper, “Attribution of Foodborne Illnesses, Hospitalizations, and Deaths to Food Commodities by using Outbreak Data,” United States, 1998-2008. In that report, fresh produce accounted for “nearly half” (46%) of foodborne illness in the United States from 1998-2008. “PMA considers the CDC report as an opportunity to identify new targeted research and learning to make our industry and the resources PMA creates more effective. That approach to continuous learning about food safety is part of PMA’s commitment to protect consumers and the industry alike.”
CDC’s historical data is important to the produce industry, Silbermann said. “In fact, CDC has other reports that indicate illness from many foodborne pathogens has declined significantly over time.” Comparing 2011 to 1996-98, CDC found that illness from e. coli is down 42 percent and listeria is down 35 percent. The incidence from salmonella stayed about the same. “Regardless of past successes in reducing foodborne illness, we cannot lose sight of the overall picture: One illness from fresh produce is one too many,” Silbermann said.
PMA and its members have invested millions of dollars to continually improve the safety of fresh produce, said Joe Pezzini, chairman of PMA’s Produce Safety, Science and Technology Committee, and COO of Ocean Mist Farms. The Center for Produce Safety (CPS) was established in 2007 by PMA and others. “CPS provides open access to actionable produce safety information. Best practices developed and shared throughout the industry to raise the safety bar for all.”
Silbermann noted: “In addition, we work with government to further public health and safety and as a means to improve industry practices. Our work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) brings that agency the practical realities of our industry, especially now as FDA implements the Food Safety Modernization Act. However, we are not waiting for the new rules to advance safety in our industry. That is our ongoing day-to-day work and obligation.”
In this report, CDC frequently reiterates that consumers should eat more fruits and vegetables and that a healthful diet is important. Silbermann stressed: “This advice has not changed for decades – your grandmother knew it then as we do now. However, what has changed are food industry safety practices, which evolve with the latest science and technology advances. We urge every member of the produce industry to have a robust and risk-based food safety program to protect the public and their businesses.”
Pezzini added that the industry incorporates those swiftly as soon as they are proven. “Food safety is the most important thing we do. Our commitment to consumer health and safety is unwavering,” he said.
“We put our money where our mouth is in terms of CPS research and practical application of safety programs,” Silbermann said. “And we recognize, every day, that this effort will never be finished. For consumers to benefit, as CDC says, from diets full of fruits and vegetables, we must retain their confidence by safeguarding those very fruits and vegetables.”

CDC: Produce Biggest Culprit in Foodborne Illnesses
Source :
By Super Market News (Jan 29, 2013)
ATLANTA — Illnesses linked to produce account for the highest number of foodborne illnesses and hospitalizations, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By examining outbreaks from 1998-2008, the CDC found 46% of foodborne illnesses and 38% of hospitalizations could be traced back to produce commodities, which include fruits and nuts, leafy greens, fungi, root vegetables, sprouts and vine and stalk vegetables.
Among all commodities, leafy greens caused the highest percentage of illnesses (23%) and second-highest percentage of hospitalizations (14%), although only 6% of deaths.
The Produce Marketing Association responded to the study with a statement emphasizing the industry's commitment to food safety.
“PMA considers the CDC report as an opportunity to identify new targeted research and learning to make our industry and the resources PMA creates more effective. That approach to continuous learning about food safety is part of PMA’s commitment to protect consumers and the industry alike,” said Bryan Silbermann, PMA president and chief executive officer.
The CDC found dairy accounted for the most hospitalizations, at 16%. However, researchers noted that a disproportionate number of outbreaks were linked to raw milk compared to the amount consumed, which could lead to an overestimation of the number of dairy-related illnesses.
Read more: Salmonella Outbreak Leads to Ground Beef Recall
Poultry-linked illnesses caused the most deaths (19%), mostly from Listeria or salmonella. The study cited three major outbreaks from 1998-2002 linked to turkey deli meat that had been contaminated in the processing plant after cooking.
Previous CDC estimates have found foodborne illnesses affect one in six Americans each year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

Leafy greens responsible for 46% of food-borne infections, CDC says
Source :,0,5126816.story
By Ricardo Lopez (Jan 29, 2013)
Though leafy greens accounted for the most U.S. food-related illnesses, poultry caused the most deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.
The Atlanta-based agency examined 4,589 food-related disease outbreaks from 1998 to 2008, the first comprehensive study of its kind by the agency.
The CDC looked at outbreaks across 17 food categories and found that almost half of all outbreaks originated from leafy greens, which include lettuce and spinach.
Photo gallery: Top 10 California farm products
Researchers found that leafy greens accounted for 46% of all infections reported. Many of those illnesses were caused by norovirus, which is characterized by symptoms such as diarrhea and stomach cramping.
The agency also found that more than half of food-borne norovirus outbreaks were caused by sick food handlers, and more than 80% of outbreaks involved food prepared in commercial settings such as restaurants or catering businesses.
While meat and poultry accounted for fewer illnesses, food-borne disease outbreaks from this type of food accounted for 29% of deaths.
Of that, poultry was responsible for 19%. Many of the deaths were linked to listeria outbreaks from sliced delicatessen turkey. Salmonella was another pathogen found in poultry that also contributed to deaths.
There were a few limitations to the study, namely that the data did not account for changes over the 11-year time span. Listeria outbreaks, the agency noted, decreased substantially after 2002.

CDC Ranks Foods Most Likely to Make Americans Sick
Source :
By Amanda Gardner (Jan 29, 2013)
Leafy green vegetables are responsible for more foodborne illnesses than any other food, according to a new government report.
But meat and poultry cause more deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report published online Jan. 29 and in the March print issue of the journal Emerging infectious Diseases.
Almost half (46 percent) of illnesses were traced back to produce, including fruits and nuts. Twenty-two percent were due to consuming leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach.
Dairy products were responsible for 14 percent of illnesses, fruits and nuts for 12 percent, and poultry for 10 percent.
Meat -- particularly poultry -- was responsible for the most deaths, with 43 percent of all deaths estimated to have come from land animals. Nineteen percent of deaths were due to poultry alone and mostly from listeria or salmonella.
Two years ago, the CDC published estimates on the number of foodborne illnesses acquired in the United States, including the number caused by each of the major pathogens, said study senior author Dr. Patricia Griffin, chief of the CDC's enteric diseases epidemiology branch.
According to that report, about 48 million people -- or one in six in the United States each year -- get food poisoning. More than 9 million of those cases are caused by one of the major pathogens tracked by the CDC.
"The next logical questions was, What categories of foods are causing these illnesses?" Griffin said. "Answers to these sorts of questions are important for regulatory agencies and for industry in figuring out how to target their resources."
This is the first time the CDC has tried to evaluate the actual food sources of foodborne illnesses. The analysis is based on data from all outbreaks since 1998, the first year authorities started filing information on ingredients.
Norovirus was the main contaminant driving the illnesses, the study found. People carry this virus and they can pass it on if they don't wash their hands after using the toilet or vomiting and before handling food, Griffin said.
"It's a reminder that it's important for everybody who handles food both in restaurants and at home to wash your hands well before handling food," Griffin said.
Consumers should also make sure they wash leafy greens, such as lettuce, well before eating them, added Mary Ann Scharf, an associate professor in the Seton Hall University College of Nursing in South Orange, N.J.
Meat needs to be kept refrigerated and then cooked thoroughly before it is eaten, she added.
Make sure that any knives or cutting boards that have come into contact with poultry are thoroughly washed before they come into contact with fresh vegetables or other food, Scharf advised.
More information
The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about food safety.
SOURCES: Patricia Griffin, M.D., chief, enteric diseases epidemiology branch, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Mary Ann Scharf, R.N., associate professor, Seton Hall University College of Nursing, South Orange, N.J.; March 2013 Emerging Infectious Diseases

Japan Agrees to Ease Mad Cow Restrictions on U.S. Beef
Source :
By Food Safety News Desk (Jan 29, 2013)
For only the second time in ten years, Japan on will further ease restrictions on U.S. beef imports starting February 1 to allow entry of beef and beef products from cattle less than 30 months of age.
Previously, a 2006 restriction limited U.S. beef imports to products from cattle less than 20 months of age. Japan set that restriction when it allowed limited U.S. beef imports to resume after a cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was found in a U.S herd in 2003.
Japan’s easing of restrictions on U.S. beef imports is a sign that there is more product demand than fear in the Asian nation about BSE, popularly known as Mad Cow Disease.
Opening Japan’s market to more U.S. beef will result in “hundreds of million of dollars in exports of U.S. beef to Japan in coming years,” according to a statement by U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.
Kirk and Vilsack depicted the trade agreement as a “near normalization” of beef trade between the two nations. “This is great news for American ranchers and beef companies, who can now—as a result of this agreement—increase their exports of U.S. beefo to their largest market for beef in Asia,” Ambassador Kirk said.
Kirk called it a “significant and historic step” that will grow American exports and jobs.
Japan banned U.S. beef in 2003 after the first cow with BSE was discovered near Mabton, WA. It took three years before some imports were accepted from the younger animals.
Japan’s independent Food Safety Commission (FSC) conducted a risk assessment in 2011 that found raising the age limit in conjunction of U.S. controls on specific risk materials (SRM) could address safety concerns.
The expanded U.S. beef exports to Japan could reach the country by mid February and will likely put upward pressure on prices as American cattle numbers are at the lowest levels in 60 years. The drought affecting much of the U.S. has caused farmers and ranches to reduce their herds because dry lands aren’t producing enough to support the cattle.

Missouri Milk Board Destroys Morningland Dairy Cheese
Source :
By Kathy Will (Jan 29, 2013)
The State Milk Board of Missouri has destroyed 30,000 pounds of cheese made by Morningland Dairy. A court battle has been ongoing about the cheese for the last two and a half years.
According to court documents, the state obtained a final order of permanent injunction against the dairy in February 2011. The order stated that the plaintiff demonstrated “no adequate remedy at law exists such that a permanent injunction is necessary to prevent immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage.” Morningland of the Ozarks LLC was ordered to destroy all of its cheese products condemned by the Missouri State Milk Board on August 26, 2010. The Dairy refused to comply with that order, so in October 2010 Attorney General Koster brought an injunction against the Dairy.
In August 2010, Morningland Dairy recalled 68,957 pounds of its cheese because it may have been contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. The raw milk cheese was sold in the lower 48 states via mail order, retail stores, crop sharing associations, and direct delivery. Sampling by the State of California discovered that Morningland Dairy Hot Pepper Colby and Garlic Colby Cheeses contained the two bacteria.
The FDA did take 100 environmental swabs at the Dairy, but none tested positive for Listeria bacteria. The bacteria can become concentrated in the cheesemaking process. The FDA does state that aged raw milk cheeses are “generally considered to be safe”, but an E. coli outbreak in Missouri this month may have been linked to aged raw milk cheese.

Internet Journal of Food Safety

Vol 14. 113-120
Quality Assessment of Fresh Lake Malawi Tilapia (Chambo) Collected
from Selected Local and Super Markets in Malawi
Fanuel Kapute, Jeremy Likongwe, Jeremiah Kang'ombe, Ciira Kiiyukia, Placid Mpeketula

Vol 14. 104-112
Detection of Salmonella spp. in Hamburgers:
a Comparison Between Modified Standard and Salmosyst Methods
Jorge Luiz Fortuna, Elmiro Rosendo do Nascimento, Robson Maia Franco

Vol 14. 93-103
A Preliminary Detection of Physical and Chemical Properties,
Inhibitory Substances and Preservatives in Raw Milk
Ali Ibrahim Ali Mansour, Mohamed Mansour El-Loly and Ramadan Omar Ahmed

Vol 14. 89-92
Species Specific PCR Based Rapid Detection of Staphylococcus aureus from Cottage Cheese,
and its Sensitivity against Antibiotics and natural products
Priyanka Singh and Alka Prakash

Vol 14. 83-88
Aflatoxigenic moulds and aflatoxins in street-vended snacks in Lagos, Nigeria
Chibundu N. Ezekiel, Funmi O. Kayode, Stephen O. Fapohunda, Momodu F. Olorunfemi
and Barinaada T. Kponi

Vol 14. 75-82
Microbial and Physico-chemical contamination in the wheat flour of the twin cities of Pakistan
Syeda Afifa Batool Naseem Rauf, S.S.Tahir and Razia Kalsoom

Vol 14.70-74
Advances in Proteomics-based Detection Techniques of Listeria monocytogenes
: a Potential Risk in New Zealand
Ge Huang and Malik Altaf Hussain

Vol 14.54-69
Food Safety Review (FSR) in the State of Kuwait as a part of Arab Gulf Area
Hani M. Al-Mazeedi, Alaa B. Abbasa, Wafaa Y. Al-Jouhar , Siham A. Al-Mufty
and Yousef A. Al-Mendicar

Vol 14.48-53
A Decision Tree Based Approach for the Identification of Halal Critical Control Point
for Slaughtering According to Islamic Dietary Law
Kohilavani, Tajul A. Yang, Noor A. Febrianto, Wan Nadiah Wan Abdullah and Aadam Tajul Aris

Vol 14.44-47
Antibacterial Activity of Red Bell Pepper against Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Ground Beef
Sulaiman O. Aljaloud , Rabin Gyawali, Muchha R. Reddy, and Salam A. Ibrahim

Vol 14.35-43
Evaluating Food Hygiene Awareness and Practices of Food Handlers in the Kumasi Metropolis
Patricia Foriwaa Ababio and Doreen Dedo Adi

Vol 14.30-34
Growth Control of Standard L.monocytogenes and L.monocytogenes Spiked in Goat Milk
by Natural products, Antibiotics and Lactic Acid Bacteria
Rupali Yadav and Alka Prakash

Vol 14.23-29
Assessment of Health Risk Associated With Reuse of Treated Wastewater.
Nadia Oubrim, Nozha Cohen, Abouddihaj Barguigua, Kaoutar Hajjami, Brahim Bouchrif and My Mustapha Ennaji

Vol 14.17-22
Microbial and Physico-Chemical Quality Assessment of the Raw and Pasteurized Milk
Supplied In the Locality of Twin City of Pakistan
Syeda Afifa Batool, Razia Kalsoom ,Naseem Rauf , S.S.Tahir and Fouzia Hussain

Vol 14.11-16
Microbiological Safety and Proximate Composition of Suya Stored at Ambient Temperature
for Six Hours from Maiduguri, Northern Nigeria.
Ogbonna, Innocent Okonkwo Danladi, Matthias Sunday Akinmusire, Oyekemi and Odu, Collins Emeka

Vol 14.5-10
Bacteriological Quality Assessment of Selected Street Foods and
Antibacterial Action of Essential Oils Against Food Borne Pathogens
Chandi C. Rath and Sonali Patra

Vol 14.1-4
Improved Recovery of Viable Listeria monocytogenes From Stainless Steel Surfaces for Subsequent Detection
John Xue and Burton Blais


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