Blog Archives

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

CDC: Nut Butter Salmonella Outbreak Investigation is Now Officially Over

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its final update on the Salmonella Braenderup infections linked to nut butters manufactured by nSpired Natural Foods.

Six people were infected with the strain of Salmonella Braenderup since Jan. 1, 2014, in Connecticut, Iowa, New Mexico, Tennessee and Texas.

Illness onset dates ranged from Jan. 20, 2014, to May 16, 2014. Ill persons ranged in age from two years to 83 years, with a median age of 35 years. Sixty-six percent of ill persons were female. Among five ill persons with available information, one was hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

During routine inspections at an nSpired Natural Foods facility in Ashland, OR, in February and July 2014, FDA isolated Salmonella Braenderup from environmental samples. PFGE and whole-genome sequencing were performed on the environmental isolates by FDA to further characterize the bacteria.

A subsequent search of the PulseNet database identified ill persons with the same PFGE “fingerprint” of Salmonella Braenderup. Whole-genome sequencing was performed on these clinical isolates, and the bacteria from six of the ill persons were found to be related to the environmental isolates taken from the firm.

Five of the six ill persons were interviewed and answered questions about foods eaten and other exposures during the week before becoming ill. Four of them reported eating peanut or almond butter, and all four reported eating a brand of peanut or almond butter produced by nSpired Natural Foods Inc.

On Aug. 19, 2014, nSpired Natural Foods Inc. voluntarily recalled certain lots of almond and peanut butters because of potential contamination with Salmonella. The recalled brands included Arrowhead Mills, MaraNatha, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Safeway and Kroger.

This outbreak investigation is now over, but the recalled nut butter products have a long shelf life and may still be in people’s homes. Consumers unaware of the recall could continue to eat the products and potentially get sick.

CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory conducted antibiotic-resistance testing on the Salmonella Braenderup isolates collected from four ill persons infected with the outbreak strain, and all were found to be susceptible to all antibiotics tested on the NARMS panel.

Food Safety News

Berries, Melons on Suspect List in Low-Key Eight-State Salmonella Outbreak Investigation

Three years after one of the most deadly outbreaks involving fresh produce in U.S. history, reports at the state and local level are pointing to the existence of a widespread Salmonella outbreak that may involve berries or melons.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declined opportunities to comment on these reports, and a spokesman for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation (CORE) network said they “have not been involved in an investigation of a Salmonella outbreak linked to melons or berries.”

The spokesman said that outbreak investigations typically begin with CDC working with the state and local health departments, and then, when a regulated product is identified, FDA gets involved.

Three years ago in July, there was a deadly Listeria outbreak caused by contaminated cantaloupe grown in southeastern Colorado. That outbreak sickened 147 people in 28 states, resulting in 33 immediate deaths and another 10 who died in the aftermath. A woman who was pregnant at the time of her illness also suffered a miscarriage.

On Monday, the first report of an eight-state Salmonella outbreak possibly involving berries or melons came not from any federal or state food safety officials, but from a local health department director in Michigan.

Steve Todd, who heads the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Counties Community Health Agency, told local media outlets that a Salmonella outbreak at the Reading Summer Festival Days during the last week of July was a “cluster” in the larger outbreak.

Todd said his agency had 12 laboratory-confirmed cases stemming from the festival and several other secondary cases involving family members of those sickened.

Only a tiny percentage of the fresh fruit and produce reaching the U.S. market is ever tested before it is consumed. Todd said CDC had told his agency that the Michigan outbreak was a sub-cluster in the larger multi-state outbreak.

At about the same time, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control said it was investigating nine cases of Salmonella poisoning in Beaufort County, SC, that the agency said matched a national cluster of Salmonella. The first of those reports came in Sept. 19, but it’s not clear when the first onset of the illnesses occurred.

South Carolina health officials declined to provide more information on that state’s nationally connected Salmonella cases, saying that the investigation is ongoing.

This summer saw only one major fresh produce recall. It was from the Wawona Packing Company of Cutler, CA, over a testing sample that came back positive for Listeria. There was great consumer interest in that major recall, but no related illnesses were ever confirmed by laboratory analysis.

Berries, melons, and other fresh fruit are rarely tested before they hit the market, where they are sold and quickly consumed. That can make finding unconsumed contaminated fresh fruits a very difficult task.

The testing that resulted in the Wawona recall was actually done by a foreign government testing product being imported into that country.

For several years, USDA had a program with participating states to randomly test fresh produce. It was called the Microbiological Data Program, or MDP, and, during its run, MDP did about 80 percent of the fresh produce testing that was done in the U.S. for less than $ 5 million a year.

Congress and the White House, at the behest of the politically powerful fresh fruit and vegetable industry, killed MDP two growing seasons ago. FDA did step up its fresh fruit and produce testing after MDP’s demise. It conducted 7,592 unique sample tests in 2013, up from 5,882 tests in 2011 and 5,174 tests in 2012, according to figures the agency provided to Food Safety News.

While their testing levels varied widely, the 10 state labs affiliated with MDP were testing 10,000 to 15,000 unique samples each growing season. That’s the data that are no longer available for any outbreak investigations that might be underway.

Food Safety News

‘Hygiene Failings’ Under Investigation at UK Poultry Processing Plants

A five-month Guardian investigation which uncovered “hygiene failings” at two of the largest UK poultry processors has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and three major supermarkets in the UK to launch their own inquiries.

The allegations have been directed at two factories owned by 2 Sisters Food Group which supply fresh chicken and chicken for ready meals to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, KFC and a slaughterhouse owned by Faccenda, which supplies Asda and Nando’s.

Incidents from the last month that the Guardian identified included “a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.”

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer told the newspaper that they had launched their own investigations into the allegations. FSA said it “conducted detailed audits” at the 2 Sisters plants on July 25 and that initial results showed one plant as “Good” and the other as “Generally Satisfactory.”

The investigations are occurring as FSA reverses its decision to “name and shame” supermarkets and processors by publishing their Campylobacter results every quarter. The agency fears that the results could be misinterpreted or potentially cause a “food scare.”

“Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers,” Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA told the Guardian. “We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish all the names when we’ve completed [the survey] next summer.”

Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen in the UK, with an estimated 280,000 cases and 39,000 doctor consultations. Other common foodborne pathogens include Clostridium perfringens (an estimated 80,000 cases), Norovirus (an estimated 74,000 cases) and Salmonella (an estimated 33,000 cases). Salmonella was ranked first in terms of hospital admissions (about 2,500), indicating the severity of illness.

Food Safety News

‘Hygiene Failings’ Under Investigation at UK Poultry Processing Plants

A five-month Guardian investigation which uncovered “hygiene failings” at two of the largest UK poultry processors has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and three major supermarkets in the UK to launch their own inquiries.

The allegations have been directed at two factories owned by 2 Sisters Food Group which supply fresh chicken and chicken for ready meals to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, KFC and a slaughterhouse owned by Faccenda, which supplies Asda and Nando’s.

Incidents from the last month that the Guardian identified included “a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.”

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer told the newspaper that they had launched their own investigations into the allegations. FSA said it “conducted detailed audits” at the 2 Sisters plants on July 25 and that initial results showed one plant as “Good” and the other as “Generally Satisfactory.”

The investigations are occurring as FSA reverses its decision to “name and shame” supermarkets and processors by publishing their Campylobacter results every quarter. The agency fears that the results could be misinterpreted or potentially cause a “food scare.”

“Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers,” Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA told the Guardian. “We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish all the names when we’ve completed [the survey] next summer.”

Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen in the UK, with an estimated 280,000 cases and 39,000 doctor consultations. Other common foodborne pathogens include Clostridium perfringens (an estimated 80,000 cases), Norovirus (an estimated 74,000 cases) and Salmonella (an estimated 33,000 cases). Salmonella was ranked first in terms of hospital admissions (about 2,500), indicating the severity of illness.

Food Safety News

‘Hygiene Failings’ Under Investigation at UK Poultry Processing Plants

A five-month Guardian investigation which uncovered “hygiene failings” at two of the largest UK poultry processors has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and three major supermarkets in the UK to launch their own inquiries.

The allegations have been directed at two factories owned by 2 Sisters Food Group which supply fresh chicken and chicken for ready meals to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, KFC and a slaughterhouse owned by Faccenda, which supplies Asda and Nando’s.

Incidents from the last month that the Guardian identified included “a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.”

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer told the newspaper that they had launched their own investigations into the allegations. FSA said it “conducted detailed audits” at the 2 Sisters plants on July 25 and that initial results showed one plant as “Good” and the other as “Generally Satisfactory.”

The investigations are occurring as FSA reverses its decision to “name and shame” supermarkets and processors by publishing their Campylobacter results every quarter. The agency fears that the results could be misinterpreted or potentially cause a “food scare.”

“Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers,” Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA told the Guardian. “We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish all the names when we’ve completed [the survey] next summer.”

Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen in the UK, with an estimated 280,000 cases and 39,000 doctor consultations. Other common foodborne pathogens include Clostridium perfringens (an estimated 80,000 cases), Norovirus (an estimated 74,000 cases) and Salmonella (an estimated 33,000 cases). Salmonella was ranked first in terms of hospital admissions (about 2,500), indicating the severity of illness.

Food Safety News

‘Hygiene Failings’ Under Investigation at UK Poultry Processing Plants

A five-month Guardian investigation which uncovered “hygiene failings” at two of the largest UK poultry processors has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and three major supermarkets in the UK to launch their own inquiries.

The allegations have been directed at two factories owned by 2 Sisters Food Group which supply fresh chicken and chicken for ready meals to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, KFC and a slaughterhouse owned by Faccenda, which supplies Asda and Nando’s.

Incidents from the last month that the Guardian identified included “a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.”

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer told the newspaper that they had launched their own investigations into the allegations. FSA said it “conducted detailed audits” at the 2 Sisters plants on July 25 and that initial results showed one plant as “Good” and the other as “Generally Satisfactory.”

The investigations are occurring as FSA reverses its decision to “name and shame” supermarkets and processors by publishing their Campylobacter results every quarter. The agency fears that the results could be misinterpreted or potentially cause a “food scare.”

“Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers,” Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA told the Guardian. “We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish all the names when we’ve completed [the survey] next summer.”

Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen in the UK, with an estimated 280,000 cases and 39,000 doctor consultations. Other common foodborne pathogens include Clostridium perfringens (an estimated 80,000 cases), Norovirus (an estimated 74,000 cases) and Salmonella (an estimated 33,000 cases). Salmonella was ranked first in terms of hospital admissions (about 2,500), indicating the severity of illness.

Food Safety News

‘Hygiene Failings’ Under Investigation at UK Poultry Processing Plants

A five-month Guardian investigation which uncovered “hygiene failings” at two of the largest UK poultry processors has prompted the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and three major supermarkets in the UK to launch their own inquiries.

The allegations have been directed at two factories owned by 2 Sisters Food Group which supply fresh chicken and chicken for ready meals to Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, M&S, KFC and a slaughterhouse owned by Faccenda, which supplies Asda and Nando’s.

Incidents from the last month that the Guardian identified included “a factory floor flooded with chickens guts in which the bacteria can flourish, carcasses coming into contact with workers’ boots then returned to the production line and other poor practices involving points in the production chain that increase the risk of its spread.”

Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer told the newspaper that they had launched their own investigations into the allegations. FSA said it “conducted detailed audits” at the 2 Sisters plants on July 25 and that initial results showed one plant as “Good” and the other as “Generally Satisfactory.”

The investigations are occurring as FSA reverses its decision to “name and shame” supermarkets and processors by publishing their Campylobacter results every quarter. The agency fears that the results could be misinterpreted or potentially cause a “food scare.”

“Other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers,” Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA told the Guardian. “We’re not letting the industry off the hook. We’ll publish all the names when we’ve completed [the survey] next summer.”

Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen in the UK, with an estimated 280,000 cases and 39,000 doctor consultations. Other common foodborne pathogens include Clostridium perfringens (an estimated 80,000 cases), Norovirus (an estimated 74,000 cases) and Salmonella (an estimated 33,000 cases). Salmonella was ranked first in terms of hospital admissions (about 2,500), indicating the severity of illness.

Food Safety News

Applebee’s Changes Suppliers in Minnesota as E. coli Investigation Continues

Following reports that its franchise locations in Minnesota may be connected to an outbreak of E. coli O111, the Applebee’s restaurant chain announced Thursday that it has “changed suppliers” in the state.

When asked by Food Safety News, Applebee’s spokesman declined to specify exactly what supplies would be sourced from the new supplier. He also would not name the new or the previous supplier.

Sometime before the July 14 announcement of 13 E. coli O111 illnesses in Minnesota, Applebee’s locations in Minnesota stopped serving the Oriental Chicken Salad menu item, as well as related ingredients served with other products. The move suggested that at least some case patients had consumed the salad.

At least 13 people in Minnesota have fallen ill in the outbreak, with seven of them having eaten at Applebee’s. Because the other six cases have no apparent connection to Applebee’s, Minnesota health officials believe the outbreak has been caused by a “widely distributed food item” and may not necessarily have been served at Applebee’s.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that the outbreak investigation also included two additional cases in two unnamed states. Officials declined to reveal those states until the investigation could positively connect them to the outbreak in Minnesota.

On Thursday, investigators in Minnesota were still working to determine which food product might have caused the illnesses, said Minnesota Department of Health spokesman Michael Schommer. Until then, they weren’t showing their cards in terms of any additional information.

“In epidemiological investigations, the gold standard is to find a sample of the food product with the outbreak pathogen in it,” Schommer said. “The majority of cases ate at Applebee’s, and while that information is certainly helpful to the investigation, we haven’t yet found the gold standard.”

Food Safety News

CDC Investigation: Multistate Outbreak of E. coli Infections Linked to Recalled Ground Beef

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Monday evening that it is collaborating with public health officials in several states and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to investigate a multistate outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 infections.

The likely source of the infections, CDC reported, is the now-recalled ground beef produced by Wolverine Packing Co. of Detroit, MI, and distributed nationwide for retail and restaurant use.

On Monday, CDC also released some advice to consumers about avoiding eating undercooked ground beef in restaurants, which is what sickened people in this outbreak reported doing.

A total of 11 individuals infected with the outbreak strains of STEC O157:H7 have been reported from four states, CDC noted. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Massachusetts (1), Michigan (5), Missouri (1) and Ohio (4).

Among persons for whom information is available, CDC stated that they became ill with symptoms from April 22, 2014, to May 2, 2014. Those sickened range in age from 19 years to 46 years, with a median age of 26 years. Fifty-four percent of ill persons are male. Among 10 people with available information, six reported being hospitalized. None of those sickened in this outbreak have developed HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure), and no deaths have been reported, CDC noted.

Recent reports of four HUS cases in Kansas, including one woman who had traveled to Texas, have not officially been connected to this CDC outbreak investigation. However, given the wide distribution and the large amount (about 1.8 million pounds) of the now-recalled ground beef, more E. coli cases may emerge.

Food Safety News will update this story on Tuesday with comments from CDC officials about the progress of the investigation.

According to the CDC report, investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet, the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories coordinated by CDC, obtains DNA “fingerprints” of E. coli bacteria through diagnostic testing with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE.

The type of bacteria responsible for this outbreak is among those referred to as Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, or STEC. Some types of STEC frequently cause severe disease, including bloody diarrhea and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), which is a type of kidney failure. STEC bacteria are divided into serogroups (e.g., O157 or O121). E. coli O157 is the STEC serogroup found most commonly in U.S. patients.

Signs and symptoms of E. coli infection are available here.

This outbreak can be visually described with a chart showing the number of persons who became ill each day. This chart is called an epidemic curve or epi curve. Illnesses that began after May 1, 2014, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of two to four weeks. Please see the Timeline for Reporting Cases of E. coli O157 Infection for more details.

Epidemiologic and traceback investigations conducted by officials in local, state, and federal public health, agriculture, and regulatory agencies indicate that ground beef produced by Wolverine Packing Co. is the likely source of this outbreak.

As of May 16, 2014, in interviews, ill persons answered questions about foods eaten and other exposures during the week before becoming ill. All of the 10 ill persons interviewed reported eating ground beef prepared at a restaurant before becoming ill.

Findings of multiple traceback investigations of the ground beef used at restaurants where ill persons reported they had dined identified Wolverine Packing Co. as the source of the ground beef. On May 19, 2014, Wolverine voluntarily recalled approximately 1.8 million pounds of ground beef that may be contaminated with STEC O157:H7.

The ground beef was shipped to distributors for retail and restaurant use nationwide. There was no distribution of the products to the Department of Defense, the National School Lunch Program, or catalog/Internet sales. Products are regulated by USDA-FSIS and bear the establishment number “2574B” inside the USDA mark of inspection and have a production date code in the format “Packing Nos: MM DD 14” between “03 31 14” and “04 18 14.” A full list of recalled ground beef products is available from the FSIS website.

CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify additional ill persons and to interview them about foods eaten before becoming ill. FSIS is continuing to work closely with CDC and state partners during this investigation to determine the source of contamination and identify any other potentially contaminated products still on the market. CDC will update the public when additional information is available.

Food Safety News

Letter From The Editor: An Investigation, Not a Crisis

It makes no difference whether Chicago once again burns to the ground or finally secures a destiny as the shining city on the lake.  It makes no difference because Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s obituary and maybe his tombstone will recall before anything else that he was the man who said: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

Just ahead of moving into the White House as chief of staff to the President of the United States, he did say it. But that timing is only part of the reason it will never go away.  The other part of the reason is the clueless ants that populate Washington D.C. actually took Emanuel seriously and began repeating it, especially to their paying clients.

Everybody failed to notice it was nothing more than a transition line to the message Emanuel wanted to deliver that day to a business audience. “Things that we had postponed for too long, that were long-term, are now immediate and must be dealt with,” he said. “This crisis provides the opportunity for us to do things that you could not do before.” His task was to calm markets at the time of worst financial crisis by saying it would bring us bipartisanship for the new President’s many agenda items.

Okay, it did not exactly work out that way, but you get the point.

Emanuel was not misquoted, but he was misunderstood. He’s had to hear every political hack in the land use his line to troll for their own customers. And as dumb as it sounds, big unions and big business pay millions in Washington D.C. for recycled ideas.  This means we’re in an era when riding the wave of someone else’s crisis is a popular moneymaking sport. We in the media knowingly play along. Almost anything that wants to connect itself with crisis gets away with it.

This past week we had the union for USDA meat inspectors advancing two or three possibilities that might explain the recall and shutdown of a small beef and veal processing plant in northern California.  (I might be wrong, but as best as I can tell, the union’s agenda is “union good, USDA management bad.”)

As crisis goes, the closure of the Rancho Feeding beef plant in Petaluma is a small one. No deaths, no illnesses, and no outbreaks are involved. It’s a big recall because it goes back more than a year, not because it’s a big plant.  USDA shut it down and called in the Inspector General (IG) for the criminal investigation. The IG is testifying before Congress this coming week. It would help dampen the speculation if the IG would provide an update on the progress of the federal investigation involving the U.S Attorney for Northern California.

This story is getting crisis coverage, mostly from the San Francisco media, because the many foodies who populate the Bay Area are concerned about the impact it is having on custom producers.  San Francisco’s source of grass-feed beef, free of antibiotics and hormones etc., is at risk. The politicians and small ranchers are speaking out about the unfairness of it all. And, we appreciate that.

However, it is not a crisis. It is an investigation, one that caught and stopped any diseased beef from getting to anyone’s dinner plate. Everybody who thinks they can advance some agenda or exercise their political power over it just needs to chill. We’d like to see the federal investigation move quickly, allow USDA to tell us exactly what happened, and see blame assigned in whatever legal and administrative venues are appropriate.

Think of this more as a big accident on the freeway. We don’t mind sitting there in our cars for the state patrol to do their investigation, but not while they go for coffee and donuts.

Food Safety News

Los Burritos Mexicanos Shut Down for E. coli Investigation

The name of the Lombard, IL restaurant closed Friday by the DuPage County Health Department did not remain a secret for even the weekend.

The DuPage County Health Department has confirmed Los Burritos Mexicanos was shut down because of its possible association with an investigation into an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. The restaurant at 1015 E St. Charles Road was closed at 5 p.m.. Friday.

Jason Gerwig, spokesman for the health department, said the total number of cases involved in the outbreak was about ten. Eight people were treated at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove. Four were admitted to the hospital for further care. Four others did not require hospital admission.

The restaurant was closed as a precaution, according to officials.

Food Safety News

Energy Drink Makers Get ‘Guidance’ But No Investigation Into Deaths

A couple of years ago after reports surfaced about deaths that might be attributable to popular energy drinks, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) demanded that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigate the potentially dangerous levels of caffeine that may be involved. Instead of an investigation, FDA is now sharing the agency’s “current thinking” about whether a beverage might not be a food or a drug, but a liquid dietary supplement. FDA calls it “guidance” for the largely unregulated dietary supplements industry.

Writing on her popular Food Politics blog, nutrition expert Marion Nestle speculates that FDA likely published the new guidance documents because “weird ingredients” and excessive caffeine are showing up in popular energy drinks that largely escape regulation.

In addition to a handful of deaths occurring shortly after taking so-called energy shots, the government’s own Drug Abuse Warning Network has logged thousands of hospital visits going back several years from their consumption.

“Energy drinks are flavored beverages containing high amounts of caffeine and typically other additives, such as vitamins, taurine, herbal supplements, creatine, sugars, and guarana, a plant product containing concentrated caffeine, ” according to the Warning Network. “These drinks are sold in cans and bottles and are readily available in grocery stores, vending machines, convenience stores, and bars and other venues where alcohol is sold. These beverages provide high doses of caffeine that act as a stimulant upon the central nervous system and cardiovascular system. The total amount of caffeine in a can or bottle of an energy drink varies from about 80 to more than 500 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, compared with about 100 mg in a 5-ounce cup of coffee or 50 mg in a 12-ounce cola.”

More than half of the hospital visits have involved young people aged 18 to 25.

The FDA guidance comes in two parts and both have been published as drafts for public comment. The purpose is to help dietary supplement and beverage manufacturers determine whether a liquid food product is properly classified as a dietary supplement or as a beverage, and to remind the industry of legal requirements regarding the substances that may be added to either type of product. Together, FDA says the two guidances finalize a previously published draft guidance, and take into account public comments submitted on that draft.

First of  the guidances – Distinguishing Liquid Dietary Supplements from Beverages – describes the factors that characterize liquid products that are dietary supplements and those that characterize beverages that are conventional foods. Such factors include product claims, names, packaging, serving size, recommended daily intake, conditions of use, and product composition, as well as statements or graphic representations in labeling and advertising.

The second guidance – Considerations Regarding Substances Added to Foods, Including Beverages and Dietary Supplements – reminds the industry of requirements in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act that apply to substances added to both conventional foods, such as beverages, and to dietary supplements. These statutory requirements are intended to assure the safety for consumers of both types of products.

In a statement the agency said it is issuing these guidances “to clarify legal requirements in the face of growth in the marketplace of beverages and liquid dietary supplements that contain novel substances such as botanical extracts or other botanical ingredients.”

Food Safety News

Shutdown Not Impeding Salmonella Outbreak Investigation

If you haven’t already heard, there’s an ongoing Salmonella outbreak that has infected at least 278 people in 17 states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it’s linked to seven strains of Salmonella Heidelberg — some of which are antibiotic-resistant — that have contaminated chickens grown by West Coast poultry producer Foster Farms. To top it off, there’s a 42-percent hospitalization rate in these cases, double what’s usually associated with Salmonella, possibly because of the antibiotic resistance.

If there’s a silver lining to this story, it’s that the government shutdown is not impeding the investigation.

“We’ve been investigating this outbreak for some time,” Christopher Braden, CDC’s director of foodborne, waterborne and environmental diseases, told Food Safety News. Indeed, CDC informed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the first cases back in July, and FSIS sampled facilities in September.

“I would say we had accounted for investigating this outbreak,” Braden said. “Were there some things that maybe we missed or didn’t analyze that we would have normally? That’s likely true, but I don’t think it has affected what the source of the outbreak was.”

Braden said that the initial decision on whom to furlough was based on a short duration for the shutdown. When it became clear that the government was going to be shut down for an extended period of time, he said that handling all the data on multiple ongoing outbreaks and about 30 clusters of illnesses with a skeleton crew became “untenable.”

CDC decided to bring 30 employees back from furlough starting Tuesday — 10 of whom returned to work on foodborne illnesses, fully staffing the team working on the PulseNet database and epidemiologists on the data-exchange system.

As for FSIS, much of the staff was spared any furlough. “All of our front-line inspectors are exempted, so they’re on slaughter-processing lines in these facilities, including Foster Farms,” said Aaron Lavallee of the department’s Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education. Additionally, all three laboratories are still running, and all investigators are still out in the field.

“This is actually a testament to our ability, despite the impasse on the budget, to continue protecting consumers,” Lavallee said.

Food Safety News

Investigation into Van Rijn restart in full progress

Discussions with potential financiers and competitors
Investigation into Van Rijn restart in full progress

Investigations into a possible restart for the Van Rijn Group is in full progress. Since last weekend, under the leadership of administrator Souren, the possibilities of a restart of the group or parts of it have been researched. “There are more discussions with potential financiers and competitors for a restart,” confirms General Director Ron de Greeff. He doesn’t want to say if it contains Dutch or international parties.

According to De Greeff the administrator is willing to make a decision as soon as possible. “Time is of the essence.” Today the employees will be informed about the developments within Van Rijn. In the Netherlands the Van Rijn Group has 200 employees, divided over Poeldijk (140) and Venlo (60).

Publication date: 8/13/2013
Author: Sander Bruins Slot
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com


FreshPlaza.com

Wellesley Supermarkets Cleared in E. coli Investigation

In June, Wellesley, MA, was ripe with rumors that one of its supermarkets was the source of three E. coli infections in the community.

Wellesley Health Department sources don’t have much to say about the investigation into those three cases except to say it had nothing to do with any local market.

The local health department heard about the first Wellesley resident to become infected with E. coli from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s surveillance system on June 12. Wellesley’s investigation then turned up two additional E. coli cases.

All three Wellesley E. coli cases involved adults. Children, the elderly and others with compromised immune systems are most at risk from E. coli infection.

Health department sources were not able to say whether the investigation remains open or whether the pathogen’s source was determined, but they were definite about no local supermarket being involved.

Food Safety News

Arizona E. coli Outbreak Investigation Jumps to 30; 12 Hospitalized

An ongoing E. coli O157:H7 in Arizona that has been linked to a mexican restaurant has potentially doubled in size to 30 cases with 12 hospitalizations being investigated, according to a an update on twitter from Maricopa County health officials.

The health department did not immediately return requests for more information, but according to their update issued last week 15 cases of bloody diarrhea had been reported to the Maricopa County Health Department since July 12. Of those, 11 had reported eating at Federico’s Mexican Restaurant in Litchfield Park.

As Food Safety News reported, preliminary test results are showing that the patients contracted E. coli O157 infections. The health department has visited the restaurant to collect food samples.

Only one Federico’s location, 13132 W Camelback in Litchfield Park, has been tied to the the outbreak.

“The restaurant has been extremely cooperative with our investigation.  In fact, out of an abundance of caution and concern for their customers, the restaurant is voluntarily closing,” said Steven Goode, deputy director of MCESD, last week.

Food Safety News