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CDC closes investigation; warns of ongoing Listeria threat

The investigation into a Listeriosis outbreak traced to frozen vegetables from CRF Frozen Foods Inc. has ended — but federal officials warn more people could still be stricken by the potentially deadly Listeria monocytogenes pathogen.

logo-CRF-Frozen-Foods“People could continue to get sick because recalled products may still be freezers and people who don’t know about the recalls could eat them,” according to an outbreak update posted this afternoon by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta.

“Retailers should not sell and consumers should not eat recalled products.”

Those “recalled products” include more than 350 frozen products packaged by CRF Frozen Foods Inc. under 42 brands, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).  Recalled products were sold across the U.S. and Canada.

“The FDA facilitated the recall of at least 456 products related to this outbreak. CRF Frozen Foods recalled 358 products and at least 98 other products were recalled by other firms that received CRF-recalled products,” according to FDA.

A complete list of the recalls linked to CRF Frozen Foods’ recall is available on the FDA website.

Production plant remains closed
CRF owners closed the Pasco, WA, plant where the food was produced after issuing recalls on April 23 and May 2. The first recall was for 11 frozen vegetable products. The second was for all organic and traditional frozen vegetable and fruit products processed at the facility from May 1, 2014, through this spring.

Today an external public relations consultant hired by CRF said the company’s owners will take their time reopening the facility. He said CRF’s business is seasonal, based on crop harvests, and with the end of summer nearing it wouldn’t make any difference if they reopened in a few weeks or a few months.

A variety of Kroger-branded frozen vegetable products are included in the recall.

A variety of Kroger-branded frozen vegetable products are included in the recall.

“The company executives are spending a good bit of time and effort focused on a new design of the plant, to ensure the company has state of the art equipment and processes, once operations resume,” said spokesman Gene Grabowski.

Officials with the privately held CRF, which is part of the R.D. Offutt Co., were pleased that the outbreak investigation was declared ended, Grabowski said this afternoon, adding that they would “continue to proceed with redoubled vigilance to ensure that nothing of this nature happens again.”

Although CRF knows how much product it shipped, its officials did not reveal those volumes in its recall notices.

“The company has no estimate of product recalled or destroyed,” Grabovski said. “Much of the recalled product has been managed by retailers, so no complete records are available.”

The victims and how they were discovered
The outbreak includes at least nine people from four states on opposite sides of the U.S. They were sickened with a strain of Listeria monocytogenes that Ohio officials coincidentally discovered in CRF frozen products while conducting routine testing of randomly collected packages of frozen foods from retail stores.

All nine people were so sick they had to be hospitalized. Three of them died, but state public health officials reported to the CDC that only one of the deaths was specifically caused by the Listeria infection.

The first known victim became sick in September of 2013. Five victims fell ill in 2015 and three were confirmed with the outbreak strain this year. The most recent case was May 3, according to the CDC.

recalled-Organic-by-Nature-frozen-peasCDC scientists detected the outbreak in March this year and linked it to frozen food from CRF’s Pasco plant using a combination of high-tech DNA testing and the oldest medical technique on the books — patient interviews.

“State and local health departments attempted to interview the ill people, a family member, or a caregiver for the ill person about the foods the ill person may have eaten in the month before the illness began,” CDC reported.

Officials were able to interview four people, three of whom reported that before they became sick they ate frozen vegetables that turned out to have been produced at the CRF Pasco plant.

“Two reported Organic by Nature brand frozen vegetables. The third ill person reported eating O Organic brand frozen vegetables,” CDC reported.

While the CDC investigators were trying to find a common denominator among the Listeria victims, staff with the Ohio Department of Agriculture were conducting routine, random product sampling of frozen vegetables from grocery stores.

The Ohio tests revealed Listeria monocytogenes in frozen organic white sweet corn and frozen organic green peas packaged under Meijer’s True Goodness brand. Both products were produced by CRF at the Pasco facility.

“Whole genome sequencing showed that the Listeria isolate from the frozen corn was closely related genetically to eight bacterial isolates from (the) ill people, and the Listeria isolate from the frozen peas was closely related genetically to one isolate from (one) ill person,” the CDC reported.

Public health investigators used the PulseNet system to compare and ultimately match the Listeria monocytogenes samples from the outbreak victims and the randomly tested frozen vegetables. PulseNet is a national sub typing network of public health labs and includes a national database of DNA fingerprints of foodborne pathogen strains.

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Food Safety News

Aldi’s purchase closes book on Bottom Dollar

In the end the biggest bargain found at Bottom Dollar may be the stores themselves. Delhaize Group said it has agreed to sell its fledgling discount concept to Aldi for $ 15 million. The deal includes all 66 Bottom Dollar stores and their real estate obligations but does not include store equipment or inventory. Delhaize said it would run Bottom Dollar through the end of the year then close all of its stores and retire the banner. Observers expect that Aldi will convert and reopen most of the …

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Supermarket News

Outbreak Salmonella Strain Closes Texas Restaurant

Shortly after state and local health officials on Friday named it the likely source of an ongoing outbreak of the Ohio serotype of Salmonella Typhimurium, Fuego Tortilla Grill in College Station, TX, voluntarily shut its doors.

Just before it closed, the Brazos County Health Department announced that the restaurant had become “statistically significant” in the Salmonella outbreak investigation that it’s had underway with the Texas Department of State Health Services.

In a statement, the department said it has been investigating a cluster of Salmonella cases since last September, with 30 initial cases confirmed and 26 involving either residents or visitors to the county. No deaths have been reported.

The local health department collected environmental samples from the restaurant on May 13, and four of the 36 samples tested positive for the rare Ohio strain.

“A specific exposure source, such as food handling procedures, food supply or an infected employee has not been specifically identified, but is currently under investigation,” the statement noted.

The department said Fuego closed Friday upon hearing about the lab results and is cooperating with the investigation.

Fuego is a popular restaurant in College Station, home of Texas A&M University and its student enrollment of slightly less than 59,000.

Customers on the restaurant’s Facebook page were staying supportive. “Aggies aren’t going to give up on you guys,” one wrote.

More information about the outbreak is expected at a Saturday morning press conference.

Food Safety News

Ontario marketer apparently closes doors

Clifford Produce, a longtime produce marketer based in Ruthven, ON, has apparently closed its doors.

On April 22, the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation in Ottawa issued an expulsion notice regarding Clifford Produce Sales Inc. The memo stated, “Clifford Produce Sales Inc., 1593 Essex County Rd. # 34, Ruthven, ON, Canada, N0P 2G0, has been expelled from the DRC membership effective April 17, 2014.”

The reason given for the expulsion in the memo is due to Clifford Produce Sales not meeting its debts as they came due.

It also states that the responsibly connected parties are Lake Erie Management Inc.; Angelo Mastronardi, director; David Mastronardi, director; Gerry Mastronardi, president; Guy Totaro, treasurer; Jake Klassen, director; and Steve Mastronardi, secretary.

George Gilvesy, general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers in Leamington, ON, told The Produce News that the member organization has not been asked to assist.

“Nor do we have a role in assisting,” said Gilvesy. “The OGVG’s role is in marketing. [DRC President] Fred Webber has indicated that he is not aware of Clifford Produce filing for bankruptcy.”

Bankruptcy laws in Canada are similar to those in the United States and are an internal decision that companies make.

However, Gilvesy did point out that his office, along with the Canadian Horticultural Council, a voluntary, not-for-profit national association representing Canadian agriculture, continue to work toward developing a PACA-type organization in Canada. This initiative was a part of the “Beyond the Border Action Plan” signed in late 2011 by President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper.

If an organization similar to PACA is made available to the agriculture industry in Canada, it would help to ensure that produce companies follow fair dealing rules by requiring produce companies to obtain a license to do business. Violations of PACA result in penalties, such as loss of license and employment restrictions. The system is similar to licensing drivers.

PACA also provides unique rules for collecting undisputed debts, resolving disputes and contracting to buy or sell produce.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Ontario marketer apparently closes doors

Clifford Produce, a longtime produce marketer based in Ruthven, ON, has apparently closed its doors.

On April 22, the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation in Ottawa issued an expulsion notice regarding Clifford Produce Sales Inc. The memo stated, “Clifford Produce Sales Inc., 1593 Essex County Rd. # 34, Ruthven, ON, Canada, N0P 2G0, has been expelled from the DRC membership effective April 17, 2014.”

The reason given for the expulsion in the memo is due to Clifford Produce Sales not meeting its debts as they came due.

It also states that the responsibly connected parties are Lake Erie Management Inc.; Angelo Mastronardi, director; David Mastronardi, director; Gerry Mastronardi, president; Guy Totaro, treasurer; Jake Klassen, director; and Steve Mastronardi, secretary.

George Gilvesy, general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers in Leamington, ON, told The Produce News that the member organization has not been asked to assist.

“Nor do we have a role in assisting,” said Gilvesy. “The OGVG’s role is in marketing. [DRC President] Fred Webber has indicated that he is not aware of Clifford Produce filing for bankruptcy.”

Bankruptcy laws in Canada are similar to those in the United States and are an internal decision that companies make.

However, Gilvesy did point out that his office, along with the Canadian Horticultural Council, a voluntary, not-for-profit national association representing Canadian agriculture, continue to work toward developing a PACA-type organization in Canada. This initiative was a part of the “Beyond the Border Action Plan” signed in late 2011 by President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper.

If an organization similar to PACA is made available to the agriculture industry in Canada, it would help to ensure that produce companies follow fair dealing rules by requiring produce companies to obtain a license to do business. Violations of PACA result in penalties, such as loss of license and employment restrictions. The system is similar to licensing drivers.

PACA also provides unique rules for collecting undisputed debts, resolving disputes and contracting to buy or sell produce.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Ontario marketer apparently closes doors

Clifford Produce, a longtime produce marketer based in Ruthven, ON, has apparently closed its doors.

On April 22, the Fruit & Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation in Ottawa issued an expulsion notice regarding Clifford Produce Sales Inc. The memo stated, “Clifford Produce Sales Inc., 1593 Essex County Rd. # 34, Ruthven, ON, Canada, N0P 2G0, has been expelled from the DRC membership effective April 17, 2014.”

The reason given for the expulsion in the memo is due to Clifford Produce Sales not meeting its debts as they came due.

It also states that the responsibly connected parties are Lake Erie Management Inc.; Angelo Mastronardi, director; David Mastronardi, director; Gerry Mastronardi, president; Guy Totaro, treasurer; Jake Klassen, director; and Steve Mastronardi, secretary.

George Gilvesy, general manager of the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers in Leamington, ON, told The Produce News that the member organization has not been asked to assist.

“Nor do we have a role in assisting,” said Gilvesy. “The OGVG’s role is in marketing. [DRC President] Fred Webber has indicated that he is not aware of Clifford Produce filing for bankruptcy.”

Bankruptcy laws in Canada are similar to those in the United States and are an internal decision that companies make.

However, Gilvesy did point out that his office, along with the Canadian Horticultural Council, a voluntary, not-for-profit national association representing Canadian agriculture, continue to work toward developing a PACA-type organization in Canada. This initiative was a part of the “Beyond the Border Action Plan” signed in late 2011 by President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper.

If an organization similar to PACA is made available to the agriculture industry in Canada, it would help to ensure that produce companies follow fair dealing rules by requiring produce companies to obtain a license to do business. Violations of PACA result in penalties, such as loss of license and employment restrictions. The system is similar to licensing drivers.

PACA also provides unique rules for collecting undisputed debts, resolving disputes and contracting to buy or sell produce.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

USDA Closes Central Valley Meat Co. Over Cleanliness Failures

California’s Central Valley Meat Co. has been indefinitely closed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failing to meet cleanliness standards.

“FSIS withdrew our inspectors and suspended operations due to insanitary conditions at the establishment,” the agency said in an emailed statement to Food Safety News. ”The plant’s suspension will be lifted once we receive adequate assurances of corrective action.”

The USDA previously shut down Central Valley in 2012 for inhumane handling of animals after an undercover video showed alleged violations of humane slaughter laws taking place at the slaughterhouse. Central Valley employees were caught on camera torturing cattle with prods and subjecting them to other inhumane treatment.

No recall has been initiated in the latest closure, suggesting federal authorities are not treating this as a food safety issue.

Central Valley supplies beef to the National School Lunch Program. In 2012, Food Safety News reported that Central Valley beef had accounted for roughly 16 percent of beef purchases made by the USDA during the 2010-2011 school year.

Food Safety News

Slaughter Plant Closes After HSUS Video Prompts USDA Inspectors to Leave

A New Jersey company involved in the veal and lamb business for more than 65 years was forced to shut down last Friday when USDA inspectors left the building because of alleged inhumane practices going on inside.

At least two egregious violations of federal humane handling requirements documented on a video obtained by the Humane Society of the United States (HBUS) were enough for USDA to shut down the Catelli Brothers, Inc., veal slaughter plant in Shrewsbury, NJ.

In another in a series of undercover investigations, the HSUS video depicts unconscious but living calves, one disabled and being dragged and another one on a faulty “kill” line.

Catelli Brothers, headquartered in Collingswood, NJ, outside Philadelphia, is one of the largest veal and lamb producers in the country. After being provided with a video copy and a complaint from HSUS, USDA opted to suspend the company’s operations by removing all federal meat inspectors from the slaughterhouse.

HSUS praised USDA’s action in a statement issued Monday.

“Downed calves are still suffering the sort of appalling abuses that we exposed in 2009 at another calf slaughter plant in Vermont,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. “We commend USDA for taking action to shut down the operation at Catelli Brothers, but it’s long past time to close the loophole in the downed animal rule that perpetuates continuing cruelty to young calves.”

Tony Catelli, CEO and president of the NJ company, said animal abuse of any kind is “unacceptable,” and that company policy strictly prohibits processing of any downed calves. He said the company has hired a humane handling expert and will cooperative with investigators.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said the length of the suspension would depend upon how quickly the company responds to the abuses depicted in the video. Catelli Brothers will have to document what went wrong and how it came about and specific actions it will take to make sure the abuses do not happen in the future.

The gruesome video shows one calf, bleeding from having its neck slit, still remains conscious while being shot several times with a stun gun that is supposed to humanely kill with one shot. A “downer” calf that cannot walk is shown being dragged.

Such instances appear to be clear violations of USDA’s rules for humane slaughter of animals for human consumptions.

Bernie Rollin, distinguished professor of animal science at Colorado State University, wrote after watching the video at HSUS’s request, that “of all the atrocity videos I have viewed, the current video of the slaughterhouse at Catelli Brothers must be ranked among the three worst.” He called for the plant to be “closed down immediately.”

In addition to serving domestic markets, Catelli Brothers is approved for export to several foreign counties, according to USDA records. It employs about 250 people.

Food Safety News

Midwinter closes with insights on consumers, data

FMI’s 2014 Midwinter Executive Conference closed with presentations that addressed consumer behavior and Big Data.

These broadened the mix of topics addressed at the event in Scottsdale, Ariz., which also included cybersecurity, marketing, independent operator strategies, and collaboration.


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Attendees were told about new opportunities with Millennials in an address by Jason Dorsey, an author and business executive known as The Gen Y Guy. They also heard about potential challenges with using Big Data in a presentation by author and journalist Nate Silver.

The conference took a deep dive into Big Data by presenting not only the opportunities and challenges, but also the dangers of relying only on data to attract and keep shoppers.

That was underscored in an earlier presentation by Dina Howell, worldwide CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi X, who cautioned the audience to think not only about Big Data, but also “Big Emotion.”

“Data is rational,” she said. “People are not always rational. You must connect with people on the human level when you sell to them.”

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Spartan Closes 2 Detroit Valu Land Stores

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Spartan Stores has closed two of the three Valu Land stores it opened in the metro Detroit area.


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The stores, in Roseville and Dearborn, were open for a less than a year when they closed Dec. 7, sources told SN. Spartan officials were not available for comment.

The company considers its discount Valu Land format as a “test concept.” Dennis Eidson, Spartan’s chief executive officer, in a recent conference call said the Detroit market was “challenging” and that sales performance there was “lumpy.”

Spartan opened the Roseville Valu Land last December. The Dearborn location opened in February. Spartan continues to operate a Detroit area Valu Land in Warren, Mich., along with five other locations in Central and Northern Michigan.

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