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Seattle outbreak sparks nationwide public health alert

Overnight, the Seattle Salmonella outbreak traced to pork from Kapowsin Meats broke into a nationwide public health alert about the use and consumption of whole hog roasters prepared for barbeque.

The health alert was issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and specifically concerns concerns about illnesses  caused by Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-.

On July 13, FSIS was notified of the Kapowsin Meats investigation in Seattle. The Washington State Department of Health notified FSIS on July 19 of confirmed case patients involved in an illness outbreak of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i-.

The Good Vibe Tribe Luau July 3 included pork from Kapowsin Meats, which was linked to a five-state Salmonella outbreak in 2015 that sickened 192 and resulted in a recall of more than 115,000 pounds of whole pigs.

The Good Vibe Tribe Luau July 3 included pork from Kapowsin Meats, which was linked to a five-state Salmonella outbreak in 2015 that sickened 192 and resulted in a recall of more than 115,000 pounds of whole pigs.

Working in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Health and local health departments, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FSIS determined that there is a possible link between the roaster hogs for barbeque from Kapowsin Meats and this illness cluster.

Based on epidemiological investigation, three Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- case-patients have been identified with illness onset dates ranging from July 5, 2016 to July 7, 2016. Traceback investigation indicated that three case-patients consumed whole hog roasters for barbeque from Kapowsin Meats. It is not known at this time if this outbreak strain has any drug resistance; results are pending.

This investigation is ongoing. FSIS continues to work with public health partners at the Washington State Department of Health, local health agencies and the CDC on this investigation. Updated information will be provided as it becomes available.

FSIS moved forward with a Public Health Alert because company representatives were not available to participate in a recall committee conference earlier in the day. FSIS is working with the company to identify specific products to be removed from commerce. In the meantime, FSIS recommends the following guidance associated with roasting pigs.

Roasting a pig is a complex undertaking with numerous potential food handling issues. FSIS urges consumers to keep the four food safety steps in mind: Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill.

  • CLEAN: Obtain your pig from a reputable supplier. Have the supplier wrap it in plastic, or a large plastic bag to contain the juices. Keep the pig cold until it is time to cook it. If you can’t keep it under refrigeration or on ice, consider picking it up just before you are ready to cook it.
  • SEPARATE: Anything that comes into contact with whole pig should be washed with hot soapy water afterwards. This includes hands and utensils.
  • COOK: FSIS recommends that all pork products are cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145º F with a three minute rest time. Make sure to check the internal temperature with a food thermometer in numerous places, including near the bone. Check the temperature frequently and replenish wood or coals to make sure the fire stays hot. Remove only enough meat from the carcass as you can serve within 1-2 hours.
  • CHILL: Once the meat is cooked, transfer to clean serving dishes. Pack leftovers in shallow containers and refrigerate within 1-2 hours. It is not necessary to cool before you refrigerate it.

FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume pork and whole hogs for barbeque that have been cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145° F with a three minute rest time. The only way to confirm that whole hogs for barbeque are cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature, http://1.usa.gov/1cDxcDQ.

For whole hogs for barbeque make sure to check the internal temperature with a food thermometer in numerous places, including near the bone. Check the temperature frequently and replenish wood or coals to make sure the fire stays hot. Remove only enough meat from the carcass as you can serve within 1-2 hours.

Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the organism. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days.

Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

Recommendations for Preventing Salmonellosis:

Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling raw meat and poultry. Also wash cutting boards, dishes and utensils with hot soapy water. Clean up spills right away.

Keep raw meat, fish and poultry away from other food that will not be cooked. Use one cutting board for raw meat, poultry and egg products and a separate one for fresh produce and cooked foods.

Cook raw meat and poultry to safe internal temperatures before eating. The safe internal for groundmeat is 160º F, and 165º F for poultry, as determined with a food thermometer.

Refrigerate raw meat and poultry within two hours after purchase (one hour if temperatures exceed 90º F). Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking.

Food Safety News

Second restaurant worker confirmed in Hep A outbreak

An employee of a Taco Bell on Oahu has been confirmed as the second foodservice worker included among the 52 victims of a Hepatitis A outbreak that Hawaii’s health officials expect to grow.

Map of Oahu

As of July 15, employees of two restaurants in central Oahu (rough area outlined in green) were confirmed as being among the victims of a Hepatitis A outbreak.

The Taco Bell restaurant in Waipio at 94-790 Ukee St. where the infected employee works is less than a mile and a half from the Baskin-Robbins ice cream store at the Waikele Outlet Center. An employee at the Baskin-Robbins was announced last week as the first confirmed foodservice worker case in the outbreak that is believed to have begun June 16.

“It is important to note that neither the Waikele Baskin-Robbins nor the Waipio Taco Bell have been identified as the source of infection for this outbreak,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park in a news release.

“These are merely places where the victims were employed. The likelihood that patrons of these food establishments will become infected is very low, but to prevent possible additional cases, we are notifying the public so they may seek advice and help from their healthcare providers.

“Additional food service establishments may be affected as the number of cases continues to grow. Individuals, including food service employees, exhibiting symptoms of Hepatitis A should stay home and contact their healthcare provider.”

The health department is advising people who consumed any food or beverages at the Taco Bell recently that they may have been exposed to Hepatitis A and should therefore ask their doctors if they should consider receiving a shot of vaccine or immune globulin. The specific dates in question for Taco Bell customers are June 16, 17, 20, 21, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, and July 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 11.

“Unvaccinated individuals should contact their healthcare providers about the possibility of receiving hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin, which may provide some protection against the disease if administered within the first two weeks after exposure,” according to the health department, which issued a similar notice last week after the Baskin-Robbins employee was confirmed as part of the outbreak.

Possible exposure dates for customers of the Baskin-Robbins store are June 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 27, 30, and July 1 and 3.

Updated numbers on confirmed cases are scheduled to be posted Wednesday, following weekly on Wednesdays until further notice, a spokeswoman at the state’s health department said Monday morning.

When the health department announced the outbreak on July 1, there were 12 cases, with six having required hospitalization. As of last week’s update, there were 52 confirmed cases. All confirmed cases are on Oahu and involve adults. Sixteen have had symptoms so severe that they required hospitalization.

“Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea and yellow skin and eyes, and typically last several weeks to as long as two months,” according to the health department.

“Treatment of Hepatitis A is supportive, and most people will recover without complications. While vaccination provides the best protection, frequent hand washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper and before preparing food can help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A. Appropriately cooking foods can also help prevent infection.”

For a list of vaccinating pharmacies, call the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1 or visit http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/files/2013/07/IMM_Adult_Resource_List.pdf.

Additional information about Hepatitis A can be found on the Hawaii Department of Health website.

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Food Safety News

More sick, 20 hospitalized in Chicago E. coli outbreak

The number of people sickened in an E. coli outbreak traced to a suburban Chicago restaurant continues to increase, with 65 now confirmed. Twenty of the victims’ symptoms were so severe they were admitted to hospitals.

Public health officials have not yet determined the root cause of the outbreak, which was traced to the Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill location on 26th Street in the suburb of Bridgeport. The restaurant remains closed, according to Matt Smith, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health.

logo Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill“As part of our comprehensive investigation, we have taken and tested numerous samples from the restaurant and have tested staff,” Smith said Thursday. He did not say whether the department had the test results yet.

It remains unknown when exactly the health department became aware of the outbreak. The department posted a news release about the outbreak July 1, but has not posted an update since then.

The restaurant’s owners voluntarily closed the Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill, according to the July 1 news release. A second Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill on North Marshfield was also voluntarily closed, but the health department cleared it and the owners reopened.

At least two Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill customers who became ill and had to be hospitalized after eating food from the 26th Street location have filed civil lawsuits seeking compensation.

In their lawsuits, the two victims reported eating food from the restaurant on June 22 and June 24, respectively. A third victim who was hospitalized with the outbreak strain of E. coli told Chicago’s CBS News affiliate she ate at the restaurant during the last week of June.

Chicago public health officials continue to urge people to seek immediate medical attention if they ate food from the restaurant and later developed symptoms of E. coli infection.

Generally symptoms develop within five to seven days of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In otherwise healthy adults symptoms usually include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea that is often bloody, and vomiting.

“Some infections are very mild, but others are severe or even life-threatening,” according to the CDC. “Around 5 percent to 10 percent of those who are diagnosed with STEC infection develop a potentially life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

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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

Hepatitis A Outbreak Numbers Rise Again: 127 Sick in 8 States

The Hepatitis A outbreak linked to pomegranate seeds from Turkey continues to grow. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said five more illnesses have been confirmed as part of the outbreak, bringing the total to 127 ill in 8 states.

According to CDC, all of the confirmed victims became ill after eating Townsend Farms Organic Anti-oxidant Blend, a frozen berry blend sold across the country in Costco stores. Harris Teeter also sold the now recalled product, but so far no illnesses have been linked to the retailer.

The updated case count by state is as follows: Arizona (17), California (64), Colorado (25), Hawaii (7), New Mexico (5), Nevada (5), Utah (2), and Wisconsin (2). [Note: The cases reported from Wisconsin resulted from exposure to the product in California.] 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 strain of hepatitis A virus, belonging to genotype 1B, is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East, according to CDC.

Three weeks ago, Townsend Farms Inc. recalled certain lots of the product linked to the outbreak because it has the potential to be contaminated. This week, Scenic Fruit Company recalled certain lots of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels, also thought to be at risk for contamination. Both companies are based in Oregon.

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

Caramel Apple-Linked Listeria Outbreak and Recalls: What You Need to Know

On Dec. 19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to commercially produced and prepackaged caramel apples that has sickened — and hospitalized — at least 29 people in 10 states.

Until further notice, CDC and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are advising consumers not to purchase or eat any commercially produced caramel apples whatsoever. That includes any caramel apples covered in nuts, candy or other toppings.

This outbreak has not been connected to any non-caramel apples. There are no current advisories or warnings against conventional apples.

While the CDC’s initial outbreak announcement did not include a comprehensive list of caramel apple brands implicated in the outbreak, a number of companies and brands have announced recalls or have been tied to the outbreak in the days following the first announcement.

One of the recalled brands, Happy Apple Company, said that one of its apple suppliers, Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, CA, may have supplied apples connected to the outbreak.

Brands that have issued recalls:

In addition, CDC cited two more brands as being associated with the outbreak, but the companies have not issued recalls:

  • Carnival
  • Kitchen Cravings

Illnesses have occurred in the following states:

Arizona (4 illnesses), California (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3)

A California man has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against grocery retailer Safeway, claiming that a contaminated caramel apple sold at a local Safeway store sickened his wife and lead to her death. That man has been retained by foodborne illness law firm Marler Clark, which underwrites Food Safety News.

A number of retailers, including Safeway, have reported removing caramel apple products from store shelves.

Known illnesses began occurring in mid-October and were still appearing in late November. CDC has not declared an end to this outbreak, and it’s possible that more illnesses will be counted in the coming weeks.

The following are CDC graphics showing the geographical and temporal distributions of the outbreak:

Food Safety News

Listeria outbreak prompts caramel apple recall

Two companies have announced recalls for their caramel apples as a result of the current outbreak of Listeriosis. Both companies — California Snack Foods and Happy Apples — cited Bidart Bros. as one of their apple suppliers.

The Center for Disease Control has noted 29 illnesses in 10 states linked to the outbreak, and it has advised consumers not to eat commercially produced, pre-packaged caramel apples until more is known.

“We recently received notice from Bidart Bros., one of our apple suppliers to our California facility, that there may be a connection between this outbreak and the apples that they supplied to that facility,” California Snack Foods said in a press release.

California Snack Foods’ voluntary recall is of “California Snack Foods” brand caramel apples with a best-use-by date between Aug. 15 and Nov. 28. The product was sold in single packs and three packs, and each package will have a best-use-by date on the front of the label. They were available for retail sale through grocery, discount and club stores, generally in the produce section and were distributed to retailers in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas and Utah.

The Happy Apples recall is for product with similar best-use-by dates: Aug. 25-Nov. 23. Happy Apple caramel apples are sold in single pack, three packs, four packs and eight packs, and each package will have a best use by date on the front of the label. They were available for retail sale through grocery, discount and club stores, generally in the produce section and were distributed to retailers in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

According to California Snack foods, the company used the last of the Bidart Bros. apples in the first week of November, and they should no longer be available in stores. Happy Apples ceased its operations at the end of October as part of the company’s normal, seasonal shut down, and the caramel apples produced are no longer available in stores.

“However, out of an abundance of caution and concern for consumer safety, we are recommending that consumers follow the advice of the CDC and remove any caramel apples you may have in storage and dispose of them in a secure container to avoid potential contamination in animals,” each company stated in a press release.

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Pomegranate Kernels Recalled in Connection with Townsend Farms Hep A Outbreak

Scenic Fruit Company, based in Oregon, has voluntarily recalled 5,091 cases (61,092 8-oz. bags) of Woodstock Frozen Organic Pomegranate Kernels due to potential contamination of hepatitis A.

No illnesses have been connected to the Woodstock brand pomegranate kernels, but they were imported from Turkey and may be associated with the imported pomegranate kernels implicated in the ongoing Townsend Farms frozen berry hepatitis A outbreak that has sickened at least 122 people in eight states.

The products are sold in 8-oz. resealable plastic pouches with UPC Cod 0 42563 01628 9. Further coding information is on the back portion of the pouches below the zip-lock seal. The following lots are subject to recall:

  • C 0129 (A,B, or C) 035 with a best by date of 02/04/2015
  • C 0388 (A,B, or C) 087 with a best by date of 03/28/2015
  • C 0490 (A,B, or C) 109 with a best by date of 04/19/2015

The products were shipped between February 2013 through May 2013 to UNFI distribution centers in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington State. UNFI distribution centers may have further distributed products to retail stores in other states.

Symptoms of hepatitis A infection generally appear within 14 to 50 days of exposure and include fatigue, abdominal pain, jaundice and dark urine.

Those who receive a vaccination within two weeks of exposure may prevent illness, and anyone who has already received a hepatitis A vaccination in the past is not at risk of infection.

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

Campylobacter Outbreak in WI Blamed on Raw Milk

A state and local investigation into last September’s Campylobacter jejuni outbreak in Wisconsin ended where it began — at the Durand High School football team dinner, where raw milk from a local farm was served.

After a three-month epidemiological, laboratory and environmental investigation by the Pepin County Health Department and the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, blame for the outbreak was placed on a local farm that supplied milk for the football dinner.

The laboratory and epidemiological investigations by the state and local agencies “determined that consumption of Farm A unpasteurized milk during the Thursday team dinner was associated with the occurrence of Campylobacter jejuni infections among team-affiliated individuals,” states the final, official report on the outbreak.

The report does not identify the farm, but officials were earlier forced to provide it under Wisconsin open records laws to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The newspaper has reported that Farm A is owned by Roland and Diana Reed of the nearby town of Arkansas, just across the Chippewa River about nine miles west of Durand.

The 38 people sickened in association with the outbreak all reported drinking the raw milk, and 71 percent of those only consumed the Reed’s unpasteurized milk, according to the report.

Milk from the Reed’s bulk tank was tested 10 days after the event, and at that time it was negative for Campylobacter and Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, but the report stated that those Sept. 24 samples were “not representative of milk that was served during the team dinner.”

The investigation said bovine manure samples were a better method of detecting bacteria that were present in the milk at the time of the outbreak. From the nine manure samples taken, the outbreak-associated PFGE pattern was identified.

Campylobacter infections commonly occur from eating and drinking contaminated food and water, including unpasteurized milk from infected cows, according to the report. It affects the intestinal tract and is often a cause of bacterial diarrheal illness. Common signs and symptoms of Campylobacter infection include diarrhea (often bloody), cramping, abdominal pain and fever, and, in rare instances, the infections are severe and the bacteria can be isolated from the bloodstream.

The investigation also found that some illnesses among a small number of female volleyball team members, reported from Sept. 18-28, were not related to those who attended the football dinner. The illnesses the girl’s volleyball team experienced at about the same time as the football potluck did not involve diarrheal symptoms.

During the same period, health officials also had to chase down a Pepin County “presumptively positive” case of Bacillus, also known as anthrax. However, it turned out to be another case of Campylobacter.

About 50 people attended the Sept. 18 football dinner, which was held off-campus. It was a potluck-style event, which, in addition to raw milk, is said to have offered a variety of other drinks, including Kool-Aid.

Those who were sickened by Campylobacter ranged in age from 14 to 49 and included 33 students and five coaches. Sixteen of the 38 went to doctors, and 10 were hospitalized. Temperatures as high as 105 degrees F, diarrhea, chills and sweats were the most commonly reported symptoms.

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

Whole-Genome Technology Solving More Outbreak Investigations

A common disclaimer supplied by public health officials while in the midst of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation goes something like this: “We’re doing our best to find the food source of the outbreak, but it’s important to remember that the majority of outbreaks are never traced back to a source.”

In other words, most outbreaks go unsolved because it’s just too difficult to pinpoint a food source given the constraints of technology and resources. While that may still be the case, more public health agencies are beginning to adopt technology that will help close the gap between the number of solved and unsolved outbreaks.

That technology is whole-genome sequencing (WGS), a method of identifying organisms such as bacteria and other pathogens by analyzing their entire DNA sequence. By comparison, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the decades-old industry-standard epidemiological technology, looks at less than 1 percent of a pathogen’s genome.

The superior accuracy of WGS allows for much greater certainty when trying to solve relatively small outbreaks, or, even better, outbreaks that have already come and gone.

In recent months, three high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks — which included at least three deaths — have been solved retroactively, thanks to WGS.

In August 2014, the technology was credited with determining the food source of an outbreak that killed two people and hospitalized another three.

Routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes on a sample of bean sprouts from Wholesome Soy Products Inc.. Through WGS, that sample was connected back to five samples from sickened individuals in Illinois and Michigan, two of whom had died from their illness.

Until WGS technology came on the scene, such outbreaks would have likely gone undetected, said Martin Wiedmann, Ph.D., professor of food science at Cornell University.

With WGS, health investigators are able to identify the exact organism causing illnesses down to its complete DNA sequence. PFGE, by comparison, allows for more uncertainty because it can’t identify the organism with nearly as much precision.

Wiedmann uses an analogy of a dog-bite investigation when illustrating the precision of WGS compared to other technologies.

“It’s like if three people were separately bitten by a German Shepherd, and they decided, ‘OK, it’s probably the same dog that bit each person’ — that’s like using PFGE,” he said. “But with whole-genome sequencing, it would be like getting blood samples from the victims and analyzing the DNA to see if they all match the same dog.”

Also in August 2014, Oasis Brands Inc., recalled several cheese and dairy products due to Listeria contamination after routine FDA testing found contamination. In that outbreak, WGS retroactively connected one death and four illnesses to the products in Georgia, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

WGS also connected six Salmonella illnesses to nut butter produced by nSpired Natural Foods Inc. from between January and May 2014.

The truth is that, over time, food processors will know that if a pathogen is found in their facility, the genome will be sequenced and checked against a database to look for connected illnesses, Wiedmann said.

Ultimately, he said, that knowledge will be a good thing for both food producers and consumers.

“It’s more important than ever that producers have stringent sampling plans in place to make sure organisms are there and taking care of them,” Wiedmann said. “Many of them are already doing this. We’re starting to see processors improve their sampling game and preventing more outbreaks.”

Food Safety News

Whole-Genome Technology Solving More Outbreak Investigations

A common disclaimer supplied by public health officials while in the midst of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation goes something like this: “We’re doing our best to find the food source of the outbreak, but it’s important to remember that the majority of outbreaks are never traced back to a source.”

In other words, most outbreaks go unsolved because it’s just too difficult to pinpoint a food source given the constraints of technology and resources. While that may still be the case, more public health agencies are beginning to adopt technology that will help close the gap between the number of solved and unsolved outbreaks.

That technology is whole-genome sequencing (WGS), a method of identifying organisms such as bacteria and other pathogens by analyzing their entire DNA sequence. By comparison, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the decades-old industry-standard epidemiological technology, looks at less than 1 percent of a pathogen’s genome.

The superior accuracy of WGS allows for much greater certainty when trying to solve relatively small outbreaks, or, even better, outbreaks that have already come and gone.

In recent months, three high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks — which included at least three deaths — have been solved retroactively, thanks to WGS.

In August 2014, the technology was credited with determining the food source of an outbreak that killed two people and hospitalized another three.

Routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes on a sample of bean sprouts from Wholesome Soy Products Inc.. Through WGS, that sample was connected back to five samples from sickened individuals in Illinois and Michigan, two of whom had died from their illness.

Until WGS technology came on the scene, such outbreaks would have likely gone undetected, said Martin Wiedmann, Ph.D., professor of food science at Cornell University.

With WGS, health investigators are able to identify the exact organism causing illnesses down to its complete DNA sequence. PFGE, by comparison, allows for more uncertainty because it can’t identify the organism with nearly as much precision.

Wiedmann uses an analogy of a dog-bite investigation when illustrating the precision of WGS compared to other technologies.

“It’s like if three people were separately bitten by a German Shepherd, and they decided, ‘OK, it’s probably the same dog that bit each person’ — that’s like using PFGE,” he said. “But with whole-genome sequencing, it would be like getting blood samples from the victims and analyzing the DNA to see if they all match the same dog.”

Also in August 2014, Oasis Brands Inc., recalled several cheese and dairy products due to Listeria contamination after routine FDA testing found contamination. In that outbreak, WGS retroactively connected one death and four illnesses to the products in Georgia, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

WGS also connected six Salmonella illnesses to nut butter produced by nSpired Natural Foods Inc. from between January and May 2014.

The truth is that, over time, food processors will know that if a pathogen is found in their facility, the genome will be sequenced and checked against a database to look for connected illnesses, Wiedmann said.

Ultimately, he said, that knowledge will be a good thing for both food producers and consumers.

“It’s more important than ever that producers have stringent sampling plans in place to make sure organisms are there and taking care of them,” Wiedmann said. “Many of them are already doing this. We’re starting to see processors improve their sampling game and preventing more outbreaks.”

Food Safety News

Whole-Genome Technology Solving More Outbreak Investigations

A common disclaimer supplied by public health officials while in the midst of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation goes something like this: “We’re doing our best to find the food source of the outbreak, but it’s important to remember that the majority of outbreaks are never traced back to a source.”

In other words, most outbreaks go unsolved because it’s just too difficult to pinpoint a food source given the constraints of technology and resources. While that may still be the case, more public health agencies are beginning to adopt technology that will help close the gap between the number of solved and unsolved outbreaks.

That technology is whole-genome sequencing (WGS), a method of identifying organisms such as bacteria and other pathogens by analyzing their entire DNA sequence. By comparison, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the decades-old industry-standard epidemiological technology, looks at less than 1 percent of a pathogen’s genome.

The superior accuracy of WGS allows for much greater certainty when trying to solve relatively small outbreaks, or, even better, outbreaks that have already come and gone.

In recent months, three high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks — which included at least three deaths — have been solved retroactively, thanks to WGS.

In August 2014, the technology was credited with determining the food source of an outbreak that killed two people and hospitalized another three.

Routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes on a sample of bean sprouts from Wholesome Soy Products Inc.. Through WGS, that sample was connected back to five samples from sickened individuals in Illinois and Michigan, two of whom had died from their illness.

Until WGS technology came on the scene, such outbreaks would have likely gone undetected, said Martin Wiedmann, Ph.D., professor of food science at Cornell University.

With WGS, health investigators are able to identify the exact organism causing illnesses down to its complete DNA sequence. PFGE, by comparison, allows for more uncertainty because it can’t identify the organism with nearly as much precision.

Wiedmann uses an analogy of a dog-bite investigation when illustrating the precision of WGS compared to other technologies.

“It’s like if three people were separately bitten by a German Shepherd, and they decided, ‘OK, it’s probably the same dog that bit each person’ — that’s like using PFGE,” he said. “But with whole-genome sequencing, it would be like getting blood samples from the victims and analyzing the DNA to see if they all match the same dog.”

Also in August 2014, Oasis Brands Inc., recalled several cheese and dairy products due to Listeria contamination after routine FDA testing found contamination. In that outbreak, WGS retroactively connected one death and four illnesses to the products in Georgia, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

WGS also connected six Salmonella illnesses to nut butter produced by nSpired Natural Foods Inc. from between January and May 2014.

The truth is that, over time, food processors will know that if a pathogen is found in their facility, the genome will be sequenced and checked against a database to look for connected illnesses, Wiedmann said.

Ultimately, he said, that knowledge will be a good thing for both food producers and consumers.

“It’s more important than ever that producers have stringent sampling plans in place to make sure organisms are there and taking care of them,” Wiedmann said. “Many of them are already doing this. We’re starting to see processors improve their sampling game and preventing more outbreaks.”

Food Safety News

Whole-Genome Technology Solving More Outbreak Investigations

A common disclaimer supplied by public health officials while in the midst of a foodborne illness outbreak investigation goes something like this: “We’re doing our best to find the food source of the outbreak, but it’s important to remember that the majority of outbreaks are never traced back to a source.”

In other words, most outbreaks go unsolved because it’s just too difficult to pinpoint a food source given the constraints of technology and resources. While that may still be the case, more public health agencies are beginning to adopt technology that will help close the gap between the number of solved and unsolved outbreaks.

That technology is whole-genome sequencing (WGS), a method of identifying organisms such as bacteria and other pathogens by analyzing their entire DNA sequence. By comparison, pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), the decades-old industry-standard epidemiological technology, looks at less than 1 percent of a pathogen’s genome.

The superior accuracy of WGS allows for much greater certainty when trying to solve relatively small outbreaks, or, even better, outbreaks that have already come and gone.

In recent months, three high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks — which included at least three deaths — have been solved retroactively, thanks to WGS.

In August 2014, the technology was credited with determining the food source of an outbreak that killed two people and hospitalized another three.

Routine testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration found the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes on a sample of bean sprouts from Wholesome Soy Products Inc.. Through WGS, that sample was connected back to five samples from sickened individuals in Illinois and Michigan, two of whom had died from their illness.

Until WGS technology came on the scene, such outbreaks would have likely gone undetected, said Martin Wiedmann, Ph.D., professor of food science at Cornell University.

With WGS, health investigators are able to identify the exact organism causing illnesses down to its complete DNA sequence. PFGE, by comparison, allows for more uncertainty because it can’t identify the organism with nearly as much precision.

Wiedmann uses an analogy of a dog-bite investigation when illustrating the precision of WGS compared to other technologies.

“It’s like if three people were separately bitten by a German Shepherd, and they decided, ‘OK, it’s probably the same dog that bit each person’ — that’s like using PFGE,” he said. “But with whole-genome sequencing, it would be like getting blood samples from the victims and analyzing the DNA to see if they all match the same dog.”

Also in August 2014, Oasis Brands Inc., recalled several cheese and dairy products due to Listeria contamination after routine FDA testing found contamination. In that outbreak, WGS retroactively connected one death and four illnesses to the products in Georgia, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

WGS also connected six Salmonella illnesses to nut butter produced by nSpired Natural Foods Inc. from between January and May 2014.

The truth is that, over time, food processors will know that if a pathogen is found in their facility, the genome will be sequenced and checked against a database to look for connected illnesses, Wiedmann said.

Ultimately, he said, that knowledge will be a good thing for both food producers and consumers.

“It’s more important than ever that producers have stringent sampling plans in place to make sure organisms are there and taking care of them,” Wiedmann said. “Many of them are already doing this. We’re starting to see processors improve their sampling game and preventing more outbreaks.”

Food Safety News