Poisons In Our Food : Recalls- Allergen Alert- Food Borne Illness
Food Safety News
Phyllis Entis is the author of “Food Safety: Old Habits, New Perspectives” and “Food Microbiology–The Laboratory”.
She has been a food safety microbiologist for 35 years, and has worked both in government and industry. She believes that everyone–government regulators, farmers and ranchers, food processors, food service workers, educators and consumers–has a responsibility to ensure that the food we eat is as safe as we can make it.
She is also kind of a Santa Claus for mango consumers. She publishes eFoodAlert
, where among other things she tracks the mango recall in a form that is most useful to consumers.
Mango consumers have every reason for concern because at least 105 people in 16 states and another 21 in Canada have been infected with Salmonella Braenderup in an outbreak that is associated with the fruit.
The government of Mexico claims nothing has been proven yet, but Mexican-grown Daniella brand mangoes being imported to the U.S. by Burlingame, CA-based Splendid Products have been under a recall order for the past six days.
This has led to a confusing number of downstream recalls by distributors and fruit peddlers, with a long list of products containing mangoes that have also been recalled during the past few days. One million mangoes have been recalled.
Most of these recalls have been reported by Food Safety News,
but consumers wanting their mangoes all organized and in one place might well want to check with Phyllis on this list.
Food Poisoning Bulletin
A new study conducted at Stanford Center for Health Policy and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine questions whether organically-grown foods are safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced foods. This systemic review, which extracts data from English-language studies, says no. Seventeen studies in human beings and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods were examined. There were no long-term studies of health outcomes among people eating organic versus conventionally raised foods.
Three of the human studies researched clinical outcomes; those found no difference between populations who ate organic foods and those who ate conventional foods for allergic reactions or Campylobacter infections. Two of the human studies found significantly lower pesticide levels in the urine in children, but found no “clinically meaningful” differences among adults.
Estimates of any differences in nutrient and contaminant levels were “highly heterogeneous” except conventionally grown foods had significantly higher phosphorus levels. The risk of pesticide residue contamination was lower among organic produce, as is to be expected, but there was little difference in the risk of exceeding maximum limits. In other words, even produce that had pesticide residue had levels that were below safety limits set by the EPA.
The risk of E. coli contamination was unrelated to the farming method. But the risk for ingesting antibiotic-resistant bacteria was higher in conventionally raised chicken and pork than in organically raised meats.
The requirements for organic certification can vary, but there are some common standards. For instance, foods with the organic certified label must be grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, processed without irradiation, not grown from genetically modified organisms. Farm animals used for food must be raised without antibiotics or growth hormones and given pesticide-free animal feed.
What does this mean for the consumer? If you want to buy organically raised produce and meat, you will consume fewer pesticides and lower your risk of ingesting antibiotic-resistant bacteria. But the nutritional profiles of both groups are the same. And organically grown and produced foods are not safer in terms of bacterial contamination. No matter where you buy your food or if you have conventionally raised or organically produced food, it must be handled correctly and cooked to a safe final internal temperature.
The Original Report on the study can be found here
A Washington State report criticized the techniques used in this study, and it’s findings.
Mother Jones briefly touches on them
And the Washington State University critique
defensive chemicals produced naturally by plants…
Food Poisoning Bulletin
The source of an unusual E. coli outbreak that has sickened 10 people in the Finger Lakes region of New York since early August has yet to be identified, Joan Ellison, Livingston County’s director of public health told Food Poisoning Bulletin today.
Nine Livingston County residents and one person from Onondaga County have developed E. coli infections over the last month. Three of them had cases so severe that they were hospitalized, but have since been released. Lab tests that use a genetic “fingerprinting” method called pulsed field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) have confirmed that eight of the cases patients were sickened by the same strain of E.coli 0157:H7. Test results for two case patients from Livingston County are pending.
While public health authorities have been able to identify the outbreak strain, they have not yet been able to identify a specific source of the outbreak. “There is a thread that connects them, but not a rope that ties them all together,” Ellison said. “It’s really hard to say where it’s coming from.”
The outbreak began in early August with a cluster of seven cases in Livingston County. Then, last week, new cases popped up, including one in a second county. “It’s kind of odd that we’re adding them sporadically,” Ellison said.
Symptoms of an E. coli infection include vomiting, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps which usually develop three to four days after exposure and last up to a week. Those most at risk are young children, seniors, people who take antacids on a regular basis and anyone whose immune system is compromised. The victims of this outbreak range in age from 10 to 75.
Food Safety News
Prosciutto, lardo, bresaola, capicola, guanciale and soppressata. The opposite of fast food, and literally slow to make, these meats are examples of charcuterie, or what are most commonly known as cured meats.
As the local, do-it-yourself food culture grows across the country, more chefs are getting into the meat curing business to cater to patrons who demand more sustainable and old-world preparation methods. The practice is still at the trendy stage for most Americans, but it is steeped in tradition around the world. People have been preserving meats with salt for thousands of years in order to make it safe in an unstable, non-refrigerated and uninspected environment.
Meanwhile, modern American food regulations – both federal guidelines and state and county health codes – can have very little application to these traditional methods. Many states have regulations that strictly require meat to be cooked and stored at specific temperatures, while some states allow for restaurants to apply for a variance to serve products – like cured meats – that fall outside the jurisdiction of standard rules.
has been in the restaurant business for 30 years and making salumi for more than 20 years in Berkeley, Calif., first as a chef at Chez Panisse, then at his own restaurant Eccolo. Recently, Lee served as a restaurant consultant, most notably creating the safety plan for Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria
Lee says his work as a consultant made him consider the food safety aspect of curing meat more than he had in the past.
“Now that I have seen people making it in their back room in their restaurant, I have become a lot more wary,” Lee said in an interview with Food Safety News. “[Chefs] need to find out local regulations. And that’s new to a lot of people. I think people are often scared to ask official agencies what they need to do because they think it will be elaborate and cost them a lot of money and a lot of headache. Where, in fact, it makes a lot more sense to do it from the beginning.”
A big hurdle for many restaurants is finding the proper space for their curing operations, an area where the proper temperature can be maintained and meats can be kept somewhat separate from other foods in the kitchen.
No matter a restaurant’s size, however, a chef has the same responsibility as a large-scale meat curing facility, says Dana Hanson, a meat extension specialist in the Food Science Department at North Carolina State University.
“The challenge is the same regardless of size,” Hanson told Food Safety News in an interview. “You still have to understand what issues there are and know what you have to do. Like any meat product that is intended to be consumed ready to eat, you are looking to control all pathogens.”
The main food safety considerations to take into account when curing meat are pH levels, water activity level and cross contamination, says Lee.
In its 2005 Meat and Poultry Hazards Control Guide
, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) suggests that “meat pH should decline to 5.3 within an acceptable time temperature combination (temperature in degrees, time in hours).”
Water activity should remain low at all times during curing, and meat should be kept separate from other foods while curing so that it doesn’t come into contact with other raw product that may carry pathogens.
Without the proper training and equipment, a chef may not realize he or she is putting out an unsafe product.
“If you’re not going to spend $2,000 to buy the water activity meter, pay $100 to send [the meat] to a lab, find out what it is,” Lee said. “Do that a few times so you at least know what it looks and feels like at the right water activity level, and then go from there.”
The process of salt curing works against bacteria due to the lack of water left in the meat after the salt is absorbed into it.
This process isn’t failsafe, though, as many pathogens are salt tolerant, and cured meats may not reach salt levels high enough to prevent bacteria growth.
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation
, dried hams are particularly at risk for Trichinella, Staphylococcus and mold. Staphylococcus is salt tolerant, so proper food handling is vital to prevent these bacteria from growing.
Between 2002 and 2007, 66 cases of trichinellosis were reported to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC). All cases were linked to consumption of meat, and uncooked meat was the source of 5 of the 30 cases for which information was available.
Listeria monocytogenes, a foodborne bacterium that can cause severe illness in pregnant women and those with weak immune systems, has been found in fermented raw meat sausages. Listeria can grow in refrigerated foods, can be resistant to drying and is salt tolerant.
A 2006 study found Listeria in 22.7 percent of 1,020 salami samples tested for the bacterium.
In June of last year, 5,700 pounds of imported dry-cured ham were recalled
because Listeria was found in a sample of the product.
Cured meats are also susceptible to Clostridium botulinum contamination. Botulism, the disease caused by infection with C. botulinum toxins, was originally named “sausage poisoning,” or “Wurstvergiftung,” when discovered in Germany, because the bacteria grow in oxygen-deprived environments such as sausage casings. Now the use of nitrates in the curing process is used to combat bacteria such as C. botulinum.
E. coli poses another potential threat to dry meat safety. Last year, Lebanon bologna, a cured, smoked, fermented semi-dry sausage, was linked to 14 cases of E. coli O157:H7 across the eastern part of the United States.
In 1999, an E. coli outbreak in British Columbia, Canada that sickened at least 143 people was linked to dry, fermented salami.
Avoiding Potentially Contaminated Charcuterie
Lee says there are some signs diners can look for to tell whether cured meats were prepared in a safe manner.
“There are certain things that I am not going to eat,” he says. “If something looks good and smells good and is made in a reasonable environment, I’m going to eat it. But if I have someone bring me something that is soft and moist and sticky on the outside and they’ve been drying it for seven months, and it’s the temperature of liverwurst, I’m not going to eat that, because I know what can go on in it.”
Large-scale meat facilities that produce cured meat are inspected and regulated by the USDA, and have a full-time inspector on-site, while restaurants are regulated by county health departments and inspected once a year.
Some may argue that the regulations don’t make sense for meat curers, but Hanson said this is the only way for the system to operate with restaurants given current inspection capacity.
“With thousands of restaurants across the country, the regulation has to be all-encompassing to a point, and it has to be easy to enforce,” Hanson said.
Without more frequent inspection of restaurants, the rules likely have to stay the way they are.
“Is there a risk involved with [cured meats]? Yes,” Hanson said. “Whether you can document what is going on with these products, by having careful oversight more than just one time a year, I don’t think it is a risk worth taking. There is too much variation in a lot of these operations to be able to give restaurants carte blanche to say ‘start making salami.”
In other words, the long process of making charcuterie is something that requires more regular surveillance, which is impossible under the current regulatory system. If a restaurant owner applies for a variance in his or her county to be able to cure meats in-house, health departments cannot make an adequately informed decision without overseeing each particular chef’s techniques and facilities.
Lee, the expert in the kitchen, agrees, but adds that inspectors have more to learn as well.
“We’re in a problem area in some respects,” Lee said. “We have reasonable comprehensible regulations that are pretty clear, but the people who are enforcing them don’t always know what they are looking at when they come in my facility and say, ‘What is prosciutto?’”
Food Poisoning Bulletin
John C. Cordell, Public Information Specialist with the Michigan Department of Corrections told Food Poisoning Bulletin that there is an outbreak of STEC, or Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, at the Saginaw Correctional Facility. The facility is quarantined with no prisoner transfers, no group programming or prisoner visitation.
So far, 89 prisoners and seven staff have been confirmed ill with the E. coli bacteria. Four prisoners have been hospitalized, but there are no cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome. The hospitalizations have been for dehydration.
Most cases occurred from August 27 to August 30, 2012. The outbreak may be over, since no cases were identified on September 3 or 4, 2012. The facility may be able to return to normal operations at the end of this week, since the incubation period for this type of bacteria is 3 to 10 days. The facility is also monitoring prisoners who transferred out of the prison to other correctional facilities in the days before the outbreak.
Public health officials are looking at all avenues of transmission, focusing on food and food preparation. The Saginaw County Health Department, the Michigan Department of Community Health, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture are assisting with the investigation.
Get Shiga toxin E. coli help here.
STEC bacteria produce Shiga toxins, which go into the bloodstream and destroy red blood cells, causing anemia. The toxins can target the kidneys, which causes hemolytic uremic syndrome that can destroy that organ. The central nervous system can also be affected by Shiga toxins.
Food Safety News
At least 14 people have been sickened in a multistate Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak linked to contact with hedgehogs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The first illnesses connected to this outbreak occurred in December of last year, but cases continued to crop up as recently as last month, according to CDC’s initial report
, released Thursday. The latest recorded illness began on August 13, 2012. Any illnesses that began after that date may not yet have been counted due to the time delay between when a person falls ill and when that illness is reported (usually 2-3 weeks).
Illnesses occurred in 6 states, including Alabama (1), Indiana (1), Michigan (3), Minnesota (2), Ohio (2) and Washington (5).
A total of 3 victims have been hospitalized. None have died from their infections.
Ill persons have ranged in age from less than 1 year old to 62 years old, reports CDC. Half of the victims were 10 years old or younger.
Interviews with 10 infected individuals revealed that all had had contact with hedgehogs or hedgehog environments in the week preceding illness.
Patients reported purchasing hedgehogs from different breeders in different states.
Two environmental samples taken from places in people’s homes where hedgehogs lived or had been bathed tested positive for the outbreak strain of the bacteria.
Some of those interviewed reported contact with African Pygmy hedgehogs, but CDC has not definitively linked this breed to the outbreak.
“Investigations are ongoing to determine the type and source of hedgehogs that might be linked with illness.”
The strain of Salmonella Typhimurium linked to this outbreak is uncommon, says CDC.
“The outbreak strain has been rarely seen in the past,” notes the agency in its report.
Salmonella are shed in animal feces, so droppings from infected hedgehogs can transfer the bacteria to their environment or to people handling them.
CDC urges those who have had contact with hedgehogs to wash hands immediately after touching these animals or anything in the environment where they live and roam.
Food Safety News
Blue marlin caught along the coast of Texas should no longer be consumed because mercury levels detected in these fish pose a danger to human health, warns the Texas Department of State Health Services.
TDSHS also cautioned future mothers and children not to eat swordfish from these waters.
Women past childbearing age and adult men are being advised to limit their intake to no more than two meals a month. Women of childbearing age and children under 12 should not consume any swordfish caught in Texas coastal waters.
The advisory was issued after testing revealed that blue marlin and swordfish from the northwestern Gulf of Mexico contained mercury at concentrations that exceed DSHS health guidelines, which allow no more than 0.7 mg/kg.
The average levels found in blue marlin were 12.9 mg/kg, more than 18 times the DSHS guidelines. Levels detected in swordfish — 1.18 mg/k — were more than 1.6 times the recommended levels.
Regular or long-term consumption of blue marlin and swordfish from these waters may result in adverse health effects.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element that can also be a byproduct of human activity. If consumed regularly, it can cause harmful effects to the central nervous system, particularly in children including infants exposed before birth.
Symptoms of prolonged exposure include tingling of the skin, loss of coordination, visual and hearing impairment and slurred speech.
While most recreational fishermen catch and release blue marlin and swordfish in the Gulf of Mexico, some fish is kept for personal consumption. Because of the large minimum catch size, any legally caught blue marlin will have high levels of mercury.
With increased recreational swordfish catches, anglers are eating more and larger swordfish that can have elevated mercury levels.
Previously, the state put out an advisory about eating king mackerel.
In that earlier advisory, Texas said king mackerel longer than 43 inches should not be consumed, and women of childbearing age and children under 12 should avoid eating any king mackerel longer than 37 inches.
King mackerel less than 37 inches in length are safe to eat on an unrestricted basis.
For figuring safety levels, 8 ounces of fish constitutes a meal.
Food Poisoning Bulletin
Cutting Edge Concessions is recalling 0.5 ounce Shake’Ems seasoning cups distributed in movie theaters because they contain undeclared milk and the food dye red 40. Anyone with an allergy to those ingredients could have a serious or life-threatening reaction if they consume the product.
The cups were distributed in Arkansas, California, Colorado, and Tennessee. The product is in a 0.5 ounce plastic cup in flavors White Cheddar, Nacho Cheddar, Ranch, Cinnamon Sugar, and Parmesan Garlic. No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with the consumption of these products.
The problem was caused by a temporary breakdown in the company’s labeling process. Production is suspended until the FDA and the company are sure the problem has been corrected. You can return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund. For questions, call 952-237-1551 Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm ET.
Food Poisoning Bulletin
A raw milk recall for products produced by Organic Pastures Dairy of Fresno County and a quarantine order has been announced after Campylobacter was detected during routine testing, California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones. has announced. No illnesses have been reported in conjunction with this recall.
The recalled products include Grade A raw cream, Grade A raw milk and Grade A raw skim milk, all with a labeled code date of SEP 13. Retailers must immediately pull these products from store shelves and consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any product they might have purchased.
Inspectors from the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) found the bacteria in a sample of raw cream during routine testing conducted as part of routine inspection and sample collection at the facility. In May, raw milk from Organic Pastures was recalled after it was linked to a Campylobacter outbreak that sickened 10 people. At that time, Campylobacter was also detected in a sample of raw cream. Of the 10 people sickened, six were under the age of 18.
Symptoms of a Campylobacter infection, called campylobacteriosis ,include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever which usually develop two to five days after exposure and last about a week. The infection can be serious or even life-threatening for some people. Those most at risk include children, seniors and people who have compromised immune systems. In some cases, campylobacteriosis can trigger the development of a rare disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome, which causes weakness and paralysis that occurs several weeks after the initial illness.
Articles of Interest
Food Poisoning Bulletin
The Center For Food Safety (CFFS) wants the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reject Dow Chemical’s request that a genetically modified soybean that is resistant to a major component in Agent Orange be approved for use. The group is circulating a petition to show the agency that consumers resist the move.
Agent Orange is the chemical defoliant used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War. Health concerns about exposure to it are still being explored but include increased risk of some types of cancer and birth defects in offspring of those exposed. Dow’s genetically engineered soybean is resistant to 2,4-D , a component of Agent Orange.
CFFS is concerned that approval of the soybean will lead to a greenlighting of approval for similarly engineered crops, harm wildlife and expose millions of Americans to a toxic chemical. According ot the petition, “Dow plans to sell this GE 2-4,D soy “stacked” with resistance to glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup—and glufosinate herbicides, yet neither Dow nor USDA has analyzed the potential synergistic or cumulative impacts that these planned combinations pose. Glufosinate has both reproductive and neurological toxicity to mammals, and on this basis is slated to be banned in the EU by 2017. ”
CFFS is a non-profit organization that challenges food production technologies and practices it considers harmful and promotes sustainable alternatives. It is based in Washington, D.C..
Food Safety News
An act that would require meat, chicken and fish to be sold with a label indicating their country of origin has made its way to district court after being struck down by the World Trade Organization.
The U.S. Country of Origin Labeling Act, also known as the “COOL Act,” which was found by WTO to be in violation of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, should continue to be enforced in the United States, say COOL Act advocates.
Proponents of the Act have teamed up to ask the U.S. District Court in Denver to overrule the WTO decision that struck down the COOL Act. Plaintiffs in the action against the U.S. government and WTO are USA Foundation, Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund-United Stockgrowers Association (R-CALF) and a meat and vegetable distributor that goes by the name Melonhead.
Previously, the USA Foundation promoted the protection of domestic car and truck content and American craft designers.
The COOL Act requires meat, chicken and fish to be labeled so that consumers can tell the country of origin for those products. First adopted in 2002, COOL was never popular with U.S. neighbors and WTO appeals were eventually filed by Mexico and Canada.
A WTO panel consisting of representatives from Portugal, Pakistan and Switzerland found that COOL violates Tariffs and Trade because it imposes discriminatory burdens or barriers to Mexico and Canada.
Billings, MT-based R-CALF, however, does not see it that way. The cattlemen say they don’t see it as “a barrier to trade of any kind.” Instead, they say it fulfills a overwhelming consumer demand for information.
“Consumers could choose not to buy raspberries from Guatemala because of a bacterial problem there, or could refuse to buy Canadian beef because of a Mad Cow disease problem there,”
They also say the Uruguay trade and tariff agreement, signed into law by President Clinton in 1994, states that U.S. law prevails in any trade conflict between the U.S. and other countries.
They point to Section 102(a)(1) of the Uruguay Round, which states, “No provision of any of the Uruguay Round Agreement, nor the application of any such provision to any person or circumstance, that is inconsistent with any law of the United States shall have effect.”
R-CALF says the WTO ruling was an attempt to intimidate the U.S., and harms American cattlemen because it means consumers may confuse foreign meat for domestic products.
Specifically named defendants in the lawsuit include U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.
Vilsack and Kirk are accused of failing to protect and preserve U.S. sovereignty and exceeding their authority because, the plaintiffs say, they had “no legal right to amend or contravene this law by regulations or negotiations.”
The plaintiffs want a federal judge to order the trade representatives to cease and desist from negotiating with Canada and Mexico an amended and “watered-down” COOL, and they want the Secretary of Agriculture ordered to do his “legal duty.”
R-CALF is the second largest organization of U.S. cattlemen after the Denver-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. NCBA views COOL as a marketing issue — not a food safety issue — to be worked out with the USA’s top two trading partners who together account for 59 percent of beef exports.
Mike Schultz, who chairs R-CALF’s COOL Committee, says the organization filed the lawsuit in order to “protect and preserve the right of all Americans to know the origins of their food.”
“For nearly eight years, the multinational meatpackers, the governments of Canada and Mexico, and even the U.S. Department of Agriculture fought to prevent U.S. citizens from knowing the origins of their food by vigorously opposing the implementation of the 2002 COOL law.
“But we cattle producers joined with consumers in that long battle and we finally prevailed. COOL went into effect in March of 2009. But, the governments of Canada and Mexico persisted and filed a complaint at the WTO, essentially asserting that U.S. citizens do not need to know where their food, particularly their meat from livestock, was born, raised and slaughtered.
“As U.S. citizens, we never gave up our right to continue governing ourselves under our U.S. Constitution, and we certainly didn’t grant the WTO authority to undermine our domestic laws. This lawsuit is necessary to force this Administration to stand up and defend our U.S. sovereignty by disavowing any authority the WTO claims over our nation’s ability to pass beneficial laws for U.S. citizens.”
Food Poisoning Bulletin
A retired Chicago public health inspector who took almost $100,000 in bribes was sentenced to two and half years in federal prison last week. Maryanne Koll who taught food service sanitation classes and administered state certifications is alleged to have accepted at least $96,930 in bribes in exchange for fraudulently arranging to provide 531 people with certifications as food sanitation managers.
Koll, 69, who operated Kollmar Food Safety Institute from her home in Burr Ridge, Ill., was convicted of one count of bribery conspiracy in federal court in September 2011. U.S. District Judge Harry Leinenweber sentenced her to 30 months in prison and ordered her to begin serving the sentence on Dec. 31, 2012.
llinois state law requires that all food service establishments have someone on site who s certified as a food service sanitation manager. The coursework for this certification includes 15 hours of training on various topics including foodborne illnesses, time/temperature relationships, personal hygiene, pest control and prevention of food contamination.
From 1995 to 2007, Koll was authorized by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to teach the state-approved coursework and to administer the certification exams. During that time, she certified individuals who had not taken the coursework or passed the exams in exchange in exchange for cash bribes.
Food safety education and training is one of the most important ways to reduce foodborne illness. Every year, one sixth of all Americans are sickened by foodborne pathogens incurring $365 million in direct medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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