Five Things You Should Know About Raw Milk
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/five-things-you-should-know-about-raw-milk/
By Carla Gillespie (Aug 30, 2015)
Raw milk has been making headlines lately. Despite illnesses and outbreaks associated with drinking this unpasteurized dairy product, about 1 percent of Americans drink raw milk and advocate for the right to buy or sell it in the states where they live. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has compiled several reports on raw milk. Here are five things the agency wants you to know:
Laws governing the sale of raw milk vary from state to state. About 20 states have laws prohibiting the sale of raw milk, about 30 allow some form of it.
At least 143 Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli outbreaks have been linked to raw milk since 1987. They have included serious illnesses, miscarriages, still births, kidney failure and deaths.
Some advocates of raw milk believe that pasteurization causes lactose intolerance and allergic reactions. It doesn’t.
Some advocates of raw milk believe raw milk kills harmful bacteria. It doesn’t.
Some advocates of raw milk believe drinking raw milk is safe. It isn’t. The FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations agree that raw milk is unsafe because it can contain pathogens.
Letter From The Editor: Safe and Humane at Dairy’s Hotspot
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/08/letter-from-the-editor-safe-and-humane-at-dairys-hotspot/#.VeOh-xEViUl
By Dan Flynn (Aug 30, 2015)
The cameras are in and the robots are coming to H-shaped Longs Peak Dairy near Pierce, Colorado where two bus loads of visitors were welcomed Friday to tour the 24/7/365 milking parlors, help welcome about 30 new borne calves that are arriving daily this time of year, and watch the operation of a dairy design for the care and comfort of some of the nation’s most productive cows.
Longs Peak, where about 5,500 cows are milked three times a time filling six big tanker loads, was one of the stops on the Greeley Chamber of Commerce’s annual Ag tour, which this year was titled “The Udder Side of Dairy; More than Cows and Milk.” True, enough, but it was also a lot of cows and milk.
At Longs Dairy, the milking never stops. Thirty-three cows on each side of the parlor are hooked up at a time to the equipment. It takes about six minutes for each to drain the available milk. And then those cows are let go and others arrive. The dairymen on shift are all business, working under the cameras, not even horseplay is allowed.
Longs Peak is designed for the care and comfort of the cows That H-shape means no producing cow is more than about 900 feet away from the milking parlor, and can within about 45 minutes be returned to a spacious pen where her new feed and clean bed is waiting. The non-stress routine is what keeps their milk production up and Longs Peak profitable.
The dairy provides jobs for about 110 people. In addition to the milking, the cleaning, feeding, calving and other work is never done. Filling jobs in the tenth most productive farm county in the country isn’t easy. And Longs Dairy has already been to Germany to check out increased use of robotics in dairy farms, which they predict are coming here soon. Not this year or next, but within five years, almost certainly.
The cameras and robotics are really only the most obvious ways that the Long Peaks Dairy owners look to control every action and outcome on the farm. Nothing is left to chance.
To control flies, they’ve brought in squadrons of wasps; a natural enemy. They are currently looking for a similar natural way to control the pigeons that are attracted to the dairy. And in an arid area just south of the Wyoming border where annual rainfall should top out at about nine inches, Longs Peak Dairy was drenched with 33 inches of rain over a few weeks last spring.
Good news is its ground water detention system performed as it was designed. The most thinking, of course goes into water use. Water is used to cool the milk, the refrigeration units that cool milk to 37 degrees, and then heated again so animals can drink it, and then used agains to flush alleyways and forestall barns. Its solids and liquids are then separated by centrifuge. Liquids get mixed with irrigation water for fields and solids are composed and used for bedding.
Dairies have to contend with 20-25 federal, state and local regulatory agencies. We learned at breakfast that the day has passed when one might decide to turn any farmland they own into a dairy. The way its done now is to first identify the land with the requirements that might best be able to meet the regulations that will be imposed upon it.
The result is probably going to be more dairies like Longs Peak, with its open design and sense of order. We were encouraged to walk among the facilities including the “condominiums” to keep new borne calves safe in all kinds of weather before they are old enough to be kept in the pens with others. Nearby, their milk is pasteurized before its brought out to them in bottles on a specially built cart. Longs Peak does not gamble with safety of their calves.
Chances are all of the milk produced at Longs Peak will end up at Leprino in Greeley, which requires the production of about 80,000 milk cows a day to make about 5 million pounds of mozzarella cheese per day.
Leprino was our last stop of the day, and it made the local news as the Denver-based, privately owned company wants to make a third expansion to the gleaming Greeley plant, which began production with nonfat cheese in 2011, and the added another cheese and whey line in 2013.
It’s hard to imagine a production facility with more built in food safety than Leprino. We got inside after promising not to take any pictures and signing non-disclosure agreements. Those requirements are to protect intellectual property from being stolen, according to Leprino managers.
We can say it appears they never stop cleaning this place and their “red rooms” requiring biosecurity measures before moving from one area to another are all very impressive. Before we moved from a very modern training room, we each had to pass muster for putting on our smocks and rubber booties, hairnets, ear plugs, helmets safety glasses.
Leprino needs fresh milk and located in Weld County because it was already the 20th largest dairy producing county in the U.S. and with 4,000 square miles of friendly to agriculture land, it could and did expand.
Dairy Today reports 84 percent of the nation’s dairy expansion in past five years occurred here. It’s added about ten “Longs Peak” class of dairies since Leprino and Weld has moved up to being the 12th largest dairy county in the U. S. The question now is whether Northern Colorado can recruit enough dairy investors to do that again because a larger Leprino will need the production of 30,000 to 60,000 more cows.
Aerosolised Vomit Spreads Norovirus
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-poisoning-information/aerosolised-vomit-spreads-norovirus/#.VeOiKREViUl
By Patti Waller (Aug 29, 2015)
In a recent study, a team of US scientists wanted to study how norovirus, a nasty stomach bug that commonly causes food poisoning, could be spread by vomiting.
So they built a vomit machine.
More than 20 million people in the US catch norovirus every year, according to their Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Only about 5 million of those get infected from eating contaminated food — the majority of people catch the virus from other sick people, The New York Times reported.
Lee-Ann Jaykis of North Carolina State University and her colleagues built a vomit machine consisting of a fake stomach connected to a pump by a series of tubes, complete with a sad-looking clay face.
They used fake vomit mixed with pudding to get the right consistency, and mixed in a virus called MS2, which is similar to norovirus but can be grown in a lab, and is not as dangerous.
They even watched YouTube videos of people projectile vomiting, to get the process just right. For example, most people cough a few times after upchucking, so they included this in the simulation.
They found that the vomit machine did indeed spread the virus into the air, and it spewed slightly more of the virus when they increased the pump’s pressure, which corresponded with a person’s stomach pressure — the more pressure built up inside your stomach the higher the chance you have of projectile vomiting. Coughing also increased the amount of virus in the air.
Only 0.00007% to 0.03% of the vomit was aerosolised, which equates to between 40 and 10,000 virus particles. But it only takes between 20 and 1,300 norovirus particles to make someone sick, Jaykis told The New York Times.
Antibiotic Resistant Salmonella in Kapowsin Pork Sickens 152
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/antibiotic-resistant-salmonella-in-kapowsin-pork-sickens-152/
By Carla Gillespie (Aug 29, 2015)
Antibiotic resistant Salmonella in pork from Kapowsin Meats of Graham. Wash. has sickened 152 people, sending 24 of them to the hospital, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). All of the illness have occurred in Washington, many of those who were sickened attended events where whole pigs were roasted.
Kapowsin has temporarily suspended all operations and as recalled all of its products. The recall includes 523,380 pounds of pork products distributed to Alaska, Oregon and Washington that may be contaminated with an antibiotic resistant strain of Salmonella I 4,,12:i:-.
Antibiotic resistance can lead to complications of illness such as bloodstream infections and treatment options. The CDC has determined that the outbreak strain is resistant to ampicillin, streptomycin, sulfisoxazole, and tetracycline. Salmonella causes symptoms including nausea, vomiting, fever and diarrhea that usually develop within six to 72 hours of exposure and last up to a week. Those sickened in this outbreak reported onset of illness dates from April 25, 2015 to August 1, 2015.
Food Safety Microbiology
Las Vegas, NV
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How Safe Are Snack Foods?
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/augustseptember-2015/how-safe-are-snack-foods/
By Richard F. Stier
If one listens to the “food police,” consumption of snack foods, be they salty snacks, crackers, cookies, cakes, nuts or fried foods, is risking your life because these things will cause diabetes, heart disease and a wide range of other illnesses. Food police working in school systems have tried to dictate what parents can place in their child’s lunchboxes. They have gone so far as to inspect what kids bring from home, confiscate cookies or other items and send the child home with a note telling the parents how terrible they are because they sent their child to school with cookies or chips. Schools have even gone so far as to ban bake sales, a time-honored fundraiser, or mandate what can be sold at said sales: no cakes, pies, cookies, cupcakes and such.
This is a nutritional debate that will linger for years. Yet, sometimes, the best messages are forgotten. Years ago when I was in grade school, I distinctly remember that the school nurse came into my class one day and emphasized the importance of a balanced diet and that moderation was the key to good health. This is something that people tend to forget: A little of something is not going to hurt you, especially, with children, if they are active and burning calories as fast as they take them in.
Another point the food police seem to forget is that we are people and have been gifted with the senses of taste and smell, plus an appreciation of textures of food. People must eat to live, but there are many who live to eat. Chips, crackers, cookies and other snacks appeal to the senses—they taste good and generally have a very pleasing texture, which is why people buy them again and again. This basic premise is the cornerstone of the food business: repeat purchases. Margins on most foods are quite low, so the manufacturers want people coming back. Personally, I enjoy the occasional snack item, whereas some of the alleged superfoods simply taste terrible, such as kale.
So, let’s put nutritional issues aside and simply acknowledge that snacks are and probably will remain an integral part of our diet simply because of their sensory attributes. Instead, let’s focus on whether snacks themselves pose any food safety risks.
Let’s take a look at the physical characteristics of most snack foods. If we consider the following, what is the most common characteristic?
• Chips (baked or fried)
• Breakfast bars
Answer: These products are all low in moisture. They have low water activity (see Table 1) and simply will not support the growth of food pathogens or even spoilage organisms.
Snack foods are prone to oxidation and staling, but these are quality, not food safety, issues. These foods will simply not support the growth of pathogens. However, there are potential concerns that will be addressed later.
Ingredients, Including Allergens
Snacks are formulated with literally every ingredient under the sun. Most people tend to associate snacks with products such as wheat, rice, barley or other grains and seeds. How a snack food is formulated depends upon where in the world it is being produced and the target market. Here in the U.S., we are seeing more of the supposedly healthy grains and seeds going into snacks. Whether these new formulations will stand the test of time remains to be seen. Again, we get back to consumer acceptance. If a snack product tastes good and the company is committed to maintaining those qualities, the item will probably remain in the marketplace.
Because snacks are formulated with all kinds of ingredients, many contain allergens, so there are people who must avoid these items. The “Big Eight” allergens upon which the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act focuses must be clearly labeled on the package. There are two options:
• In the body of the ingredient statement, such as “Contains whey (milk)”
• In a separate statement, such as “Contains milk”
Of course, it is up to sensitive consumers to read the ingredients statement to protect themselves.
Processors manufacturing snack items have an obligation to develop, document, implement and maintain an allergen management program, which has long been an integral part of third-party audit schemes such as those approved by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and private schemes managed by consulting firms. Allergen management will also be an element in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls program. How this will finally shake out remains to be seen, but we should know more details by August 30, 2015.
A company’s allergen management program should include but need not be limited to the following elements:
• Vendor approval
• Product development
• Proper labeling
• Warehousing and storage
• Production control
• Cleaning and sanitizing
• Control of rework
• Product identification and recalls
• Education of management and staff
There have been a number of articles published in this magazine over the years that provide details on how to build and manage an allergen control program. Rather than discuss them here, the editor invites you to look to past editions.[2,3]
But how well is the industry as a whole doing when it comes to allergen management? Not as well as it should if one looks at the statistics gathered by the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (see Figure 1). There has been an upward trend in allergen recalls over the past 25 years, which indicates that the industry needs to do better. Fortunately, the majority of the recalls were initiated prior to anyone’s getting sick.
As discussed, many snack items are grain- or seed-based. Are there significant chemical hazards associated with such products and the ingredients used to manufacture them? Processors should address mycotoxins when they conduct their hazard assessment of ingredients and finished goods. Most processors would deem the risk to be minimal.
Almost all snacks are cooked in some manner: baked, fried or oven-cooked. The heating process reduces water activity, helping ensure stability, imparts desirable sensory characteristics such as color and texture, and is deemed a kill step in some operations. There are other effects, however: the formation of acrylamide. Acrylamide is a naturally occurring byproduct of the cooking process and forms in a wide variety of foods, including coffee, chocolate, french fries, potato chips, cereal and even some fruits and vegetables. While acrylamide has been present in the human diet ever since we began cooking with fire, it was not known to be in food until 2002, when a group of Swedish scientists presented research that detected it in some baked and fried foods. Acrylamide forms naturally when high-starch foods are fried, baked or roasted at high temperatures. It also forms when foods are cooked at home and in restaurants as well as when they are made commercially. Since its intial discovery, there has been a flurry of research throughout the world on acrylamide. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization have not determined whether this compound poses a health risk to humans and have, therefore, made no recommendations with regards to changing diets, but the European Union has developed a toolbox on acrylamide.
The European Commission has issued guidelines for minimizing the formation of acrylamide in foods, including heating products to lighter colors and washing or blanching products prior to cooking to remove sugars. It really doesn’t matter whether the materials are conventionally grown or organic; acrylamide will form.
So, anyone producing snacks that are baked, fried or cooked in an oven should consider acrylamide formation in their Hazard Analysis. Depending upon the composition of the product and how it is produced, they can minimize its formation.
Processors producing fried snacks also should examine potential risks posed by abused frying oil. The results of the Hazard Analysis should indicate that the risk is quite low, since producing products in frying oils that are badly abused will compromise product quality and shelf life. In industrial frying operations, oil abuse is very rare. In fact, the German Society for Fat Science issued recommendations in 2000 that stated, “No health concerns with consumption of fats and oils that have not been abused.”[6,7]
Earlier, we discussed how snack foods will not support the growth of food pathogens and should, therefore, be safe. Food safety is more than just formulation, however. A perfectly safe food, in theory, can become hazardous through mishandling, abuse after processing, the incorporation of contaminated ingredients or failure to properly manage certain processing steps. The best example and one that has been in the news in 2015 due to the sentencing of the company’s principals is the peanut butter products from the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America. Peanut butter is a low-water activity product that will not support the growth of food pathogens, but if the pathogen gets into the product, the chances of getting it out are slim. The low water activity and high fat content will protect the organisms from heating and other challenges.
Now, peanut butter and other nut butters might not be considered a snack item, but they are ingredients in many snack foods. If one looks at the recalls prompted by the problems at the Peanut Corporation of America and Sunland, a review of these records will show that many of the companies that were forced to conduct recalls produced snacks. There have been a number of food poisoning outbreaks associated with seemingly safe snack items (see Table 2).
There are a number of lessons to be learned from these different outbreaks, and the food industry has taken them to heart. The lessons learned from the Salmonella outbreaks attributed to raw almonds in 2001 and 2004 were quite profound. In response to these outbreaks, the Almond Board of California (ABC) mandated that all California almonds be processed to ensure that they are Salmonella-free. Products that are treated to achieve a 4-log reduction may be labeled as treated and those given a 5-log treatment may be called pasteurized. Most important, the processes necessary to achieve these reductions must be established by a process authority approved by the ABC and must be approved by a Technical Experts Review Panel (TERP), a group of food safety experts appointed by the ABC. At the moment, TERP has approved several methods for ensuring the lethality of processes for almonds, which include oil roasting, dry roasting, treatment with propylene oxide and steam processing.
The methods developed by the ABC were all based on solid scientific principles. The program has been extremely successful and has been copied by producers of other nuts. There has been one gap in this technology transfer, however. One simply cannot transfer a technology established for almonds to another nut without due diligence, that is, without fully validating the technology for that industry. That includes ensuring that bacteria used as surrogates for Salmonella on almonds are the correct surrogate for another nut.
Vendor Approval and Quality
One of the key elements of the third-party audit schemes approved by GFSI, ISO 22000 and private audit schemes is vendor quality. This is also an element of FSMA. A vendor quality program should consist of a means for identifying, evaluating, approving, maintaining an ongoing relationship and evaluating performance. If there is an area where processors slip up, it is in the evaluation phase or during maintenance.
The outbreak cited earlier in potato chips (see Table 2) was due to contaminated paprika used as a seasoning. Since potato chips are fried in hot oil at temperatures in excess of 300 °F, they are basically sterile when they leave the fryer. Improper handling or application of contaminated seasonings could create an unsafe product. This is why processors need to pay attention to ingredient quality and to their vendors. I have been unable to discover any information on whether the potato chip manufacturer involved in this outbreak had a rigid vendor quality program, but given the year, 1993, I would have my doubts. Would such a program have prevented the outbreak? Maybe, maybe not. It would have certainly reduced the risk.
An integral part of the vendor quality program is identifying and evaluating potential vendors. A risk assessment should be done to evaluate not only the ingredient, but also its source and how the supplier handles those ingredients. Suppliers must provide specifications for all ingredients, but the buyer should also have established guidelines for what they will and will not accept. Basic acceptance criteria might be “Salmonella-free at a certain sample size” and that the material be passed through a metal detector either in the final package or immediately before packaging. Today, most buyers mandate that the supplier provide a Certificate of Analysis (COA) with each lot that they purchase. This is one area where vendor programs differ. Some buyers mandate that the COA for each ingredient be verified upon receipt. What is done to verify the COA should be based on risk. A high-risk ingredient might be tested for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes prior to its being allowed onto the production floor. An incident like the paprika contamination would raise the risk rating and should move the ingredient into a category where it is tested more often.
So, the bottom line is that snack food producers, especially those that use seasonings on products after cooking or frying, must have a well-documented vendor quality program. Yes, something could sneak through, but the odds are much less if one has a program, the more rigid and demanding the better.
Processing and Process Validation
The programs that have been established by the ABC to ensure the safety of almonds were discussed earlier. The goal of the ABC is to ensure that all California almonds receive a process sufficient to achieve a 5-log reduction of Salmonella Enteritidis. Almonds are only one type of the many snacks that have been alluded to in this article. What about cookies, fried chips, crackers, breakfast bars and the many other snacks that are produced? As we have said, most of these products have been heated in some way, shape or form. For many years, processors operated under the assumption that the products were safe since they were heated. But is this a valid assumption to make? Probably not for all products in the snack category. And processors are aware that this is the case. There is an ongoing effort in the snack industry to evaluate current processes and determine their efficacy when it comes to pathogen control. Process validation is one element that FDA will look at when the regulations for enforcement of FSMA are finalized. Will the processes given to snacks receive the same scrutiny as those given to products deemed to be higher-risk items? That is unknown at the moment.
If one looks at the processes currently used in the industry—frying, baking, continuous oven cooking and dry roasting—it is probably safe to say that if a company is frying or oil-roasting their products, they are safe. The Almond Board’s “Guidelines for Oil Roasting” are 260 °F for 2 minutes. Most oil-roasting or frying operations use considerably higher temperatures that will enhance lethality.
However, what about the other products and processes? Some of these products may be a challenge, especially those products that incorporate inclusions such as chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, nuts or other pieces. Will these inclusions heat at the same rate as the rest of the snack? Processors also need to consider how the product will affect the death rate of pathogens. We have already talked about how peanut butter can protect Salmonella. Pathogens tend to be more resistant in products with lower water activity and those that contain higher levels of fats or oils, so these questions need to be considered when evaluating a process.
If one is producing such products, the manufacturer may have to focus more on vendor quality so that they are confident that all the components making up their snack food are safe and that their processes are designed to minimize the potential for contamination at all points in the process from batching through to packaging.
So, are snacks safe? Even though parts of this article point out potential hazards in this product category, snacks are one of the safest foods in the market. However, processors must make a commitment to ensuring that their products remain so. Food safety is not simply a function of the product and the process, but must include a commitment to ensuring the safety and quality of raw materials and ingredients, working to better understand and preferably develop data to validate processes and to developing, documenting, implementing and maintaining the food safety systems to protect your customers, your company and your brand. Maintenance of these systems falls squarely on the heads of top management. They are the ones who must provide the resources to ensure that every employee understands the importance of safe food and that the company has the tools to carry out this task. When management fails to adhere to this rule, problems may occur. All we need to do is look at what occurred at the Peanut Corporation of America to see what a management failure can do.
Richard F. Stier is a consulting food scientist with international experience in food safety. He is a member of the Institute of Food Technologists and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of Food Safety Magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.
2. Stier, RF. 2008. Building a world-class allergen control program: Part 1. Food Safety Magazine 14(5):28–31, 56.
3. Stier, RF. 2008. Building a world-class allergen control program: Part 2. Food Safety Magazine 14(6):24–27, 50.
4. Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network. 2015. USFDA Food Allergen Recall Incidents 1988–2015. Table used with the permission of FARRP.
6. Stier, RF. 2007. Ensuring the safety and quality of fried foods. Food Safety Magazine 13(3):30–35, 66–68.
7. German Society for Fat Science. 2000. Recommendations for the 3rd International Symposium on deep-fat frying – Optimal operation. Euro J Lipid Sci Tech 102(8–9):594.
8. Lehmacher, A, J Bockemuhl and S Aleksic. 1995. Nationwide outbreak of human salmonellosis in Germany due to contaminated paprika and paprika-powdered potato chips. Epidemiol Infect 115, 501–511.
Blue Bell Ice Cream Listeria Outbreak Timeline
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/blue-bell-ice-cream-listeria-outbreak-timeline/
By Carla Gillespie (Aug 28, 2015)
Blue Bell ice cream will begin appearing on store shelves next week- four months after a deadly Listeria outbreak prompted a recall of all of its products and the temporary closure of its production facilities. Many of the illnesses were linked to contaminated single-serve ice cream products made for Blue Bell’s institutional clients.
Those at highest risk of Listeria include seniors, children, the frail and the immune compromised are served by these institutional clients which include hospitals, nursing homes, schools and retirement communities like the one where David Philip Shockley worked.
Shockley, 32, is the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed May 19 against Blue Bell. He was an administrator at a Houston retirement community that was one of Blue Bell institutional clients. Because he suffers from ulcerative colitis, Shockley had been taking immunosuppressive medications since 2012. He had also been regularly snacking on Blue Bell ice cream products while he was at work.
One day, in late October 2013, he wasn’t feeling well. He had severe headache with nausea and light sensitivity. He lost consciousness, friends found him un-responsive. He was rushed by ambulance to the hospital where he was admitted to the intensive care unit in acute respiratory failure and septic shock suffering seizures and a fever over 106вк F. He didn’t fully regain consciousness for six days, according to the complaint.
When he did he was unable to walk, talk, swallow, see properly or move much of his body. He was diagnosed with Listeria meningitis. He has permanent neurological damage.
The Blue Bell outbreak was first announced by health officials in March 2015, but as the investigation proceeded, a longstanding Listeria problem, causing illnesses as far back as 2011, was discovered.
Contact a Listeria Lawyer
Here is a timeline of key dates in the outbreak.
In January 2010, a Listeria case that will become the first of this outbreak occurs in Arizona or Oklahoma.
In March 2011, a Listeria case that will become the first case of this outbreak occurs at a Texas hospital that has not been named by state or federal health officials.
In May 2011, the second case occurs at the same Texas hospital.
On March 19, 2013 Listeria is found on the floor in front of a freezer at the company’s facility in Broken Arrow, Okla. during an inspection. It is not tested to determine if it is pathogenic, nor are procedures out in place to remediate it.
On April 19, 2013, Listeria is found on the pallet jack in the Broken Arrow kitchen. It is not tested to determine if it is pathogenic, nor are procedures put in place to remediate it.
On August 13, 2013 Listeria is found on the catwalk behind the flavor tank in Broken Arrow. It is not tested to determine if it is pathogenic, nor are procedures put in place to remediate it.
On October 18, 2013 Listeria is again found on the floor in front of the Broken Arrow freezer. It is not tested to determine if it is pathogenic, nor are procedures put in place to remediate it.
On November 12, 2013 Listeria is found in a tub in the Broken Arrow kitchen. It is not tested to determine if it is pathogenic, nor are procedures put in place to remediate it. In 2014, inspectors will find Listeria at Broken Arrow 10 times.
In January 2014, the first of five Kansas cases to be included in this outbreak is reported in a patient at Via Christi hospital in Wichita.
On January 13, 2014 health inspectors find Listeria at the Broken Arrow facility.
On January 20, 2014 health inspectors find Listeria at the Broken Arrow facility.
In March 2014, the second case is reported in Kansas.
On April 15, 2014, health inspectors find Listeria at the Broken Arrow facility.
On April 22, 2014 health inspectors find Listeria in three locations at the Broken Arrow facility.
On August 11, 2014 health inspectors find Listeria in two locations at the Broken Arrow facility.
In October 2014, three cases are reported; two in Kansas, one in Texas.
In November 12, 2014, health inspectors find Listeria at the Broken Arrow facility.
Between august 29, 2014 and January 21, 2015 Blue finds Listeria in samples of Great Divide bars and Chocolate Chip Cookies manufactured at it s Brenham, Texas plant but distributes them into commerce.
In January 2015, a fifth case in Kansas is reported. At this point, eight people in two states have been sickened over a four-year period and three have died but health officials are still unaware that the illnesses have a common cause.
Blue-Bell-Listeria-Publix-WalmartOn February 12, 2015 during routine testing at a distribution center, the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control finds Listeria in two Blue Bell products- Great Divide Bars and Chocolate Chip Country Cookie sandwiches The products were manufactured at Blue Bell’s Brenham facility.
The Texas Department of State Health Services is alerted and conducts its own tests on product samples collected from the Brenham facility. Listeria is again found in Great Divide Bars and Chocolate Chip Country Cookie sandwiches and also found in a single-serving ice cream product, Scoops, made on the same production line.
On February 19, 2015, Listeria is found in the Brenham facility.
On February 21, 2015, Listeria is found in the Brenham facility.
In early March 2015, health officials identify the Kansas cluster when they notice that two of the cases were both Via Christi patients. Using PulseNet, an inter-agency foodborne illness database, they match DNA “fingerprints” of rare Listeria isolates from the Kansas patients to those found in the ice cream samples.
On March 9, 2015, more Listeria is found in the Brenham facility.
On March 9, 2015, Via Christi hospital is alerted that Listeria has been found in Blue Bell products. It removes them from circulation and holds them in quarantine. It provides invoices to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment showing that the Blue Bell brand ice cream Scoops used in the patients’ milkshakes came from Blue Bell’s facility in Texas.
On March 13, 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announces an outbreak of listeriosis linked to Blue Bell ice cream served to patients at a Wichita hospital between January 2014 and January 2015. The outbreak had sickened five people, killing three of them.
Via Christi posts information on its website saying the hospital had no knowledge the ice cream was contaminated until it was notified by health authorities on March 9 and that it has removed all Blue Bell products from circulation.
Blue Bell posted a message on its website saying: “One of our machines produced a limited amount of frozen snacks with a potential listeria problem. When this was detected all products produced by this machine were withdrawn. Our Blue Bell team members recovered all involved products in stores and storage. This withdrawal in no way includes our half gallons, quarts, pints, cups, three gallon ice cream or take-home frozen snack novelties.”
Blue Bell CEO Paul Kruse tells The Houston Chronicle in a March 13 story that the machine used to make Scoops and other single-serve items had not been in operation for about a month and a half, putting its shutdown days if not weeks before South Carolina’s February 12 discovery of Listeria.
The outbreak has expanded from one to two states; Listeria, initially associated with one troubled manufacturing line at Blue Bell’s plant in Brenham, Texas, has been found in a product made at Blue Bell’s plant in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma prompting its closure; and the company has issued three recalls.
Listeria Lawsuit for Via Christi PatientsA recall is issued for 10 Blue Bell products sold at retail stores and to Blue Bell’s institutional customers such as hospitals, nursing homes and school districts. They are: Chocolate Chip Country Cookie SKU # 196, Great Divide Bar SKU #108, Sour Pop Green Apple Bar SKU #221, Cotton Candy Bar SKU #216, Scoops SKU #117, Vanilla Stick Slices SKU #964, Almond Bars SKU #156, 6 pack Cotton Candy Bars SKU #245, 6 pack Sour Pop Green Apple Bars SKU #249, and 12 pack No Sugar Added Mooo Bars* SKU #343.
On March 15, 2015, Kruse tells KAKE.com the machine used to make the recalled products wasn’t properly sanitized and is not currently in use.
The Texas Department of State Health Services tells Food Poisoning Bulletin that it does monthly inspections at Blue Bell’s Brenham facility. “We inspect these facility types monthly. Our last full inspection was February. We cited a couple minor issues but nothing related to this issue,” a spokeswoman told the publication.
Between March 13 and March 22 2015 , the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Kansas Department of Agriculture conduct tests on environmental samples from Via Christi’s kitchen and the Blue Bell products the hospital was holding in quarantine.
None of the environmental samples from the kitchen are positive for Listeria. But an unopened Blue Bell 3-ounce single serving ice cream cup is. That contaminated ice cream cup was made at the Blue Bell’s facility in Broken Arrow, Okla.
On March 18, 2015, health inspectors see condensate above a pint filler at the Brenham facility dripping directly into pints of mint chocolate ice cream. Pipes dripping into product is first mentioned in a 2009.
On March 22, 2015 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tells Blue Bell Listeria has been found in ice cream cups.
The second round of products Blue Bell recalled were made in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
On March 23, 2015 Blue Bell expands the recall to include ice cream cups. A statement on the company’s website says the contaminated cup was made in Broken Arrow on April 15, 2014. “This recall in no way includes Blue Bell Ice Cream half gallons, pints, quarts, 3 gallons or other 3 oz. cups,” the statement ends.
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) and the FDA begin an inspection of the Broken Arrow plant.
On March 24, 2015 the CDC, FDA , the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Kansas Department of Agriculture publicly announce their findings that no Listeria was found in swabs taken from the Via Christi hospital kitchen but the pathogen was found in an ice cream cup made at Blue Bell’s Broken Arrow plant.
On March 24, 2015, FDA inspectors find Listeria at the Broken Arrow plant.
On March 25, 2015, FDA inspectors find Listeria at the Broken Arrow plant.
On March 26, Food Poisoning Bulletin reports that the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture inspects the Broken Arrow plant eight times a year but dose not test for pathogens. The focus of the inspections is overall sanitation and the pasteurization and “no major problems have been discovered in these inspections,” the most recent of which took place February 12, 2015 and March 17, 2015, a spokesperson told the publication.
In Oklahoma, no illnesses have been linked to the Blue Bell Listeria outbreak, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Health tells Food Poisoning Bulletin. Oklahoma had two cases of listeriosis in 2014 and one so far in 2015.
On March 31, health officials in Alabama tell Food Poisoning Bulletin that the FDA has not been to Blue Bell’s third location in Sylacauga, AL to test products there.
The Sylacauga plant was last inspected February 19, 2015, he tells Food Poisoning Bulletin. However, environmental swabs are not taken during those inspections, nor are products tested for specific pathogens. Instead, samples are tested for coliform and the standard plate count.
The third round of products recalled by Blue Bell were made in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.
On April 3, the CDC reports that, using PulseNet, it has identified six listeriosis patients who were sickened by the same strain of Listeria found in the Blue Bell 3 oz. cup. Four of the six patients had been hospitalized in Texas for unrelated problems before developing listeriosis. Food history information is available for one patient who reported consuming ice cream in a Texas hospital before developing listeriosis. The Texas Department of State Health Services reports that the hospital had received Blue Bell brand ice cream cups.
The CDC advises consumers not to eat any products made at Blue Bell’s Broken Arrow plant. Blue Bell reports it has voluntarily suspended operations at the Oklahoma production facility.
On April 4, 2015, Blue Bell begins working with retailers to remove all products made in the Oklahoma production facility from the market.
On April 7, 2015, the FDA notifies Blue Bell that one of the samples it has collected in its joint inspection with Oklahoma health officials, a pint of Banana Pudding ice cream, has tested positive for Listeria.
Blue Bell announces a third product recall that includes ice cream and sherbet pints and half gallons made at Broken Arrow from February 12, 2015 to March 27, 2015.
On April 8, 2015 the CDC announces that further testing has confirmed that three of Texas cases are part of the outbreak. It does not name the hospital.
On April 20, 2015, Blue Bell recalls all of its products.
On April 21, the CDC announced the outbreak has spread to four states and includes 10 cases from Kansas, Oklahoma Texas and Arizona.
On April 24, 2015, Blue Bell halts production at all facilities and announces plans for an intensive cleaning and re-training program. “We intend to make a fresh start,” said Blue Bell CEO and President Paul Kruse.
On April 27, 2015 Blue Bell begins the plan.
On April 28, 2015 Blue Bell Major releases a statement saying floor repairs and potential work on ventilation systems at Blue Bell ice cream plants will be part of an intensive maintenance overhaul that could take months to complete. “We are committed to doing whatever it takes to get this right,” said Greg Bridges, vice president of operations for Blue Bell. “Our manufacturing facilities, especially the two in Brenham (Texas) are large and complex, so we anticipate this process will take some time.”
Health inspectors find Listeria at the Sylacauga plant.
On May 2, 2015 U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) call for full funding of the Food Safety Modernization Act in the wake of outbreak findings.
On May 7, the FDA releases inspection reports on Blue Bell’s facilities in Broken Arrow, Brenham,Texas and Sylacauga, Ala. The reports disclose Listeria findings and other food safety violations.
On May 19, PritzkerOlsen, a national food safety law firm that underwrites Food Poisoning Bulletin, files a lawsuit on behalf of David Philip Shockley.
On June 10, the CDC closes its investigation and declares the outbreak over.
On July 10, Blue Bell begins test production at its Sylacauga plant.
On August 14, Blue Bell trucks leave Sylacauga with ice cream to be delivered to a limited number of states.
On August 31, Blue Bell ice cream will be availlable at stores in Texas and Oklahoma.
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Details on South Bronx Legionnaires’ Outbreak Investigation
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2015/details-on-south-bronx-legionnaires-outbreak-investigation/
By Linda Larsen (Aug 27, 2015)
The New York City Health Department has released information about the details of their investigation into the deadly Legionnaires’ Disease outbreak in the South Bronx. That outbreak has sickened 124 people and killed 12 this summer.
Most of the Legionnaires’ Disease outbreaks that have occurred in the past have been linked to large buildings. Scientists believe that those buildings have more complex cooling and HVAC systems, which allow the bacteria to grow and spread.
The source of the outbreak was the cooling towers at the Opera House Hotel. Epidemiologic and environmental investigations found the outbreak strain of the bacteria at that site. The report states that “inadequate maintenance and inadequate levels of biocide may have contributed” to the outbreak. All cooling towers in the affected area have been disinfected, and public health inspectors are looking at all cooling towers across NYC to see if they need attention.
If you or a loved one were sickened with Legionnaires’ Disease in the South Bronx, New York City, call our experienced lawyers for help.
Laboratories used three methods – pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), sequenced based typing (SBT) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) to uncover the genetic fingerprint of the outbreak strain. Water was sampled from the cooling towers and tested, and bacteria isolates were collected from patients. All of the patient samples tested positive for the Legionella strain found in the Opera House Hotel’s cooling tower.
The type of Legionella bacteria found in the cooling tower was Legionella pneumophila serogroup 1 (Lp1). First, a rapid PCR test was used to determine if Lp1 was present in the water. The water samples were cultured to grow the battery. Then Lp1 isolates were “DNA fingerprinted” using PFGE, SBT and WGS.
No new illnesses related to this outbreak have been reported since August 3, 2015. That means the outbreak is most likely over, since that time period is longer than the typical 2-week incubation period of Legionnaires’ Disease.
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ Disease include cough, which may bring up mucus or blood, shortness of breath, headache, muscle pain, chills, and a high fever. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chest pain, and confusion. If you have experienced those symptoms and live in the South Bronx, please see your doctor immediately.
This illness is treatable with antibiotics, but earlier treatment yields better results. For those who are at high risk for complications, such as people with chronic lung diseases and those with compromised immune systems, prompt treatment is critical.
Soil may protect onions from E. coli
Source : http://barfblog.com/2015/08/soil-may-protect-onions-from-e-coli/
By Doug Powell (Aug 27, 2015)
Early research indicates one of the best protections for onions against irrigation water-borne bacteria, such as E. coli, may be the soil itself.
That research is being conducted at the Malheur Experiment Station by Joy Waite-Cusic, assistant professor of Food Safety Systems at Oregon State University.
Onions in the research plot have been irrigated with water inoculated with E. coli, some to extreme highs, Waite-Cusic said. The E. coli was applied during the last irrigation. In the sample of onions taken from the plots, the majority of them did not test positive for the bacteria, Waite-Cusic said.
In one of the latest samplings, onions were harvested one afternoon, put in bags and tested the next morning. Only 16 out of 150 onions tested positive for E. coli, Waite-Cusic said, and this from rows where the irrigation water had been artificially inoculated with 100,000 colony-forming units of generic E. coli for 100 milliliters of water.
“The soil does a good job of filtering,” experiment station superintendent Clint Shock said.
Testing showed that there was less E. coli as the water moved from the furrow or drop tape through the soil to the onion bulb.
Food Safety Case History: From Farmers Market to SQF
Source : http://www.foodprocessing.com/articles/2015/case-history-from-farmers-market-to-sqf/
By foodprocessing.com (Aug 27, 2015)
When Key Ingredient grew from hand-filling tubs of dips to automated processes, it needed a Mettler-Toledo Safeline metal detector.
Key Ingredient Market got its start at farmers markets in 2007 with unique hand-crafted spreads and dips as well as hummus and pesto. For the first five years, this husband-and-wife team, along with a few employees, used ice cream scoops to hand-fill their 6.5 oz. tubs. After six years of 30 percent annual growth, they needed technology that would take them to the next level.
Today, Key Ingredient ships its fresh, all-natural products to retailers throughout the Northeast and plans to break into the private label business and go coast-to-coast. With annual sales of less than $1 million, it's successfully competing with larger companies by focusing on original flavors and the finest product quality.
“As a small company, our success depends on our customers always being satisfied,” says President Matthew Pivnick. "Food safety is an important part of that. As we grow, we’re surrounding ourselves with the best tools available. Our metal detector from Mettler-Toledo Safeline, in particular, gives the buyers, distributors and retailers confidence that we’re delivering a safe, quality product.”
“We chose to work with Mettler-Toledo because they’re the best. It was an easy decision,” Pivnick continues. “As a small business owner, I have to be a jack of all trades, so I need support from time to time. Our sales rep, Bob Dauphinais from Reliant Packaging, is exceptionally knowledgeable and dedicated. He even came out on the Fourth of July to help me put the metal detector on a conveyor."
Key Ingredient has two semi-automated packaging lines that produce 1,100 tubs per hour combined and offer room to grow. One filler handles cheese-based spreads and dips and one filler handles hummus and pesto. After filling, the tubs are film-sealed and then taken to the metal detector for inspection.
“We have mixers with stainless steel blades in stainless steel bowls, so a metal detector is essential to ensure our final product quality. Tiny metal shavings can also be brought in from outside the facility in bulk ingredients,” says Pivnick. “But the buck stops here. We’re going to find it.”
Key Ingredient selected Mettler-Toledo’s high-performance Signature Touch metal detector. Its sophisticated electronics platform offers sensitivity and stability. Featuring high-frequency advanced detection coil technology and dynamic filtering techniques, the system identifies common ferrous and non-ferrous tramp metal and the most difficult to detect non-magnetic stainless steel fragments and non-spherical fine wire contaminants.
Designed for ease of use, Signature Touch includes a color touchscreen control panel and a single-pass auto set-up routine that enables the detector to be set rapidly with minimal training to recognize a new product. It can hold 100 different product settings in its memory for quick and easy recall during changeovers while its product clustering capability minimizes the need for changes.
Key Ingredient currently produces 22 different hand-crafted products. “We could preprogram the metal detector for each of our products, but we prefer to use the auto-setup feature every time since it’s so easy to use,” explains Pivnick. “Setting the Signature Touch up for each product run gives us the utmost confidence that it’s perfectly programmed with the highest sensitivity every time, given the typical fluctuations that come from fresh, all-natural ingredients. This Safeline metal detector is so sensitive, it’s able to find something that fits on the tip of a toothpick. We know this because we test it on a regular basis.”
“A food recall could be very damaging,” adds Christine Woodarek, director of operations. “Companies need to think about it every day so they’re not the next headline. You cannot put a price tag on the importance of food safety.”
“I don’t see how any startup can get away without a HACCP plan and SQF certification because buyers, distributors and grocers are not taking chances on small companies without this kind of assurance," says Pivnick. "They all want to know you make a good product and that it’s safe to eat. Our Signature Touch metal detector is part of our HACCP plan. No product goes out the door until it’s been inspected.
“Our insistence on uncompromising quality is at the heart of our success,” he concludes. “The Safeline metal detector adds a level of comfort, since we know the product we’re selling is clean and safe to eat. This technology helps me sleep at night.”
For more information about Mettler-Toledo Safeline, call 813-889-9500 or see www.mt.com/pi.
Food safety group sues USDA over requests for records
Source : http://thehill.com/regulation/251999-food-safety-group-sues-usda-over-requests-for-records
By Lydia Wheeler (Aug 26, 2015)
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for allegedly failing to respond to the group’s requests for records on genetically engineered crops CFS says harm the environment.
CFS said the agency has failed to provide timely final responses to at least 29 of its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests or appeals. Of these, CFS said the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has entirely failed to provide a final response to 10 requests and two appeals.
Under FOIA, agencies have 20 working days to respond to a request for records, according to the USDA’s Secretary for Civil Rights page about FOIA on the agency’s website.
"FOIA, however, does not require federal agencies to answer questions, render opinions, or provide subjective evaluations," the website states.
“APHIS has a track record of irresponsible and inadequate regulation of GE [genetically engineered] crops. In the absence of thorough government oversight, public access to information about these crops becomes all the more critical,” Cristina Stella, a CFS staff attorney, said in a news release. “This lawsuit is necessary to stop APHIS from continuing to ignore its duty to provide the public with information that affects farmers, communities, and the environment.”
In a statement to The Hill, APHIS said it is unable to comment on pending litigation.
The food safety group said genetically engineered crops can contaminate conventional or organic crops and have dramatically increased pesticide use in the U.S.
This is the fourth time CFS said it’s had to sue the agency to get it to comply with the records law.
This story was updated at 2:53 p.m. to include a statement from APHIS.
Washington Pork Outbreak Continues
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/food-poisoning-resources/washington-pork-outbreak-continues/#.VeOlwBEVimR
By Denis Stearns (Aug 26, 2015)
The Salmonella outbreak linked to pork products has grown to 134 cases in 10 counties around the state. Consumers are advised to cook pork thoroughly.
The case count has continued to grow as state health officials work with Public Health — Seattle & King County along with other local, state, and federal partners on the disease investigation. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent its team of “disease detectives” to the state to help. Investigators are interviewing the most recent cases and comparing information to early cases, which were first reported in the spring.
Disease investigators are searching for possible contamination and exposure sources from a wide range of possible venues, including restaurants, markets, slaughter facilities, and farms/ranches. Salmonella bacteria are commonly found in animals used for food, and proper storage, handling, preparation, and cooking can help prevent the illness known as salmonellosis.
Most of the illnesses have been confirmed with the outbreak strain of Salmonella bacteria, and early testing shows a connection to a slaughter facility in Graham, WA. Samples were collected at Kapowsin Meats in Pierce County last week. Testing confirms the outbreak strain was present. The business, which is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, has cooperated with the investigation. There may be other sources and disease investigators are searching for the origin of the Salmonella bacteria in the outbreak.
The 134 cases include residents of Clark (2), Cowlitz (1), Grays Harbor (1), King (84), Kitsap (1), Mason (2), Pierce (12), Snohomish (24), Thurston (2), and Yakima (5) counties.
Exposure for many of the ill people apparently was whole roasted pigs, served at private events and restaurants. State health officials have issued guidance for cooking whole roasted pigs, with an emphasis on making sure the meat is cooked thoroughly. In addition to proper handling and preparation, thorough cooking can help prevent possible illness. A meat thermometer should be used to ensure an internal temperature of 145 degrees in the thickest cut of the meat.
Salmonellosis, the illness caused by infection with Salmonella, can cause severe and even bloody diarrhea, fever, chills, abdominal discomfort, and vomiting. Serious bloodstream infections may also occur. Annually, 600-800 cases of salmonellosis are reported among Washington residents.
Proper food handling, preparation, and cooking are the best precautions to take to prevent illness. Following food safety guidance can help prevent food-borne illness. Health officials warn consumers to use a food thermometer to make sure all meats and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature; guidance can be found on the Department of Health website. Other food safety tips include washing hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after preparing food, especially raw meats.
To avoid cross-contamination, don’t place cooked food on a plate that previously held raw meat of any kind. It’s also important to wash and then sanitize cutting boards, knives, and countertops that come into contact with raw meat by using a solution of bleach water (1 teaspoon bleach per gallon of water) or antibacterial cleaner.
Contact with live animals— including pigs or other livestock at home, in petting zoos, at local fairs and elsewhere — can create exposure to Salmonella and other bacteria. Thorough hand washing after contact with live animals is an important tool in preventing the spread of disease.
The Department of Health website (www.doh.wa.gov) is your source for a healthy dose of information. Also, find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Update: 99 Sickened After Eating at Southern CA Chipotle Restaurant
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/08/at-least-60-people-sickened-after-eating-at-ca-chipotle-restaurant/#.VeOl9BEVimR
By Lydia Zuraw (Aug 26, 2015)
As of Tuesday night, 99 people were reported sick after eating at a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley, CA last week.
Ventura County Public Health tells Food Safety News that 82 customers and 17 employees were sickened on Aug. 18 and 19.
A number of people went to the ER, but it’s unknown if anyone was hospitalized.
After customers reported the illnesses to Chipotle, the “fast casual” restaurant notified health department officials and closed on Friday afternoon to clean and bring in new food before reopening on Saturday for lunch.
It’s unclear what made the customers ill, but the health department is collecting samples to test.
Public health officer Dr. Robert Levin, said the agency is “optimistic that we will find the culprit.”
An inspection of the Chipotle location posted Monday referenced violations for:
•The premises and/or floors, walls, or ceiling are in an unsanitary condition.
•Equipment or utensils are not clean, fully operative and in good repair.
•Flying insects were observed within the food facility.
•Food handlers employed at this facility do not possess a valid food handler card and/or records documenting that food employees possess a valid food handler card are not maintained by the food facility for review as required.
•Equipment is connected directly to the sewer.
•Wall and/or ceiling surfaces are deteriorated and/or damaged.
•The restroom is unclean and in disrepair.
A spokesman for the restaurant, Chris Arnold, said the well-being of customers was the company’s highest priority: “When we were contacted by customers who reported feeling poorly after visiting our restaurant in Simi Valley, we immediately began a review of the incident and have taken all of the necessary steps to ensure that it is safe to eat there.”
How Do You Know? The Evolution of Food Processing Technology
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/augustseptember-2015/how-do-you-know-the-evolution-of-food-processing-technology/
By Eric Wilhelmsen, Ph.D.
“How do you know?” is the third question of the big three facing food processors as they conform to the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Under FSMA, a food processor needs to know “What is your process?” as well as “Why is it your process?” With answers to these two questions, a food processor can turn their attention to the third question: “How do you know you did your process?” That is the focus of this article. Having answers to these three questions is not new for people interested in food safety. These questions are fundamental to food safety, even if they have not always been asked in this way. However, the standards for knowing are becoming ever more stringent.
For the most part, the food industry has responded to the challenges of knowing what has been done by adopting new technology as it has become cost effective or necessary to meet the expectations of the marketplace. Recognizing that one or both of these conditions has been met can greatly affect the future prospects of a company. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to recognize these situations when they arise. These changes have been both revolutionary and evolutionary. In many cases, the response has been to adopt greater automation and online instrumentation. The advent of inexpensive digital controls to replace complicated mechanical systems has caused many changes. As with most changes, there is peril in just relying on automated systems. The adage “trust but verify” is good advice. In this article, we are going to examine several somewhat generalized examples in which process controls that were once good enough have been replaced by new approaches.
In these examples, we will see that the process control parameters are not changing, but our ability to monitor and control them is changing. In some cases, there can be changes in the fundamental understanding of the process that create new opportunities for control. In all cases, if a primary process parameter is not controlled, a process will inherently be out of control and may yield undesirable results. Some control parameters are inherent to equipment design, but some forms of control are not apparent. It is often these parameters where control has evolved and less desirable control approaches are rejected.
A Mature Example for Perspective
Thermal processing is a good first illustration with a long history filled with examples. Thermal processing experienced its initial growing pains more than 2 centuries ago with the efforts of Nicolas Appert (1749–1841). Without primary records, I will postulate that Appert’s control para-meters included the maintenance of a boiling cooking kettle for temperature, cook time, bottle size and product. From these early beginnings, thermal processing has evolved from cooking in bottles and cans to a host of different cooking and packaging technologies. It is still evolving under pressure to deliver fresher, less-cooked products, pressure to fit into alternative packaging and all of the other economic pressures that a food processor faces to remain competitive. Nevertheless, the fundamental control parameters remain these same. The science associated with thermal processing has evolved and provided more sophisticated labels for these parameters as we leverage past knowledge to new situations. Process time replaces cook time because we want to properly account for heating and cooling time. We might have a holding tube instead of a package. We might have a hot-fill-and-hold process. Instead of bottle size, we might consider critical dimension to include spacing between heat exchanger plates or a variety of packaging types. With this list, we can turn our attention to some examples of the evolution of control.
Appert’s boiling kettle for temperature control has been replaced over time by thermometers, certified thermometers, thermistors and thermocouples. All of these are increasingly sophisticated tools for measuring temperature. Processors have gone from systems monitored intermittently by an operator to various flavors of automated logging systems, including chart recorders and computers. The shift to these new technologies has not been instantaneous. The new technologies were validated as being better or more robust. To ensure faster corrective actions, automated systems have been programmed to respond to small deviations to keep the process under control and divert underprocessed product back for more processing. Nevertheless, we can still find a contemporary use of Appert’s temperature control approach when jams, jellies and other fruit products are bottled using one of those once-ubiquitous blue porcelain canners on the stove. We can see that the situation can dictate the appropriate way to measure temperature for thermal processing. It is likely that the home canner does not even keep a paper record of the cook time.
Similarly, Appert’s cook time has been replaced, in some cases, by residence time in hold tubes at specific flow rates or by speed in continuous retorts of fixed lengths. Undoubtedly, some operations still do batches where time is monitored directly, but they certainly are not being timed by the bells of the church tower. Given a desire to minimize process time, it has become increasingly important to measure process times with precision. The ability to measure a short time is greatly impacted by the uncertainty of the timing device. Precision becomes a hugely important factor with ultrahigh-temperature processes where process times can be very short.
Clearly, the marketplace would accept Appert’s products only as a novelty at this point. The marketplace demands more sophisticated control of thermal processes. Additionally, there are regulations for low-acid foods that force particular types of control on processors. With the long history and evolution of thermal processing in foods, it is easy to see its adaptation to new technology. The standard for knowing the time and temperature of a process has evolved. Additionally, the standards for documentation have evolved so that if something goes awry, there are records to see whether the process failed or there was a failure to process properly.
Technology Has Changed How We Know
Today, we are experiencing the “Internet of things”—the embedding of networking technology into household appliances and consumer goods. Computers and digital control are pervasive. Increasingly, sensors are used for real-time analyses. Sensors provide high sensitivity, reproducibility, selectivity and mobility. They have a low cost of ownership and gradual replacement and/or parallel use when compared with complex and cumbersome analytical laboratory instruments. The reduced need for human involvement is also desirable, primarily to reduce error and time. Whether used “in-line” or as a “stand-alone,” the sensors can be integrated in conjunction with Wi-Fi technologies and used for real-time transmission of contamination alarms and/or test results to remote servers.
Sensors come in many types. There are many electrodes and probes. These devices respond to many different stimuli and are appropriate for diverse processes. The following list illustrates the diversity of these devices: thermocouples, smoke detectors, electronic noses, in-line indices of refraction, conductivity electrodes, mass flow meters, pressure transducers, etc. If there is money to be made, someone will figure out how to measure a particular stimulus or a surrogate. However, it is important to ensure that these alternative approaches will actually measure the desired stimuli in the actual working environment.
The challenge of the working environment can be illustrated with the use of an oxidation-reduction potential electrode to monitor chlorine. In a simple water system, this works reasonably well, but it rapidly breaks down when other materials are added to the water and the pH changes. If a sensor is not validated in the working environment, you cannot know if your process is under control.
The laboratory has also changed. There has been a proliferation of rapid methods based on immunochemistry and biotechnology such as PCR. Instruments have become more automated and powerful. If you want to measure it, you can. Modern instrumentation is connected to computers. We are beginning to see devices connected to smartphones. Recently, a near-infrared (NIR) spectrophotometer for consumer use entered the market. This NIR instrument was suggested as a tool for determining the ripeness of fruits and other good and bad characteristics of products. The impacts of all these changes can be seen in almost any modern process.
For example, the relatively recent adoption of automated color sorting marks an evolutionary step in process control. It was not that long ago that small products such as raisins, nuts or berries were sorted to a limited degree by individuals visually inspecting the product as it passed in front of them on a conveyor. Processors struggled with balancing the cost of inspectors and the value of more uniform products. Efforts were made to ensure that incoming lots were as consistent as possible. Today, there are online color sorting systems that use puffs of air to reject particular product pieces that fall outside the desired tolerances. It is amazing to watch these systems operate at speed and see the effectiveness of the sorting. The marketplace has come to accept this improvement in consistency. The standard for color consistency has evolved.
We can also see the evolution of process control in the systems for batching and controlling liquid blending for juices and other beverages. There are computer-controlled batching systems with mass flow meters. There are sensors to confirm that mixtures have the right density. There are automated systems for monitoring incoming water. These systems inherently document what was done, verifying that the process was followed. Paper records are still being used, but digital documentation is becoming the standard. These changes remove human intervention from repetitive tasks and reduce error, increasing confidence regarding knowing what was done.
Compounding of Errors
We must face a variety of errors in our attempts to know that we did our process. Three types of measurement error are especially troubling in that they can make out-of-spec product appear to be in spec. The first of these is observational error. Any time a measurement is made, an observation is obtained. This observation will deviate to some extent from the true value. The second type of error is calibration error. No measurement is more accurate than the reference. In fact, all measurements ultimately relate to some reference. And finally, there is the loss in accuracy over time, or drift.
Another family of error is the process target. There will be a range for the control parameters that yield the desired process if only because the process metrics have the three types of measurement error we just described. These ranges generally become the process specification, and anything outside of these ranges is out of spec.
The real trouble comes when Murphy intervenes and both types of error work against you. This is unlucky, as both types of error should be random. However, randomness necessarily includes all possible combinations. Under these conditions, if the errors are large enough, consumers may be at risk, depending on the hazards the process is meant to control.
A Developing Example
The science of food processing is not uniformly developed across all sectors of the food industry. We can and do leverage experience from one sector to another, but without a fundamental understanding, the tools we have been discussing only generate data and do not ensure process control. This is the situation in the value-added produce sector, particularly leafy green processing. Most leafy green washing processes have empirical data showing the product is largely safe and wholesome, but they are not really ready to address the three questions of FSMA. The base of fundamental research is increasing, but this is taking time to evolve and is not structured to work as a cohesive whole. The processes used by the various players are different. Multiple sanitizers, including chlorine, chlorine dioxide and peroxyacetic acid, are used in these processes. It is instructive to look at the gaps in our knowledge to see how efforts to know that the process was achieved are evolving.
The first step to having validated processes is understanding what must be achieved. In thermal processing, this was a simple question. We wanted a process sufficient to kill the more-than-expected population of organisms of interest. Leafy green processing does not have a kill step that can be expected to provide a 4- or 5-log reduction in Salmonella or pathogenic Escherichia coli, which would obviate the need for any other microbial control metric. Therefore, we need alternative metrics for establishing process validity. Three probable candidates include control of cross-contamination, lethality or log reduction and some measure of chemical safety. At this point, we are seriously hindered because we do not have a standard for any of these metrics. Many researchers have generated data, but there is no standard method for measuring cross-contamination. We do not have a standard method for measuring lethality on a leafy green that allows comparison among different processes and experiments.
Nevertheless, with these developing metrics in mind, we can turn our attention to the process parameters. Here again, the knowledge is limiting. For this article, we will focus on chlorine as the water sanitizer. Therefore, we can focus on chlorine concentration and pH as the primary control parameters. Other parameters have been suggested but will be ignored for this article, given their secondary importance.
Knowing the parameters to control is a good start, but one must also know to what level they need to be controlled. At present, there is still much disagreement about what level of chlorine is needed and what pH is necessary to provide an effective process. This is further complicated by the lack of agreement over how these simple parameters are measured and controlled, which brings us back to the focus of this article.
Addressing pH as the easier parameter first, pH probes are everyone’s choice. There was a time when pH test strips might have been considered viable options, but they are manual tools and generally lack the precision of a pH probe. These probes must be calibrated and readings must be collected. Most pH probes come with calibration procedures. Each processor needs to consider how often this must be done to ensure that readings are accurate. Nominally, calibration must be done often enough that there are no significant errors in the reading. A significant error is one that would allow out-of-spec product to be produced.
It may be tempting to use manual pH readings. This allows for cleaning of the probe and provides a check that the probe is performing normally. Such manual readings are inherently less frequent than an in-line probe that might be sampling every second and providing an average over a short interval. The problem with manual readings is that if an out-of-spec reading is generated, all of the product since the last reading within the tolerance would not have been produced under a valid process. Herein lies the rationale for continuous monitoring: It is possible to have a digital record documenting process performance.
Turning our attention to the monitoring of chlorine, there are several approaches. Operations using test strips tend to always have 10 ppm chlorine, even when they do not. There are a number of procedures based on the N,N-diethyl-1,4-phenylenediamine sulfate dye. These procedures can work well in clean water but are somewhat problematic in wash water with high organic loads. These tests are generally manual but can be automated. The manual nature of these tests presents the same problem as the manual pH method: There is a large amount of product produced that is out of compliance with the desired process if a reading is out of range. Both of these methods include both hypochlorite and hypochlorous acid in the free chlorine when only hypochlorous acid is the active form, giving an overstatement of the sanitizer present. Recently, probes that measure hypochlorous acid have entered the marketplace. These are coulometric and therefore subject to variability with flow. They consume chlorine as part of the measurement process. Additionally, they are affected by pH and must be calibrated at the working pH. Fortunately, these electrodes are not affected by organic load, making them very tolerant of the working environment.
Combining probes for both pH and hypochlorous acid, one can achieve statistical process control of both pH and chlorine, yielding a controlled process. If that controlled process achieves the desired metrics, the process can be validated and there is a good answer to the question “How do you know?”
Moral of the Story
As much as we might like to separate the three questions of FSMA, we are locked in a cycle where better understanding of one question leads to greater demands from the others. It is a cycle of continuous improvement, which is generally a good thing. In each cycle, we improve our answer to each question and ultimately provide better and safer products to our customers and consumers. That which is acceptable today may not be acceptable tomorrow. To stay in business, we need to be mindful of the opportunities to improve.
Eric Wilhelmsen, Ph.D., is an Institute of Food Technologists-certified food scientist, serving over 30 years in academic and industrial positions. He can be reached at the Alliance of Technical Professionals: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cyclospora will do that: Cilantro shortage hits Illinois restaurants, grocery stores
Source : http://barfblog.com/2015/08/cyclospora-will-do-that-cilantro-shortage-hits-illinois-restaurants-grocery-stores/
By Doug Powell (Aug 26, 2015)
In the produce aisle at a Round Lake Beach grocery store, Valerie Brown hesitated before plucking a bunch of cilantro from between the parsley and green onions.
She’s used to paying 75 cents for a bundle of the leafy green herb, she said. Today, the price read $1.99.
Even that was better than last week, said Brown, who lives in Antioch. Her husband visited three grocery stores and couldn’t find a single sprig. Cilantro is her parakeets’ favorite food, so she put a bundle in her cart despite the sticker shock.
Grocery stores and restaurants in the area said they’ve been noticing the same higher-than-usual prices and tighter-than-usual supply since officials implemented a partial import ban on some cilantro imported from Mexico.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and state public health officials linked cilantro from the state of Puebla, Mexico to outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in the U.S. in 2013 and 2014 and identified it as the possible cause of a 2015 outbreak, according to an import alert the FDA posted in July. About 40 percent of cilantro sold in the U.S. is grown in Puebla, said FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher.
Consumer Reports’ Ground Beef Study Elicits Differing Interpretations
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/08/consumer-reports-ground-beef-study-elicits-differing-interpretations/#.VeOkYxEVimR
By Lydia Zuraw (Aug 25, 2015)
With its newly released study, Consumer Reports is arguing that ground beef from sustainably raised cows is safer than that from conventionally raised ones. Industry, however, says that the study shows low levels of pathogens in meat.
The consumer organization tested ground beef samples for bacteria and found that all of it contained bacteria that signified fecal contamination (enterococcus and/or nontoxin-producing E. coli).
Twenty percent contained Clostridium perfringens, and 10 percent contained a strain of toxin-producing Staphylococcus aureus bacteria. Just 1 percent of samples contained Salmonella.
What Consumer Reports found most troubling was that beef from conventionally raised cows was more likely to have bacteria overall, as well as bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, than beef from sustainably raised cows.
Eighteen percent of the ground beef samples from conventionally raised cows and 9 percent of ground beef from samples that were sustainably produced were found to contain superbugs resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics used to treat human illnesses.
Consumer Reports tested 300 packages — 458 pounds — of conventionally and sustainably produced ground beef from grocery, big-box, and natural food stores in 26 cities across the country for C. perfringens, seven dangerous strains of E. coli, Enterococcus, Salmonella and S. aureus.
According to Consumer Reports, the sustainably produced beef came from cows raised without antibiotics and, in some cases, were either fed organic, grass-fed, or both.
“Farming animals without antibiotics is the first step toward a more sustainable system,” said Urvashi Rangan, executive director of the Center for Food Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports. “Grass-fed animals and good welfare practices produce fewer public health risks.”
They recommend that people buy sustainably raised beef whenever possible.
On the industry side of things, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) said that the study “confirms that pathogenic bacteria is rarely found in meat,” adding that, “Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus, and generic E. coli are commonly found in the environment and are not considered pathogenic bacteria.”
NAMI was concerned that antibiotic resistance findings were “alarmist and misleading.”
“What is most important to know is whether certain pathogenic bacteria are resistant to certain types of antibiotics, but Consumer Reports has not specified this information in the materials shared with the industry,” NAMI said.
“USDA’s food safety inspectors work in every meat facility, every day, to reduce illnesses across all products we regulate, and we’re proud to report that illnesses attributed to those items dropped by 10 percent from 2013 to 2014,” a USDA spokesperson said in response to the report. “Measures taken to improve ground beef safety include a zero-tolerance policy for six dangerous strains of E. coli, better procedures for detecting the source of outbreaks, improved laboratory testing, and more.”
Regardless of what type of ground beef you buy, remember to cook that meat to at least 160 degrees F in order to kill any harmful bacteria, properly store leftovers at less than 40 degrees F, and reheat to 165 degrees F.
Pre-Washed Spinach May Not Be As Clean As You Think
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/08/research-pre-washed-spinach-may-not-be-as-clean-as-you-think/#.VeOknxEVimR
By Lydia Zuraw (Aug 25, 2015)
While the rinse used on spinach may be effective at cleaning dirt and debris from the leaves, it’s not necessarily effective at killing pathogens, thanks to the topography of the spinach leaves.
Researchers at the University of California-Riverside tested different wash conditions on spinach contaminated with E. coli and measured the rates at which the pathogen sticks to, and detaches from, the vegetable.
They also did some computational modeling to simulate how the shape of spinach leaves influences the ability of the rinse to actually disinfect.
University of California-Riverside post-doctoral researcher Nichola Kinsinger studied the topography of spinach leaves.
The food industry adds chlorine at 50 to 200 parts per million into rinse water, which does the trick to clean away dirt and debris.
But the UCR team found that nooks and crannies on leaves keep out the disinfectant, “leaving live bacteria present on the leaves and the possibility of an infection from those,” says Sharon Walker, a professor of chemical and environmental engineering whose laboratory conducted the study.
“What we’ve learned is that these concentrations have their limitations,” she adds.
While the researchers can’t comment on industry practices for other leafy greens, such as lettuce or kale, they do believe that the leaf topography and how it allows pathogens to persist should be considered for other types of leaves as well.
In the past, Walker’s research group has studied the mechanisms of how bacteria stick to different surfaces, applying their findings to water treatment and making antimicrobial surfaces. This was their first foray specifically into food surfaces.
They started with spinach in part because of the 2006 E. coli outbreak linked to spinach from California that sickened 199 people in 26 states. Three of them died.
Members were able to transition to studying food when post-doctoral researcher Nichola Kinsinger joined the group with a fellowship through the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture.
Kinsinger leaves the university at the end of the month for a policy fellowship with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, but Walker’s group will continue to work on processes for improving spinach safety.
“There are lots of things on the table,” she says. “We can think about the chemistry of what’s in the rinse water, we can think about the physics and the flow dynamics of the rinse water, and we can think about ways to disinfect that are not chemically based.”
Kinsinger presented the research on Aug. 19, 2015, at the American Chemical Society National Meeting & Exposition. She is also writing a paper, co-authored by Walker and Madeline Luth, an undergraduate student, about the research findings, which will soon be submitted for publication.
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