Cyclospora Outbreak Sickened Scores of People in Iowa, Nebraska
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/cyclospora-outbreak-sickened-scores-of-people-in-iowa-nebraska/
BNews Desk (Feb 15, 2015)
Nebraska Cyclospora Lawyer files suitA Cyclospora lawsuit was filed for food poisoning in 2013 when Iowa and Nebraska were hit by an outbreak of the parasite, which was linked by the FDA and CDC to salad mix from Mexico supplied to Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants. The final analysis showed 227 people from those two Midwestern states afflicted by the contamination, which was preventable. The defective salad mix came from Mexico and five ranches in that country were ultimately inspected by the FDA in a fact-finding environmental assessment. The salad mix was produced by a processor of foodservice salads, Taylor Farms de Mexico.
Food safety lawyer Fred Pritzker and his firm, PritzkerOlsen Attorneys, represent more than 60 case patients of this outbreak and his team can be contacted for a free consultation on how affected individuals can pursue claims. Fred is leading a lawsuit on behalf of a woman who contracted a Cyclospora infection (cyclosporiasis) after eating at the Olive Garden restaurant located at 367 Collins Rd NE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa on June 5, 2013. The lawsuit was filed against Darden Corporation, a Florida corporation, and Taylor Fresh Foods.
According to the lawsuit, about 7 days after eating at the Cedar Rapids Olive Garden, the Iowa woman began suffering diarrhea, fatigue and cramping. She continued to suffer from symptoms of cyclosporiasis over the next week. She visited the emergency room three more times and was diagnosed with cyclosporiasis in early July. She was prescribed Bactrim to treat her infection but continued to suffer symptoms.
Public health officials in Iowa and Nebraska concluded that restaurant-associated cases of cyclosporiasis in their states were linked to salad mix from Taylor Farms de Mexico. The suspect bagged salad mix consisted of iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, green leaf, red cabbage, and carrots. With the exception of carrots, all of the components in the suspect salad mix were grown for Taylor Farms de Mexico on multiple ranches in the State of Guanajuato, Mexico.
As Mr. Pritzker’s legal team has expressed in litigation, humans are the only known reservoir of the microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis, which causes intestinal infection and is endemic in many developing countries. The parasite is transmitted via ingestion of contaminated water or food. Direct person-to-person transmission is unlikely because the immature form of the parasite shed in the feces of an infected person must mature outside the host, in the environment, to become a threat to someone else.
Part of FDA’s report from the growing fields included a focus on hand-washing facilities for the workers. According to the report, the hand washing faucets observed on some portable sanitary facilities at the assessed ranches could create a potential for cross-contamination in that the employees must handle the valves before and after washing their hands to turn the water on and off. The Environmental Assessment team recommended that the firm establish procedures for better hand wash facilities to control, reduce and eliminate human pathogens from employee hands.
Food safety systems in India challenged by hygiene related problems
Source : http://barfblog.com/2015/02/food-safety-systems-in-india-challenged-by-hygiene-related-problems/
By Doug Powell (Feb 15, 2015)
Indian food safety systems are challenged by the rapidly growing population, hygiene related problems, incidences of residues of antibiotics and heavy metals, foodborne pathogens, incidence of infectious diseases in food producing animals and anti- microbial resistance.
Pork MeatThese observations were made by experts addressing the recently-held National Symposium on Food Safety of Animal Origin, arranged during the XIII Annual Conference of Indian Association of Veterinary and Public Health.
Expressing his views at the symposium, Prof. Suresh S Honnappagol,animal husbandry commissioner, Government of India, stated, “The traditional production, processing and waste handling systems coupled with unhygienic practices in particular have tainted and tarnished the image of the Indian meat industry.”
Further, a panel of experts pointed out that population and income growth were driving enormous increases in demand for foods of animal origin. Livestock production systems are facing increasing demands for livestock feeds relative to availabilities. Accurate assessments of current and future supplies and demands for livestock feed are needed for national food and feed security policy and planning. The development of National Feed Assessment Systems (NFASs) is suggested to support sustainable livestock sector growth.
Dr C Renukaprasad, vice-chancellor, KVAFSU, Bidar,stated,“There is need to have extensive knowledge about the main health hazards associated with consumption of meat, poultry and eggs and their epidemiology in animals and humans. In addition, the risk analysis and HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). There must be an awareness of international regulation concerning the safety of meat, poultry and eggs and related trade issues.There is also need to put in risk-based inspection procedures.”
Safe Food Matters: Focus on Listeria
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/02/lets-work-together-safe-food-matters-focus-on-listeria/#.VOFF5dj9ns1
By Mike Eardley (Feb 13, 2015)
We’ve all seen the news and the reports of food recalls and illnesses due to foodborne pathogens. This is scary news for everyone — scary for the business and for the consumer.
On a daily basis, numerous precautions are taken to prevent such things. When it comes to food safety, employees in the deli, bakery, and other fresh departments at supermarkets, convenience stores, and other food retailers are on the front lines for delivering safe food to consumers. Exceptional food safety processes are vital and help reduce foodborne illnesses from originating within the store.
Even with these precautions and processes, which dramatically decrease the likelihood of foodborne illness, one bacteria is especially resilient. This bacteria is Listeria monocytogenes is a type of bacteria that can be difficult to prevent and control. It causes Listeriosis, a serious foodborne illness that sickens around 1,600 people each year, of which approximately 260 will die, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to illness and death, Listeriosis is responsible for almost $3 billion in economic costs, without even factoring in food industry repercussions such as loss of consumer confidence, associated recall expenses, or litigation expenses.
It’s certainly an eye-opener for everyone in the food industry and one that should bring the priority of food safety to the highest level of store operations.
The International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association (IDDBA), a nonprofit membership organization representing the dairy, deli, bakery, cheese, and supermarket foodservice industries, understands the seriousness of this issue and continues to make food safety education a top priority. In 2015, we will be focusing new education efforts on food safety through Safe Food Matters!, an inaugural year-long food safety initiative.
First, let’s take a look at what makes Listeria monocytogenes tough to control. Then we’ll focus on how to educate and work together to mitigate outbreaks.
Having spent most of my life in the food industry, I can attest to the difficulty in controlling Listeria monocytogenes. This bacteria is classified as psychrotrophic, meaning it’s able to grow at low temperatures. This makes growth inside department coolers sometimes difficult to control since it’s able to spread at temperatures considered too low for other bacteria to grow.
Additionally, the bacteria is easily spread from food to equipment, equipment to food, and so on. This makes cross-contamination a real possibility.
Delis can be particularly susceptible given the ready-to-eat foods (prepared salads, sliced meats and cheeses) found there and the continual handling of these different products. And, since many types of deli meats are sliced for the consumer, the deli slicer itself can be a source of Listeria monocytogenes contamination.
According to 2010 statistics cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, of Listeriosis illnesses attributed to deli meat, 83 percent are associated with deli meat that was sliced and packaged at retail.
Scary stuff. The good news is there are ways to manage the bacteria. So how do we limit the chances of a Listeria monocytogenes outbreak? Education is key.
Taking preventive steps and focusing on best practices within a store’s fresh departments can decrease the potential for its growth and cross-contamination. Throughout 2015, we’re encouraging best practices among industry professionals to help curb Listeria monocytogenes contamination through a variety of educational tools, research, and events.
These resources, available at iddba.org/safefoodmatters, are for everyone interested in learning more about this subject. Offerings consist of training tools, white papers, research, and member reimbursement for food safety certification.
Food safety best practices and educational programs will be a focus of the upcoming 2015 Dairy-Deli-Bake Seminar & Expo in Atlanta, including a free ServSafe® certification class for attendees.
We’re working hard to continually add new food safety materials and tools to the site. We encourage everyone to use the information, get the certification, and share the knowledge. Let’s work together – Safe Food Matters!
Food Safety Microbiology
February 5-6, 2015
Click here for more information
Employee at Passaic Schools in New Jersey Has Hepatitis A
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/employee-at-passaic-schools-in-new-jersey-has-hepatitis-a/
By Linda Larsen (Feb 12, 2015)
A high school cafeteria employee in the Passaic, New Jersey schools has been diagnosed with hepatitis A, according to a letter sent to parents by the Passaic New Jersey Superintendent of Schools. Anyone who bought food from the Passaic High School teacher’s cafeteria between January 15 and January 30, 2015 may have been exposed to the virus. The High School has been thoroughly cleaned to disinfect the building.
Hepatitis A is a virus that causes injury to the liver. The virus is shed in the feces of the infected person. When a person with the virus doesn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, the feces and virus can get into food or drink they have prepared. When someone else eats or drinks those products, they can get sick; this is called the “fecal-oral” transmission. Direct contact with an infected person can also pass the virus.
Anyone who purchased food at the high school, or anyone who was at the high school between January 15 and January 30, 2015 should be monitored for the symptoms of the illness. The symptoms of a hepatitis A infection include fever, fatigue, poor appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark colored ruing, clay-colored pale stools, and jaundice,which is yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes. Young children may not have any symptoms at all, but can be carriers of the virus.
Contact a Hepatitis Lawyer
A hepatitis A or immune globulin vaccination can be given within two weeks of exposure. It’s too late for most people. But if you were only at the school or ate at the school on January 29 and/or 30, the time frame for a vaccination is still open. Call your doctor to inquire about a vaccination.
There are no specific treatments for this illness. most people recover within a few weeks or a few months, but anyone with a liver disease or chronic health condition may become seriously ill. More than 20% of adults with hepatitis A must be hospitalized for inflammation and swelling of the liver, which can cause permanent damage.
Arizona Shares Pain of Listeria Outbreak Linked to Caramel Apples
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/arizona-shares-pain-of-listeria-outbreak-linked-to-caramel-apples/
By News Desk (Feb 12, 2015)
Arizona was on the receiving end of caramel apples that were contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an unfortunate distribution that left four state residents hospitalized from the potentially deadly infections that followed. The four confirmed outbreak cases in Arizona stand as the third most for any state. One of the victims was a baby with Listeria and three of the four are females who range in age up to 76. At least in Arizona, no fatalities were reported. In New Mexico and California, food safety lawyers are suing the supplier of the apples, Bidart Brothers, on behalf of several case patients, one of whom died. More litigation is expected in other states as the investigation continues into a reported 32 illnesses and seven deaths across 11 states.
Evidence of matching strains of Listeria was formulated with laboratory technology and classic epidemiology applied by state and federal food safety and health agencies, including the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For instance, the basis for a caramel apple Listeria lawsuit filed by PritzkerOlsen Attorneys was formulated by detailed traceback work that started with interviews of hospital patients who were sickened with genetically similar Listeria organisms. Commercially produced, pre-packaged caramel apples stood out as a common food item among case patients and sample testing of apples found the same Listeria “fingerprints.” The apples came from a California apple-packing facility operated by Bidart that also was contaminated with the bacteria.
Happy Apples, California Snack Foods, and Merb’s Candies each announced a voluntary recall of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples after hearing from Bidart Bros. In turn, Bidart on January 6 recalled all that was left of its seasonal harvest of Granny Smith and Gala apples. This outbreak started in October and people were still falling ill in December. Ten illnesses were pregnancy-related (occurred in a pregnant woman or her baby), with one illness resulting in a fetal loss. If you or a loved one was sickened in this outbreak, you have legal rights allowing you to hold the responsible parties accountable. PritzkerOlsen represents multiple victims in this outbreak and is continuing to accept clients. You can request a free consultation by calling 1-888-377-8900 or by leaving your contact information. A staff attorney assigned to the caramel apple Listeria lawsuit team will reach out to you.
Soy Company Shut Down Until It Can Meet FDA Regulations
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/02/soy-company-shuts-down-until-it-can-meet-fda-food-safety-regulations/#.VOFG9dj9ns1
By News Desk (Feb 12, 2015)
San Francisco-based Fong Kee Tofu Co. Inc. has agreed to indefinitely shut down operations, or until its manufacturing facility can meet federation food safety regulations.
The company, which makes soy drinks, tofu and related products, had been cited by Food and Drug Administration officials for food safety violations several times in the past four years at its manufacturing facility in the Bayview area of San Francisco.
FDA officials noted in a March 2012 warning letter than inspectors had previously found insects flying around the tofu production area, evidence of pigeons near raw soybean storage and ready-to-eat bulk tofu, and employees handling equipment and then handling food without changing their gloves or washing their hands.
Other problems the agency cited included condensation from the ceiling dripping onto the RTE bulk tofu and packing table and apparent mold near the condensation. Also, FDA noted, “Defendants’ bulk fried tofu balls, which are packaged in unlabeled plastic bags, fail to declare any ingredients.”
While company owners Jen Ying Fong, Suny Fong and Yan Hui Fan agreed to correct the violations, FDA indicated that inspectors continued to find and document the unsanitary conditions.
“Our goal is to protect the public’s health from potentially harmful food contamination and when a company refuses to comply with the Current Good Manufacturing Practices FDA will take action,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “If and when Fong Kee Tofu Co., Inc. is permitted to resume operations, FDA plans to continue monitoring its compliance with FDA food safety rules.”
Under the consent decree signed Monday, Fong Kee Tofu and its officers cannot process or distribute food until they demonstrate that their sanitary practices, facility and processing equipment are suitable to prevent contamination in the food that they process, prepare, store and handle. The company must, among other things, retain an independent sanitation expert and develop a program to eliminate unsanitary conditions at its facility, FDA stated.
FDA officials said that the agency has not received any reports of illnesses associated with Fong Kee Tofu products.
Judge Dismisses Challenge to USDA Poultry Inspection Rule
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/02/federal-judge-shuts-down-challenges-to-new-poultry-rule/#.VOFHPNj9ns1
Ruling says Food & Water Watch lacks standing
By Dan Flynn (Feb 12, 2015)
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has dismissed a lawsuit Food & Water Watch Inc. and two of its members filed last fall against U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to challenge the agency’s New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS).
The language the judge used in her ruling issued Monday was not the sort intended to soothe the losing side’s feelings.
Jackson stated that the consumer rights group based its opposition to the new rule “on anecdotes and speculation” and advanced a “myopic view” of data USDA generated about an experimental program that preceded the new NPIS.
Further, she called it “sheer speculation that bad things might happen” for FWW to assert that the new NPIS will increase the incidence of adulterated and unwholesome poultry entering the marketplace and not, as USDA claims, reduce it.
The judge stated in her ruling, “Notably, under the traditional poultry inspection systems, online federal inspectors conduct ‘organoleptic’ inspections of poultry carcasses and viscera, meaning that inspectors use sight, touch, and smell to examine the poultry carcasses … and this inspection technique is employed primarily for the purpose of determining whether or not the processed poultry carcasses are ‘adulterated.’”
The 58-page decision is the latest chapter in the nearly two-decade move by USDA to reform poultry inspection practices that had gone largely unchanged from 1957 until Vilsack proposed the new rule in 2012.
Under the new system, the poultry processing company is responsible for sorting carcasses that are then presented for federal inspection on the line. Jackson stated that, by relieving federal inspectors of the task of sorting a poultry company’s carcasses, the new USDA rule is “freeing up Agency resources to conduct offline inspection activities that are more important for food safety, such as verifying compliance with sanitation and (other) requirements, or conducting Food Safety Assessments.”
Jackson noted that USDA’s justification for moving away from traditional inspection is that those procedures stem from a time “when visually detectable animal disease were more prevalent and considered to be more of a concern than they are today.”
“Stated simply,” the judge wrote, “since at least the 1990s, the USDA has been concerned that the traditional poultry inspection systems ‘obscure the proper roles of industry and inspection personnel’ and ‘require FSIS to allocate significant inspection personnel resources toward inspection activities to detect defects and conditions that present minimal food safety risks, thus limiting the resources available for more important food safety-related inspection activities.’”
The ruling also contains a history lesson, especially from a legal standpoint, of FSIS’s attempts to bring about change “for the better part of two decades.” It included the 1996 Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points rule that required preventive controls but did not change the traditional poultry inspection system from 1957.
That was followed by the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) that allowed “a few volunteer” slaughter establishments to move to inspections based more on oversight and verifications.
Jackson’s ruling also includes a recap of the objections that ensued, most notability by the American Federal of Government Employees, whose members include USDA’s unionized meat inspectors who feared a net loss of jobs in poultry plants. HIMP survived the legal challenge, but it greatly slowed USDA’s moves toward more widespread changes.
FWW sued after Vilsack made the rule final last summer, charging that the new NPIS is “an unprecedented elimination of inspection resources for a secret set of young chicken and turkey slaughterhouses” that will “allow such establishments to dramatically increase their slaughter line speeds, while threatening public health and introducing unwholesome poultry into interstate commerce.”
However, Jackson found that neither FWW nor its two members named as plaintiffs have any legal standing to continue the lawsuit against the Secretary of Agriculture. Her ruling stated that the allegations “do not establish the necessary concrete and actual or imminent injury … .”
A plaintiff must demonstrate that they will suffer “irreparable harm,” and F&WW does not meet that standard, she stated. Instead, the group has what the judge called “broad disquiets that can be resolved only by an appeal to politics and policy.”
In denying the group’s motion for a preliminary injunction, the judge also stated that FWW failed to show that the new NPIS increases the risk of adulterated poultry reaching interstate commerce. Nor was she moved by affidavits from current and former inspectors that F&WW used to make its arguments.
“Plaintiffs must do more,” Jackson’s ruling stated, “than offer anecdotes and ‘common sense’ to carry their burden of establishing a substantial increased risk of harm … Plaintiffs have failed to point to any scientific evidence demonstrating that the NPIS rules are even incrementally more likely to produce adulterated poultry products … .”
Almost Everyone Is Opposed to a New Plan for a Single Food Safety Agency
Source : http://munchies.vice.com/articles/critics-say-a-new-plan-for-a-single-food-safety-agency-needs-more-work
By Lauren Rothman (Feb 12, 2015)
Earlier this month, President Obama released his budget plan for 2016. The president intends to spread $4 trillion among a variety of initiatives: major repairs of the nation’s network of highways, tunnels, and bridges; increased funding for free community college programs; and a complete and total overhaul of US food safety agencies. But the very nature of these agencies—whose responsibilities often overlap and whose spheres of influence can be unclear—is leading many to believe that unifying them under one roof will be difficult, if not impossible.
The proposed Safe Food Act of 2015 would completely remake both the FDA and the USDA, the two agencies primarily responsible for food safety and inspections in the US. These agencies—along with the 13 other federal groups that play a role in ensuring the safety of the country’s food supply—would more or less be stripped of their current responsibilities, and combined into one umbrella agency overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It would be a huge change—the USDA would likely lose all its food safety budget and staff—and it appears that almost no one is happy about it. (Three days after Obama’s announcement, Margaret Hamburg, the FDA’s commissioner, announced that she would step down at the end of March.)
“I think everyone is opposed,” says Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and food studies at NYU and author of several highly regarded books on food politics. According to Nestle, Obama’s intentions demonstrate an ignorance of the very agencies he’s trying to reshape.
“The proposal shows considerable lack of understanding of the structure of FDA and [the USDA’s] Food Safety Inspection Service,” she says.
READ: Marion Nestle Calls Bullshit on New Potato Nutrition Guidelines?
The Safe Food Act is likely a response to a changing American food system. More and more of our food is imported—between 1999 and 2013, the market for imported foods grew by 267 percent—and it often comes from countries where the US has little food safety oversight. Of particular concern to food safety groups, as well as consumers, is our import relationship with China, whose track record when it comes to food contamination and associated foodborne illness is generally recognized as abysmal. In 2013, the US imported 4.1 billion pounds of food from China. With the whole world becoming America’s breadbasket—and with a rise in incidences of food poisoning here at home—streamlining food safety protocol is necessary. But it has to be done in the right way, Nestle says.
“Change is long overdue. Obviously, both agencies have their own vested interests, but most food safety experts think a merger is needed,” she says. “We have one food system. We need one food safety oversight system. But the legislation governing USDA and FDA policies differs and needs to be reconciled before a merger can occur.”
Generally, the USDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of the country’s supply of meat, poultry, and eggs, while the FDA oversees most other foods. But the breakdown is rarely ever that simple; as an article in the Associated Press points out, prepared products that combine different kinds of foods need to be approved by both agencies, inevitably leading to confusion.
“The FDA would be responsible for a frozen cheese pizza, for example, but the USDA takes over part of the duties if the pizza has meat on it,” the article says.
That tangled, inter-agency web of responsibility is the primary reason it will be so difficult for Obama’s food proposal to move forward, Nestle says.
“The parts of the food safety oversight system are distributed among many parts of USDA and FDA, and plucking out one piece won’t solve the problem,” she says. Things get even trickier when you consider that the FDA also oversees non-food items such as cosmetics and pet kibble.
Another potential problem with the proposal for a single food agency is its new home at the HHS, some consumer groups say.
“HHS is a massive organization,” Christopher Waldrop of the Consumer Federation of America told the AP. “A new food safety agency would be lost among the other priorities of the department, and would likely not receive the recognition or resources necessary for it to be effective.”
The complications of the White House’s proposal aside, its plan is likely to meet a fair amount of resistance from a Republican-dominated Congress, members of whom have already voiced their opposition to the idea.
Kristi Noem, a Republican representative from South Dakota, said in a statement that “our country faces tremendous challenges and they require real solutions, not political rhetoric.”
And Nestle is inclined to agree.
“I’m not sure what it’s about, but it sounds like politics,” she says. “I’m guessing that it’s talk, not action, and that nothing will happen with this.”
Listeria Survives Standard Cleaning Procedure for Retail Delis
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/listeria-survives-standard-cleaning-procedure-for-retail-delis/
By Carla Gillespie (Feb 11, 2015)
Listeria can survive the standard cleaning procedure used by retail delis, a new study by Purdue researchers has found. Listeria monocytogenes, an uncommon and deadly bacteria, is often associated with ready-to-eat deli meats, hot dogs, refrigerated pâtés or meat spreads, prepackaged deli salads, soft cheeses, smoked fish, raw cheeses and sprouts.
In 2014, three deadly multistate outbreaks were linked to these foods. Bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy of Chicago, killed two people and sickened three others in an outbreak announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in November. Listeria in soft cheese was the source of a three-state October outbreak linked to Oasis cheeses that killed one person and sickened two others; and a March, outbreak, linked to Roos Cheese, that sickened eight people in Maryland and California, killing one of them.
One thing that sets Listeria apart from other bacteria is its ability to grow and thrive in cool temperatures.
The Purdue study, led by assistant professor of food science Haley Oliver, found that 6.8 percent of samples taken from 15 delis before the start of the business day were positive for Listeria. In a second six-month sampling phase, 9.5 percent of samples taken from 30 delis tested positive for the bacteria. At 12 of the delis, the same subtypes showed up in multiple monthly samplings, which could indicate that Listeria can “persist in growth niches over time.”
“This is a public health challenge,” Oliver said. “These data suggest that failure to thoroughly execute cleaning and sanitation protocols is allowing Listeria to persist in some stores. We can’t in good conscience tell people with weak immune systems that it is safe to eat at the deli.”
After an outbreak linked to deli meat killed several people a decade ago, a zero-tolerance policy for Listeria was enacted for manufacturers. “Manufacturing has a zero-tolerance policy for Listeria, but that dissipates at the retail level. The challenge of developing systematic cleaning procedures for a wide variety of delis – which are less restricted environments than processing plants – can make Listeria harder to control.”
Researchers took samples from surfaces that come into frequent contact with food, such as meat slicers and counters, and surfaces that typically do not. Most of the positive samples were collected from surfaces that usually do not come into contact with food, such as floors, drains and squeegees. The concern is that bacteria can be transferred unintentionally from these surfaces to food, Oliver said.
“The reason we haven’t had a listeriosis outbreak tied to a deli is because it’s a disease with a long incubation time, and it’s difficult to track to a source. There are only about 1,600 listeriosis cases a year. But the likelihood of death is huge,” Oliver said.
Based on their findings, Purdue researchers say that standard sanitation procedures at delis can only keep them free of bacteria if the delis are in good condition, area with structural damage such as missing grout, loose wall coverings or a drain that is not working properly create an environment where bacteria can grow.
Settlement Reached for 66 Victims of 2011 Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/02/settlement-reached-in-2011-cantaloupe-linked-listeria-outbreak/#.VOFIi9j9ns1
By News Desk (Feb 11, 2015)
A settlement was recently reached between 66 victims of the 2011 Listeria outbreak linked to Jensen Brothers cantaloupe and some of the 20 defendants.
The terms of the settlement are confidential, said Williams Marler of Seattle-based Marler Clark, a food-safety law firm.
“The matter was resolved by mutual agreement of the parties,” Marler said. (Marler Clark underwrites Food Safety News, and Marler is publisher of the site.)
Marler represented the plaintiffs in their lawsuits against Kroger, which sold some of the cantaloupe at its retail stores, a cantaloupe broker, and a third-party auditing company, among others. Walmart, another defendant, had already settled.
Will Steele, president of Frontera, Edinburg, Texas, said the company is “focused on strengthening the industry’s traceability efforts.”
“The matter is in the process of being resolved,” Steele said.
“Settlement documents have been exchanged with the plaintiffs, and the parties anticipate that those documents will be signed by all the required parties. However, the settlement isn’t officially concluded until that occurs. We believe a final settlement of all claims will be reached soon.”
Steele said the settlement will not effect Frontera’s ongoing business.
“While some predicted or assumed that Frontera Produce would be bankrupted by the past three years of litigation, that is not the case,” Steele said. “Frontera had substantial insurance money, which is being used to cover claims.”
The Listeria outbreak linked to Jensen Brothers cantaloupe is one the deadliest outbreaks in U.S. history. It sickened 147 people in 28 states, resulting in the deaths of 33 people and another 10 who died later. One woman pregnant when she was sickened suffered a miscarriage.
During an inspection of the Jensen Farms packing facility near Holly, CO, in September 2011, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Colorado state health officials took multiple samples of whole cantaloupes and environmental samples from within the facility.
Of 39 environmental samples, FDA stated that 13 were positive for Listeria monocytogenes, and cantaloupe from the firm’s cold storage was also confirmed positive for L. monocytogenes.
Brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen pleaded guilty to six federal misdemeanors in October 2013, including introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce and criminal aiding and abetting. They were each sentenced to five years probation and six months home detention, $150,000 in restitution and 100 hours of community service. The farm operation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Oasis Cheese Listeria Outbreak Sickened Five in 2014
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/oasis-cheese-listeria-outbreak-sickened-five-in-2014/
By Linda Larsen (Feb 10, 2015)
Listeria outbreaks are often linked to soft cheese, usually made by small facilities. The 2014 outbreak associated with Oasis Brands soft cheeses and the current outbreak linked to Queseria Bendita soft cheeses are two cases in point.
There are several reasons for these outbreaks: small vendors may not have the experience or training to understand the risks inherent in making their product. These cheeses have higher pH than aged cheese and a high moisture content, which makes them quite susceptible to contamination. And third, Listeria monocytogenes bacteria is everywhere and it is hardy, growing at refrigerator temperatures and quite difficult to kill.
The outbreak in 2014 was never definitely linked to Oasis brand cheeses, but Listeria strains isolated from quesito casero cheese produced by Oasis Brands was “highly related” to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from patients. And environmental samples found Listeria monocytogenes at the production facility. Oasis Brands ceased all manufacturing of all products after the outbreak was discovered.
The five ill persons were from: Georgia (1), New York (1), Tennessee (2), and Texas (1). One person who lived in Tennessee died. Four of the five ill persons was hospitalized. And three illnesses were related to a pregnancy. One newborn was diagnosed with the illness. All of the sick people were Hispanic and reported eating Hispanic-style soft cheese.
The cheese could still be in consumer’s homes. Three recalls were issued during the course of the investigation. Oasis brands of quesito casero and cuajada en hoja were recalled. In October, Lacteos Santa Martha brand cheeses and one HonduCrema brand product were recalled. If you purchased these products, do not eat them. Discard in a sealed container, wash your hands thoroughly, then clean your fridge with a mild bleach solution to kill bacteria.
When the outbreak was first discovered in the summer of 2014, FDA and Virginia’s Division of Consolidated Laboratory Services performed pulsed field-gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) on the isolates from the cheese samples and the environmental samples. Those methods were also used on samples taken from patients. The whole genome sequences from the five patients were also “highly related” to sequences of the Listeria strain found in the cheese.
The symptoms of a Listeria infection include flu-like fever and muscle aches, upset stomach or diarrhea, stiff neck, headache, loss of balance, and confusion. Pregnant women may be only mildly sick, but listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and a serious infection in the newborn baby. If you ate soft cheeses and have experienced these symptoms, please see a doctor immediately for treatment.
Washington Floats Proactive Plan to Make Raw Oysters Safer
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/02/washington-state-first-out-of-the-gate-with-plan-to-make-raw-oysters-safer/#.VOFIF9j9ns1
By Cookson Beecher (Feb 10, 2015)
Why wait for people to get sick from a foodborne illness when you can prevent it from happening in the first place?
Sounds logical enough. At least that’s the thinking behind a plan focusing on the pathogen Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which can infect oysters in some growing areas during the summer.
If adopted, the proposal will govern when oysters intended to be eaten raw can, and cannot, be harvested in Washington state. Or, to put it more bluntly, when certain oyster growing areas in the state will be closed — and when they can be reopened.
Under the plan, closures would primarily be based on air and water temperatures in an oyster-growing area instead of on illness outbreaks caused by eating raw oysters from the growing area.
This is in contrast to current policy in which the state waits until a certain number of people get sick from the pathogen before shutting down the growing area where the oysters came from.
While at first glance the proposal might seem a bit extreme, public health officials, as well as many oyster growers, agree that it’s critically important to come up with a plan that will do two things: protect people from becoming ill and help keep oyster growers in business.
What is Vibrio?
Raw oysters are especially popular in the summer, when V. parahaemolyticus bacteria tend to thrive.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, V. parahaemolyticus is a naturally occurring bacterium that lives in brackish saltwater and causes gastrointestinal illness in humans. Most people become infected by this bacterium from eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters, that are harvested when water temperatures rise to certain levels.
Last year, the Washington State Department of Health received 76 reports of V. parahaemolyticus-related illness.
CDC estimates that 4,500 cases of this type of Vibrio infection occur each year in the United States. However, the agency says that the number of cases actually reported is much lower because surveillance is complicated by underreporting.
For the most part, this type of Vibrio is not a statewide problem. But it can become a problem in inland coastal waters, such as Samish Bay, Hood Canal, and the south Sound region of Washington state because the waters in those growing areas tend to rise to higher temperatures in the summer than the waters do along the coast.
Under the state’s proposed plan, harvest closures would be put into place at 66 degrees F and last until 24 hours after the temperature drops.
Oyster harvesters would also have to cool shellfish to 50 degrees F or less within 5 hours. In addition, they would have to report water temperature and quantity of oysters harvested to the state health department.
As for other shellfish growing areas in the U.S, V. parahaemolyticus is no longer just a West Coast problem. According to CDC, since May 2013 there has been an increase in V. parahaemolyticus illnesses associated with consumption of raw or undercooked shellfish from several Atlantic coast harvest areas. Before 2012, infections from V. parahaemolyticus were rarely associated with shellfish from the Atlantic Coast.
The demand for raw oysters
According to CDC, this type of Vibrio, which is unrelated to pollution, naturally inhabits coastal waters in the U.S. and Canada and is present in higher concentrations during the summer. When the appropriate conditions occur with regard to salt content and temperature, V. parahaemolyticus thrives.
In other words, just when demand for raw oysters reaches its highest peak during the year, that’s when V. parahaemolyticus presents the most danger to human health.
“Summer is the prime time for sales of oysters that will be eaten raw or grilled,” said Steven Blau of Blau Oyster Co. on Samish Bay in Western Washington. “That’s when they fly out the door.”
Bill Dewey, a shellfish grower and spokesman for Taylor Shellfish Farms, agrees about the popularity of raw oysters.
“Live oysters for the half-shell market are a huge percentage of our business and one of our fastest-growing markets,” he told Food Safety News, adding that Taylor Shellfish opened two new oyster bars in Seattle last summer to meet this demand.
Although Taylor Shellfish had to shut down its Samish Bay growing operation for two months last summer because of V. parahaemolyticus, it has farms in other parts of the state where it could harvest oysters intended for the raw market.
Under the proposed rule, shucked oysters — those that are taken out of their shells — are exempt because, for the most part, they’re cooked before they’re eaten. But all shell stock (oysters still in the shell) would fall under the control plan.
While many of the unshucked oysters are bought to be grilled, especially in the summer months, Laura Johnson, a spokesperson for the state health department’s Office of Shellfish and Water Protection, said even then the oysters are not always thoroughly cooked. (Waiting until the shells to open is not a reliable guide. They actually have to be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F for 15 seconds before being eaten.)
It’s only logical
That’s what most of the oyster growers say about the state’s proposed plan. Many of them worked with the state in coming up with the proposal.
Describing it as a “proactive approach,” Dewey told Food Safety News that the draft rule uses a new approach based on water and air temperature data coupled with historic illness data from all the various harvest areas — instead of waiting until illnesses are confirmed.
He said that the information that has been gathered has been used to establish criteria for stopping harvest proactively when environmental conditions suggest that Vibrio risks are high.
“Ultimately, we believe it will result in either similar and maybe shorter closure periods for our harvest areas — and most importantly, far fewer illnesses,” he said.
The health department’s Johnson pointed to one of the obvious shortcomings of the current rule: Most of the closures take place in August and September despite the fact that most illnesses occur in July and August.
Margaret Barrette, executive director of the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association, told Food Safety News that Washington is the first state “out of the gate” with a plan that looks for environmental factors to close down shellfish farms instead of illnesses.
“It’s very proactive and very out of the box,” she said. “I’m sure Oregon and other shellfish growing states will be carefully watching this and will possibly be following suit.”
She said that Washington state leads the nation in farmed shellfish acres, primarily because a significant portion of the tidelands is in private hands.
But when it comes to production, that’s not so clear, mainly because producers haven’t been required to divulge that information. Under Washington state’s proposal, however, that would happen, which will give the state and the growers a better idea of what percentage is harvested for the raw market
“More people are getting sick with Vibrio, but that could be because raw oysters are getting more popular,” said Blau. “Now we’ll pay attention to how many are sold instead of just how many illnesses are reported.”
Dewey said that Taylor’s has not had any Vibrio-related lawsuits and he’s not aware of any other company, at least on the West Coast, that has. He also said he checked with health department officials and that they were not aware of any lawsuits either.
What’s going on here?
If the state can monitor and shut down shellfish beds that test positive for pathogens such as E. coli and norovirus, why can’t it do the same for V. parahaemolyticus?
It turns out that monitoring is ineffective at preventing illness, Dewey said, explaining that only certain strains will cause illness and detecting them has proven to be elusive.
“We can have high total Vibrio numbers and no illnesses — and no indication of virulent strains present and still have illnesses,” he said. “This has been very frustrating.”
That’s why the growers see the state’s proposed plan as a positive step forward.
“On paper, it’s looking like it will be a good way to go,” Blau said.
“The science part of it makes sense to us,” said his coworker Jed Schimke. “Without a shadow of a doubt, Vibrio parahaemolyticus needs the right temperature to thrive.”
“It’s important to move in this direction to protect people from getting sick,” Johnson from the state health department told Food Safety News.
What it’s not
It’s important to know that V. parahaemolyticus is NOT Vibrio vulnificus, a potentially fatal bacterium that lives in brackish saltwater and seawater, for the most part in warmer states such as Florida and Louisiana. According to CDC, V. vulnificus can cause disease with potentially fatal complications in people whose immune systems are compromised, particularly those with chronic liver disease.
Like V. parahaemolyticus, V. vulnificus is part of a group of Vibrios that require salt and are present in higher concentrations in warmer waters.
About the proposed rule
The Washington State Department of Health is accepting public comments on the proposal through March 11. Go here to review the plan.
Comments can be mailed to Laura Johnson, Washington State Department of Health, P.O. Box 47824, Olympia, WA, 98504-6824. They can also be emailed to Laura.Johnson@doh.wa.gov or faxed to her at 360-236-2257.
A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for March 11 in Tumwater, WA.
If the state legislature approves the updated plan, it would go into effect on May 1, 2015. The plan was last updated in 2009.
New Jersey School Cafeteria Worker With Hepatitis A
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-poisoning-information/new-jersey-cafeteria-worker-with-hepatitis-a/#.VOFIw9j9ns1
By Patti Waller (Feb 10, 2015)
The Passaic New Jersey Superintendent of Schools sent letters to parents and staff members alerting them that a high school employee had been diagnosed with Hepatitis A by their personal doctor.
Anyone who bought food from the Passaic High School teachers cafeteria between Jan. 15th and Jan. 30th was urged to be on the lookout for symptoms.
Symptoms include fatigue, fever and vomiting.
In the letter, superintendent Pablo Munoz said: “The school district immediately notified local health officials about the diagnosis and is currently following every recommendation of these health care professionals. This morning I met with all the school principals, school leaders and staff to discuss this diagnosis of an employee. The school district is sending letters home about the diagnosis of Hepatitis A and providing details about where they can get additional information. While local health officials believe that the chance of students becoming ill is small, we will continue to take every precaution recommended by them.”
Munoz told parents that local and state officials believe the chances of children becoming ill is small, but that they should be aware of several facts:
Hepatitis A is an illness of the liver caused by infection with the Hepatitis A virus.
The virus is shed in the stool of the infected person.
People become infected with Hepatitis A by swallowing the virus. This can occur when an individual eats or drinks food or water contaminated with Hepatitis A virus, or has direct contact with an infected person who has poor personal hygiene.
An individual infected with Hepatitis A, may display a range of symptoms including:
•Vomiting or abdominal discomfort
•Dark colored urine
•Clay-colored (pale) stool
•Yellow discoloration of skin and whites of the eye (a condition known as jaundice)
Young children with Hepatitis A usually do not display symptoms, yet may be a source of infection to close household contacts by sharing food and/or eating or drinking utensils.
No specific medications, including antibiotics, are indicated for the treatment of Hepatitis A. Most individuals fully recover, without treatment, within a few weeks.
Steve King Reintroduces Bill to Nullify Animal Protection Laws
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/steve-king-reintroduces-bill-to-nullify-animal-protection-laws/
By Linda Larsen (Feb 10, 2015)
Steve King (R-IA) has reintroduced his Protect Interstate Commerce Act (PICA) which he tried to get into the Farm Bill last year. The bill would stop states from interfering with production and distribution of agricultural products in interstate or foreign commerce.
In other words, individual states would not have the ability to control the types of foods sold in their states. If a state has specific standards for a food, and a company wants to sell that food without those standards in that state, the company would be allowed to do so.
In addition, many consumer and animal advocates and food safety groups do not like this bill. The bill would preempt state and local laws that prohibit puppy mills, animal fighting, and the sale of meats from dogs, cats, and horses. And the bill would stop any state from putting higher standards on food produced or manufactured in another state. Some states could be kept from implementing stronger food safety standards, which would weaken food safety standards in every state.
The Humane Society of the United States opposes the bill. A fact sheet put out by that organization says of King’s bill: “if any one state in the union tolerates the production or sale of a particular agricultural product, no matter how offensive or threatening to the public interest, then the other 49 must do so as well.”
Wayne Pacelle, the President and CEO of the Humane Society told Time magazine “It’s one of the most destructive and far-reaching anti-animal welfare provisions we’ve seen in decades.” And Nancy Perry, Senior Vice President of the ASPCA‘s Government Regulations department said of the amendment in 2013, “this is a federal law that seriously inhibits a state’s ability to protect animals.”
Mistreatment of animals can increase the number and type of pathogenic bacteria they carry, and can threaten human health. A working paper by Duke University in 2013 found that infectious diseases flourish in crowded and inhumane conditions on factory farms. Those animals are given antibiotics in sub-therapeutic doses, which increases the risk of the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can sicken people.
Wash Your Hands to Prevent Foodborne Illness!
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/wash-your-hands-to-prevent-foodborne-illness/
By Linda Larsen (Feb 09, 2015)
Most food poisoning cases happen in the home. Why? Research from Kansas State University finds that 90% of home chefs violate food safety rules, especially rules about hand washing and cross-contamination. Cross-contamiantion happens when hands are not washed after handling raw meats, when cutting boards and utensils are used for fresh foods after coming into contact with raw meats, and when preparing food.
The study was conducted to discover which type of food safety education resulted in the best food safety practices. One hundred twenty three participants were divided into three groups. The first group was told about the food safety campaign messages of “clean, separate, cook, and chill.” The second group looked at pubic service announcements on this message, and the third did not have any training.
Researchers taped participants preparing a meal using raw meat and a ready-to-eat fruit salad. The meat was inoculated with a nonpathogenic bacteria in order to trace possible cross-contamination. The study found that 90% of the participants contaminated the salad.
Everyone made mistakes that could lead to foodborne illness. Most tracked bacteria all over the kitchen, such as on countertops, faucets, handles, and wastebaskets. the worst contamination was found on hand towels. The group that was told about the food safety messages did slightly better than the group who received no training, but the differences were not striking.
Randy Phebus, professor of food safety at Kansas State University and one of the authors of the study said, “we found that most people tried to wash their hands, but did it very ineffectively – either only using water or not washing for long enough. By not washing their hands correctly, they spread contamination to the hand towels. They then go back to those towels multiple times and recontaminate themselves or the kitchen surfaces with those towels. It ultimately leads to contamination in the food product.”
To properly wash your hands, the CDC recommends these steps. Wet your hands with clean, running water, turn off the tap, and add soap. Lather your hands, making sure to get the soap on the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. Rinse well under clean, running water, and dry using a clean towel. A hand sanitizer containing at leaf 60% alcohol is the second best method, but are not as effective as soap and water, especially when hands are dirty or greasy. Surfactants in soap lift soil and bacteria from the skin.
Could a Single Food-Safety Agency be the Answer?
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/02/could-a-single-food-safety-agency-be-the-answer/#.VOFJWdj9ns1
By Baylen Linnekin (Feb 09, 2015)
(This article by Baylen J. Linnekin was published here on Feb. 7, 2015, and is reposted with permission. He is executive director of the Keep Food Legal Foundation and an adjunct professor at George Mason University Law School, where he teaches Food Law & Policy.)
This week, with little fanfare, the Obama administration released a proposed 2016 budget that would dramatically remake FDA and USDA. The plan would strip each agency of its extensive food-safety oversight responsibilities and hand them over to a new food-safety agency to be housed within the Department of Health and Human Services.
The plan would be a big loss for FDA — an agency within HHS — which saw its food-safety budget and staff increase, thanks to passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011. It was likely no coincidence that Margaret Hamburg, who has served as FDA commissioner for the past six years, announced this past week that she was leaving the agency.
At the cabinet level, the proposal can be seen as a mixed bag. It’s a big win for HHS, where the new agency would reside. But HHS’s gains mean that USDA would likely lose all of its food-safety budget and staff.
It’s unclear at this point if the proposal has legs. I expect much will ride on two factors. First, will big players within the regulated industries support the measure? Second, will the Obama administration pitch the idea to the GOP-dominated Congress as a cost-cutting measure, or, alternately, as a take-it-or-leave-it regulatory buildup?
The answer to all these questions remains to be seen. “[T]he devil is in the details,” wrote Marion Nestle, who commonly supports increased food-safety regulations, of the Obama administration’s proposal.
While I disagree with Nestle about the manifest need for more regulations — which often cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but make our food no safer — I do agree with her call to wait for more details. I said as much during an appearance on HuffPost Live this past week.
While we wait, there are several factors to consider that will help to determine whether creating a single food-safety agency would benefit the ones who matter: consumers and taxpayers.
One key issue is the problems caused by current regulatory overlap. No case better illustrates this overlap — and the serious food-safety issues it raises — than the 2010 recall of more than 300 million eggs.
While FDA regulates eggs in the shell — the kind you purchase by the dozen — USDA is in charge of grading the eggs. As I wrote in recounting the egg recall in a 2012 law-review article, this overlap meant that USDA’s egg graders, who were on site at the offending egg-laying facility and saw its filthy conditions firsthand, ignored their key food-safety responsibilities because they saw the safety of the eggs as FDA’s problem. (FDA might inspect such facilities once every few years.)
“Yet the presence of these egg graders at the laying facility did nothing to ensure the eggs were safe — in spite of the graders’ duty,” I wrote in the article. “The egg graders’ presence and oversight merely offered a false veneer of safety — a facade that made food less safe.”
A related problem is the differing standards imposed by USDA and FDA regulations on similar products. The egg case illustrates but one example. Frozen cheese pizzas sold at your local grocer are regulated by FDA, for example, while the same manufacturer’s frozen pepperoni pizzas are regulated by USDA. USDA requires all food labels to be pre-approved by the agency before the food may be marketed and sold. On the other hand, FDA has no such requirement. That means if you were to put one piece of pepperoni on a FDA-regulated frozen cheese pizza, it would be subject both to label pre-approval requirements and USDA regulations.
Another key issue is the same that arose during FDA’s FSMA rulemaking process. Simply put, FDA crafted inane and costly rules for regulating agricultural producers that demonstrated — charitably — how little agricultural expertise the agency possesses. There’s no reason to believe that FDA’s parent department, HHS, possesses such expertise either.
Who would lead this new food-safety agency within HHS? Noted food-safety litigator Bill Marler nominated himself for the job. Agricultural and restaurant interests might chafe at the idea of Marler, who has won civil suits against them for food-safety violations. Other food producers, such as grocery food makers, would no doubt balk at other potential choices for the job.
What would the removal of food-safety oversight from FDA mean for the agency’s ban on the interstate shipment of raw milk? Recall that the ban came into being in the late 1980s, thanks to a court decision that is based solely on FDA data. Could a new challenge to the ban argue that since FDA no longer plays a role in food safety, there is no longer a legal basis for the ban?
Calls for some unitary food authority are nothing new. Nestle notes food-safety advocates have urged the federal government to consolidate its food-safety authority for decades. Other big ideas for big new government action have also appeared from time to time.
In 2008, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof urged the Obama administration to scrap USDA and FDA altogether in favor of a “Department of Food.” More recently, fellow Times food columnists Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan called for the creation of a national food policy. (Interestingly, neither piece focuses on food safety.)
If a new federal food-safety agency would help eliminate redundancies in staffing and inefficiencies in budgeting while establishing simpler, uniform requirements, then the new agency might earn — and even deserve — widespread support. But if such an agency would not save consumers and taxpayers money, wouldn’t make our food safer, would put those with little expertise in charge of key regulations, and would double down on existing FDA and HHS campaigns targeting everything from caffeine to soda to trans fats and salt, then this proposal is rightly dead in the water.
Most Consumers Don’t Use Food Thermometers Despite Importance to Food Safety
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/02/thermometers-crucial-for-food-safety/#.VOFJidj9ns1
By Lydia Zuraw (Feb 09, 2015)
A couple of weeks ago, I was having dinner with my parents. My dad was making chicken and asked me what temperature he needed to cook it to. After all, working for Food Safety News does qualify me as the food-safety expert of the family.
“165 degrees F,” I told him.
“What if it’s barely pink?” he countered, goading me.
“I don’t care what it looks like,” I said. “Use the thermometer!”
I try not to be this pedantic about food safety around anyone who doesn’t have to love me unconditionally (it can be annoying, I know), but one of the most important tools for food safety is the thermometer.
Two of the four consumer steps toward food safety — Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill — rely on temperature control.
When food contaminated with pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli or Listeria reaches consumers’ kitchens, cooking to certain minimum temperatures can kill the bugs. Keeping leftovers below 40 degrees F hinders bacteria growth.
The safe minimum internal temperatures vary by food. All poultry, casseroles and leftovers should be heated to 165 degrees F. Ground meats and egg dishes need to be at least 160 degrees F. Fresh beef, pork, veal, lamb and ham should reach 145 degrees F and then rest for at least three minutes. Fish should also be cooked to 145 degrees F.
“Using thermometers is the only way to really know that your food is thoroughly cooked — that it has reached a temperature to destroy any harmful bacteria that could possibly be there — and thermometer use is also important in the refrigerator in chilling,” says Christine Bruhn, retired director of the Center for Consumer Research at the University of California.
But few consumers actually use a thermometer to check the doneness of meat, poultry and seafood, or to check the temperature in their refrigerators.
“They might do it on a roast, they might do it on whole chicken,” Bruhn says. “They don’t do it on the smaller chicken parts, they seldom do it on burgers, and even on steaks they are relying on visual indicators. They’re not really verifying the temperature on the inside.”
How many use thermometers for cooking?
Self-reported use of thermometers has increased from 33 percent in 1998 to 53 percent in 2010. This seems like great progress, but Bruhn warns that people may only use thermometers on large hunks of meat or poultry, such as a pot roast or the Thanksgiving turkey, and not necessarily in everyday cooking. People might also say they use thermometers even though they don’t just because they know they’re supposed to.
According to a survey conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 46 percent of participants said they never use a thermometer when cooking chicken parts and 66 percent said they never use one when cooking or grilling hamburgers.
Last year, while studying various aspects of chicken preparation in consumer homes, Bruhn found that only 5 percent of participants used a thermometer without prompting from the researchers, and only about a third agreed to do so when prompted.
From there, researchers found that 40 percent of the chicken in the study was undercooked, especially when it was grilled or barbecued.
According to another study published last month and conducted by RTI International, Tennessee State University and Kansas State University, 62 percent of consumers own a food thermometer, but less than 10 percent of them actually use it to check for doneness in all poultry.
Addressing barriers to thermometer use in cooking
Bruhn says that the main barriers to thermometer use are the idea that using a thermometer implies inexperience and the thought that cooking meat and poultry to the recommended minimum temperatures degrades taste.
Most home cooks use visual indicators such as color, firmness, clear juices or shrinkage, but these aren’t accurate indicators of doneness. For example, a chicken breast could turn white, but still be less than 165 degrees F.
Many recipes refer to these visual cues or to cooking time. Bruhn says that time is only reliable if there is consistency across everybody’s frying pan or oven and the food always starts out at the same temperature.
To get more consumers to rely on thermometers, anyone writing recipes for a book, magazine, or blog should include the temperature recommendations, Bruhn says.
“That could so simply be added to a recipe” and would mean consumers wouldn’t have to keep all the correct temperatures in their head, she adds.
Another way to show people that using thermometers isn’t an amateur move is for “role models” to use them. Bruhn’s hope is to reach celebrity chefs and their producers to stress the impact they could have by “modeling correct and safe behavior for the public.”
As for the thought that your chicken or burger will be too dry if you cook it to the recommended temperatures, many food-safety experts argue otherwise.
For chicken, “We found that at 165, it’s still moist and juicy,” Bruhn says. “If you want it to be dry, bring it up to 180 or something like that.”
As for ground beef, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that burgers can still be juicy when cooked to 160 degrees F, regardless of color.
If you still have your heart set on that rare or medium-rare burger, go ahead and order it, but just know that it’s a risk, Bruhn says.
“That’s one of the dilemmas I face as an educator: seeing people doing things that I would not do. But if they consciously choose to take that risk, then I need to seal my lips,” she says. “If they don’t know any better, then I can find a gentle way to let them know it’s a high-risk action.”
How many use thermometers for chilling?
In that FDA survey, 55 percent of consumers said their refrigerator didn’t have a built-in thermometer. Only 21 percent of respondents said they put a thermometer in the fridge to check its temperature.
People tend to trust that the refrigerator is going to be cold enough when relying on its factory settings. This might be OK, Bruhn said, but things can change over time.
In her studies, Bruhn says she’s seen around 13 percent of consumers’ refrigerators with temperatures above 45 degrees F (the recommendation is 40).
Bruhn says she would love to see fridge manufacturers “be more assertive” in including thermometers in their products. Some of the high-end ones do, but not all, and she wonders about those who can’t afford one of those.
“Food-safety standards should be made available to all income groups,” Bruhn says.
And, in her chicken study, only a quarter of participants knew the correct temperature for their fridges. When adding thermometers to refrigerators, Bruhn suggests that manufacturers include a scale to indicate whether the appliance is in the safe range.
“We don’t all need to have numbers bouncing around our head, but we need to know where we are,” she says.
NC Holiday Inn Bordeaux Source of 2013 Salmonella Outbreak
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/nc-holiday-inn-bordeaux-source-of-2013-salmonella-outbreak/
By Linda Larsen (Feb 09, 2015)
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Cumberland County Department of Public Health concluded that the Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak that sickened 100 people in 2013 was from the All American Grill at the Holiday Inn Bordeaux in Fayetteville. Twenty-five cases were confirmed by laboratory analysis; the other 75 cases were listed as “probable”.
Public health inspectors found issues at the restaurant. Improper water temperatures, bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods, temperature violations, a defective dishwasher, and absence of hand washing supplies were cited. No specific food item could be identified as the source of the bacteria. Cross-contamination most likely caused the contamination, along with consumption of handling of undercooked food, and/or contact with contaminated surfaces.
Seven food service employees at the restaurant were working while they were sick. Twenty-nine of the 100 case patients were restaurant staff. Of those 29, ten were laboratory confirmed with the outbreak strain of the bacteria. Sick leave policies may have contributed to this issue, according to the final report.
Can I Sue a Restaurant for Food Poisoning?
Illness onset dates ranged from May 1, 2013 to May 17, 2013. Most patients were residents of North Carolina, with others from Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and South Carolina. All of the case-patients had an association with the Holiday Inn Bordeaux, either as an employee or a customer. Eighteen percent of patients needed care from a medical provider, and eight were hospitalized as a result of their illness.
The symptoms of a Salmonella infection include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, chills, headache, muscle pains, and blood in the stool. Symptoms usually begin six to seventy-two hours after exposure. Many people recover without medical care, but some people can become seriously ill and need to be hospitalized. The complications of a Salmonella infection include reactive arthritis.
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