Tag Archive: Fresh Cheese.’

Food Safety


Washington State Warns of Increased Bacteria in Raw Oysters

Right on the heels of a Vibrio outbreak in Missouri, the Washington state Department of Health is warning consumers to cook oysters before eating them. Traditionally, raw oysters are avoided in the summer months (months without an “R” in the name) because Vibrio parahaemolyticus grows more readily in brackish water during the warm summer months.

Jerrod Davis, director of the Department of Health’s Office of Shellfish and Water Protection, said in a statement, “Vibriosis is completely preventable. We want people to enjoy our state’s wonderful shellfish, and following some simple safety tips can help keep people healthy this summer.”

Most people cook shellfish, such as oysters, mussels, and clams, until the shells open. But that’s not enough to kill any bacteria that may be present. Shellfish should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F for at least 15 seconds to be safe.

If you boil shellfish, cook for 3 to 5 minutes after the shells open, then check the internal temperature with a food thermometer. If you choose to steam shellfish, cook for 4 to 9 minutes after the shells open. Check with that thermometer again.


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Outbreak of Vibrio in Missouri

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has announced there is an outbreak of Vibriosis in eastern Missouri. The illnesses are caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus, which is usually associated with eating raw or undercooked shellfish, particularly oysters.

Three cases of the illnesses have been identified June 27 and 28, 2012. Risk factors for acquiring this disease include eating raw or undercooked oysters, clams, mussels, or crabs; or cross-contamination of other foods or surfaces with raw seafood. The bacteria lives in brackish water and grows easily in warm water during the summer months.


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Wildfires and Food Safety

The western United States is suffering through some horrific wildfires. In Colorado alone, more than 350 homes have been burned to the ground and wildfires are still raging. Food safety in times like these might not seem important.

But wildfires can make the food in your home dangerous to eat, according to the USDA. Smoke fumes, the heat of the fire, and chemicals used to fight fire can be toxic.

Heat from the fire can:

  • Activate bacteria that cause foodborne illness
  • Rupture the seals in cans and jars, exposing the food to bacteria

Fumes from a fire can:

  • Create toxic fumes that contaminate food
  • Contaminate any food stored in permeable packaging
  • Contaminate any raw foods stored outside the refrigerator
  • Actually get into the refrigerator and contaminate food, since the refrigerator seal isn’t airtight

Chemicals used to fight fires can:

  • Contaminate food and cookware
  • Create toxins that can’t be washed off the food

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USDA Expanding Testing for Illegal Drug Residues in Meat

On July 2, 2012, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced some new steps to protect the food supply. Later this summer, FSIS will launch a new approach for testing for harmful levels of chemical residues in meat, poultry, and egg products. This is part of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said, “the new testing methods being announced today will help protect consumers from illegal drug residues in meat products. By allowing us to test for more chemical compounds from each sample, these changes will enable USDA to identify and evaluate illegal drug residues more effectively and efficiently.

The National Residue Program (NRP) tests for chemical compounds, including:

  • Approved and unapproved veterinary drugs such as:
    • Growth promoters
    • Anti-inflammatories
    • Antibiotics
  • Pesticides
  • Hormones
  • Environmental contaminants such as heavy metals


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Rep. Louise Slaughter Reveals Results of Meat Antibiotic Survey

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) released findings from her survey of 60 fast food chains, meat processors, grocery store chains, and meat producers asking them about their policies on antibiotic use in meat and poultry production.

Here are the key findings from the survey:

  • Some companies are providing exclusively antibiotic-free meat and poultry products, including Whole Foods, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Niman Ranch, and Sweetgreen. The companies also offer a high degree of transparency regarding the food production practices they support.
  • Most companies, in fact, the “overwhelming majority” according to the report, regularly use antibiotics in food animals as preventative measures (sub-therapeutic doses), and to promote growth. Those are the two uses of antibiotics in farm animals most criticized by scientists and researchers as promoting the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  • The law, as written, fails to address the threat of superbugs.

Rep. Slaughter said that only 31 companies responded directly to her query. She divided the companies she queried into several categories: full disclosure, some questions answered, and minimal disclosure. She also rated them by these categories: antibiotic-free only, moderate antibiotic use, and routine antibiotic use. You can see the survey results at her web site.

According to the survey, these are the companies that follow an antibiotic-free policy, have transparent policies, and offer antibiotic-free options to their customers:


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More Salmonella Cases Linked to Tiny Turtles

CDC reporting 149 illnesses in 28 states

Tiny-turtle-body.jpgInvestigations into five ongoing Salmonella outbreaks – all linked to contact with small turtles – have revealed 19 more cases and a sixth outbreak from another strain of the bacteria.

Health officials now report that Salmonella Poona, Strain B, caused 6 illnesses in 3 states between April 1 and May 26, 2012. Those states include Arizona (1), Pennsylvania (4) and Texas (1).
This cluster of illnesses has been added to five others that were identified in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s last update on turtle-related outbreaks, published on May 10. The earliest illnesses linked to tiny turtles were identified in June of 2011; the latest have occurred as recently as June of 2012. The other outbreaks include:
Salmonella Sandiego, Strain A 

A total of 62 people have been sickened by Salmonella Sandiego, up from a count of 55 reported in May. One of the new cases was came from a different strain – Salmonella Newport, Strain A – but is still thought to be connected to this outbreak.
The 7 new cases include three from California, one from New Mexico, one from Nevada, and two from Texas.
The up-to-date case count by state is as follows: California (10), Georgia (1), Illinois (1), Massachusetts (2), Maryland (5), Minnesota (1), North Carolina (1), New Jersey (6), New Mexico (4), Nevada (1), New York (19), Pennsylvania (7), South Carolina (1), Texas (1) and Virginia (1).
Ten of these victims were hospitalized.
Patients range in age from less than one to 86, with a median age of 8. Sixty-one percent of them are female.
Salmonella, Strain A was identified in water from a turtle tank in the home of a person infected with Salmonella Sandiego, Strain A.
Salmonella Pomona, Strain A

A total of 11 people in 8 states have been infected with this strain. Two new cases have been reported since CDC’s May update, one in New York and one in Pennsylvania. The number of people identified in each state is as follows: California (2), Massachusetts (1), Maryland (1), New Jersey (1), New York (2), Pennsylvania (2), Texas (1) and Vermont (1).
Three of these victims have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
Ill persons range from less than one to 90 years old, with a median age of 16. Seventy-three percent are female.

Salmonella Poona, Strain A

A total of 17 people in 9 states have been infected with Salmonella Poona. Two new cases were reported, one in Tennessee and one in Texas, bringing the case count, by state, to the following: Alabama (1), Arizona (2), Califonia (3), Indiana (1), Kentucky (1), Michigan (1), New York (3), Tennessee (1) and Texas (4).
Four of the victims were hospitalized.
Patients range in age from less than one to 70; the median age is three. Sixty-nine percent of patients are female.
In May of 2012, two water samples taken from the home of an infected person tested positive for Salmonella Poona, Strain A.
Salmonella Sandiego, Strain B

No new illnesses have been reported in this outbreak. The case count remains steady at 6. Victims are from 3 states, including Colorado (3), Nevada (2) and Texas (1).
In May of 2012, samples of turtle tank water from the homes of two infected individuals tested positive for Salmonella Sandiego, Strain B.
Salmonella Pomona, Strain B
Salmonella Pomona, Strain B has infected 47 individuals from 18 states. The 8 new cases are from Alabama (1), Arizona (1), California (2), Nevada (1), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (1) and Texas (1).
The total number of cases by state is as follows: Alaska (2), Alabama (1), Arizona (2), California (11), Colorado (2), Delaware (3), Georgia (2), Michigan (1), Nevada (3), New York (1), Ohio (2), Oregon (1), Pennsylvania (1), South Carolina (3), Tennessee (1), Texas (8), Virginia (2) and West Virginia (1).
Patients range in age from less than one to 86, with a median age of two. Forty-nine percent of these victims are female. Out of 30 people with available information, 9 report being hospitalized.

Botulism Outbreak in Oregon Sickens Three

PreservesBody.jpgThree Oregonians were hospitalized with boutlism after eating at a private barbecue, according to state health officials.

The Clostridium botulinum bacteria that infected these individuals is thought to have come from home-canned foods served at the event, held in Deschutes County. All three victims were residents of the county, located in central Oregon.
The Deschutes County Health Department says the incident was isolated and that all barbeque attendees had been notified. Botulism cannot be spread from person to person, so “there is no risk to the general public as a result of these cases,” said the health department in a press release Monday.
However, the public should see this outbreak as an example of the dangers of improper home canning, warns the agency.

Sick Subway Employees Worked During Norovirus Outbreak

SubwayEatNorovirusBody.jpgEmployees at an Indiana Subway restaurant went to work in January despite being sick with Norovirus, according to a health department investigation.

During a Norovirus outbreak in Blackford County that sickened 90 residents from January 5 through January 8 of this year, workers at a Hartford City Subway continued to report to their jobs despite displaying symptoms of Norovirus infection, including nausea, diarrhea and vomiting.
The fact that sick Subway workers had served customers during the outbreak was noted by the Blackford County Health Department in a report dated February 7, but this information was not revealed until Tuesday when the Muncie Star Press obtained a copy of the document, which concluded that “Subway was a contributing factor to the spread of Norovirus in Blackford County.”
Of the 90 known outbreak victims, 74 were questioned for this investigation. Of these people, 72 reported having eaten at Subway before becoming ill. Subway restaurant was the only common food source identified. Stool samples from 6 employees and 5 customers at the Subway location tested positive for Norovirus.



Dole Lettuce Recalled for Contamination

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that Dole Fresh Vegetables is voluntarily recalling 2,598 cases of bagged salad for potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.  The bagged Romaine salad subject to recall was distributed in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.


Dole Hearts of Romaine coded 0540N165112A or B, with a use-by date of June 26 and UPC 7143000956 with a product code and use-by date in the upper right-hand corner of the package and a UPC code on the back of the package are all subject to recall.
No illnesses have been reported in association with the recall. A sample of Dole Hearts of Romaine salad yielded a positive result for Listeria monocytogenes in a random sample test conducted by the FDA.

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Pedigree Brand Wet Dog Food Recalled

Mars Petcare US is voluntarily recalling a limited range of three varieties of PEDIGREE® weight management canned dog food products for a possible choking risk. The product may be contaminated with small pieces of blue plastic, which got into the food during production.

Product details:

  • PEDIGREE +® Health Weight Premium Ground Entrée in Meaty Juices
    • UPC number 2310034974
  • PEDIGREE® Weight Management Meaty Ground Dinner Beef & Liver Dinner in Meaty Juices
    • UPC number 2310001913
  • PEDIGREE® Weight Management Meaty Ground Dinner Chicken & Rice Dinner in Meaty Juices
    • UPC number 2310023045


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Updated Info on Listeria-Contaminated Queso Fresco in New York City

quesowarning-featured.jpgNew Yorkers have been warned to avoid “Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese” products made by Mexicali Cheese Corp. in Woodhaven, New York due to a possible Listeria contamination.

The product is packaged in a “rigid” 14 oz. plastic tub that displays a plant number of 36-0128 and a code of 071512.
The product was packaged in containers bearing the following names:
‘Mexicali Queso Fresco Medicano, Mexican Style Fresh Cheese,’
‘Acatlan Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese’,
‘Mi Quesito Mexicano, Mexican Cheese’,
‘Quesillo Ecuatoriano, Ecuadorian Style Cheese’

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Aloha Maid Coconut Water with Pineapple Recalled

ITO EN USA is requesting that Hawaiian customers of its canned coconut water with pineapple return the product to stores for a refund. The product has an “off smell” and should not be consumed. The recall notice did not state the reason for the odor.

Product details:

  • Aloha Maid Coconut Water with Pineapple
  • Any product purchased since May 16, 2012
  • Can is stamped on underside with codes
  • Code IHMAY0913
  • UPC number 8-35146-00818-3

There have not been any reports of serious illness from the consumption of this product. ITO EN is researching the cause of the problem.




Listeria Contamination Prompts Expanded Recall Of Mexicali Cheese

Problems persist at Mexicali Cheese Corp. where Listeria contamination has prompted an expanded recall of cheese products, according to the New York State Department  of Agriculture (NYDA).

On July 2, the NYDA announced an expansion of a recall that was issued June 29 after  Listeria monocytogenes was discovered in cheese samples taken during routine inspection. There are now four cheeses under recall for possible Listeria contamination:

  • Mexicali Queso Fresco Mexicano, Mexican Style Fresh Cheese;
  • Acatlan Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese;
  • Mi Quesito Mexicano, Mexican Cheese; and
  • Quesillo Ecuatoriano, Ecuadorian Style Cheese.

Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections. Pregnant women are among those who are most susceptible, although they may only experience flu-like symptoms, Listeria can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects in newborns of mothers who were ill. Others at high risk are young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.

Symptoms of Listeria infection, called listeriosis, include high fever, severe headaches, muscle stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Anyone who has eaten this cheese and develops these symptoms should contact a health care provider. So far, no illnesses have been reported with this recall.

Mexicali Cheese has been plagued with food safety problems since 2010, as Food Poisoning Bulletin has previously reported. As recently as May 1, 2012, the company was ordered by a consent decree signed by Judge John Gleeson in the Eastern District of New York to stop “receiving, preparing, processing, packing, holding or distributing any articles of food until it has completed FDA-approved measures to correct deficiencies, decontaminate their facility and comply with the law. The company must also hire an outside sanitation expert to ensure that the company’s food processing procedures are safe. The firm may not resume operations until it receives FDA’s permission.”


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Recall of LabDiet and Mazuri Animal Feed Products

PMI Nutrition International is recalling four types of LabDiet® and Mazuri® animal feed products listed below because they may contain elevated vitamin D levels, which can be harmful to animals.

Product details:

  • Guinea Pig Diet 50#
    • Item number 0001330
    • Lot number APR17122
    • Formula number 5025
  • Mazuri® Small Bird Maintenance 25#
    • Item number 0001452
    • Lot number APR15123
    • Formula number 56A6
  • Mazuri® Primate Maintenance Biscuit 25#
    • Item number 0040996
    • Lot number APR22122
    • Formula number 5MA2
  • Mazuri® Maned Wolf Diet 33#
    • Lot number APR21122
    • Item number 0011482
    • Formula number 5MD9

The lot numbers are formatted as follows: APR = month; 17 = Day of Month; 12 = Year; 2 = Plant code. The recall was initated after customer complaints, which included animal illness and some small bird deaths. You can see all of the product labels at the FDA site.

If you have purchased this product, you can get a refund. For more information on the recall call Customer Service at 1-855-863-0421 extension 224 Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm EDT.



Fruiti Pops Recalled for Undeclared Eggs

Fruiti Pops Inc. is recalling 178 dozen Fruiti Pops because they may contain egg yolk, one of the major food allergens, that is not declared on the label.

Product details:

  • Fruit Pops Classic Coconut Frozen Dessert
  • 4 ounce size
  • Distributed in Southern California
  • Sold by push cart vendors and ice cream wtrucks
  • Distributed between June 25, 2012 and June 28, 2012
  • Clear polypropylene packaging
  • Not labeled with lot numbers or expiration dates
  • UPC number is 763734 000011 on the back of the wrapper

No illnesses have been reported to date in association with the consumption of this product. No other flavors of Fruiti Pops or any other Fruiti Pops products are affected by this recall. If you have purchased this product and are allergic to, or sensitive to, egg, you may return it to the place of purchase for a refund.

For questions, call the company at 52-404-2568 Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.



Articles of Interest


Industry Voluntarily Withdraws C8 Greaseproofing Agents From Market

The FDA announced today that manufacturers of five greaseproofing agents known as C8 compounds have voluntarily withdrawn them from the marketplace. Those compounds are used as coatings on paper wrappers and containers which come into contact with food. They are found on fast-food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, pizza boxes, and pet food bags and are used to prevent grease from foods from leaking through packaging.

The compounds are perfluorinated grease proofing agents. Perfluorinated compounds (PFC) have had all the hydrogen molecules on a carbon chain replaced by fluorine. One common PFC is perfluorooctanoic acid, which is used to make Teflon.

Scientific studies have shown that C8 compounds persist in the environment and can be toxic to humans over time. Almost every person has traces of perfluorinated chemicals in their bodies. In January, we told you about a study that found PFCs can compromise human immune systems. The FDA initiated a review of the data on C8 compounds last year, and the manufacturers volunteered to stop distributing the compounds on October 1, 2011.

There are still products with C8 in the marketplace, but the FDA says that “these products will be out of the marketplace in a relatively short period of time.” The Agency is going to conduct a market survey of food packaging to make sure that C8 compounds are not used in material that comes in contact with human or animal food.


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Publisher’s Platform: 14 Pathogens cost us $4B to $33B Yearly

An article entitled, “Annual Cost of Illness and Quality-Adjusted Life Year Losses in the United States Due to 14 Foodborne Pathogens,” which appears in this month’s Journal of Food Protection, again points to the personal and societal costs of food that went bad.

money-food-illness350.jpgThe article, written by Sandra Hoffman, Michael Batz and J. Glenn Morris, focuses on 14 of the 31 major foodborne pathogens reported on by Scallan et al. in an issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s publication, Emerging Infectious Diseases, based on the incidence estimates of foodborne illness in the United States.  According to the Scallan paper, these 14 pathogens account for 95% of illnesses and hospitalizations and 98% of deaths due to identifiable pathogens.  Scallan et al., yearly estimates in 2011:  48,000,000 sickened, 125,000 hospitalized and 3,000 deaths.

The pathogens focused on in the Hoffman article were Campylobacter, Clostridium perfringens, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, E. coli O157:H7, STEC non-O157, Listeria, norovirus, Salmonella, Shigella, Toxoplasma, Vibrio, and Yersinia.  The authors estimated that these 14 pathogens cause $14.0 billion (ranging from $4.4 billion to $33.0 billion) in cost of illness.  They also estimate that 90% of this loss is caused by five pathogens: nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica ($3.3 billion), Campylobacter spp. ($1.7 billion), Listeria monocytogenes ($2.6 billion), Toxoplasma gondii ($3 billion), and norovirus ($2 billion).

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European Meat and Poultry Inspection Inadequate, EFSA Says

Europe’s meat and poultry inspection methods don’t do enough to address the threat of foodborne illness and should be modernized, according to The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

ChickenThe EFSA’s scientific opinion, published June 29, is part of a response to European Commission’s May 2010 request that the organization investigate the correlation between meat inspection and public health.

The EFSA was asked to identify and rank the main public health risks associated with the current inspection system and pinpointed Campylobacter, Salmonella, and β-lactamase bacteria as primary targets.

In an analysis of foodborne illness outbreaks among the 27 European Union members, EFSA found that Salmonella and Campylobacter were were often detected in fresh broiler meat. In 2010, 99,020 cases of human Salmonella infection and 212,064 cases of human Campylobacter infection were reported during 2010.


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Lake Superior Beaches Closed for E. coli Contamination

The Minnesota Department of Health has recommended No Contact with the water at several beaches along the shore of Lake Superior. The beaches are monitored on Mondays every week during the summer months.

The DOH announced today that  42nd Avenue East Beach and Brighton Beach in East Duluth both have high levels of E. coli bacteria.

In addition, Minnesota Point 15th Street Harbor Side Beach, Park Point 20th Street/Hearding Island Canal BeachPark Point Sky Harbor Parking Lot Beach, have high levels of bacteria.

That area recently had severe flooding from heavy summer rains, causing millions of dollars worth of damage. Flooding can wash bacteria from sewage systems into lakes, rivers, and streams.

Do not swim in the water at these beaches. People have contracted bacterial infections from swimming in contaminated waters, and several children have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening complication of an E. coli infection.


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FDA Warns Malcore Livestock of Food Safety Violations

Cows in the FieldJohn Malcore Livestock, LLC of Luxemburg, Wisc. has committed a number of food safety violations, according to a June 27 warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. (FDA)

The FDA’s investigation of the livestock operation began after the discovery that, In late December, Malcore Livestock offered an adulterated animal for sale.

“Under section 402(a)(2)(C)(ii) of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. § 342(a)(2)(C)(ii), a food is deemed to be adulterated if it bears or contains a new animal drug that is unsafe under section 512 of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. § 360b. Further, under section 402(a)(4) of the FD&C Act, 21 U.S.C. § 342(a)(4), a food is deemed to be adulterated if it has been held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health,” the letter stated.

The animal cited was found to have drug residue in its tissue exceeding acceptable levels according to an analysis performed by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS).


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Dieting? Artificial Sweeteners May Not Be the Answer

Two studies presented at the June 2012 America Diabetes Association meeting showed that drinking diet pop is associated with weight gain in humans, and with higher blood glucose levels in mice.

Epidemiologists at the School of Medicine at the University of Texas San Antonio looked at the relationship between diet pop consumption and waist circumference. They studied 474 patients over 10 years in the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging (SALSA), which includes elderly Mexican-Americans and European-Americans.

The results of the study were adjusted for diabetes status, physical activity level, neighborhood, age, smoking status, sex, ethnicity, and education. Researchers found that diet soft drink users had a 70% greater increases in waist circumference compared with those who did not consume diet soft drinks. And those who drank two or more diet soft drinks per day had increases 500% larger than non-drinkers.

In the study of blood glucose levels in mice, researchers studied the relationship between aspartame intake and fasting glucose and insulin levels. They looked at 40 diabetes-prone mice. One group was given food with aspartame and corn oil added; the other was given food with just corn oil added.


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Food Safety



Shigella Outbreak in Onondaga County, New York

Dr. Cynthia Morrow, Commissioner of Health for Onondaga County in New York state, announced on June 22, 2012 that there are 15 lab confirmed and 10 probable cases of shigellosis in that county. More cases are expected as the investigation continues.

“Shigellosis is an infectious disease called by a group of bacteria called Shigella,” she explained. “It is associated with consuming water or products contaminated with fecal matter. The incubation period is 1 – 3 days. Many people who are infected with Shigella develop fever, painful bloody or mucous diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Shigellosis usually resolves in 5 – 7 days. The disease is often worse in children and medical treatment is sometimes necessary in severe cases.”


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Shigella Outbreak in Onondaga County, New York Grows

Kathy Mogel, Program Coordinator of the Onondaga County Health Department told Food Poisoning Bulletin that there are 20 confirmed cases of Shigella in that county. There are news reports that there are as many as 34 cases, but we’re reporting what the Health Department tells us.

Ms. Mogel said that the age range of patients is from 2 to 84, with about 50% of the cases occurring in children under the age of 10. The Department believes that person to person transmission, also called secondary transmission, is a “significant factor” in the outbreak.

The Health Department is investigating the original source but has not pinpointed one as of June 27, 2012.


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CA Writes Food Safety Standards for Cantaloupes

California cantaloupes will soon come with the assurance that they meet strict food safety standards, thanks to a mandatory statewide program that includes both announced and unannounced inspections and certification under government oversight.
The plan is for the program to begin this season, which lasts into the fall, but approval of an audit checklist by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is still forthcoming. The goal is to get that done as quickly as possible.
A historic move, this is the state’s first mandatory food safety program implemented by a commodity board. In designing this program – which covers each step of the melon production process from the field to the produce department – the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board collaborated with Western Growers; Trevor Suslow, food safety research specialist at the University of California-Davis Extension; and food safety scientists at Intertox, a risk management firm. The goal was to come up with a program tailored to FDA-approved food safety guidelines for growing, shipping and packing conditions in California.
The board approved the guidelines earlier this month.
A heavy hitter, California provides 70 percent of the cantaloupes sold in this country. During the state’s 5-month season, the industry typically packs and ships around 30 million cartons of cantaloupes. A carton contains 12 to 18 cantaloupes.
These guideline may appear to be a bold, new move on the part of the industry, but Stephen Patricio, chairman and CEO of Westside Produce – a grower, packer and shipper of cantaloupe and honeydew melons – told Food Safety News that this heavy push for food safety is actually a continuation of “business as usual.”
“California’s shippers and handlers have been following food safety standards guidance for the past 20 years,” he said. “It’s part of our culture. We’re proud of our record.”
Patricio says he likes the new program because it has the benefit of setting California cantaloupes apart from cantaloupes from other states and countries.
“We’ve been meeting these standards with no means to distinguish ourselves,” he said. “Now we have the authority to mandate. This will give us government validation for what we’re doing.”
Auditors from the California Department of Food and Agriculture will be working under USDA authority.
Patricio describes the new program as “the right thing to do.”
“We want to be here long-term and to continue providing safe and healthy food for customers, as well as for our families and workers.”
Pointing to the 100 percent thumbs-up of the program by those voting, Patricio described that as “absolutely unprecedented.
The vote also included a thumbs-up to raising assessments from 1.2 cents per carton to 2 cents per carton to help pay for the program.
UC food safety researcher Suslow told Food Safety News that it’s always “a step forward to demonstrate through independent, objective, and standardized audits that an industry sector has the highest level of compliance with a continually evolving framework for food safety — in this case 100 percent.”
He also said that the review process is still ongoing, which means that the specifics of the final marketing order standards are not yet established.
A marketing order is a concerned group of of agricultural professionals or growers who band together to support their commodity and partner with their state’s agriculture department to make sure everything is done correctly. As such, it is a quasi state authority.
Like Patricio, John Gilstrap of Monfort Management, who manages the California Cantaloupe Advisory Board, told Food Safety News that the new program is great news for consumers.
“It will give them peace of mind about California cantaloupes,” he said. “They’ll know that they’ve been grown and handled under the safest conditions possible. It allows us to establish consumer confidence in a product. We hope it will set us apart, if and when a foodborne illness outbreak connected to cantaloupes grown somewhere else happens.”
Another plus, he said, is that “inspectors can shut a place down if they see health problems.”
He also described the program as the “gold standard” for other states, some of which are crafting similar programs.

CSPI Finds Varying Levels of Chemical 4-MI in Coke

Months after Coca-Cola reformulated its soda sold in California to reduce the level of chemical 4-methylimidazole (4-MI or 4-MEI) so that it would not need a carcinogen warning label, the company has not yet tweaked its formulation for other states and countries, new test results show.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest found that Coca-Cola sold abroad contains varying levels of the chemical, which is found in the caramel coloring used to make cola dark brown. The compound has shown to be carcinogenic in some animal studies and CSPI has petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ban 4-MI from food products.

Coca-Cola from Brazil was found to contain 267 micrograms (mcg) of the carcinogen in a 12 ounce can. The same product from Kenya had 177 mcg per 12 ounces. Samples taken from Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and the United Kingdom ranged from 144 mcg to 160 mcg per 12 ounces.

Thumbnail image for Coke_Main.jpg
Since the state of California recently added 4-MI to its list of carcinogens that must be labeled if found at a certain level, Coca-Cola modified its process to circumvent adding a warning label. The company said at the time that it would eventually expand the use of low 4-MI caramel coloring across the United States and worldwide.

CSPI found just 4 mcg per 12 ounces in soda from the redwood state, but found 144 mcg per 12 ounces in the same product purchased in the District of Columbia. The California law requires food companies to label their product if it would lead to consumers consuming 30 mcg or more each day.

Tempeh Salmonella Case Highlights Illnesses that Fall through the Cracks

tempeh-406.jpgStopping at a café during a trip to Asheville, North Carolina with family this past March, Mary Ann Hurtado decided to order a veggie sandwich while everyone else chose something with meat. It was a choice she regularly made — she’s not a vegetarian by any means, but she does love vegetables.

But less than a week after eating this particular dish, Hurtado found herself lying on a hospital bed back home in Jacksonville, Florida. She had been so sick she couldn’t walk across the room. Her physician decided to connect her to a potassium I.V. drip — the most painful I.V. she’d felt in her life.

A registered nurse, Hurtado spent two nights in the hospital — the same one where she works — before being released with 10 days’ worth of antibiotics. It wasn’t until a week after she was discharged that she finally learned why she got sick: She had contracted a Salmonella infection, but at the time it was impossible to say where it came from.

As it turned out, Hurtado’s sandwich contained unpasteurized tempeh — a soy-based food — from an Asheville-based producer called Smiling Hara. More than a month after she ate her sandwich, Smiling Hara tempeh was identified as the source of a Salmonella Paratyphi B outbreak that had sickened at least 89 people in 5 states. The company had already issued a voluntary recall days earlier, following suspicion its tempeh might have been the source.

“The chills were just so bad – just miserable,” Hurtado said, speaking of her illness a day prior to her emergency room visit. “I was shaking so hard in the bed that I had to move to the couch so I wouldn’t wake up my husband.”

But while Hurtado became so ill that she required hospitalization and I.V. treatment, she is not included among the 89 victim case count and likely never will be. That’s because of technicalities surrounding the identification of her infection.

The bacterial isolate that confirmed her Salmonella infection was never serotyped, meaning that the specific strain was never identified and Hurtado’s infection will never be genetically linked to the strain found in samples of Smiling Hara’s tempeh. In short, she’s in a sort of classification limbo, neither officially confirmed as part of the outbreak nor confirmed to be excluded from it — and she’s likely not alone.

29 out of 30

Considering the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 29 out of 30 Salmonella infections go unreported, Hurtado is potentially one of thousands of people sickened by the tempeh outbreak who will never be counted, either because of epidemiological technicalities or — more often — they just didn’t seek medical attention.

In Hurtado’s case, she fell through the cracks of the outbreak investigation because of where she was hospitalized. While many state health departments — including North Carolina’s — try to identify all cases of foodborne pathogen infections, some states’ do not.

Florida is one that does not typically serotype. Tests that identify bacterial strains cost additional money, which some states choose not to spend. A spokesman for the Florida Department of Health told Food Safety News that the state typically only serotypes isolates “on identified need for enhanced surveillance or suspected outbreak investigation.”

If Hurtado had been hospitalized in North Carolina, she’d likely have a confirmed serotype and been included in the official case count, according to Hurtado’s attorney Bill Marler. Marler’s law firm, Marler Clark, specializes in foodborne illness litigation and underwrites Food Safety News.

Hurtado recently filed the first lawsuit against Smiling Hara and Tempeh Online, the retailer that sold Smiling Hara the Salmonella-contaminated spore culture used to make their tempeh.

Currently, the only states considered to have cases in this outbreak are North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Michigan. New York was originally thought to have a case, but that individual was placed under the banner of North Carolina because they attend college in Asheville.

When Hurtado’s county health department learned of her Salmonella infection, they uploaded her information to a statewide infection database. From there, the Florida Department of Health likely included Hurtado’s basic information in a generalized weekly report to the CDC.

The CDC often coordinates information between states involved in multistate outbreaks, including the Smiling Hara outbreak. But without any serotype information, Hurtado’s infection would not stand out as having any connection to an outbreak. In effect, it looked exactly like the numerous other isolated infections the CDC sees on a weekly basis.

“At this point, it’s not likely [Hurtado] will be considered anything other than another Florida Salmonella case,” said Dr. William Keene, senior epidemiologist for Oregon Public Health. Keene was not involved in the Smiling Hara outbreak investigation, but is considered one of the eminent epidemiologists in public health.

“She’s got the exposure. She was in the right place when the outbreak happened, but without her isolate being compared to the outbreak strain, you can’t really know [she was infected in the outbreak] for sure,” Keene added.

Castle Farms Granted Temporary Permit To Sell Raw Milk

Castle Farms, the farm in Irving, New York that earlier this month was ordered to stop selling raw milk after random testing by the New York State Department of Agriculture  (NYDA) produced a positive result of  E.coli 0157:H7, has been granted a temporary permit to sell raw milk while it undergoes further testing, according to the NYDA.

The temporary permit was granted after a subsequent test for pathogens was negative according to and NYDA official. At least two more negative tests will be required before the permanent permit is reinstated, the official said. In New York, all farms that sell raw milk must be permitted and are inspected monthly.


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Scotland Going Independent On Food Safety

It’s not really going down like the plot of “Braveheart,” but the coming 2014 on Scottish Independence is already having large ramifications on food safety regulation in the United Kingdom.
The Scottish Government is pulling out of the UK’s Food Standards Agency, opting instead to set up its own independent Scottish food standards body. The new Scottish agency will be responsible for food safety, food standards, nutrition, food labeling, and meat inspection.


The independence move actually stems more from the 2010 decision by the UK Government to move food labeling and standards from FSA to UK’s Department of Health and Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and not necessarily in spirit of the planned 2014 Independence vote.
When that decision was announced, the Scottish Government asked Professor Jim Scudamore to conduct an independent review of its options including the stand-alone agency. The Scudamore panel took oral and written testimony from 40 stakeholders over several months, it published its report in April, calling for Scotland to go it alone.
“The changes in England removed significant capacity in the FSA’s nutrition and labeling functions for Scotland and needed to be addressed,” said Michael Matheson, Scotland’s health minister.
Matheson said the Scottish Government have accepted the Scudamore recommendations.” A new body will allow a Scottish approach to be taken to tackle poor diet and food-borne diseases and should support our food and drink industry in growing its strong, international reputation for safe, quality food.”



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Study: Salmonella’s pH Sensors Trigger Virulence


Salmonella bacteria rely on internal pH sensors to initiate their virulent traits after sensing heightened acidity in their environment, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine and the Yale Microbial Diversity Institute.
The findings, published in the June 14 issue of Nature, could someday lead to drugs that disrupt the bacteria’s ability to cause typhoid fever and foodborne illness in humans.
Here’s how the sensors work: When the bacterium senses a change into an acidic environment, it begins producing Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the “energy currency” for all living cells. This boost of ATP production creates a protein that in turn activates a number of characteristics within the bacterium, including characteristics related to survival and virulence.





Salmonella Prompts Organic Sprouts Recall

After routine sampling turned up Salmonella, Mountain Sprouts is recalling organic sprouts under the following names: 4 ounce zesty greens, 5 ounce sprout salad, 4 ounce clover, 2 pound clover, 4 ounce alfalfa/broccoli, 4 ounce alfalfa sprouts, as well as 1 and 2 pound alfalfa sprouts.

According to a company press release, the sprouts were distributed through retail stores and wholesalers in California.

The products come in a 4 or 5 ounce clear, plastic, clamshell container and a 1 or 2 pound ziplock bag with a sell by date from 6/17/12 to 7/6/12.


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Banner Mountain Sprouts Voluntarily Recalls Organic Sprouts Because of Possible Health Risks

Recalled 1lb Alfalfa Sprouts

Recalled 1lb Clover Sprouts

Recalled 2lb Alfalfa Sprouts

Recalled 4oz Alfafla Sprouts

Recalled 4oz Alfalfa Broccoli Sprouts

Recalled 4oz Clover Sprouts

Recalled 4oz Zesty Greens

Recalled 5oz Sprout Salad




Possible Listeria-Contaminated Queso Fresco in New York City

quesowarning-featured.jpgNew Yorkers were warned Friday to avoid “Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese” products made by Mexicali Cheese Corp. in Woodhaven, New York due to a possible Listeria contamination.

The product is packaged in a “rigid” 14 oz. plastic tub that displays a plant number of 36-0128 and a code of 071512.
The product was packaged in containers bearing the following names: ‘Mexicali Queso Fresco Medicano,’ ‘Mexican Style Fresh Cheese’ and ‘Acatlan Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese.’

Salmonella Risk Prompts Dietary Supplement Recall

cataplex.jpgStandard Process Inc. of Palmyra, Wisconsin is voluntarily recalling three dietary supplements due to potential Salmonella Contamination:

  • Cataplex ACP (Product numbers 0700 and 0750) Lot 114
  • Cataplex C (Product numbers 1650 and 1655) Lot 114
  • Pancreatophin PMG (Product number 6650) Lot 114


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Food Warnings



Alakanater Brand Tahina May Contain Salmonella

In Canada, the CFIA and Phoenicia Group Inc. are recalling Tahina (sesame seed paste) because it may be contaminated with Salmonella.

Product details:

  • Alkanater brand Tahina
  • 454 gram containers
  • UPC number 6 92551 00002 0
  • Lot code TT3N-280312
  • Codes PRO: 28/03/2012 AND EXP: 28/03/2014
  • Distributed in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario, and Quebec and may have been distributed nationally

No illnesses have been reported in association with the consumption of this product. For questions, call the Phoenicia Group Inc. at 514-389-6363 or the CFIA at 1-800-442-2342.


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Lettuce Caused New Brunswick E. coli Outbreak

romainelettuce2-406.jpgAn E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in New Brunswick, Canada that sickened at least 18 people in April has been linked to romaine lettuce, health officials announced Friday. Food Safety News covered this outbreak in May when it was linked to Jungle Jim’s Eatery, but the specific food responsible remained a mystery.

Ill persons ate at Jungle Jim’s Eatery in Miramichi between April 23 and 26. The lettuce was served in salads, wraps and hamburgers.


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Articles of Interest



Can Animals Make Us Sick? Yes.

Animal Health was the topic of a June 22 event on Capitol Hill called “From Fido to Food Safety: Roles, Responsibilities and Realities Veterinarians Face in Protecting Public Health,” that was hosted by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Animal Health Institute.

During his keynote address, USDA Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford, stated that zoonotic diseases, which are diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans, have accounted for 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases among humans over the last three decades.

Zoonotic diseases include diseases that can be contracted from contact with live animals such as rabies or Lyme’s disease and from animals used as a food sources such as Salmonella and E.coli.


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107 Treated for Gastrointestinal Illness at Notre Dame Sports Camp

At least 107 people have been treated for gastrointestinal illness in an unidentified outbreak linked to a University of Notre Dame sports camp, the university reported Wednesday afternoon.

The number of those treated rose after the university first reported that youth sports camp participants had fallen ill just hours earlier.

“Some 80 youth sports camp participants at the University of Notre Dame were treated today on campus and at local hospitals for a gastrointestinal illness. All have been successfully treated for symptoms that are typical of the stomach flu and short-lived,” said the university in a statement issued around noon on Wednesday. “The cause of the illness is unknown, though it may be related to food or a virus and was not associated with any physical activity. The University is working with the St. Joseph County Health Department in an effort to determine the cause.”


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FDA Clears Faster Blood Test for the Market

Listeria, MRSA, Streptococcus, and Enterococcus can all be identified much quicker by  the Verigene GP Blood  Culture Nuclear Acid Test (BC-GP), which got marketing approval from the U.S, Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Verigene test is manufactured by Northbrook, IL-based Nanosphere.
FDA’s decision was based on the study of 1,642 patient blood samples obtained from incubated blood culture bottles that contained gram-positive bacteria.  The study included a comparison of BC-GP and traditional blood culture laboratory methods.


The quicker Verigene test was consistent with traditional blood culture methods 93 percent of the time.

USDA Makes Progress on Alternatives To Antibiotics

USDA scientists at College Station, TX have discovered that providing sodium chlorate in the drinking water or feed of livestock will reduce the intestinal concentrations of bacteria harmful to humans.
The research is significant because it may lead to alternatives to antibiotics in animal agriculture now used to reduce or eliminate disease-causing pathogens.

Cattle Feeding Main.jpg

The findings by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Food and Feed Research Unit at College Station are being published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Animal Science.
The organic compounds could be used to check pathogen growth in pork and beef.
The researchers say sodium chlorate has been used in agricultural applications for over 100 years.
“To date, the body of literature suggests that chlorate salts are active against human pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli O157:H7; that chlorate salts are very well tolerated by most species of animals; and that chlorate is metabolized in food and laboratory animals to a single, non-toxic metabolite,” the researchers wrote.  “Collectively, these results suggest that chlorate salts could be developed into a useful and safe feed or water additive for use in livestock.


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