Many food safety regulators not testing
for listeria in ice cream
Source : http://www.click2houston.com/news/investigates/many-food-safety-regulators-not-testing-for-listeria-in-ice-cream/33024534
By Lauren Sweeney, Investigative Producer, Amy Davis, Investigative
Reporter/Consumer Expert, firstname.lastname@example.org
(May 15, 2015)
When an ice cream brand beloved by Texans ended up connected to
10 listeria illnesses, including three deaths, the news of the
outbreak pitted Blue Bell loyalists against food safety advocates.
People flocked to the Brenham creamery to hold prayer vigils and
held signs exclaiming, "We support Blue Bell."
But Channel 2 Investigates discovered food safety regulators in
Texas were never testing inside the plant or in finished Blue
Bell product for listeria. Currently, none of the 70 frozen dessert
manufacturers licensed in Texas are being tested by state regulators
Federal regulators do not test plants for listeria either, unless
it's in response to an outbreak.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends that companies test
their finished products for pathogens such as listeria, but they
are not required to hold the product for release until tests confirm
The guidelines from the FDA are also just guidelines, not requirements.
That should have changed when the Food Safety Modernization Act
was signed into law in 2011, but to date, the FDA has not fully
A federal judge has now ordered the FDA to have the mandates in
place by August.
"I think we have a lot of different controls in place to
find issues with firms; I will tell you organisms are sneaky,"
said Julie Loera, a safety officer for the Texas Department of
State Health Services.
Listeria is one of them.
For years, DSHS and the FDA have considered ice cream a low-risk
food for the bacteria.
The FDA's draft guidance on listeria prevention, which was issued
in 2008, even mentions ice cream as an example of a frozen food
that is not of concern.
Lois Parker said she would have never considered it, either.
Her husband died in a Kansas hospital after contracting listeriosis.
At the time, he was on the road to recovery after a long treatment
for cancer. The illness caught Parker and her family by surprise.
It was another six months before the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention connected his death to Blue Bell ice cream he'd
eaten in the hospital.
"If it weren't for the decision of a lab rat in South Carolina,
who decided to pull a pint of Blue Bell ice cream and test it,
nobody would have known about this outbreak," said Bill Marler,
a Seattle-based food safety attorney.
On Feb. 12, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental
Control found a positive sample of listeria monocytogenes in Blue
Bell ice cream at a distribution facility.
The testing was part of a random sampling program between South
Carolina and the FDA.
DSHS said it has similar sampling programs with the FDA, it just
has never utilized them to test ice cream.
"Since September 2014, DSHS has collected 101 ready-to-eat
food samples for listeria testing. To date, all of those samples
have reported out at negative. The samples includes such foods
as soft cheeses, dips, cheese, hummus, sandwiches and packaged
deli meats," said Carrie Williams, a spokesperson for the
But the Blue Bell outbreak was not the first time listeria was
found in ice cream.
The Washington Department of Agriculture found the bacteria in
Snoqualmie brand ice cream in December, and the company issued
an immediate recall on a year's worth of products.
The day after listeria was found in Blue Bell by South Carolina
officials, DSHS confirmed positive tests in samples of product
at the Brenham creamery. It was a full month later before the
company issued a recall.
Williams said a product withdrawal was issued within a few days
while the state collected samples from the plant for additional
"Based on the test results and the subsequent links to cases
(not active cases, cases were from previous years), the situation
and the recall expanded in March and April," she said in
DSHS released an agreement Thursday with Blue Bell that the company
will begin testing and holding product over the next two years.
The agreement also allows for the state to begin routine listeria
testing in the facility.
That agreement applies to Blue Bell, but there has been no other
agreement made with the 70 other frozen dessert manufacturing
facilities in Texas.
DSHS does test such facilities for coliform.
Weekend: Don't forget food safety when
eating outdoors this summer
Source : http://thecourier.com/local-news/2015/05/17/weekend-dont-forget-food-safety-when-eating-outdoors-this-summer/
By KIM BRADLEY The Courier (May 17, 2015)
Summer eating to me is like taking a bite out of the Earth.
The smell of grilled burgers and barbecue hang in the air. Farmers’
markets are in full swing and the produce is finally in season.
Bell peppers, blueberries, corn, cucumber, strawberries, tomatoes,
What better way to enjoy these foods than under a warm sun? As
enjoyable as outdoor eating can be, food safety is one piece of
the picnic we can’t forget to pack.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture
web sites offer summer food safety tips.
Four key words to keep in mind are clean, separate, cook and chill.
Clean your hands and eating utensils or surfaces with warm, soapy
water. If running water isn’t an option, use hand-sanitizer
Be sure to rinse raw fruits and vegetables. If necessary, use
a veggie scrub brush for firm-skinned produce.
To help prevent cross-contamination, separate ready-to-eat foods
like deli sandwiches or potato salad from items that requiring
cooking, like raw meat.
You can also store perishable foods and beverages in two separate
coolers. This will help keep refrigerated dishes at lower temperatures
when diners reach for a drink before mealtime.
Remember to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot when serving.
Cold foods should be kept at 40 degrees or lower while hot foods
should be held at 140 degrees or higher.
Along with this comes the importance of cooking foods to the proper
internal temperature. Believe it or not, different meats have
different minimum internal cooking temperatures.
Hamburgers should be cooked to at least 160 degrees, chicken and
turkey to 165 degrees, and steak to 145 degrees with a three-minute
rest time before serving.
It might seem tedious, but checking for proper internal temperatures
helps to keep you and your fellow foodies safe from foodborne
illnesses that can come from undercooked meat. Keeping a food
thermometer on hand is an inexpensive way to practice food safety.
Food spoilage is a major concern no matter the season, but
especially when foods are left outside in the heat. Keep foods
out no longer than two hours, or one hour if the temperature is
at least 90 degrees.
Chill foods on ice as needed and store leftovers in shallow containers.
Food is the center of many of our seasonal activities. Enjoy sweet
summertime and all of its perks, but don’t forget food safety.
For more information, visit http://www.fda.gov/food/resourcesforyou/Consumers/ucm109899.htm.
Bradley is a dietetic intern at the OSU Extension office in Findlay.
Letter From the Editor: Mechanically Tenderized Steaks
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/05/letter-from-the-editor-mechanically-tenderized-steaks/#.VVlHUtiJjs1
By Dan Flynn (May 17, 2015)
We’ve let the news spoil several holidays and many a Friday night. Christmas 2009 comes to mind, probably because it was the first. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was chasing down a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 cases just hours before the holiday. We wanted the story.
Then, on Christmas Eve, National Steak and Poultry of Owasso, OK, announced the recall of 240,000 pounds of beef for E. coli O157:H7. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and CDC said that cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses did not involve hamburger, but rather blade-tenderized steaks distributed to restaurants.
Working through Christmas, Food Safety News reported those steaks was distributed to Moe’s Southwest Grill, Carino’s Italian Grill, and KRM restaurants. Barely into the new year, CDC reported that 19 E. coli illnesses were confirmed in 16 states from what was being called “mechanically tenderized steaks.”
National Steak ended up recalling more than 25 different products. The problem was that mechanically tenderized steaks, where a blade or needle is used for tenderizing, can push potentially harmful bacteria to the center of the steaks where it might not be killed by cooking to the proper temperature by restaurants or consumers.
Food safety advocates said consumers needed some kind of a warning about mechanically tenderized steaks. And 2010 was only a few day old when they said labeling was needed. The reason was so consumers would make sure to account for the possibility that bacteria might have been pushed into the meat, and they would then thoroughly cook it.
More than six years later, those labeling requirements will go into effect in May 2016. We’re fortunate because it might well have taken until 2018 or longer. The labels will give consumers notice that the steak has been mechanically tenderized, along with safe cooking instructions.
For a time it looked like labels on mechanically tenderized beef would be delayed until the current administration passed into history in January 2017. But with even the industry supporting a label with “validated cooking instructions,” what sense did that make?
The fact that the current administration is getting it done may well be the lingering effect of the previous USDA Undersecretary for Food Safety, Dr. Elisabeth Hagen. Her departure 18 months ago came after she had proposed labeling mechanically tenderized beef before she resigned.
That made it much more difficult for USDA to put it off to the next administration, In addition, the Christmas 2009 outbreak was not the only such incident. At least five other times since 2000, CDC said outbreaks could be blamed on the tenderization process.
There was also the XL Foods Inc. recall of beef steaks and roasts that were mechanically tenderized in Canada in 2012.
According to USDA estimates, about 18 percent of the beef steaks and roasts sold at retail are mechanically tenderized and, until the labels begin showing up, there is no way to tell. Annual E. coli illnesses from mechanically tenderized beef total between 547 and 4,657, according to FSIS estimates. Labels might reduce that by 133 to 1,497 per year.
More than six years is a long time, but it’s better than nine years. The groups with food safety agendas that rallied around this issue last October deserve some credit for making this happen. It was important not to slide back.
Besides, when a Grinch steals a Christmas, it’s good to get something back for it.
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4 years later, tougher U.S. food safety
law yet to yield overhaul
Source : http://www.dallasnews.com/news/local-news/20150516-4-years-later-tougher-u.s.-food-safety-law-yet-to-yield-overhaul.ece
By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER and KAREN ROBINSON-JACOBS (May 16,
Four years ago, President Barack Obama signed into law sweeping
changes designed to improve U.S. food safety and prevent outbreaks
similar to the one involving Brenham-based Blue Bell, in which
three people have died after eating contaminated ice cream.
The Food Safety Modernization Act, the biggest food safety overhaul
since 1938, came in response to a 46-state outbreak tied to salmonella
at a Georgia peanut plant in 2008. Nine people died, and every
year since, thousands have died from food-borne illnesses.
The new law, which nearly all Republican lawmakers from Texas
opposed, is supposed to change that. It shifts the focus from
merely reacting to deadly outbreaks to preventing them.
That is, if it can ever get implemented.
It has taken four years, more than 75,000 public comments and
a federal court order to enable the Food and Drug Administration
to write the broad new rules that will govern how thousands of
food manufacturers like Blue Bell will ensure their food is safe
When the rules are finalized later this year, companies will have
up to three years to comply, depending on their size.
But the new law still won’t require companies to test their
food for bacteria, even if, as Blue Bell did in 2013, they find
that potentially deadly bacteria is alive and growing in their
The new law makes hundreds of changes. But in almost all cases,
it still leaves it up to companies to decide whether they need
to test the food they make for bacteria before they put it on
trucks and sell it.
“There is no one-size-fits-all system of preventive controls,”
Mike Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food safety,
told The Dallas Morning News last week. “But also we don’t
want to stymie innovation.
“We are trying to walk the line to keep the flexibility
that folks need to put in place the right efficient, effective
preventive control … but also create accountability for
firms to do this the right way.”
A ‘recall situation’
Texas health officials first got word that there might be a problem
with Blue Bell ice cream on Feb. 13. By early April, they thought
the problems had been resolved. But then a follow-up test netted
a surprise: a big and growing sample of Listeria found directly
in the plant’s ice cream.
“That’s when we called and said, ‘This is bigger
than we thought,’” said Carrie Williams, spokeswoman
for the Texas Department of Health Services. “We told them
this is a recall situation.”
Blue Bell, which announced layoffs and furloughs for most of its
workforce Friday, recalled all of its products. The CDC said 10
people have become ill from the ice cream since 2010 in Texas,
Kansas, Oklahoma and Arizona. Three of the Kansas patients, all
already hospitalized for other conditions, died.
The FDA has said Blue Bell knew in 2013 that at least one of its
plants had tested positive for Listeria. But the company chose
not to tell state or federal officials or test its ice cream to
learn if it was still safe.
“They just killed the Listeria that they found in a small
area,” said Mansour Samadpour, a former University of Washington
microbiologist who is president and CEO of IEH Laboratories and
Consulting Group. “They did not address the bigger question
of why was it there, where did it come from?”
Companies often get bad advice and don’t bother to test
food after Listeria is found in their plants, he said. “If
it’s in the plant,” he said, “it’s going
to be in the food.”
It’s that decision to not test that has most blackened Blue
Bell’s eye, said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Arlington.
“Look what has happened with Blue Bell,” said Barton,
one of just three Texas Republicans who voted for the law in 2010.
“They would have been a lot better off in hindsight to check
their ice cream. They have gone from being the unofficial ice
cream of Texas to a big question mark.”
On Saturday, in response to questions from The News, a Blue Bell
spokesman said the company’s decisions to not report the
Listeria found in 2013 or test its food as a result were within
the law and common practice.
“Several swab tests did show the presence of Listeria on
non-food surfaces in Blue Bell’s Broken Arrow plant in 2013,”
spokesman Joe Robertson said in a written statement. “As
is standard procedure for any such positive results, the company
would immediately clean the surfaces and swab until the tests
“Under FDA and state regulations, companies in our industry
were not previously required to report Listeria findings,”
Robertson said, adding that an agreement announced Thursday with
Texas and Oklahoma will change that.
“We have agreed to report any findings of Listeria monocytogenes
in ingredients or finished products,” Robertson said. “Moreover,
the government will have full access to our routine environmental
sampling results for Listeria.”
Williams, of the state health services department, said the new
rules are probably the most stringent ever arranged by the agency.
For a year, Blue Bell will be barred from selling any products
until tests of the ice cream they’re made from come back
No safety guarantee
Even if the new law did require product testing to verify that
safety plans were working, it wouldn’t by itself guarantee
safe food, experts said.
“It’s easy to look at this and just say, ‘Let’s
test everything,’” said Sandy Eskin, director of food
safety programs for the Pew Charitable Trust. “But then
there is a real question of cost, and even of efficacy.”
George Salmas, a lawyer who defends food companies when problems
arise, said it’s more important to have a system you can
trust. “Even testing outgoing food product isn’t always
going to identify all contamination,” he said.
Some economists and law professors argue against more regulations
like the powers the FDA is assuming under the new law. Instead,
let the market regulate the companies’ behavior, they say.
They argue that companies will see it in their best interest to
avoid the kind of nightmarish season Blue Bell is having.
Those arguments were part of the reason so many Republican lawmakers
opposed the bill in 2010. (The bill passed the Senate 73-25. Sen.
John Cornyn and former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison both voted no.)
“For the past 100 years, the free market, not the government,
has been the primary driver of innovation and improved safety,”
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., wrote in an essay for USA Today just
ahead of the vote. His opposition delayed the bill for months.
“Consumer choice is a far more effective accountability
mechanism than government bureaucracies.”
Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner, said the lawmakers
who passed the law did a good job reflecting those concerns, even
though they believed, as does the Obama administration, that safety
improvements also require broad new powers for the FDA.
“The vast majority of firms have every reason to do the
right thing,” Taylor said. “But we have to have a
regulatory system that facilitates that and when they aren’t
doing the right thing, holds people accountable in a very timely
Even so, the bill is so big, and the industry both so diverse
and widely dispersed, the agency knew the law wouldn’t work
without taking into account industry views, he said. The law starts
with the premise that most companies want to do the right thing,
and allows them to tailor their safety plans.
“It’s just an unbelievably massive undertaking,”
Taylor said. “We realized from the beginning that we couldn’t
possibly implement this without the active collaboration of those
who actually make the food we’re trying to keep safe.”
Barton said he served on the committee that wrote the House version
of the law. He voted for it because it incorporates both a firm
regulatory hand and deference to companies that haven’t
had problems to craft safety plans
“The concepts in the new law are conservative concepts,”
Barton said. “It was passed with a lot of input from industry.
It’s a risk-based approach, and says you should put your
most [regulatory] effort where you have the most evidence of past
Unfortunately for Blue Bell, he said, that’ll probably mean
it remains on the FDA’s radar until its track record warrants
otherwise. “You wouldn’t have thought Blue Bell would
be one of the places where they have problems. But we now know
it is,” Barton said.
The FDA has until Aug. 15 to finalize the rules governing hazards
within plants like Blue Bell’s, with six other rules coming
in quick succession.
But Taylor and many others say the bill, even after all these
years, won’t be enough if the Congress doesn’t provide
the funding the FDA has said it needs.
“We have a workforce of about 2,000 who have been working
in one way for a long time, and they have to be trained in a new
way of doing things,” Taylor said. “We’re also
going to be dependent on the states to help implement this...
“We are being asked to create a whole new regime. It requires
new staffing, new skills, more overseas presence and new foreign
inspectors. You can’t do that for nothing.
Enjoying safe fruits and vegetables
Source : http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/enjoying_safe_fruits_and_vegetables
By Laurie Messing, Michigan State University Extension (May 13, 2105)
Michigan fresh produce will be coming our way soon in gardens or at farmers markets. No matter what season it is or where you get your fresh fruits and vegetables from, safe handling of your fresh produce is very important. Michigan State University Extension recommends enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables at home by following the tips below to reduce the risk of harmful bacteria that may contaminate your delicious produce:
•Inspect your produce when shopping or once you arrive home, looking for bruises or visible damage. If produce does have bruising or damage, throw it away.
•Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling fresh fruits and vegetables.
•Before and after preparing fresh fruits and vegetables clean all surfaces and utensils, including cutting boards and knives, with hot water and soap.
•It is not recommended to wash all your produce after purchase. Just before use, rinse under running water only the fruits and vegetables you plan to eat, including those with skins or rinds, such as watermelon and squash.
•While rinsing under running tap water, rub firm-skinned fruits and vegetables by hand or scrub with a clean brush.
•Do not wash packaged fruits and vegetables labeled “ready-to-eat,” “washed” or “triple washed.” This could cause contamination of the clean produce.
•Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean paper towel.
•Never use soap or bleach to wash fresh fruits or vegetables, since these products are not meant to be eaten.
•Refrigerate at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit all fresh fruits and vegetables that have been cut or peeled within two hours of preparing.
•Separate your produce from raw eggs, poultry, meat, seafood and household chemicals that may contaminate it. Raw protein foods contain harmful bacteria that can contaminate ready-to-eat foods such as produce and can lead to foodborne illness.
These few simple tips will keep your fresh produce food safe to enjoy for delicious meals and snacks.
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu. To have a digest of information delivered straight to your email inbox, visit http://bit.ly/MSUENews. To contact an expert in your area, visit http://expert.msue.msu.edu, or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).
What do Foster Farms and Blue Bell Have in Common?
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/what-do-foster-farms-and-blue-bell-have-in-common/
By Carla Gillespie (May 13, 2015)
Chicken and ice cream don’t have much in common. But the food poisoning outbreaks linked Foster Farms chicken and Blue Bell ice cream do.
In 2013, Foster Farms was linked to a 29-state Salmonella outbreak that sickened 634 people with an especially virulent strain of Salmonella Heidelberg. Among those who became ill, was Noah Craten, an 18-month-old whose Salmonella infection created abscesses in his brain. To save his life, surgeons had to cut open his skull and remove them.
Noah’s story was featured in the Frontline report, The Trouble with Chicken, which traced the arc of Foster Farms decade-long Salmonella problem, spotlighted the USDA’s lack of enforcement ability and begged the question who is accountable when food makes people sick.
“Companies that make and sell contaminated food should be,” said Fred Pritzker, a food safety attorney with PritzkerOlsen, who is representing the Craten family. But that’s not always the case.
Salmonella in Foster Farms chicken first started making people sick in 2004. State and federal health officials said DNA tests showed that the strain found in samples of chicken genetically match those to strain found in people who got sick. But, because the USDA said it could not force the company to recall its products, Foster Farms kept selling chicken through an outbreak that sickened 46 people, killing one of them.
USDA documents obtained by Frontline show that at the time of the outbreak, Foster Farms Hazard control plan didn’t have a plan to handle Salmonella or even identify it as a potential problem calling it a hazard “not likely to occur” even though poultry products are responsible for about 250,000 Salmonella illnesses every year. The records show Foster Farms saw a spike in Salmonella Heidelberg before the outbreak occurred.
After the outbreak, the USDA told the company to develop a plant to control Salmonella at its processing plants. Nine years later, after an outbreak that sickened more than 600 people, the agency had to make the same suggestion.
In the 2013-2014 outbreak, even after hundreds of people were sick with the same strain of Salmonella found in the chicken, Foster Farms didn’t issue a recall. Instead the company maintained that their chicken was safe if handled properly. It wan’t until 15 months into the outbreak, when the strain was found in an unopened package of chicken in the freezer of one of the people who became sick that the company issued a recall.
What does all of this have to do with ice cream?
Just as Salmonella is commonly associated with poultry, Listeria, which thrives in cold temperatures, is a associated with dairy products. In fact, dairy products are the most common source of Listeria outbreaks.
Those most at risk of Listeria infection are pregnant women, infants, small children, frail or elderly people and those with compromised immune systems. Blue Bell, the nation’s third-largest ice cream company, sells its ice cream at retail stores and to institutional customers including schools, hospitals and nursing homes, all places with concentrated at-risk populations.
Eight of the 1o people identified as part of the four-state Blue Bell Listeria outbreak so far contracted Listeria after eating Blue Bell ice cream served to them while they were hospitalized for unrelated illnesses. Three of them died.
On March 13, when state and federal health authorities announced the outbreak, all eyes turned to Blue Bell’s three production facilities one in Brenham, Texas, one in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and one in Sylacauga, Alabama.
Health officials from all three states told Food Poisoning Bulletin that the plant were inspected regularly and that no major issues were discovered. But none of those inspections included testing for Listeria. The assumption was that Blue Bell was testing its product and its facility.
Company records turned over to the FDA after the outbreak reveal that Blue Bell was aware that Listeria had been found on non-food contact surfaces in its Oklahoma plant as far back as 2013. In fact, Listeria was isolated from samples of non-contact food surfaces five times in 2013, 10 times in 2014, once in January 2015 and once in February 2015. Listeria was also found after the outbreak was discovered in environmental samples collected by the FDA on March 24 and March 25 2015.
The records also show the company’s testing plan, used to evaluate the efficacy of the cleaning and sanitizing program, was inadequate, according to the FDA. For example, the plan did not call for samples to be taken from food contact surfaces, lay out any preventative action needed if bacterial contamination were found, discuss how to evaluate the impact on the products produced on the affected date, call for Listeria strains to be identified or require analysis of why cleaning and sanitizing treatments meant to eliminate Listeria didn’t work.
Why wouldn’t a food company run tests on Listeria found in its facility to determine if it was a pathogenic strain? Why would it continue to use cleaning procedures that weren’t working? Why would it continue to make and sell product as a Listeria problem in its facility worsened?
For Blue Bell, like Foster Farms, the answer is because it could.
New Labeling for Mechanically Tenderized Beef Set for May 2016
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/new-labeling-for-mechanically-tenderized-beef-set-for-may-2016/
By Staff (May 13, 2015)
Raw or partially cooked beef products that have undergone mechanical tenderization will now require new labeling, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). This means that “consumers, restaurants and other food service facilities will now have more information about the products they are buying, as well as useful cooking instructions so they know how to safely prepare them.”
“This common sense change will lead to safer meals and fewer foodborne illnesses,” says Al Almanza, deputy under secretary for food safety at FSIS.
Beef cuts are often tenderized mechanically in order to make them more tender--a key selling point that attracts consumers. The tenderizing process involves puncturing the meat with needles or blades to untangle tough tissue. Because this process can transfer pathogens from the surface of the meat to the interior, this is why proper cooking techniques--different from techniques for nontenderized cuts--are a must. In the last 15 years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control attributes six foodborne outbreaks to mechanically tenderized beef products.
New labeling is also necessary because on the surface, mechanically tenderized meat looks identical to meat that is still intact. Thus labeling will alert the consumer that tenderized meat needs to be handled differently.
According to FSIS, the new labels must include:
•A statement letting consumers know that the meat has been mechanically, blade or needle tenderized
•Validated cooking instructions
•Recommended minimum internal temperatures
•Hold or “dwell” times
The new labeling requirements are expected to go into effect in May 2016--one year from the date of the rule’s publication in the Federal Register.
After Outbreak, Turkish Restaurant Workers Get Jail Terms, Fines, Deportation
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/05/after-outbreak-turkish-restaurant-employees-given-jail-terms-fines-deportation/#.VVlJgtiJjs1
By News Desk (May 12, 2015)
A court in Doha, Qatar, recently found a Turkish fast-food restaurant and five of its employees guilty of selling food unfit for human consumption and sentenced them to jail, fines and deportation. The defendants also must publish the verdict in a local daily newspaper at their own expense.
http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-shish-taouk-chicken-shish-kebab-white-platter-image27177052The Court of Environmental Misdemeanors found that several Doha residents were sickened with symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea in October 2014 after eating at the Marmara Istanbul restaurant. One of them was a pregnant woman who was taken to the hospital and gave birth prematurely.
The restaurant was inspected by the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning, which published photos of apparently dirty kitchen tools and food preparation areas. The ministry then ordered the restaurant closed for two months, although it has since reopened.
The five defendants all pleaded not guilty to subsequent charges, and their trial began in November. During the court proceeding, health inspectors testified that they had analyzed both food samples and environmental swabs taken inside the restaurant. About a half-dozen samples of the food came back positive for harmful levels of bacteria, they said.
A defense attorney noted that the food samples had been taken two days after the illnesses were reported, so any bacteria found on it might have developed after it was removed from the restaurant. Also, a lab technician reportedly said that by the time environmental samples were taken, the restaurant had been thoroughly cleaned.
The five who were convicted remain free pending an appeal. They include the restaurant manager, who was sentenced to three months in jail and given a fine of about $2,750; three food service employees, who were given a month in jail and an approximately $1,900 fine each, and one other employee, who was responsible for the health certification of the restaurant, was sentenced to a month in jail and fined about $2,200. The court ordered all of them to be deported to Turkey after serving the sentences.
The restaurant was also fined about $8,800 and ordered closed for another three months.
Food safety tips for grilling season
Source : http://www.torontosun.com/2015/05/12/food-safety-tips-for-grilling-season
By Rita DeMontis, Toronto Sun (May 12, 2015)
With the launch of grilling season, we asked Gerald Chopkik of Etobicoke’s Icebox Quality Foods some tips to get ready for the season. The seasoned griller and barbecuer recommends the following food safety tips:
1. Be extremely conscious of the dangers of cross-contamination. Use separate utensils, cutting boards and platters for your raw and cooked foods. Keep foods separate, wrapped and refrigerated including when marinating.
2. NEVER baste with your marinating liquid; rather, prepare extra marinade just for basting.
3. Ensure frozen meat, chicken and fish are thawed thoroughly before cooking, unless instructions state otherwise. Once thawed do not refreeze these products as doing so can create dangerous bacteria.
4. Never leave your BBQ unattended — especially with children around — and keep it well clear of your home, any overhangs and wooden fences.
5. Non-stick grill baskets are an inexpensive but handy addition to your BBQ inventory. They help prevent foods like vegetables, tofu, fruit, fish and seafood from falling through the grates and make turning or tossing your food a snap.
6. With different meats cooked to different degrees having a schedule at hand could prove very helpful.
7. Marinating — Not only ads flavour it also impedes the creation of potentially carcinogens that can form when grilling poultry, red meat and fish, by as much as 95%, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Marinating meat should be covered or seal in plastic bag in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours.
8. Preheat your grill for 10 to 15 minutes before you begin cooking to ensure it reaches the right temperature and to kill any bacteria on the grates. Properly heated, a grill sears your food on contact, keeping the inside moist and helping to prevent sticking.
9. Oiling — Lean foods will stick even when placed on a clean grill. To reduce sticking, oil your hot grill with a paper towel soaked in vegetable oil. I prefer to fold a towel to about 2 inches wide, hold it with tongs and then dip it the oil and rub it across the rack. NEVER use cooking spray on a hot grill. A sudden flare-up can be dangerous and potentially explosive.
10. Timing — The most accurate way to check the temperature of your protein to ensure it is fully cooked is to use an instant-read thermometer. In the absence of that, sausages are cooked when juices run clear and chicken and burgers should not be pink on the inside. Steaks are considered safe to eat when cooked to medium or even rare.
•The Icebox; 269 Scarlett Rd. Open seven days a week; IceboxQualityFoods.com.
Food Safety Flaws Noted at Blue Bell’s Texas Ice Cream Plant
Source : http://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/food-safety-flaws-noted-at-blue-bells-texas-ice-cream-plant/
By News Desk (May 12, 2015)
The Blue Bell ice cream plant associated with the highly publicized Kansas Listeria outbreak exhibited multiple food safety flaws noted by a group of 11 FDA inspectors who visited the facility during the last half of April. According to the report of inspectional observations by the group, the Blue Bell plant continued to manufacture ice cream products for several days after the company’s own sampling found Listeria monocytogenes around a drain that was not in direct contact with food. And by then, the Texas Department of State Health Services had notified Blue Bell that Listeria monocytogenes had been found in products from the plant. The company itself confirmed Listeria findings in its Great Divide Bar and Chocolate Chip Country Cookie, the report said.
One of the observations made by the FDA inspection team at the Brenham, Texas, facility was “failure to manufacture foods under conditions and controls necessary to minimize the potential for growth of microorganisms.” Another observation was “failure to clean food contact surfaces as frequently as necessary to protect against contamination of food.” The specific finding in that regard was that hoppers in the blending room “were not kept clean” and the underside of hopper lids were caked with emulsifiers and stabilizers. The May 1 report, which included a few other food safety shortcomings, was one of three inspection reports recently published by the FDA after field staff visited Blue Bell ice cream plants in Brenham, Texas; Broken Arrow, Oklahoma; and Sylacauga, Alabama.
Ice cream from the Texas plant has been linked to last year’s listeriosis outbreak among patients at a Via Christi hospital in Wichita, Kansas. Three of the five outbreak victims died after becoming infected. State and federal health authorities have since determined that five other Listeria illnesses — three in Texas, one in Arizona and another in Oklahoma are linked to ice cream from Blue Bell’s Oklahoma plant. The illnesses happened months and years apart from each other in many cases, but modern molecular subtyping has allowed disease investigators to connect the cases into a single outbreak.
America's Food Safety Issues Will Make Your Stomach Turn
Source : http://gizmodo.com/americas-horrible-food-safety-system-will-make-your-sto-1703729069
By kcampbelldollaghan (May 11, 2015)
“We need bodies in the streets before we get it.” Yikes! That’s never what you want to hear from a food safety expert—but in a new episode of Retro Report, we learn just how realistic that statement is when it comes to food contamination in the US.
The report outlines the shocking-but-not-surprising history of food safety in the US. Mostly, that history is filled with regulatory loopholes and corporate blame-shifting. One prime example? How the deadly 1993 E. coli outbreak at Jack In the Boxes around the country led the Federal government to declare the bacteria an “adulterant.” That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but as the New York Times explains, it was hugely overdue:
It was the first time that a food-borne organism had been so labeled, making it no different from any foreign matter — say, a chemical or cigarette ash — that might contaminate a batch of ground beef. Now, at the first sign of E. coli, the food would be automatically subject to recall. In 2011, this adulterant scarlet letter was extended to six less common strains of E. coli.
Unfortunately, the same basic problem has reared its head in the US again and again. Because specific bacteria or strains aren’t officially classified as “adulterants,” meat producers aren’t necessarily obligated to issue recalls of their products right away. And often, tracking the spread of the outbreak and fixing the problem is left in the hands of the company, too.
As Retro Report’s mini-doc explains, the Federal government’s process of regulating food safety is outdated, sprawling, and horribly underfunded. If we really care about this shit—literally! shit!—voters are going to have to make a lot more noise.
Listeria Outbreak was a ‘Wake-Up Call’ for the U.S. Apple Industry
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/05/listeria-outbreak-a-wake-up-call-for-the-u-s-apple-industry/#.VVlK49iJjs1
By News Desk (May 11, 2015)
Following the recent outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to caramel apples which killed seven people and hospitalized 34, the president of the U.S. Apple Association has called food safety the apple industry’s “top issue,” according to the Capital Press.
Jim Bair, the association’s president, made the declaration on his most recent trip to Washington state, where he met with growers and officials in the country’s top apple-producing state.
Thanks to a quick campaign to disseminate information domestically, the caramel apple-linked outbreak caused minimal damage to domestic apple sales. But sales have suffered considerably overseas, particularly in Southeast Asia, Bair said, noting that the outbreak has been “a wake-up call” for the apple industry.
In January, health officials traced the Listeria illnesses to caramel apples sold by three companies that all sourced their apples from Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, CA. Bidart then recalled its Gala and Granny Smith varieties from the marketplace.
Patients in 12 states fell ill between Oct. 17, 2014, and Jan. 6, 2015, with the bacterial infection listeriosis, which hospitalized 34 out of 35 known cases. The outbreak marked the first time apples were linked to foodborne illness-related deaths in the U.S.
Food canning jars safety
Source : http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/food_canning_jars_safety
By Lisa Treiber, Michigan State University Extension (May 11, 2015)
Not all jars are made to be used for home canning.
Extension Educators teach many food preservation classes each year. During class, one question we ask participants is, “Why do they can food?” Responses vary, but common answers are because they have a garden, want to use local foods from farmers markets, they’re avoiding additives and preservatives, it is cost effective; or, like myself, they are sentimental canners. Sentimental canners often enjoy canning with family members because it brings back memories and flavored, home-cooked food during the cold, winter months.
One mistake a sentimental canner can make is not practicing safe preservation methods, beginning with canning jars. It is important to realize that not all jars are made to be used for home canning.
I have been the recipient of many canning jars that have been passed down through family or friends. My maiden name is “Ball,” so I am a collector of the many pretty, colored jars; blue, green, purple, red, square jars, zinc lids, bale lids and more! Many of these may have nicks and chips after years of use, making them weak, increasing the possibility that they will break. Breakage during canning could cause contaminants to get mixed into your food. If you’re holding onto these old jars because of their value, consider using them for dry storage or as decorative pieces.
Sometimes it may be difficult to distinguish new jars from the old jars. Over the last few years one jar manufacturer recently released “vintage style jars” in blue, green and purple, making it confusing to tell the difference between new and old jars. Examine your jars by looking for a commemorative stamp on the new editions, and keep them separated from the old ones.
If you are a bargain hunter, your finds may or may not be the best deal. You have no idea where or how the jars have been stored. If possible, ask the seller if they know the history of the jar and be sure to examine carefully for chips, cracks and nicks. If you are unsure, consider passing on the “deal.”
For years my family members saved and re-used mayonnaise jars when it came time to can. This practice is not recommended; these jars are created to hold commercially processed food and are not designed to be re-used to process home canned food, for several of reasons.
•First, the rim of the commercial jar may not be flat like the canning jar; it is beveled or rounded, making it difficult for the compound of the canning lid to properly seal.
•Second, the commercial jars are made different than canning jars, they have seams and weak spots that may result in breakage in your canner, something none of us want to have happen after working so hard to fill our jars with delicious food.
•Finally, commercial jars may or may not be the same size or shape as quart and pint size jars. The times set for safely processing food is based on pint and quart jars, this could result in a product being improperly processed making it unsafe.
If you take care of your canning jars, protect them from extreme temperatures, chips and nicks, you can use them for many years. The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends inspecting jars each year before you begin to can.
Michigan State University Extension suggests you practice safe canning using research tested recipes and up-to-date equipment. By doing this, you will enjoy the fresh flavors of summer all year long.
Jack in the Box E. coli Outbreak Revisited – How Safe Is Our Food Supply Today?
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/jack-in-the-box-e-coli-outbreak-revisited-how-safe-is-our-food-supply-today/#.VVlLb9iJjs2
By Bill Marler (May 11, 2015)
You could also read the book Poisoned.
A 1993 E. coli outbreak linked Jack in the Box hamburgers sickened 700 people and acted as a wake up call about the dangers of food-borne illness. More than 20 years later, how far have we come?
In early 1993, the Washington State health department warned that a bacterium most Americans had never heard of, E. coli O157:H7, was making dozens of people sick—and spreading rapidly. The likely culprit: undercooked hamburgers from the Jack in the Box fast-food chain. Ultimately, more than 700 people fell ill and four children died during what proved to be one of the most significant food poisoning outbreaks in U.S. history.
The “Jack in the Box” outbreak was a wake-up call about the dangers in the food supply, the first time that many Americans realized that eating dinner could be deadly. It led to major changes in industry practices and government oversight of the food supply. But, more than 20 years later, how safe is the food supply
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