At Least 100 Sick after Georgia High School Football Banquet
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/at-least-100-sick-after-georgia-high-school-football-banquet/
By Linda Larsen (Dec 14, 2014)
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, more than 100 people are sick after eating at a football banquet on December 8, 2014. The banquet was held at the Centennial High School in Roswell, Georgia that is just outside of Atlanta. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps.
Those symptoms could be indicative of many types of foodborne illness. The outbreak is being investigated by public health officials, but no causes have been identified. Investigators are interviewing patients and looking at the foods served at the banquet. One mother said her son was diagnosed with Salmonella, but that conclusion is not definitive.
The school’s principal sent a letter to football players and their parents informing them of the outbreak. The letter stated that “please notify the school if a medical diagnosis is made in an effort to help us stay abreast of this situation and monitor any additional cases. We also want to make sure we are doing all we can to prevent further spread of any illnesses.”
The illness could be norovirus, which is very common this time of year. All foodborne illnesses caused by viruses and bacteria can be prevented by staying home when you’re sick and washing hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and changing diapers. Always wash hands well with soap and water before preparing or serving food for others or before eating. And always disinfect surfaces with a bleach solution after someone has been ill
Listeria Cheese Outbreak Over After Illnesses and a Death
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/listeria-cheese-outbreak-over-after-illnesses-and-a-death/#.VI5bCU1xns1
By Bill Marler (Dec 14, 2014)
Several recalls of cheese and dairy products produced by Oasis Brands, Inc. due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination have been announced by FDA.
•On August 4, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. voluntarily recalled quesito casero (fresh curd) due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination after the pathogen was isolated from quesito casero produced by this firm.
•On October 6, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. recalled cuajada en hoja (fresh curd) after U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated Listeria monocytogenes from environmental samples collected from the production facility.
•On October 16, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. recalled various Lacteos Santa Martha and one HonduCrema brand cheese and dairy products.
•At this time, Oasis Brands, Inc. has ceased manufacturing of all products, including the recalled products.
Whole-genome sequences of the Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from recalled quesito casero cheese produced by Oasis Brands, Inc. were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from one person who became ill in September 2013 and four persons who became ill during June through October 2014.
•These five ill persons were reported from four states: Georgia (1), New York (1), Tennessee (2), and Texas (1).
•Four of the five ill persons were hospitalized. One death was reported in Tennessee. Three illnesses were related to a pregnancy – one of these was diagnosed in a newborn.
•All ill persons were reported to be of Hispanic ethnicity and reported consuming Hispanic-style soft cheese. Two persons who were able to answer questions about specific varieties of Hispanic-style soft cheeses reported consuming quesito casero, though neither could remember the brand.
Nine Farms Affected by Avian Influenza in British Columbia
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/nine-farms-affected-by-avian-influenza-in-british-columbia/
By Linda Larsen (Dec 13, 2014)
A total of nine farms have now been affected by avian influenza H5N2 in British Columbia, Canada, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The Fraser Valley farms are close to the farm where the outbreak began. This particular strain of the bird flu virus is highly pathogenic and very contagious.
The province of British Columbia has notified the CFIA of another farm where the illness is suspected; this outbreak was confirmed and is the ninth infected farm. The government is tracing movement in and out of these sites. Birds have been humanely euthanized on four farms, and depopulation activities began this week on the fifth farm. Almost 200,000 birds have been euthanized.
The CFIA is urging poultry farmers to take an “active role” in protecting their flocks by using strict biosecurity measures on their property. Eight countries have placed import restrictions on British Columbia poultry and poultry products, including United States, Mexico, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
The flu only affects people who are in close contact with live poultry. Raw poultry products are not a health risk to human beings as long as they are properly handled and thoroughly cooked to at least 165°F as measured by a food thermometer. When preparing raw poultry, always avoid cross-contamination and clean all areas that come into contact with the raw meat with a mild bleach solution.
Food Safety Microbiology
February 5-6, 2015
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Norovirus Outbreak at Subway in Buena Vista, Colorado
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/norovirus-outbreak-at-subway-in-buena-vista-colorado/
By Linda Larsen (Dec 13, 2014)
According to the Mountain Mail, a norovirus outbreak at a Subway sandwich shop in Buena Vista, Colorado has sickened at least 20 people. The illnesses occurred in mid-November 2014. Chaffee County Public Health was contacted by five people claiming illness after eating at the restaurant.
Samples from five patients tested positive for norovirus. Most of the patients were students at Buena Vista High School. One employee from the restaurant reported being ill. That employee most likely caused the contamination, according to Victor Crocco, Chaffee County Environmental Health Manager.
No more cases have been reported since November 20, 2014. The restaurant was not closed after the outbreak, but was cited for three “noncritical” violations. Workers at the restaurant cleaned all surfaces in the dining room with bleach after the outbreak.
Norovirus is a very contagious virus and can be passed through contaminated food and drink, through touching contaminated surfaces, and person-to-person. To prevent the spread of the illness, always wash your hands thoroughly before preparing and serving food, after using the bathroom, and before eating. Keep all food contact surfaces clean and avoid cross-contamination. If you are ill, stay home from work and school and do not prepare food for anyone for two to three days after you recover.
Minnesota E. coli Lawyer Lauds State Health Department
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/minnesota-e-coli-lawyer-lauds-state-health-department/
By News Desk (Dec 13, 2014)
Minnesota’s food poisoning investigators had a busy year with outbreaks in 2014, successfully tracing the cause of three separate clusters of E. coli hospitalizations and two waves of Salmonella infections. The efforts undoubtedly protected more people from contracting pathogen-related illnesses and gave victims of the solved outbreaks a chance to hold the purveyors accountable.
A review by Food Poisoning Bulletin shows that four of the outbreaks had implications beyond the state’s borders, including findings of E. coli O157:H7 in celery that came from the Salinas Valley; E. coli O111 in cabbage purchased by units of a national restaurant chain and Salmonella Enteritidis in a frozen chicken breast product mass-produced in Illinois for the American retail market.
“The Minnesota Department of Health has been a national leader in disease outbreak investigation for decades and the dedicated scientists in that agency aren’t resting on their laurels,’’ said Fred Pritzker, a Minneapolis-based attorney who represents food poisoning victims from coast to coast.
In mid-July, PritzkerOlsen, P.A., filed the first E. coli lawsuit against Apple Minnesota, LLC d/b/a Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar arising from an outbreak of toxic E. coli that health officials eventually traced to green cabbage from a supplier outside the state. Minnesota investigators worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and discovered cases of illness in at least three other states that matched the outbreak strain of E. coli O111.
More than a dozen Minnesotans were sickened in the outbreak and the Pritzker firm has continued to gather clients. The first lawsuit was filed on behalf of Keith Comstock, who was diagnosed with a painful gastrointestinal infection after eating at the Applebee’s restaurant located in, Woodbury, Minnesota. The suit is being litigated in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. As the food poisoning outbreak unfolded, the restaurant chain temporarily pulled Oriental Chicken Salad from its menus and changed ingredient suppliers.
E coli Lawsuit - 5 Reasons to Sue NowOne month later, the Minnesota Department of Health issued a press release that said at least 13 people had developed E. coli O157:H7 infections as part of an outbreak associated with Zerebko Zoo Tran traveling petting zoo. The 13 cases ranged in age from 2 to 68 years and were residents of multiple counties. Seven of the victims were hospitalized and two of those individuals developed a life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).
The petting zoo had exhibited at four locations across the state between July 4 and July 27 and there were cases associated with each event; including seven illnesses associated with the Rice County Fair in Faribault. The state’s investigators collected environmental and animal fecal samples from Zerebko Zoo Tran and found the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. The owner voluntarily withheld his animals from two more events scheduled for August.
Meanwhile, the agency’s epidemiologists also were trying to track the cause of an E. coli outbreak in northern Minnesota, among members of the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. Dozens of band members had fallen ill after eating at events on the reservation catered by Jim-N-Jo’s Northland Katering. The team of investigators ultimately determined that the likely cause was contaminated celery served in potato salad and on veggie trays — a finding announced just last month. The celery was traced all the way back to the Salinas Valley and was literally pinpointed to a farm field near Gonzales, Calif. Of the approximately 60 people who closely met the definition of outbreak victim, four lived in Wisconsin, two in Alabama and one each in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. At least one of the Minnesota victims filed an E. coli lawsuit.
Another major finding by the Minnesota Health Department in 2014 was the discovery in October that samples of Antioch Farms brand Raw Stuffed Chicken Breast Breaded, Boneless Breast of Chicken with Rib Meat “A La Kiev” contained the same strain of Salmonella Enteritidis that had sickened a cluster of Minnesotans. The discovery led to a national recall covering nearly 29,000 pounds of the individually wrapped, frozen packets. Both the CDC and USDA were involved in the investigation, which led to national consumer warnings.
WI Names Farm Linked to Durand High School Campylobacter Outbreak
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/wi-names-farm-linked-to-durand-high-school-campylobacter-outbreak/
By Carla Gillespie (Dec 12, 2014)
Wisconsin health officials say the source of a Campylobacter raw milk outbreak that sickened 38 people in Durand Wis. earlier this fall is a farm operated by Roland and Diana Reed in Arkansaw, Wis. The name of the farm was released in response to an open records request by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
At least 38 people in Durand contracted Campylobacter infections from raw milk that the Reeds served at a banquet for the Durand High School football team. Eight people were hospitalized.
Banquet attendees were not told the milk provided for the banquet was unpasteurized. Dozens of the students who attended the banquet became sick. Two football games had to be canceled because so many players were seriously ill.
Brianna Winnekins, a manager of the football team, was hospitalized for four days. She said she would have avoided the milk had she known it wasn’t pasteurized. Winnekins 18, had a 105¢ªF fever and other symptoms before she was hospitalized Sept. 22 at Chippewa Valley Hospital.
Campylobacter is transmitted when food or beverages contaminated with microscopic amounts of animal feces are consumed. Because young people are among those most at risk for food poisoning, public health officials say they should only drink milk that is pasteurized.
Contact a Campylobacter Lawyer - Free Case Evaluation
Ssome people with Campylobacter infections develop long-term complications such as reactive arthritis which causes painful swelling of the joints andGuillain-Barré Syndrome, (GBS) which is characterized by the sudden onset of paralysis that can last weeks, months or years.
In the response to the Journal Sentinel’s request, health officials also named Schaal Dairy as the source of a raw milk outbreak that sickened 16 people at a Racine elementary school in 2011.
Settlement Reached in Wolverine E. coli Outbreak
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-poisoning-information/settlement-reached-in-wolverine-e-coli-outbreak/#.VI5bRE1xns1
By Bruce Clark (Dec 12, 2014)
In late April 2014, public health and agriculture officials at the federal, state, and local levels initiated an outbreak investigation after receiving reports of reports of persons who had lab-confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infections. Ultimately, a total of twelve persons from four states were identified as having been infected with the outbreak strain, which was identified by the PulseNet Pattern Identification Number EXHX01.0096/EXHA26.015. The number of infected persons in each state were as follows: Massachusetts (1 case-patient), Michigan (5 case-patients), Missouri (1 case-patient), and Ohio (5 case-patients). The dates of illness-onset ranged from April 22 to May 2, 2014. The age of persons infected ranged 16 years to 46 years, with the median being 25 years. Seven patients (58%) were known to have been hospitalized, although no one died. The outbreak investigation was assigned CDC Cluster ID 1405MLEXH-1.
In interviewing the case-patients, public health officials found that eleven of the twelve (92%) reported eating ground beef prepared as a hamburger at a restaurant before becoming ill. Officials conducted multiple traceback investigations of the ground beef used at restaurants where case-patients had reported dining. These investigations identified ground beef produced by Wolverine Packing Company as the source of the ground beef and thus the outbreak.
On May 19, Wolverine Packing Company recalled approximately 1.8 million pounds of ground beef that was potentially contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. This was a Class I Recall, which means that FSIS deemed the risk to the public health “High.” The ground beef had been shipped to distributors for retail and restaurant-use nationwide. The recalled ground beef bore the establishment number “EST. 2574B” inside the USDA mark of inspection and had a production date code in the format “Packing Nos: MM DD14” between “03 31 14” and “04 18 14.”
 See CDC Final Outbreak Report, http://www.cdc.gov/ecoli/2014/O157H7-05-14/index.html
 See FSIS New Release, “Michigan Firm Recalls Ground Beef Products Due to Possible E. coli O157:H7,” http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/recalls-and-public-health-alerts/recall-case-archive/archive/2014/recall-030-2014 .
Subway, Think Norovirus
Source : http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/subway-think-norovirus/#.VI5ULk1xns1
By Bill Marler (Dec 11, 2014)
Colorado Local health officials said they hope a norovirus outbreak in Buena Vista that left approximately 20 people ill in mid-November will serve as a reminder to area restaurants and food providers to be extra cautious.
Chaffee County Public Health received complaints from five people saying they were ill after eating food from the Subway in Buena Vista, according to a restaurant inspection report.
Lab tests on samples from the five individuals all tested positive for norovirus — an extremely contagious virus that can cause stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Public Health estimates roughly 20 people, mostly students at Buena Vista High School, might have fallen ill in the outbreak.
An investigation by Chaffee County Environmental Health Manager Victor Crocco, who declined to name the restaurant, found that one employee reported feeling ill the day after the illness was originally reported.
The restaurant was cited for three noncritical items, according to the inspection report, but the items cited likely did not lead to the outbreak, Crocco said.
Norovirus is the leading cause of illness and outbreaks from contaminated food in the U.S., according to the CDC. While an infected person can shed billions of norovirus particles, it only takes contact with as few as 18 particles to become infected.
Salmonella Outbreak Associated with Delaney House Restaurant in MA
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/salmonella-outbreak-associated-with-delaney-house-restaurant-in-ma/
By Linda Larsen (Dec 11, 2014)
According to WWLP.com, a Salmonella outbreak is being investigated at the Delaney House restaurant in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Nineteen confirmed cases of salmonellosis and additional pending cases have been traced back to events held at that facility. In addition, five employees who handle food and one non-foodhandling employee tested positive for the bacteria.
Restaurant Food Poisoning State and local health departments are conducting an investigation. Owners of the restaurant are cooperating with the investigation. Those sickened ate at ten events held at the restaurant between November 11 and November 15, 2014.
The restaurant is not closing. The restaurant owners were notified on November 18, 2014 that one of their patrons was experiencing the symptoms of a Salmonella infection. No new cases have been reported since November 15 and a cause has not yet been determined. And the facility was inspected and found to be compliant.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include abdominal pain, stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and fever. Symptoms usually begin 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. These infections are usually associated with undercooked meat, poultry, or eggs.
If you ate at the Delaney House or any of its associated venues in November and have experienced the symptoms of a Salmonella infection, please see your doctor. While most people recover on their own, some become so ill they must be hospitalized. And there can be serious long-term consequences from a Salmonella infection.
Listeria Outbreak Linked to Oasis Cheese Ends
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/listeria-outbreak-linked-to-oasis-cheese-ends/
By Carla Gillespie (Dec 11, 2014)
A Listeria outbreak linked to soft cheeses sold under the brand names Oasis, Lacteos Santa Martha and Hondu Crema has ended after sickening five people in four states, one of whom died, according to a final report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There was one illness reported in each of the following states: Georgia, New York, and Texas and two cases reported in Tennessee. The fatality occurred in Tennessee.
All of those sickened were Hispanic, three of the cases were related to a pregnancy, one case was diagnosed in a newborn baby. Because their immune systems are weakened, pregnant women are at special risk for Listeria which can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature delivery and illness in newborn babies. Because of the likelihood that they will consume soft Mexican-style cheeses, pregnant Hispanic women are 24 times more likely than the general population to get Listeria poisoning, according to the CDC.
Contact a Listeria Lawyer - Free Case EvaluationTwo of the case patients interviewed by health investigators reported consuming quesito casero, before they became ill. Information from case patient interviews along with results of whole genome sequencing tests suggests that soft cheese produced by Oasis Brands Inc. of Miami are the source of this outbreak. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found Listeria in environmental samples collected from the Oasis production facility.
Between August 4 and October 16, Oasis issued three recalls for soft cheeses potentially contaminated with Listeria: an August 4 recall for quesito casero (fresh curd), an October 6 recall for cuajada en hoja (fresh curd) and an October 16 recall for various Lacteos Santa Martha and one Hondu Crema brand cheese and dairy products. Oasis has ceased manufacturing of all products, including the recalled products.
Symptoms of a Listeria infection develop within three to 70 days of exposure and include diarrhea or other gastrointestinal symptoms, fever, headache, stiff neck and muscle aches. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should see a doctor.
Holyoke Delaney Restaurant, Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House and Log Rolling Catering Salmonella Outbreak
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/holyoke-delaney-restaurant-log-cabin-banquet-and-meeting-house-and-log-rolling-catering-salmonella-outbreak/#.VI5c3U1xns1
By Andy Weisbecker (Dec 11, 2014)
Acting under the authority of section MGL, Chapter 111, Section 127A, the Delaney House Restaurant was inspected on November 25, 20I4 by representatives from the Holyoke Board of Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Envirorunental Health, Food Protection Program (FPP).
• Nineteen (19) confirmed Salmonella cases and additional suspect cases were traced back to ten (10) different events held at the Delaney House between 11/11/14 and 11/I5/14.
• Five foodhandlers and one non-foodhandling employee at this establishment have tested positive for Salmonella.
• Some of the infected foodhandlers worked at events outside of the Delaney House, including the
Log Cabin, a take-out restaurant, and various catered events.
FPP investigated the Delaney House with a representative from the Board of Health and found that the foodborne outbreak associated with this establishment meets the definition of an imminent health hazard as defined by section 8-404.11 of the Food Code and that compliance with the Food Code has not been effected. During this same site investigation, FPP staff observed and documented the following violations to the Food Code:
• Employee policy manual fails to require employees to report health conditions as required by 105 CMR 590.003(F).
• Single employee who washes dishes was observed handling clean dishes after loading dirty dishes, which fails to protect dishes from contamination as required by FC 3-307.11.
• Hot water sanitizing rinse in mechanical dishwasher failed to reach 180°F as required by FC 4-501.112.
Therefore, in accordance with 105 CMR 590.010(D)(l), FPP respectfully requests that the Holyoke Board of Health order the owner of these three operations to take the following actions within 12 hours of receipt of this letter:
1. Correct all violations noted in the FPP inspection report dated November 25, 2014.
2. Provide a complete list of staff who worked since November 11 at Delaney House, Log Cabin, or Log Rolling Catering.
3. Provide a complete list of all on-site and off-site food service events worked since November 11 by any staff from Delaney House, Log Cabin, or Log Rolling Catering.
4. Sort all staff into risk groups according to work assignments associated with level of food handling (i.e. high risk= prep cooks; low risk = cashiers).
5. Ensure that each foodhandler does not work at any of the three operations until he or she has submitted two (2) stool samples that are negative for salmonella, at least 24 hours apart, as required by section 105 CMR 300.200(A) of DPH regulation, “Reportable Diseases, Surveillance, and Isolation and Quarantine Requirements”.
6. In all three operations, clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces, and discard open or exposed food.
FPP also respectfully requests that the Holyoke Board of Health notify this office in writing of what actions will be and have been taken to effect compliance with 105 CMR 590.000, as per 105 CMR 590.010(D). The Holyoke Board of Health also has the option of issuing an emergency closure notice under the authority of 105 CMR 590.014(A).
How to Store Eggs Safely: It Depends on How You Look at the Data
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/12/how-to-store-eggs-safely-its-all-a-matter-of-how-you-look-at-the-data/#.VI5Uek1xns1
By Keith Warriner (Dec 10, 2014)
The debate over how to store shell eggs has been going on ever since the chicken laid the first egg, if we assume the former came before the latter. Our ancestors looked at a range of techniques to preserve eggs, from burying them in lime to coating them with sodium silicate (water glass). The methods were relatively effective, with more than a one-year shelf life being reported, although prolonged storage had negative effects on egg quality such as coagulating the white and imparting interesting flavors to the yolk.
The French went a step further in the 17th century by incorporating eggs into vinegar and oil to make the first mayonnaise, or into citrus fruit purée, which later evolved into lemon curd. The French can also be credited with introducing the trend of eating eggs with soft yolks, which, at the time, were considered to aid digestion. The tradition has been retained, and if you order any egg dish in France, be prepared to expect a practically raw yolk. Certainly eggs simply taste better when partially cooked, even though the risk of Salmonella exists.
To wash or not to wash? That is the question.
When the population moved into urban centers during the latter part of the 19th century, there was a need to transport foods over relatively large distances, and, moreover, look acceptable to the paying customer. When eggs are laid, there is a mucus layer around the outside of the shell that subsequently dries out to form the cuticle — a hard protein layer. At this time, the eggs can be contacted by dust, feathers, soil and manure, making the visual appearance undesirable to the paying consumer. Therefore, in the early 20th century, there was interest in washing eggs before sending them off to market.
In 1919, Jenkins was the first to report about the negative effect of egg washing, which led to “green whites,” along with “crusted yolks,” due to spoilage by pseudomonads. There were also anecdotes reported that washed eggs had a greater tendency to develop rots (for example, Aspergillus) compared to those that had not been washed. Brooks pulled all the evidence together in 1951 and came to the conclusion that egg washing caused more problems than it solved.
It was at this point the Europeans and North Americans went down very different paths, even though they based their decisions on the same set of data. Specifically, the Europeans took the works of Jenkins and Brooks to clearly show that washing eggs was not practical, cost-effective or beneficial. In contrast, the North Americans (USDA, specifically) concluded that the Europeans gave up too early, and, with a little tinkering with the equipment, could make the egg-washing process work.
The early egg washes of the 1950s were essentially washing machines where the eggs would be placed into hot water (49 degrees C, or about 120 degrees F), along with soap, then gently agitated for three minutes. The consequences of the wash process were to remove the protective cuticle layer and possibly cause fractures in the shell, leading to ingress of water along with the spoilage microbes.
USDA went to work on the problem and came up with new egg-washing technology and guidelines. In brief, the new wash process involved misting/fogging with pressure sprays being used to remove stubborn soils. Additional recommendations were to wash eggs soon after laying (before the cuticle dried), ensure that the iron content of water was kept below 2 ppm (to prevent membrane weakening), maintain sanitizer-detergent levels and apply an oil film to the post-washed egg. A further critical feature of the revamped wash process was to ensure that eggs were dried before packaging, then distributed/stored below 45 degrees F ( to minimize microbial growth). The revised washing method appeared successful in terms of reducing incidence of spoilage compared to the original wash process.
Meanwhile, back in Europe
The European policy on eggs was essentially based on a preventive approach by ensuring eggs were delivered to packing houses without visible dirt and also providing the option of dry brushing. Critically, egg washing was banned, and, as a further step, the recommended storage temperature was set at 62 to 73 degrees F to minimize the risk of condensation. The regulations also specified that the temperature fluctuation from delivery to the packing house, distribution and retail should be no more than 11 degrees F. Again, this was to avoid condensation that could facilitate the ingress of microbes from the shell into the inner egg. In effect, the regulation was interpreted as the correct storage temperature for eggs is room temperature.
Edwina Curry speaks
The 1980s was a decade when the food industry recognized that the practices developed in terms of efficiency had detrimental effects in terms of food. One relevant example was the practice of using ground chicken carcasses as poultry feed, along with other dubious practices. At this time there was an increase in the incidence of a virulent Salmonella Enteritidis that could transfer to the yolk prior to the egg being laid (transovarial transmission). The multi-drug resistant Typhimurium DT104 was also becoming established in poultry operations. The incidence of Salmonella in the UK was especially cause for concern as, toward the end of the 1980s, the number of cases had tripled in the space of two years. The egg industry simply turned a blind eye to the problem, and the Department of Agriculture & Food was glad to do the same.
Then, in December 1988, a junior minister in the Department of Health (one Edwina Curry) came out with the famous quote, “Most of the egg production in this country sadly is now infected with Salmonella.” The UK egg industry collapsed overnight, and, in less than a month, Curry was removed from office as her government colleagues turned on their own. History proved her right, although she didn’t actually know what the carriage of Salmonella in eggs was at the time and neither did the industry or the Ministry of Agriculture — if you don’t look, you don’t find.
In effect, Curry had made a slip by using “most” when she should have said “some.” Nonetheless, the horse had bolted from the stable, and the egg industry had to make amends. What emerged was the Lion Stamp, which essentially put in place Salmonella control interventions, the most notable being vaccinating poultry to reduce the incidence of Enteritidis and Typhimurium within the laying flock. In addition, a best-before date of 21 days was stamped on eggs based on the time it would take Salmonella to go from the surface to the internal structure of the egg, among other interventions.
At this time, the washing of eggs was revisited by the UK and Europe in general. The net conclusion of the study was that egg washing did represent an enhanced risk of introducing Salmonella into the inner egg due to the lack of protective cuticle layer and ingress of water. The report also noted that there were too many aspects of the wash process that could go wrong, along with the obvious issue of transoverian transmission of Enteritidis. Therefore, the Europeans did not see the need to change the policy on egg washing, and the ban was kept in place.
One problem encountered with storing eggs at room temperature was that the inner membrane and white of the egg degrade, leading to broken yolks when cracked into the frying pan. Therefore, a three-year project was undertaken to find the best way to store eggs to preserve quality while reducing the risk posed by Salmonella. The net result of the research was that eggs can be stored in the fridge provided they are kept in the carton (egg box) to minimize condensation on the shell surface.
So who has the right egg policy? U.S. vs. Europe
Through time, the European philosophy of foodborne pathogen control has been that prevention is better than the cure. The North American approach is more directed toward post-harvest interventions, given the difficulty in controlling pathogens at the primary production level. So the question arises: Did the North Americans take the right path with egg washing or is the European approach the way to go? Well, it really depends on what metrics are used to gauge success. In terms of Salmonella prevalence in flocks, the average in the EU is 2 percent, compared with 6.5 percent in the U.S. How about the prevalence of Salmonella in eggs? It is estimated that 1 in 10, 000 eggs carries Salmonella in the U.S.; in the EU, it’s 1 in 150, 000. Does such low carriage translate into a decrease in Salmonella cases? Yes, the incidence of Salmonella has significantly decreased in Europe.
All indicators would therefore suggest that the European egg policy has been more effective compared to that formulated by USDA. However, this doesn’t mean that outbreaks of Salmonellosis linked to eggs are a thing of the past in Europe. Indeed, in the summer of 2014, there was an outbreak linked to eggs resulting in more than 300 confirmed cases across Europe. The source of the contaminated eggs was traced to a German egg-packing plant. Although not on the same level as the U.S. Salmonellosis outbreak of 2010, the incident illustrates that any food safety system is only as strong as the weakest link.
It certainly would be too simplistic to suggest that washing has no value, as there is a reduction in the carriage of Salmonella on the shell, and, of course, it makes for a cleaner-looking egg. Still, the European approach to tackling pathogens on the farm rather than relying on post-harvest methods will ultimately be a more effective strategy. We are waking up to this fact in North America and clearly a vaccination program would go a long way to improve the microbiological safety of eggs irrespective of washing.
Food Safety Culture: Insurance Against Catastrophe
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/octobernovember-2014/food-safety-culture-insurance-against-catastrophe/
By Gary Ades, Ph.D., Ken Leith and Patti Leith, M.A.
For food safety to succeed in an organization, the most important element is management commitment. Commitment to specific areas is a defining element of a company’s culture. Shifting commitments will change a company’s culture. One of the ways to influence change is through organizational responsibilities, along with the inherent metrics to measure success. So to attain and sustain a successful commitment to food safety, the organizational culture must evolve. The goal is to have an organization that embraces food safety and has the willingness to put the right people in the right places, gives them not only the responsibility but also the authority to do their jobs and fosters departmental cooperation at all levels. The goal of this article is to help you understand how you can influence and change culture to make a difference in your organization’s willingness to commit people, money and resources.
Culture is patterned after what people talk about, but it is shaped by what is measured and rewarded. Positive change happens when you tell people what will be different, measure the things you are trying to change and hold people accountable for their part in achieving results.
Measures include more obvious numeric (hard) results such as impact on the business, no recalls, better quality, higher productivity, increased customer satisfaction, longer shelf life and better audit scores. Less obvious (soft) measures include minimized risk, lower turnover, higher morale, greater employee involvement, better interdepartmental cooperation, higher respect for management and better problem solving at lower levels in the organization. These are the things that you cannot put a firm number on, but you can see them improve. If you don’t measure what you are trying to change, you won’t know if you are improving.
Why Do It?
The simple answer is, it is the right thing to do. The more compelling reason is what can happen when you don’t. When an organization proactively decides to make a firm commitment to food safety, it is similar to purchasing an insurance policy, in that it protects against catastrophe. Some companies, however, refuse to change focus and do not make the decision to commit time and resources to the improvement of their food system until experiencing the crippling emotional and monetary cost of a mistake. By then, it is likely too late.
If an organization has to be reactive in its approach to food safety, it is likely that a catastrophic event has already occurred. If this is the case, the organization may be facing extreme challenges that can include a costly lawsuit or recall. This sends an organization scrambling to respond and correct. Likely, it will affect its reputation and consumer confidence, severely impacting finances as well as affecting employee morale. Many companies cannot recover. The worst time to plan for a crisis is during a crisis. Decisions are often emotional and commonly made by the wrong people in an organization.
Why Don’t We Do It?
So why are so many organizations still thinking about or just dabbling with food safety, when the prudent course is to address potential problems before they occur?
Because it takes time, costs money and is difficult to integrate the proper practices because of things such as understanding the solutions, departmental cooperation and technical hurdles. In some cases, the organization may struggle to convince leadership that it is important enough to warrant the commitment (see “Cultural Transition”).
Familiar comments that reflect the sentiment about the issue might include: “We’ve never had a problem before,” or “It’s too expensive—not worth the money—we’ll take the chance,” or “Nobody else is doing this—it will put us at a disadvantage to spend the money” or “That’s overkill!”
Some leadership teams may think cultural change is an easy, simple fix and won’t really cost a lot. Write a good mission statement that encompasses the core essence of how you want people to behave and include food safety. Or craft a vision statement that outlines the organization’s future objectives and include something about food quality. Simply change the words you say and you should be good to go…right? Sadly, this shows intention but not follow-through.
Some leaders may talk about food safety but not show employees how to accomplish it or hold employees accountable for it. They may give knowledgeable individuals the responsibility but not the authority. Leadership may say a practice is unacceptable but then actually accept it by not doing anything about it. It is trite but true—“Many talk the talk, few walk the walk.”
What Is Culture? How Can You Affect It?
Organizational culture encompasses what employees believe and what they think they should do. It drives actions and regulates what gets rewarded. It highlights those things that fall outside of what is expected and defines how they are dealt with. It resides within the attitudes and commitments of each person within the organization. It is developed by, with and for people, although most people will not plan for it or see it forming.
Culture has many ingredients. These might include values, norms, accepted behaviors, history, tradition, habits and expectations. Enhancing an organizational culture to embrace food safety practices may involve rewiring some of what is currently shaping the culture. The efforts will likely create new norms and accepted behaviors that lead to new habits and higher expectations.
Culture is based on several factors. It is impacted by the history within your organization and what its leaders have talked about in the past. This has a greater impact in an organization that tells its stories to its new employees. But culture is also affected by the present—what leaders talk about today, how they behave and what they let others do. Another key element in culture is the rewards. What is required to receive a promotion, pay increase, recognition or award?
Culture also has an intangible element that impacts its form on any given day. Lets call it “by example.” People do more of what is easy and more of what is silently rewarded. They do less of what is too hard and fewer of the things that get them (or others) into trouble. When a successful person behaves in a certain way, others mimic that behavior if they want to be successful.
So if a person gets things done with others respectfully and is thorough in his/her work and that person gets promoted, the signal it sends to the organization is that respecting others and being thorough is important. Consequently, people will do that to receive similar status in the future.
However, if a person chooses to look the other way or take shortcuts and there are no consequences, and that person also gets promoted, that sends a strong message to others that even though we call that behavior unacceptable, it really is acceptable. Others may, in fact, do the same thing and nobody will do much of anything about it. The organization puts up with it and, in some cases, they even reward it.
Understanding the key elements of culture can help a leadership team figure out how to plan for the intended enhancements rather than let the shift happen randomly. The absence of efforts to plan and/or change culture to meet the changing goals within an organization may produce a culture that supports actions that run contrary to the strategic goals of the organization. Such a situation may even put the well-being of the organization at great risk if something goes wrong and people look the other way.
The main objective of the leadership team, when making a commitment to excellence in food safety practices, is to plan for the culture change to support the safety focus. Failure to do so will render the efforts wasteful and ineffective. Good, positive cultures attract and keep good, positive people.
How Do You Do It?
Mission and vision statements are good places to start, but they only begin to define the targeted shifts needed in culture. They aren’t always easy to craft collaboratively and doing so will not solve the problem. Simply reiterating these statements does not mean that individuals who are accustomed to a different set of norms will change without having to do so. It is not even likely that such statements will prompt activity toward stated goals without a comprehensive plan for accountability. Including a commitment to food safety in the mission and vision statements will help tell people you are serious about the objectives, but it is not enough to enable sustainable change. You have to tell people you are going to do it, show them how to do it, provide them with the resources to do it and make sure they do it.
The very nature of this challenge demands a top-level commitment. Management first needs to decide that it is important and also that they need to do it. The decision is based on history (both their own and others’) as well as understanding the true cost of people getting sick or dying, impact on the brand, monetary losses and impact on employee morale. The entire leadership team must be willing to collaborate to determine exactly what needs to change and how it should be happening. They also need to identify the obstacles or barriers that will get in the way. Then they use those variables to develop a change plan.
This may involve a look at structure; when doing so, consider this premise:
Quality Assurance will reside within the direction, commitment and focus of the company, while being supported by the necessary resources and actions.
Quality Control is the responsibility of the people actually producing the product.
The entire effort should be implemented in the same way as any other strategic initiative. It cannot be one leader’s pet project, but rather must be owned and practiced by everyone, every day. The commitment must merge with and become a defining part of a new movement in culture.
Road Map to Cultural Change
The process of shaping culture from the onset—maintaining it, changing it when necessary, enhancing it or just making minor changes to it—requires the total focus of the organization at a deeper level than a mission or vision statement alone can achieve. Leaders need to understand why the current culture exists. They should define what is contrary to the goals. Collaboratively, they must understand the changes they want to make and develop a comprehensive action plan to implement them. Finally, leaders and managers should develop a plan to communicate the change, and educate and train people on how to ensure and measure successful change. Often, the organization will benefit from leadership skills development for all levels of leadership to ensure focus and accountability, and to leverage success.
The steps to make food safety a priority are simple to define but take true commitment to deliver. Every step is important. The more levels involved in discovering and defining this, the more integrated the solutions will become. Many times, an objective outside person can help facilitate the process.
Step 1: Where are we? Define the current reality.
Fully understand what is happening today. Organizations don’t often see their opportunities. Seek objective feedback and ask the people doing the work what is going on, ensuring that you are open to feedback. Productive dialogue requires that communication flows up, down and across the entire organization. This is how you should start this work. This interactive dialogue should become a way of life. Leaders in an organization need to know what is really happening, all the time.
Step 2: Where should we be? Define future objectives.
Identify a comprehensive series of guidelines. Know exactly what practices you want to exist in your organization. Understand your goals to implement food safety practices to prevent mistakes, keep problems from occurring and be able to effectively respond to issues. This work should be collaborative and involve all key leaders—who should be getting input from their teams.
Step 3: What is missing? Know the problems.
Determine what needs to change. The success of this step depends fully on the accuracy of Steps 1 and 2. To understand what is missing, you have to know where you are and where you are going. Once the team knows these two things, the missing parts (and their root causes) become very clear. We call this the gap. Your objective is to bridge the gap between where you are today and what you want to and will achieve tomorrow.
Step 4: What is needed to get to where we should be? Develop solutions.
Determine how to change what is currently taking place. This will involve process analysis and beginning your process change planning. In a culture of continual process improvement, this will happen more easily. In a culture that still thinks of that thing you changed 5 years ago as new, this will take more effort. The objective is to provide specific guidance to all levels about solutions that effectively improve something in the business. This work should also address the need to remove the causes of the undesirable situations that exist.
Step 5: How do we get there? Develop a plan to show people what to do.
Identify the details of the solutions. Fully outline what needs to be accomplished, how it should be accomplished, when and by whom. Some of the components of this plan will be one-time initiatives, whereas others will be ongoing. Most of these solutions will be embedded in process, which will prompt overall process change. Remember to look at efficiency within processes when adjusting or changing them. Good processes need to be based upon best practices (owned by all) rather than tribal knowledge (owned by each individual). Documentation is paramount in this step. The details are a critical part of any change. It is easy to talk about what to do, but not as easy to determine how to do it. Until that detail work is done, people will not be able to do what you are asking them to do.
Step 6: Who needs to know what? Tell people what and why, and show them how.
Develop a detailed plan for communication to support your change (see “Developing a Powerful Plan to Communicate Change”). You are changing the rules of the game, so inform the players. This will involve communication to everyone. Tell everyone in every way possible. Employees directly impacted, or from whom major change will be required, should be told individually.
This will also require education for those doing or supporting the change, to give them the information they need to understand why the change is occurring and what it means for them.
Finally, training should be done for those needing to change what they actually do. This should involve training in process and skills while also offering opportunities for guided practice. Documentation of the new process can be used to train employees.
Employee job descriptions should get changed to reflect exactly what they are responsible for accomplishing. Process and procedure manuals should be updated for clear references during and after training. For each involved party, clearly define and demonstrate what they will be doing differently.
Step 7: How do we know it is successful? Develop appropriate metrics.
Once guidelines have been set, defined and communicated, they must be measured across the organization, within departments and for each employee. Remember that measurement drives behavior, so don’t measure anything that doesn’t tell you how you are doing, compared with your goal. Test and validate your methods to be sure you are on target. This is generally more effective when utilizing systems that can generate progress reports.
Step 8: How do we continue to improve? Ensure accountability and reward.
Once you measure, be sure to reward and recognize success or desired behaviors as often as possible, no matter how small. This will remind others to follow the same patterns while keeping the targets on the forefront. Also, if someone is not meeting expectations, leaders need to hold them accountable for aligning their behavior with what is expected. Remember that failure to address missed expectations will send a strong message that it is OK. This will deflate any attempts at improvement within organizational culture. The ability to ensure accountability and reward will be enhanced if leaders can rely on a system to remind them about follow-up, tracking progress and checkpoints. They also need to have good skills for follow-through, influence and conflict management.
The elements of an effective program should translate leadership’s commitment to continuous quality improvement through education and training of employees and managers at all levels (Figure 1). Training topics should center on the prerequisites to food safety, the fundamental dynamics of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and continuous improvement. This can only happen with management commitment to ensure it is being done and being done well.
The consequences of not integrating this insurance can be dire. People can be injured or die. The financial costs can be extensive and include, but are not limited to, medical expenses and loss of productivity for impacted persons, loss of productivity for you due to stress within the organization, legal fees, decreased sales and increased insurance premiums. If the organization does come through the event financially intact, the most damaging element is very likely its injured reputation and the painstaking time it takes to rebuild consumer confidence.
As if that were not enough, the future may hold even more personal consequences for the leaders within the organization. Legal actions are becoming more prevalent, with significant penalties for company leaders. For example, the Park Doctrine may be used in the future. The Park Doctrine allows the federal government to seek a misdemeanor conviction against a company official for alleged violations of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) without having to prove that the official participated in or was even aware of the violations. The government need only demonstrate that the official was in a position of authority to prevent or correct the alleged violation. The Park Doctrine, in effect, renders FDCA violations strict liability crimes for corporate officials in positions of responsibility or authority.
What You Can Do
If your organization is embarking on the commitment to food safety, use this information as a road map to make sure that your efforts are both comprehensive and successful. After understanding the risks and rewards, develop a way to effectively communicate the importance to key people in the organization. We will be covering this topic in an upcoming article.
If you are in a key leadership position, use this information as a means to engage others in dialogue about the implementation of the effort. If your organization needs to make this commitment but you are not a member of the key leadership team, use this information as a foundation to engage in dialogue influencing others to commit to such efforts. Develop the ability to communicate in terms that management understands. Remember that numbers talk to people. Thus, arm yourself with an understanding of pertinent numbers for your organization and take some time to understand what has happened to organizations that did not do this.
Finally, if this is your job in an organization, be thorough about the details.
Think of food safety precaution as if it were a type of insurance. Individuals buy insurance to transfer risk and gain peace of mind, making the decision to protect themselves from catastrophe. When your organization commits to increasing quality standards to ensure food safety, the changes must become routine and daily to be sustainable. Like any other initiative, it won’t happen without an action plan that tells each person involved what he should do, how to do it and why.
You must also provide employees with the tools to do what you are asking them to do. Tools include financial resources, people, equipment, education, training and departmental cooperation.
Remember that food safety needs to be your top priority, not an afterthought. It is far less costly if you implement food safety practices before you have an event. Once you have experienced a breach of quality if someone finds something in your food, or if he or she gets sick (or dies) because of something in your food, life as you know it today will forever change.
Gary Ades, Ph.D., is president of G&L Consulting Group LLC. He is an experienced food professional, having worked in the technical, manufacturing and marketing areas of the food and foodservice industry. He is a member of Food Safety Magazine’s editorial advisory board. He provides food safety, quality assurance, crisis planning and strategic planning assistance to his clients (farm to fork). He can be reached at email@example.com
Ken Leith and Patti Leith, M.A., are managing partners of EDGES Inc., a business growth services firm, located in Bentonville, AR, assisting clients in developing strategy, culture, people, process and metrics. They also own and operate e-Gauge Inc., a software company specializing in strategic execution, talent management and project management, based in Fort Collins, CO. You may contact them at 479.203.7198 or 970.515.7898, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Cucumbers Likely Cause of Jimmy John’s E. Coli Outbreak
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/12/jimmy-johns-cucumbers-not-sprouts-responsible-for-e-coil-outbreak/#.VI5dPk1xns1
By Dan Flynn (Dec 9, 2014)
Eating Jimmy John’s sandwiches with cucumbers imported from Mexico was the likely cause of a Denver-area E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that occurred in October 2013, according to a new 27-page state investigative report.
The investigation, by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and several local public health departments in the Denver area, identified nine E. coli infections associated with sandwiches purchased at Jimmy John’s outlets in Littleton, Lakewood, and Glendale that came with the Mexican cucumbers. Eight of the nine cases were laboratory-confirmed with matching pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and with multiple-locus variable number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) patterns from E. coli O157:H7 isolated from stool samples. A ninth probable case was included in the outbreak.
“To our knowledge, this is the first E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with cucumbers reported in the United States,” the investigative report states. “Public health and food safety officials should be aware that cucumbers may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, which could cause sporadic E. coli O157:H7 infections as well as outbreaks.”
This is not the first time the privately held Jimmy John’s, based in Champaign, IL, and with 2,004 franchise locations in the U.S., has been linked to an outbreak. But past Jimmy John’s outbreaks have involved sprouts and, in one instance, sprouts and lettuce.
CDPHE’s Laboratory Services Division found two E. coli O157:H7 cases on Oct. 21, 2013, with matching PFGE patterns and began checking the national PulseNet system to see if other states had any cases with similar DNA “fingerprints.” The pattern was common to one seen nationwide every year.
It was not long before Colorado had matches to a Minnesota case involving ground beef and several in Arizona involving a child care center with a person-to-person contamination problem. At that point, CDPHE began to use MLVA testing for the finer level of comparison between isolates that it provides. By Oct.22, four Colorado cases were linked into a likely cluster.
“Additional states had MLVA testing completed on E. coli O157:H7 cases with the matching PFGE pattern combination, none of which matched the MLVA pattern seen in the Colorado cases, further supporting that the Colorado cluster had a unique exposure,” the report states.
For the Colorado investigation, a confirmed case was defined as a Colorado resident with onset of laboratory-confirmed E. coli O157:H7 infection with the outbreak MLVA pattern in October 2013. The one probable case was a Colorado resident with post-diarrheal HUS and positive E. coli O157 serology in October 2013.
While going public with their outbreak report, CDPHE did not tell the public about the outbreak when it was occurring until Jimmy John’s patrons disclosed the event to a Denver television station.
“CDPHE did not issue a press release for this outbreak as surveillance data and the investigation findings determined that there was not ongoing transmission or risk to the public,” the report reads.
Before the secret leaked out, however, the CDPHE report acknowledges that the state was reaching out to surrounding states, local public health officials and hospitals seeking further reports for followups. It even covered the outbreak in its “Hot Topics in Epidemiology” newsletter, which it emails to public health officials.
CDPHE notified Jimmy John’s corporate offices about the investigation on Oct. 23, 2013, and then allowed the public to remain in the dark for another week before confirming the TV reports. At the time, department officials said they suspected a “produce item” served by Jimmy John’s was the likely source of the outbreak.
It’s likely most would have guessed sprouts as the problem since, at least five times since 2008, Jimmy John’s restaurants have served up contaminated sprouts involved in outbreaks.
All three of the Jimmy John’s outlets involved in the outbreak used Denver-based Colo-Pac Produce Inc. as their cucumber supplier. The three restaurants and the produce supplier were subjected to unannounced inspections during the investigation. A traceback was conducted that found all the contaminated cucumbers came from the same lot and were available in the restaurants on the dates that contaminated product was consumed.
Right to Know Files Emergency Lawsuit in Oregon GE Labeling Recount
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/right-to-know-files-emergency-lawsuit-in-oregon-ge-labeling-recount/
By Linda Larsen (Dec 9, 2014)
According to the Center for Food Safety, Oregon citizens and Oregon Right to Know Campaign have filed an emergency lawsuit to ensure that their votes are properly counted in the recount of the Oregon GE labeling ballot measure. About 4,600 votes may be rejected. A mandatory statewide hand recount of Measure 92 is going on right now.
The difference between “yes” and “no” was less than a tenth of a percentage point, or 812 votes. At this point, 4,600 ballots are being rejected without evidence of fraud or forgery.
The lawsuit states, “these voters completed their ballots, signed their return identification envelopes pursuant to instructions provided by the Secretary of the State and local election officials, and timely returned their ballots. However, local election officials … have not counted these ballots because the voters’ signatures on their return identification envelopes do not ‘match’ their signature on file for those voters.”
Voting is conducted by mail in Oregon. Voters sign their ballots and the signature is compared to one on file. But voting instructions did not tell the voters that their signature must “match”, and that is not required by Oregon’s election law.
Many signatures change over time because of illness, age, and disability. Some people received notification that their signature is being challenged, but many have not. And some people have tried to correct the “mismatch” but their vote is not being counted anyway.
George Kimbrell, senior attorney with Center for Food Safety said in a statement, “the right to vote is a fundamental right. Thousands of voters should not have their rights denied because of a technicality that the law does not require. Absent evidence of forgery or fraud, these ballots must be counted. It’s especially critical here, since the closest statewide election in Oregon history hangs in the balance.”
Shock and shame: Supermarket food safety failings make case for scrutiny
Source : http://barfblog.com/2014/12/shock-and-shame-supermarket-food-safety-failings-make-case-for-scrutiny/
By Doug Powell (Dec 9, 2014)
Perhaps my Scottish food safety friend can comment. Thermometers would help.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which? makes a strong case in The Scotsman for strong control of Campylobacter.
For the first time, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) named and shamed seven of the biggest supermarkets based on its testing results for Campylobacter. It wasn’t pretty reading, with the food safety watchdog detailing how more than 70 per cent of the fresh chickens it tested were contaminated with the potentially lethal bug.
Asda was found to have the highest levels, at 78 per cent, but none of the major retailers did well in this survey or met the FSA’s agreed joint industry target. The lowest rates were found in Tesco but it still had nearly two-thirds of samples contaminated (64 per cent). The results are a damning indictment of our big supermarkets, and consumers will be shocked at the failure of trusted household brands to stem the tide of increasingly high levels of Campylobacter. Supermarket bosses should hang their heads in shame.
The FSA’s retailer results were actually worse than a previous survey last August which didn’t name individual stores but showed around six in ten fresh chicken samples tested were contaminated with campylobacter. In research we undertook, as part of our new Make Chicken Safe campaign, we found six in ten people (61 per cent) expressed concern about these high levels, with three-quarters (77 per cent) saying they thought they were too high. More than half (55 per cent) thought that there wasn’t enough information available regarding Campylobacter levels in chicken.
By releasing information about which supermarkets are most affected, in the face of extreme pressure from industry to keep it anonymous, we hope the FSA will pile public pressure on the poor performers to improve and give consumers better information about campylobacter levels. We now want to see supermarkets not only publish effective plans to tackle these scandalously high levels but also demonstrate they’re taking real action to make chicken safe.
Although Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning, cooking chicken at temperatures above 70ºC (165ºF) will kill the bacteria. And there are simple ways to minimize cross-contamination at home, for example not washing raw chicken, because the water can spray bacteria onto the surrounding area of your kitchen.
But we don’t think the onus should be on consumers to tackle this bug. Nearly nine in ten people (86 per cent) say they assume the food they buy from supermarkets won’t make them ill, and three-quarters of people (76 per cent) trust that the fresh chicken supermarkets stock is safe to eat. That is why Which?’s Make Chicken Safe campaign is calling for joint action from the supermarkets, regulator and the chicken processing industry to set out action to bring Campylobacter levels under control; and to publish the results of all the campylobacter testing they undertake.
It InControls need to be tightened at every stage of the supply chain, from farms to supermarkets. There can be no shirking responsibility – everyone involved in producing and selling chickens must act now and tell consumers what they’re doing to make sure the chicken we eat is safe. It’s now vital that the industry cleans up its act and works hard to restore consumer confidence.
Reducing Campylobacter levels must also be firmly on the agenda for the new food safety body for Scotland, Food Standards Scotland (FSS), which will shortly be established as part of the Food (Scotland) Bill. Consumers need to be confident in the food they are buying and we want the FSS to put consumers at the heart of its work, right from the start.
To do this, FSS needs teeth and a team of experts led by a proactive chief executive who will be a true consumer champion – starting with tackling the campylobacter scandal.
Food safety tips for when power goes out
Source : http://www.wcsh6.com/story/news/local/2014/12/09/maine-cdc-food-safety-tips-for-power-outages/20167541/
By Kerry Leary (Dec 9, 2014)
Maine's Department of Health and Human Services has food safety recommendations for those who might lose power from Tuesday's storm.
In the event that your home loses power, here are some tips:
•Keep a thermometer in your refrigerator and freezer at all times to see if food is being stored at safe temperatures (which means 40 degrees Fahrenheit for the fridge and 0 degrees Fahrenheit for the freezer)
•Leave the freezer door closed to keep the cold air in. The Maine CDC said a full freezer should keep food safe for about two days. You can safely refreeze thawed foods that still contain ice crystals or feel cold and solid to the touch.
•Also leave the refrigerator door closed as much as possible. Every time it's opened, cold air escapes. If the power could be off for more than six hours, the Maine CDC recommended transferring perishable food to an insulated cooler filled with ice or frozen gel packs.
•Refrigerated items should be safe as long as the power is out for no more than four to six hours. The Maine CDC said to discard any perishable food that has been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two or more hours. The rule of thumb is, "when in doubt, throw it out."
•The Maine CDC said "never taste food to determine its safety." Bacteria can multiply very rapidly. It wouldn't be good to have food poisoning while the power is out.
•If you have more questions about food safety during a power outage, contact the USDA's Meat and Poultry hotline: 1-800-535-4555 (it's open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.).
In addition to food safety, if your family is using a generator, be sure to do so safely. The Maine CDC said one generator can produce as much carbon monoxide as 100 cars. If you're using a generator to keep appliances running, make sure the generator is in an open space, at least 15 feet away from any windows or doors, and outside the home.
Canada Sets Control Zone to Prevent Avian Flu Spread
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/canada-sets-control-zone-to-prevent-avian-flu-spread/
By Linda Larsen (Dec 9, 2014)
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has established a primary control zone in the area where the highly pathogenic avian flu H5N1 has been infecting flocks. The Province of British Columbia is working with the CFIA to implement it.
Southern British Columbia has a high concentration of poultry operations. The control zone is divided into three disease zones: Infected, restricted, and security. Those zones represent relative levels of risk. The outer boundary of an infected zone is up to 3 km from any known infected premises. The restricted zone is established surrounding the infected zone and measured based on the epidemiology of the disease. And the security zone is the remainder of the primary control zone beyond 10 km.
The restrictions apply to captive birds, which includes but is not limited to poultry, fowl, and pet birds; poultry products or by-products; anything that has been exposed to captive birds, which could include feed, vehicles, clothing, or equipment. Movement of captive birds in, out of, and through this zone requires a permit from the CFIA.
Avian flu viruses do not pose risks to food safety, but only when poultry and poultry products are “properly handled and cooked”. That means avoid cross-contamiantion between raw poultry products and other foods, wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw poultry, and disinfect any utensils or surfaces that come into contact with raw poultry. Cook all poultry to a minimum internal temperature of 165°F as measured with an accurate thermometer.
Supermarket food safety failings make case for scrutiny
Source : http://www.scotsman.com/news/supermarket-food-safety-failings-make-case-for-scrutiny-1-3628692#
By RICHARD LLOYD (Dec 08, 2014)
With a new First Minister, a new legislative programme and proposals for new powers for Scotland you would be forgiven for missing the UK’s latest food scandal recently.
For the first time, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) named and shamed seven of the biggest supermarkets based on its testing results for campylobacter bacteria. It wasn’t pretty reading, with the food safety watchdog detailing how more than 70 per cent of the fresh chickens it tested were contaminated with the potentially lethal bug.
Asda was found to have the highest levels, at 78 per cent, but none of the major retailers did well in this survey or met the FSA’s agreed joint industry target. The lowest rates were found in Tesco but it still had nearly two-thirds of samples contaminated (64 per cent). The results are a damning indictment of our big supermarkets, and consumers will be shocked at the failure of trusted household brands to stem the tide of increasingly high levels of campylobacter. Supermarket bosses should hang their heads in shame.
Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, with the majority of cases coming from poultry. It is responsible for more than 280,000 cases of food poisoning each year and around 100 deaths a year. Yet we found only a third of people (33 per cent) had heard of campylobacter, compared to 94 per cent being aware of salmonella and 92 per cent of E. coli.
The FSA’s retailer results were actually worse than a previous survey last August which didn’t name individual stores but showed around six in ten fresh chicken samples tested were contaminated with campylobacter. In research we undertook, as part of our new Make Chicken Safe campaign, we found six in ten people (61 per cent) expressed concern about these high levels, with three-quarters (77 per cent) saying they thought they were too high. More than half (55 per cent) thought that there wasn’t enough information available regarding campylobacter levels in chicken.
By releasing information about which supermarkets are most affected, in the face of extreme pressure from industry to keep it anonymous, we hope the FSA will pile public pressure on the poor performers to improve and give consumers better information about campylobacter levels. We now want to see supermarkets not only publish effective plans to tackle these scandalously high levels but also demonstrate they’re taking real action to make chicken safe.
Although campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning, cooking chicken at temperatures above 70ºC (165ºF) will kill the bacteria. And there are simple ways to minimise cross-contamination at home, for example not washing raw chicken, because the water can spray bacteria onto the surrounding area of your kitchen.
But we don’t think the onus should be on consumers to tackle this bug. Nearly nine in ten people (86 per cent) say they assume the food they buy from supermarkets won’t make them ill, and three-quarters of people (76 per cent) trust that the fresh chicken supermarkets stock is safe to eat. That is why Which?’s Make Chicken Safe campaign is calling for joint action from the supermarkets, regulator and the chicken processing industry to set out action to bring campylobacter levels under control; and to publish the results of all the campylobacter testing they undertake.
Controls need to be tightened at every stage of the supply chain, from farms to supermarkets. There can be no shirking responsibility – everyone involved in producing and selling chickens must act now and tell consumers what they’re doing to make sure the chicken we eat is safe. It’s now vital that the industry cleans up its act and works hard to restore consumer confidence.
Reducing campylobacter levels must also be firmly on the agenda for the new food safety body for Scotland, Food Standards Scotland (FSS), which will shortly be established as part of the Food (Scotland) Bill. Consumers need to be confident in the food they are buying and we want the FSS to put consumers at the heart of its work, right from the start.
Second Case of Hepatitis A in Hamilton Township, NJ Ruled Out
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2014/second-case-of-hepatitis-a-in-hamilton-township-nj-ruled-out/
By Linda Larsen (Dec 8, 2014)
Hamilton Township Mayor Kelley Yaede and the Hamilton Township Division of Health released a news bulletin stating that there is not a second case of hepatitis A in a frequent patron of Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering in that area. A series of tests conducted at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital found that the person was not infected.
A first blood test was a “false positive”. Two subsequent tests conducted by the hospital’s emergency room staff in consultation with the facility’s infectious disease team were negative. The only person confirmed with hepatitis A in this case is the original employee of the restaurant.
The original alert was issued December 2, 2014, after an employee was diagnosed with the illness. That employee was hospitalized last week. Anyone who ate at the restaurant between November 10, 2014 and December 1, 2014 may have been exposed to the virus.
A hepatitis A or immune globulin vaccination is only good if administered within 2 weeks of exposure. If you ate at that restaurant after November 24, 2014, you can still get a shot. Contact your doctor to see if you need a vaccination and which one is right for you.
For questions and more information, contact the township’s health department at 609-890-3884. If you do not have health insurance, the health division may be able to help.
Voters more inclined than consumers to pay for food safety
Source : http://phys.org/news/2014-12-voters-inclined-consumers-food-safety.html
By A'ndrea Elyse Messer (Dec 08, 2014)
Voters are more willing to pay for a decreased risk of food-related illness than consumers, but female consumers are more willing to pay than male consumers, according to an international team of researchers.
"The question is, what would consumers prefer?" said Amit Sharma, associate professor of hospitality management and finance, Penn State. "Would they prefer a market-driven, or a policy-driven approach? Either of those two approaches could lead to some price increase. Improving quality costs money, and food safety is no different."
Sharma and colleagues wanted to know whether people would pay more for a lowered risk of a food-related illness, and in particular whether their choices would vary if they were thinking about the issue from a consumer perspective as opposed to a voter perspective.
"The question is whether it matters whether we elicit consumer or citizen preferences when valuating food safety," said the researchers in a recent issue of Food Policy.
The researchers created two surveys for distribution to participants. One survey asked about the participant's willingness to pay more at a neighborhood restaurant to ensure reduced risk of food-related illness. The other asked whether the participant would vote yes or no for regulations to reduce this risk that would result in the same increase in restaurant prices. Participants were asked about their willingness to pay increased amounts—from none, to 1 to 5 percent, to over 30 percent of the meal price—for a lowered risk of food-related illness. Respondents answered the survey for a 25 percent, 50 percent, and 75 percent reduction in risk.
Over the course of a semester, the team collected survey responses from 864 people at a university campus restaurant. Participants covered a range of ages, income levels and educations levels and included local residents, students and university employees.
The researchers also developed models, taking into account variables including participant gender and age, to determine whether the participants responded to the survey differently as consumers than as voters.
The researchers found that, in the total sample, voters and consumers varied significantly in their willingness to pay for decreased risk. Furthermore, among consumers, women were more willing than men to pay for a reduced risk of illness, and in particular, older women were willing to pay more than young men.
"This indicates that while men and women have a similar (willingness to pay) for a reduction in the foodborne risk level at a society level, women are more willing than men to pay to protect themselves when at a restaurant," the researchers said.
Neither voters nor consumers differed in their willingness to pay at different risk levels. However, the overall difference between responses in a voting context, as opposed to as consumers, reflects participants' varying reactions to the cause of a price increase, said Sharma.
"An increase in price because of a policy, or an increase in price because of a vote that led to a government policy, would be more acceptable than if the restaurants had implemented this by themselves," said Sharma.
This is important if policy decisions rely on consumer-based data that may not accurately convey people's willingness to pay more for a reduced food-related risk.
"We might come to undervalue what citizens would truly pay for safer foods versus if this was more of a market driven or in this case a buying scenario," said Sharma. "If this was driven by policy, then it's likely that citizens would be willing to pay a higher price."
Other participants in this research include Roselyne Alphonce and Frode Alfnes, School of Economics and Business, Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
The US Department of Agriculture's Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points program funded this research.
Does fruit cake last forever? Scientists say combination of alcohol and dried fruit means most puddings last much longer than the 'use by date'
Source : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2865505/Does-fruit-cake-forever-Scientists-say-combination-alcohol-dried-fruit-means-puddings-longer-use-date.html
By Madlen Davies for MailOnline (Dec 08, 2014)
It's the time of year to eat fruit cakes and Christmas puddings in abundance.
Now, experts have said the Christmas treats can be eaten long past their use-by-date.
The U.S. Department for Agriculture advises fruit cakes can last up to three months in the fridge and up to a year in the freezer.
But food safety experts believe they could last even longer than this.
'All of these dried and candied ingredients have what we call "low water activity" - meaning they have very little moisture available,' said Dr Ben Chapman, a food safety researcher at North Carolina State University, U.S.
'Low water activity is important because many microorganisms, including foodborne illness-causing bacteria, need moisture in order to reproduce.
'In practical terms, this makes most fruitcakes extremely shelf stable, so they would be safe to eat for a long time – a really long time,' he said.
'But it might taste pretty bad.'
This is because many things can significantly affect the quality of the fruitcake, he said.
For example, mould could grow on the surface, or yeast could cause some of the sugars in the fruitcake to ferment.
'But some people wrap their fruitcakes in linen that's been soaked in rum or other spirits to reduce the chance of mould or yeast problems,' Dr Chapman said.
'However, rancidity may still be an issue. Fruitcakes contain a variety of proteins, from eggs to butter to nuts – even the fruit items.
'And when proteins are exposed to air, they can become oxidised, which can create rancid flavours and odours,' he said.
If a fruitcake has a significant amount of moisture, perhaps because it was made with fresh fruit, it is more likely to spoil or to give pathogens enough moisture to reproduce.
While it may be possible to keep the fruitcake forever, it's probably best to eat it within a few months, he concluded.
Professor Hugh Pennington, a bacteriologist at Aberdeen University, agreed that fruit cakes can be kept long past their 'use-by' date.
'The addition of alcohol to fruit cakes was a very good thing,' he told MailOnline. 'It enhances the flavour and it kills bugs.
'Dried fruits are very safe. You eat raisins without worrying about food poisoning. There aren’t any nasty bugs in dried fruit and peel.
'And, of course, the cake is heated. Once the cake has come out of the oven its fine.'
He added the issue wasn't food safety, but food spoilage.
'If you see mould grow on a cake you wouldn’t eat it, but you are unlikely to see mould on a fruit cake for a very long time. Mould doesn’t like sugar.
'Any timeframe saying you should eat your fruit cake by a certain date is playing it safe. You could leave it a lot longer
'I’d be quite relaxed about eating it after a good few months.
'As long as it tastes good- that's the test. The only risk is you eat too much of it.'
Analysis: 30 Percent of NZ Baby Food Contained Pesticide Residues
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2014/12/analysis-new-zealand-baby-food-contains-800-times-more-pesticides-than-eu-baby-food/#.VI5al01xns1
By News Desk (Dec 5, 2014)
According to a recent analysis of a government study, New Zealand baby food contained nearly 800 times more pesticides than baby food in Europe.
The analysis results and the perceived risks to New Zealand babies were presented Thursday to the parliament in Wellington by Dr. Meriel Watts of the Pesticide Action Network Aotearoa and Alison White of the Safe Food Campaign.
Their comments were in support of a 4,300-signature petition presented to the New Zealand Parliament earlier this year calling for zero tolerance of pesticides in baby food.
“We want New Zealand to follow the European directives which basically stipulate a zero tolerance policy,” White stated. “Three of the pesticides found in New Zealand baby food are hazardous for young children and babies in the womb. Kiwi babies deserve the same level of protection as they have in the EU.”
The study analysis showed that more than 30 percent of New Zealand baby food contained pesticide residues while less than 1 percent (0.04 percent) of European baby food did so.
Five pesticides were detected in 32 baby food samples of the last NZ Total Diet Survey of 2009, which included testing of formula, cereal based, custard/fruit and savory weaning foods. The EU analysis of 2,062 baby foods showed residues in only 0.04 percent of samples in 2010.
“Some of the pesticides found are carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, for which no safe level has been scientifically established, and doses thousands of times lower than those generally considered toxic are known to interfere with normal human development,” White said.
“Children have unique windows of vulnerability which adults do not have,” Watts said. “Extremely low doses which may not have an immediate effect on adults can critically interfere with children’s ongoing developmental processes. This may result in lifelong alterations in growth and development, organ formation, as well as disease occurrence. One of the key outcomes of exposure to even tiny amounts of pesticides like chlorpyrifos is lowered IQ and delayed development.”
Watts, senior scientist for the Pesticide Action Network Asia Pacific, published a book last year entitled, “Poisoning Our Future: Children and Pesticides,” in which she compiled research about why children are at risk from pesticides, even from very low doses.
The Safe Food Campaign also believes that the New Zealand government should do a more extensive analysis of baby food.
“More extensive and regular surveys need to be done of baby food not only to monitor the proposed legislation but also to provide a more adequate baseline for comparison over time and with other countries,” White said.
According to New Zealand Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew, that country’s food safety system is “world class.” She has promised to investigate the issue.
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