Blog Archives

Two E. coli cases linked to livestock close Washington school

Two young Washington state girls are hospitalized with complications from E. coli infection and their school has been temporarily closed for cleaning. One of the girls has reportedly developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious kidney condition linked to E. coli infection.

Health officials said the source of their exposure to Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) bacteria was probably not food but contact with animals.

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-petting-zoo-image1008725

Contact with livestock can be a source of E. coli infection. (Photo illustration)

“The exact source of contamination in E. coli can be very difficult to identify, but at this point we believe the children were likely exposed to livestock near their home,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer and director of the Snohomish Health District.

A health district Facebook posting indicated that, “… based on our Communicable Disease team’s initial investigation and interviews with family, we do not believe this was caused by a food source.”

The Monroe Montessori School in Monroe, WA, was temporarily closed on Wednesday, and nobody answered the phone there on Thursday. Approximately 60 students and staff members were said to have potentially been exposed to the bacteria and were being tested for the infection.

A health district statement issued Wednesday noted that the school “has temporarily closed for disinfecting as a precaution,” and that the school, the district, the Washington State Department of Health and the Washington State Department of Early Learning were coordinating on the E. coli testing.

Contact with livestock in a rural area, a farm, or a petting zoo are common sources of E. coli bacteria. An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infection last year in Washington state was traced to a fairgrounds dairy barn in Lynden, WA. That outbreak sickened 25 people, mostly young children, and hospitalized 10 of them.

Symptoms of STEC infections vary for each person but often include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, and vomiting. If there is fever, it usually is less than 101 degrees F. Most people get better within five to seven days as infections can be mild, but others can be severe or even life-threatening.

Young children and the elderly are more likely to experience serious illness. People with weakened immune systems, including pregnant women, are also at risk for serious illness.

Between 5 and 10 percent of those diagnosed with E. coli O157 infection develop the potentially life-threatening complication of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Clues that a person is developing HUS include decreased frequency of urination, feeling very tired, and losing pink color in cheeks and inside the lower eyelids.

People with HUS should be hospitalized because their kidneys may stop working and they may develop other serious problems. Most people who develop HUS recover within a few weeks, but some suffer permanent damage or die.

Handwashing is the most effective way to reduce chances of getting sick. Adults should supervise young children to make sure they don’t put their hands in their mouths and make sure that their hands are washed thoroughly, especially after using the bathroom.

The spread of illnesses from animals, such as those caused by E. coli, are commonly linked to hand-to-mouth contact. It is also important to avoid swallowing water when swimming and playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.

More information about STEC and other types of E. coli can be found here.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Food Safety News

FDA to Block Pomegranate Seeds from Turkey Linked to Outbreak

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Saturday it will detain shipments of pomegranate seeds from Turkey as health officials have narrowed the likely cause of a Hepatitis A outbreak that has sickened at least 127 people in 8 states.

The agency has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and state and local health authorities for several weeks to try and track down the ingredient making people sick. Health officials have now determined that the “most likely vehicle” for the virus appears to be a common shipment of pomegranate seeds from Goknur Foodstuffs Import Export Trading of Turkey that were used by Townsend Farms to make Organic Antioxidant Blend, a mix of frozen berries, sold to Costco and Harris Teeter stores.

FDA is now barring Goknur from shipping pomegranate seeds into the United States. It is not clear how much product is impacted, but an FDA official noted that Turkey is a “minor player” compared to countries like India, Iran, China, and Thailand, when it comes to providing pomegranate to the U.S. market.

“This outbreak highlights the food safety challenge posed by today’s global food system,” said Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, in a press release over the weekend. “The presence in a single product of multiple ingredients from multiple countries compounds the difficulty of finding the cause of an illness outbreak. The Hepatitis A outbreak shows how we have improved our ability to investigate and respond to outbreaks, but also why we are working to build a food safety system that more effectively prevents them.”

The Townsend Farms blend has been linked to the multistate outbreak affecting mostly western states. According to CDC, about half of the reported Hepatitis A cases are in California.

Colorado has reported 25 and Arizona 17. Hawaii is reporting 7, New Mexico and Nevada have 5 cases and Utah and Wisconsin have 2 each. The cases reported in Wisconsin, however, resulted from exposure to the product in California, according to health officials.

Nearly 60 percent of those sickened are women. The ages in the outbreak range from 2 to 84 and include 6 children under the age of 18. CDC said none of the children had been vaccinated. More than half of those ill required hospitalization.

The outbreak has sparked several large recalls. In early June, Townsend Farms recalled more than 300,000 four pound packages of the frozen berries sold at Costco and then issued another recall of berries sold at Harris Teeter. Last week, Scenic Fruit Company recalled over 60,000 bags of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels because their product, imported from Turkey, has the potential to be contaminated with Hepatitis A.

Hepatitis A, a liver disease, can range from mild to severe and can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Symptoms usually occur within 15 to 50 days of exposure and include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice, abnormal liver tests, dark urine and pale stool.

If a person has been exposed to the Hepatitis A virus within two weeks or less, they may be able to prevent the disease by receiving a vaccine. Consumers who may have eaten recalled product or have Hepatitis A symptoms should consult with their healthcare provider or their local health department.

 

Food Safety News

MA Restaurant Linked to Salmonella Outbreak Closed ‘Until Further Notice’

A number of cases of foodborne illness have reportedly been linked to food served by the Churrascaria Aveirense restaurant in New Bedford, MA, and local health officials asked the owners to close the restaurant until all employees have tested negative and the facility meets all food-safety requirements.

News reports stated that the restaurant, which serves Portuguese food and other dishes, closed Friday and there were handwritten notes on the door citing “a family emergency” and that the facility would be “closed until further notice.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recently informed the local board of health in New Bedford that several persons have tested positive for Salmonella bacteria.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most of those infected will recover without treatment.

Anyone who is experiencing these symptoms is advised to contact their primary health care provider.

The Massachusetts state health department has issued an informational fact sheet on Salmonella and can be reached at (508) 991-6199 by anyone who wants more information about the situation.

Food Safety News

CDC Update: 32 Listeria Illnesses in 11 States, 2 in Canada Linked to Caramel Apples

On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again updated information regarding the multi-state Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to caramel apples. As of Dec. 30, there were 32 illnesses reported in 11 states, including 31 hospitalizations and six deaths.

According to CDC, Listeriosis contributed to three of the deaths reported to date, but it is not clear whether it contributed to another two. The sixth death was unrelated to Listeriosis, CDC stated.

The new cases were reported from CA (one more, for a total of two), NM (one more, for a total of six), and one in NV (which previously had not had any cases reported). The rest are in Arizona (4), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3).

CDC reports that the dates when the Listeria strains were isolated range from Oct. 17, 2014, to Dec. 11, 2014. Ten illnesses have been associated with a pregnancy (the illness occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant). One fetal loss has been reported.

Among people whose illnesses were not associated with a pregnancy, ages ranged from 7 to 92 years, with a median age of 66 years, and 32 percent were female, CDC reported.

Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) occurred among otherwise healthy children aged 5-15 years. Thirty-one ill people have been hospitalized, and six deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to three of these deaths, and it is unclear whether it contributed to an additional two deaths. The sixth death was unrelated to listeriosis.

Illnesses that started after Dec. 14, 2014, might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

Outlets selling the apples included Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods in MN, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples, and Safeway, Walmart and Sam’s Club in a number of states.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified 2 cases of Listeriosis in Canada with the same PFGE (pulsed-field gel electrophoresis) patterns as seen in the U.S. outbreak. PHAC is working with its provincial and territorial partners to determine the source of these illnesses. CDC and and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are working with Canadian health authorities to determine whether these illnesses are related to the U.S. outbreak.

The information CDC reported at this time continues to indicate that commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be contaminated with Listeria. Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness. In interviews, ill people answered questions about foods consumed and other exposures in the month before becoming ill.

To date, 23 (88 percent) of the 26 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill. Caramel apple brands named in interviews have included Happy Apple, Carnival, and Merb’s Candies. However, the investigation is ongoing, and other brands may be identified. At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged, or to caramel candy.

So far, three firms that produce caramel apples have issued voluntary recalls after receiving notice from Bidart Brothers, a CA apple supplier, that there may be a connection between Bidart Brothers apples and this Listeriosis outbreak. On Dec. 24, 2014, Happy Apple Company of Washington, MO, voluntarily recalled Happy Apple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between Aug. 25 and Nov. 23, 2014.

On Dec. 27, 2014, California Snack Foods voluntarily recalled Karm’l Dapple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between Aug. 15 and Nov. 28, 2014. On Dec. 29, 2014, Merb’s Candies of St. Louis, MO, issued a voluntary recall of Merb’s Candies Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples that would have been available between Sept. 8 and Nov. 25, 2014.

In addition, Pacific Coast Fruit of Portland, OR, announced that it was recalling all Happy Apple brand apples it sold after Sept. 22, 2014, because they came from Bidart Brothers. The company noted in an online statement that it was contacting its customers as part of the recall.

Meanwhile, CDC and other state and federal investigators are continuing to work to identify if any other brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

Although voluntary recalls have been issued for three brands of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, CDC’s Advice to Consumers remains the same. CDC continues to recommend that U.S. consumers not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided.

These products could have a shelf life of more than one month. CDC, the involved states, and FDA continue to work closely on this rapidly evolving investigation, and new information will be provided as it becomes available.

Food Safety News

CDC Update: 32 Listeria Illnesses in 11 States, 2 in Canada Linked to Caramel Apples

On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again updated information regarding the multi-state Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to caramel apples. As of Dec. 30, there were 32 illnesses reported in 11 states, including 31 hospitalizations and six deaths.

According to CDC, Listeriosis contributed to three of the deaths reported to date, but it is not clear whether it contributed to another two. The sixth death was unrelated to Listeriosis, CDC stated.

The new cases were reported from CA (one more, for a total of two), NM (one more, for a total of six), and one in NV (which previously had not had any cases reported). The rest are in Arizona (4), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3).

CDC reports that the dates when the Listeria strains were isolated range from Oct. 17, 2014, to Dec. 11, 2014. Ten illnesses have been associated with a pregnancy (the illness occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant). One fetal loss has been reported.

Among people whose illnesses were not associated with a pregnancy, ages ranged from 7 to 92 years, with a median age of 66 years, and 32 percent were female, CDC reported.

Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) occurred among otherwise healthy children aged 5-15 years. Thirty-one ill people have been hospitalized, and six deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to three of these deaths, and it is unclear whether it contributed to an additional two deaths. The sixth death was unrelated to listeriosis.

Illnesses that started after Dec. 14, 2014, might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

Outlets selling the apples included Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods in MN, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples, and Safeway, Walmart and Sam’s Club in a number of states.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has identified 2 cases of Listeriosis in Canada with the same PFGE (pulsed-field gel electrophoresis) patterns as seen in the U.S. outbreak. PHAC is working with its provincial and territorial partners to determine the source of these illnesses. CDC and and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are working with Canadian health authorities to determine whether these illnesses are related to the U.S. outbreak.

The information CDC reported at this time continues to indicate that commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be contaminated with Listeria. Listeria can cause a serious, life-threatening illness. In interviews, ill people answered questions about foods consumed and other exposures in the month before becoming ill.

To date, 23 (88 percent) of the 26 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill. Caramel apple brands named in interviews have included Happy Apple, Carnival, and Merb’s Candies. However, the investigation is ongoing, and other brands may be identified. At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged, or to caramel candy.

So far, three firms that produce caramel apples have issued voluntary recalls after receiving notice from Bidart Brothers, a CA apple supplier, that there may be a connection between Bidart Brothers apples and this Listeriosis outbreak. On Dec. 24, 2014, Happy Apple Company of Washington, MO, voluntarily recalled Happy Apple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between Aug. 25 and Nov. 23, 2014.

On Dec. 27, 2014, California Snack Foods voluntarily recalled Karm’l Dapple brand caramel apples with a best use by date between Aug. 15 and Nov. 28, 2014. On Dec. 29, 2014, Merb’s Candies of St. Louis, MO, issued a voluntary recall of Merb’s Candies Bionic Apples and Double Dipped Apples that would have been available between Sept. 8 and Nov. 25, 2014.

In addition, Pacific Coast Fruit of Portland, OR, announced that it was recalling all Happy Apple brand apples it sold after Sept. 22, 2014, because they came from Bidart Brothers. The company noted in an online statement that it was contacting its customers as part of the recall.

Meanwhile, CDC and other state and federal investigators are continuing to work to identify if any other brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

Although voluntary recalls have been issued for three brands of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, CDC’s Advice to Consumers remains the same. CDC continues to recommend that U.S. consumers not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided.

These products could have a shelf life of more than one month. CDC, the involved states, and FDA continue to work closely on this rapidly evolving investigation, and new information will be provided as it becomes available.

Food Safety News

First Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in Listeria Outbreak Linked to Caramel Apples

The first wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in California against Safeway Inc. over those commercially produced and prepackaged caramel apples now the subject of a 10-state Listeria outbreak responsible for five deaths so far.

The wrongful death action naming Safeway Inc. as the defendant was filed by James Raymond Frey on behalf of his late wife, Shirlee Jean Frey, 81, and her estate. The lawsuit claims she was a victim of the deadly outbreak. She and Mr. Frey, 87, were both longtime residents of California.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the 10-state outbreak of a genetically indistinguishable strain of the Listeria pathogen had infected 29 people as of Monday, Dec. 22, and all have required hospitalization.

States with illnesses associated with the outbreak strain are: Arizona (4), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1) Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3).

CDC’s investigation has found that the packaged caramel apples are the mostly likely source of the Listeria contamination. The agency reports that state and local health officials who have interviewed 18 of the sickened individuals say 83 percent remembered eating the suspect caramel apples.

The investigation is not over. “At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy,” states the complaint filed Monday in California Superior Court in Santa Clara County.

Lawyers for Mr. Frey also stated in the complaint that CDC is working to identify specific brands that produced and packaged the caramel apples.

In the meantime, attorneys Harry Stern of San Francisco’s Rains Lucia Stern and William D. Marler of Marler Clark, the national food-safety law firm based in Seattle, say that CDC has warned the public not to eat any caramel apples. This warning extends to plain caramel apples and those with nuts or other toppings. (Marler Clark also underwrites Food Safety News.)

The wrongful death lawsuit seeks a jury trial for unspecified financial damages plus attorneys’ fees. Among its causes of action is a claim of “strict liability” that a Safeway ready-to-eat product tainted with the bacteria was sold to a customer. “Strict liability” means that a company is responsible whether or not it knew about the problem.

Meanwhile, it was reported Monday that Safeway had removed the caramel apples from its shelves.

“We are aware of the issue regarding caramel apples and have proactively removed the product from sale in our stores,” said Brian Dowling, the company’s vice president of public affairs, adding, “However, we are currently not aware of any illness tied to items purchased at our stores.”

Listeria is one of the more deadly pathogens. The last Listeria outbreak causing multiple deaths came three years ago when Colorado-grown cantaloupe was contaminated with the bacteria, causing three dozen deaths. The so-called “opportunistic pathogen” is a significant danger to the elderly, pregnant woman, and others with compromised immune systems.

Food Safety News

First Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed in Listeria Outbreak Linked to Caramel Apples

The first wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in California against Safeway Inc. over those commercially produced and prepackaged caramel apples now the subject of a 10-state Listeria outbreak responsible for five deaths so far.

The wrongful death action naming Safeway Inc. as the defendant was filed by James Raymond Frey on behalf of his late wife, Shirlee Jean Frey, 81, and her estate. The lawsuit claims she was a victim of the deadly outbreak. She and Mr. Frey, 87, were both longtime residents of California.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the 10-state outbreak of a genetically indistinguishable strain of the Listeria pathogen had infected 29 people as of Monday, Dec. 22, and all have required hospitalization.

States with illnesses associated with the outbreak strain are: Arizona (4), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1) Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3).

CDC’s investigation has found that the packaged caramel apples are the mostly likely source of the Listeria contamination. The agency reports that state and local health officials who have interviewed 18 of the sickened individuals say 83 percent remembered eating the suspect caramel apples.

The investigation is not over. “At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy,” states the complaint filed Monday in California Superior Court in Santa Clara County.

Lawyers for Mr. Frey also stated in the complaint that CDC is working to identify specific brands that produced and packaged the caramel apples.

In the meantime, attorneys Harry Stern of San Francisco’s Rains Lucia Stern and William D. Marler of Marler Clark, the national food-safety law firm based in Seattle, say that CDC has warned the public not to eat any caramel apples. This warning extends to plain caramel apples and those with nuts or other toppings. (Marler Clark also underwrites Food Safety News.)

The wrongful death lawsuit seeks a jury trial for unspecified financial damages plus attorneys’ fees. Among its causes of action is a claim of “strict liability” that a Safeway ready-to-eat product tainted with the bacteria was sold to a customer. “Strict liability” means that a company is responsible whether or not it knew about the problem.

Meanwhile, it was reported Monday that Safeway had removed the caramel apples from its shelves.

“We are aware of the issue regarding caramel apples and have proactively removed the product from sale in our stores,” said Brian Dowling, the company’s vice president of public affairs, adding, “However, we are currently not aware of any illness tied to items purchased at our stores.”

Listeria is one of the more deadly pathogens. The last Listeria outbreak causing multiple deaths came three years ago when Colorado-grown cantaloupe was contaminated with the bacteria, causing three dozen deaths. The so-called “opportunistic pathogen” is a significant danger to the elderly, pregnant woman, and others with compromised immune systems.

Food Safety News

Listeria Outbreak Linked to Caramel Apples Catches Experts by Surprise

Foodborne illness investigators know to expect a bacteria like Listeria monocytogenes on just about any food product. But even so, caramel apples were not on anyone’s radar when it became clear they were linked to a Listeria outbreak that has been associated with five deaths and at least 28 illnesses in 10 states.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first learned of a cluster of related Listeria illnesses in November, but it took until this week for a multi-state public health investigation to determine that the likely source of the infections was caramel apples distributed under at least two brand names.

So far, Food Safety News has learned few details about the patients who have died in the outbreak; however, CDC Epidemiologist Brendan Jackson confirmed that none were children.

Nine of the 28 reported illnesses occurred in pregnant women, although none of those resulted in the loss of the child.

While four of the five deaths were directly caused by Listeria, the fifth occurred in someone who was immunocompromised and already suffering from other life-threatening conditions.

Part of the challenge with this outbreak investigation has been the relatively long incubation time for Listeria to cause symptoms of illness, said an epidemiologist with the Minnesota Department of Health. Though the first illnesses began in mid-October, health investigators have only recently been aware of the full extent of the outbreak.

The discovery of caramel apples as the likely cause came even later, the epidemiologist added. One patient happened to mention eating a caramel apple, and so an investigator asked another patient, who also happened to have eaten one.

To date, 15 of 18 patients interviewed have confirmed they ate prepackaged caramel apples prior to falling ill — a very statistically significant proportion given the relatively small subset of caramel-apple consumers within the general population.

Investigators are still working to determine exactly how the caramel apples might have become contaminated, considering that the outbreak has not been associated with any non-caramel apples.

As of Friday night, no recalls have been announced, and authorities are not ready to name all of the brand names involved. Based on information from the Minnesota Department of Health, the only known related brands are Carnival and Kitchen Cravings.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, implicated caramel apples were sold in supermarkets in single or 3-pack plastic clamshell packages.

CDC is recommending that the public not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples at this time.

Food Safety News reporter Lydia Zuraw contributed to this report.

Food Safety News

CDC: 5 Deaths, 28 Illnesses in Multi-State Listeria Outbreak Linked to Caramel Apples

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s outbreak report posted Friday, a total of 28 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes and five deaths have been reported in connection with commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples.

The 28 ill people included in this outbreak investigation have been reported from 10 states: Arizona (4), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (2). Illness onset dates range from Oct. 17, 2014, to Nov. 27, 2014.

Nine illnesses have been associated with a pregnancy (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant). No miscarriages or fetal losses have been reported.

Among people whose illnesses were not associated with a pregnancy, ages ranged from 7 to 92 years, with a median age of 64 years, and 32 percent were female. Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) occurred among otherwise healthy children aged 5-15 years.

Of the 26 ill persons for whom information is available, all have been hospitalized, and five deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least four of these deaths.

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate. To date, 15 of the 18 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill.

Out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that U.S. consumers do not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided.

Although caramel apples are often a fall seasonal product, contaminated commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may still be for sale at grocery stores and other retailers nationwide or may be in consumers’ homes.

Investigators are working quickly to determine specific brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

The Minnesota cases purchased caramel apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples. These two brands are no longer available for purchase at retail locations; however, health officials are concerned that persons who purchased them may still have them in their homes.

At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy.

The outbreak can be visually described with an epidemic curve showing the number of persons who were diagnosed each day. Illnesses that started after Dec. 3, 2014, might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

Food Safety News

CDC: 5 Deaths, 28 Illnesses in Multi-State Listeria Outbreak Linked to Caramel Apples

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s outbreak report posted Friday, a total of 28 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes and five deaths have been reported in connection with commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples.

The 28 ill people included in this outbreak investigation have been reported from 10 states: Arizona (4), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (2). Illness onset dates range from Oct. 17, 2014, to Nov. 27, 2014.

Nine illnesses have been associated with a pregnancy (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant). No miscarriages or fetal losses have been reported.

Among people whose illnesses were not associated with a pregnancy, ages ranged from 7 to 92 years, with a median age of 64 years, and 32 percent were female. Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) occurred among otherwise healthy children aged 5-15 years.

Of the 26 ill persons for whom information is available, all have been hospitalized, and five deaths have been reported. Listeriosis contributed to at least four of these deaths.

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states and with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to investigate. To date, 15 of the 18 ill people interviewed reported eating commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples before becoming ill.

Out of an abundance of caution, CDC recommends that U.S. consumers do not eat any commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples, including plain caramel apples as well as those containing nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings, until more specific guidance can be provided.

Although caramel apples are often a fall seasonal product, contaminated commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples may still be for sale at grocery stores and other retailers nationwide or may be in consumers’ homes.

Investigators are working quickly to determine specific brands or types of commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples that may be linked to illnesses and to identify the source of contamination.

The Minnesota cases purchased caramel apples from Cub Foods, Kwik Trip, and Mike’s Discount Foods, which carried Carnival brand and Kitchen Cravings brand caramel apples. These two brands are no longer available for purchase at retail locations; however, health officials are concerned that persons who purchased them may still have them in their homes.

At this time, no illnesses related to this outbreak have been linked to apples that are not caramel-coated and not prepackaged or to caramel candy.

The outbreak can be visually described with an epidemic curve showing the number of persons who were diagnosed each day. Illnesses that started after Dec. 3, 2014, might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

Food Safety News

CDC Update: 111 Sickened in Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Bean Sprouts

At least 111 people in 12 states have been confirmed infected with Salmonella in an outbreak linked to bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc., according to an outbreak update posted Tuesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Twenty-six percent of patients have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Since the CDC’s last update on Dec. 4, 24 new illnesses have been found.

Wonton Foods continues to cooperate with state and federal public health officials. On Nov. 21, they agreed to destroy any remaining bean sprout products while conducting a thorough cleaning and sanitization of their facilities..

On Nov. 24, the company completed the sanitization process and resumed production. Shipments resumed on Nov. 29.

CDC says it is not likely that any more contaminated product is on store shelves.

CDC recommends that children, the elderly, pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind due to their potential to harbor harmful bacteria. Cooking sprouts kills any such bacteria.

Food Safety News

Wisconsin Names Two Farms That Sourced Raw Milk Linked to Outbreaks

Wisconsin state officials have released the names of two farms that supplied raw milk linked to Campylobacter outbreaks of the past few years.

In September 2014, 38 people were sickened after attending a potluck meal for the Durand High School football team. According to the state Department of Health Services memo released Friday, a farm operated by Roland and Diana Reed of Arkansaw, WI, was the source of the unpasteurized milk served at the meal.

Officials also stated that milk from Schaal Dairy Farm was linked to 16 illnesses that occurred at North Cape Elementary School in Franksville, WI, in 2011.

The information was released following a public record request from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The newspaper reports that the health department plans to release their report on the Durand outbreak on Monday, following which the state’s Agriculture Department will decide whether to take enforcement action.

Food Safety News

CDC Final Update: 5 Listeria Illnesses, Including 1 Death, Linked to Mexican-Style Cheese

Mexican-style dairy products manufactured by Oasis Brands Inc. of Miami, FL, which were recalled for Listeria contamination earlier this year, were linked to five cases of Listeriosis, including one death.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that this outbreak is now over.

Whole-genome sequences of the Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from recalled quesito casero cheese produced by Oasis Brands were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from one person who became ill in September 2013 and four others who became ill in June through October 2014.

The five cases were reported in Georgia (1), New York (1), Tennessee (2), and Texas (1). Four of the five people were hospitalized, and one death was reported in Tennessee. Three illnesses were related to a pregnancy — one of these was diagnosed in a newborn.

All ill persons were reported to be of Hispanic ethnicity and reported consuming Hispanic-style soft cheese. Two persons who were able to answer questions about specific varieties of Hispanic-style soft cheeses reported consuming quesito casero, though neither could remember the brand.

Although limited information is available about the specific cheese products consumed by ill persons, the whole genome sequencing findings, together with the cheese consumption history of the patients, suggests that these illnesses could have been related to products from Oasis Brands Inc.

In August 2014, Oasis Brands voluntarily recalled quesito casero (fresh curd) due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination after the pathogen was isolated from the quesito casero they produced. In October 2014, the company recalled cuajada en hoja (fresh curd) after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated Listeria monocytogenes from environmental samples collected from the production facility and later recalled various Lacteos Santa Martha and one HonduCrema brand cheese and dairy products.

At this time, Oasis Brands Inc. has ceased manufacturing of all products, including the recalled products.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat any of the recalled cheese and dairy products and that restaurants and retailers should not sell or serve them.

Food Safety News

19 Recent Salmonella Cases Linked to MA Restaurant

State and local health department officials are investigating 19 Salmonella cases linked to a restaurant in Holyoke, MA.

Brian Fitzgerald, Holyoke’s health director, told a local TV station that officials were trying to figure out why people were apparently sickened after eating at the Delaney House in Holyoke between Nov. 11 and 15, 2014.

Investigative reports from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health indicate that 19 confirmed Salmonella cases and additional potential cases were traced back to 10 different events held at the Delaney House.

The restaurant has not been shut down, although the state asked local health officials to order the management to comply with several alleged food code violations.

Five food handlers and one non-food handling employee at the restaurant also tested positive for Salmonella. Some of the infected food handlers reportedly worked at events outside of the Delaney House, including the Log Cabin, a take-out restaurant, and various catered events.

Peter Rosskothen, a co-owner of the restaurant, told local media that the management has cooperated with the investigation and that the problem appeared to be limited to the Nov. 11-15 period.

“We feel awful about this, but I know for a fact that no one has been related to us with this issue since Nov. 15th. I feel really comfortable that whatever came to us left us even before the investigation started,” Rosskothen said. He added that no new cases had been reported since the investigation began.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. It is usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces or by eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or egg products.

Food Safety News

‘Green Revolution’ changes breathing of the biosphere: Stronger seasonal oscillations in carbon dioxide linked to intensive agriculture

The intense farming practices of the “Green Revolution” are powerful enough to alter Earth’s atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate, boosting the seasonal amplitude in atmospheric carbon dioxide to about 15 percent over the past five decades.

That’s the key finding of a new atmospheric model developed by University of Maryland researchers, which estimates that on average, the amplitude of the seasonal oscillation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing at a rate of 0.3 percent every year. A study based on the results of the model, called VEGAS, was published Nov. 20, 2014 in the journal Nature.

“What we are seeing is the effect of the Green Revolution on Earth’s metabolism,” said UMD Atmospheric and Ocean Science Professor Ning Zeng, the lead developer of VEGAS, a terrestrial carbon cycle model that, for the first time, factors in changes in 20th and 21st century farming practices. “Changes in the way we manage the land can literally alter the breathing of the biosphere.”

Scientists have known since the 1950s that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere hit an annual low during late summer and early fall in the Northern Hemisphere, which has a greater continental landmass than the Southern Hemisphere, and therefore has more plant life. The atmosphere’s carbon dioxide level falls in spring and summer as all the hemisphere’s plants reach their maximum growth, taking in carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. In the autumn, when the hemisphere’s plants are decomposing and releasing stored carbon, the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide levels rapidly increase.

In a set of historic observations taken continuously since 1958 at Hawaii’s Mauna Loa Observatory, and later in other places including Barrow, Alaska, researchers have tracked these seasonal peaks and valleys, which clearly show an increase in the atmosphere’s overall level of carbon dioxide, Earth’s main greenhouse gas. Between 1961 and 2010, the seasonal variation has also become more extreme. Carbon dioxide levels are currently about 6 parts per million higher in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter than in summer.

While the forces driving the overall increase in carbon dioxide are well understood, the reasons behind the steepening of the seasonal carbon dioxide cycle are harder to pin down. Because plants breathe in carbon dioxide, higher atmospheric levels of the gas can stimulate plant growth, and this so-called “carbon dioxide fertilization effect” probably plays a role. Climate scientists also point to the warming in the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes that makes plants grow better in cold regions as an important factor. But even taken together, those factors cannot fully account for the trend and spatial patterns toward increasing seasonal change, said Zeng.

Zeng points out that between 1961 and 2010, the amount of land planted with major crops grew by 20 percent, but crop production tripled. The combination of factors known as the Green Revolution–improved irrigation, increased use of manufactured fertilizer, and higher-yield strains of corn, wheat, rice and other crops–must have led not only to increased crop productivity, but also to increases in plants’ seasonal growth and decay and the amount of carbon dioxide they release to the atmosphere, he reasoned.

UMD graduate student Fang Zhao and other collaborators worked with Zeng, who developed the first of several versions of the VEGAS model in 2000, to add information on worldwide crop production. The researchers combined country-by-country statistics collected yearly by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) with climate data and observations of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from several sites. To ensure that their results did not overstate the Green Revolution’s effect, the researchers ran their model using an estimate of worldwide crop production slightly lower than the FAO statistics.

Once the Green Revolution was factored in, VEGAS’ results generally tracked the actual carbon dioxide peaks and valleys recorded at Mauna Loa. Between 1975 and 1985, carbon dioxide levels rose faster at Mauna Loa than they did in the model, but this could be due to regional weather patterns, Zeng said.

Other atmospheric models factor in changes in land use, from natural vegetation to cropland, Zeng said, but the VEGAS results described in Nature are the first to track the effect of changes in the intensity of farming methods. There are still many unknowns. For example, the Green Revolution has not affected all parts of the world equally, and there isn’t enough detailed information about changing farming practices over the past 50 years to build those detailed variations into the model.

“We dealt with the unknowns by keeping it simple,” said Zeng. “My education was mostly in physics, and physicists are brave about making the simplifying assumptions you have to make to reach a general understanding of some important force. Our goal was simply to represent the intensification of agriculture in a model of the carbon cycle, and we have accomplished that.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Maryland. The original article was written by Heather Dewar. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Ongoing Multistate Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Sprouts

At least 63 people  in 10 states have been sickened in a multistate Salmonella outbreak linked to bean sprouts, reported the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Friday.

Bean sprouts distributed by Wonton Foods, Inc. of Brooklyn, NY have been linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Enteriitdis that has sickened people in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. An estimated 26 percent of victims have been hospitalized, according to CDC’s outbreak report.

The company said in a verbal statement that it was recalling the bean sprouts thought to be tied to the outbreak, according to the CDC outbreak report. The one illness in a person from Montana was likely contracted during a visit to the East Coast.

The first illnesses began September 30, 2014 and the latest reported illness onset to date was November 8, 2014, said CDC. Among 42 persons with available information, 11 (26%) have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

Of the 37 people interviewed by health officials, 29, or 78 percent, reported eating bean sprouts in the week before they fell ill.

Among those interviewed, “Wonton Foods, Inc. was the only supplier common to all of the restaurants and was the sole supplier of bean sprouts to at least two of the restaurants,” reported CDC.

The firm said its last bean sprout shipment was Nov. 18. On Nov. 21 after being notified of the outbreak, the firm stopped production and sale of its bean sprouts and is taking steps to prevent further Salmonella contamination.

 

Food Safety News

Recalled Bean Sprouts Linked to 2 Listeria Deaths, 3 Hospitalizations

Two people have died and three others have been hospitalized after eating Listeria-contaminated bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products of Chicago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The victims became ill between June and August 2014, but this is the first announcement of the outbreak. It was detected retroactively using whole-genome sequencing, a new technology for detecting outbreaks which utilizes DNA sequencing of bacteria.

Whole Soy Products recalled its mung bean sprout products on August 28 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found contamination of Listeria monocytogenes.

During FDA inspections of the company’s facilities in August, investigators cited the company for 12 instances of unsanitary conditions, and they isolated 25 samples of Listeria contamination during environmental testing.

The company shut down the facility from August 28 to September 15, and the FDA did not find any contamination on products after that date.

Another inspection in October, however, found another nine environmental samples with Listeria contamination and another 12 instances of unsanitary conditions, nine of which were the same problems from the August inspections.

The FDA is working with the company to ensure they don’t produce sprouts until they have adequate assurance that the products are no longer contaminated with Listeria. The Illinois Department of Public Health is also working to embargo all products from the company.

Whole-genome sequencing of infections in all five patients were found to be connected to the Listeria isolated from the production plant. The illnesses included four people from Illinois and one from Michigan.

The CDC, FDA and state health departments are continuing to work on this investigation and will release new information as it becomes available.

Food Safety News

Recalled Bean Sprouts Linked to 2 Listeria Deaths, 3 Hospitalizations

Two people have died and three others have been hospitalized after eating Listeria-contaminated bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products of Chicago, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The victims became ill between June and August 2014, but this is the first announcement of the outbreak. It was detected retroactively using whole-genome sequencing, a new technology for detecting outbreaks which utilizes DNA sequencing of bacteria.

Whole Soy Products recalled its mung bean sprout products on August 28 after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found contamination of Listeria monocytogenes.

During FDA inspections of the company’s facilities in August, investigators cited the company for 12 instances of unsanitary conditions, and they isolated 25 samples of Listeria contamination during environmental testing.

The company shut down the facility from August 28 to September 15, and the FDA did not find any contamination on products after that date.

Another inspection in October, however, found another nine environmental samples with Listeria contamination and another 12 instances of unsanitary conditions, nine of which were the same problems from the August inspections.

The FDA is working with the company to ensure they don’t produce sprouts until they have adequate assurance that the products are no longer contaminated with Listeria. The Illinois Department of Public Health is also working to embargo all products from the company.

Whole-genome sequencing of infections in all five patients were found to be connected to the Listeria isolated from the production plant. The illnesses included four people from Illinois and one from Michigan.

The CDC, FDA and state health departments are continuing to work on this investigation and will release new information as it becomes available.

Food Safety News

Recalled Mexican-Style Dairy Linked to Death, 3 Listeria Illnesses

Mexican-style dairy products manufactured by Oasis Brands, Inc. that were recalled for Listeria contamination earlier this year have now been linked to three cases of Listeria, including one death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The illnesses occurred in September 2013, and June and August of 2014, and spread across New York, Tennessee and Texas. The patient from Tennessee died, and all three patients were hospitalized.

All three ill people were identified as being of Hispanic ethnicity and the two surviving patients reported eating Mexican-style soft cheese, but could not remember the brand.

In August 2014, Oasis Brands recalled a quesito casero product for possible contamination of Listeria. On October 6, the company recalled a cuajada en hoja product for the same reason, and then it recalled a number of other cheese products under the Lacteos Santa Martha brand name 10 days later.

Whole-genome sequencing of product samples from Oasis Brands suggests a possible link between those products and the illnesses. CDC says that the investigation is still ongoing.

Food Safety News

Recalled Mexican-Style Dairy Linked to Death, 3 Listeria Illnesses

Mexican-style dairy products manufactured by Oasis Brands, Inc. that were recalled for Listeria contamination earlier this year have now been linked to three cases of Listeria, including one death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The illnesses occurred in September 2013, and June and August of 2014, and spread across New York, Tennessee and Texas. The patient from Tennessee died, and all three patients were hospitalized.

All three ill people were identified as being of Hispanic ethnicity and the two surviving patients reported eating Mexican-style soft cheese, but could not remember the brand.

In August 2014, Oasis Brands recalled a quesito casero product for possible contamination of Listeria. On October 6, the company recalled a cuajada en hoja product for the same reason, and then it recalled a number of other cheese products under the Lacteos Santa Martha brand name 10 days later.

Whole-genome sequencing of product samples from Oasis Brands suggests a possible link between those products and the illnesses. CDC says that the investigation is still ongoing.

Food Safety News