58 sick, 2 dead, possible link to romaine lettuce

Over the past seven weeks, 58 people in the U.S. and Canada have become ill and two have died from E. coli O157H7, linked by Canadians to romaine lettuce, probably grown in California, given the timing of illnesses.

On Dec. 11, 2017, the Public Health Agency of Canada did its public duty and notified Canadians that at least 21 people were sick with E. coli O157:H7 and the probable source was romaine lettuce.

A couple of retailers in Canada pulled all romaine lettuce from the shelves, but the others shrugged and said, not enough is known.

By Dec. 28, 2017, the Canadian numbers had jumped to 41 sick and one dead, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control chimed in to say there were 17 sick in the U.S. with a similar strain but they wouldn’t say it was linked to romaine lettuce, with the Trumpesque language of “CDC is unable to recommend whether U.S. residents should avoid a particular food.”

Outbreaks are hard, but where’s the tipping point between protecting public health and protecting a commodity and all the growers, retailers, involved?

Everyone went off and enjoyed New Year’s, and then people woke up again on Jan. 2, 2018 (happy new year), to be told by the Toronto Star (that’s in Canada) that of the 17 U.S. cases, five people have been hospitalized, one of whom has died. Two have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome.

That’s 58 sick and two dead.

On Jan. 3, 2018, Trisha Calvo of Consumer Reports wrote the group’s food safety types advise “consumers stop eating romaine lettuce until the cause of the outbreak is identified and the offending product is removed from store shelves.”

“Even though we can’t say with 100 percent certainty that romaine lettuce is the cause of the E. coli outbreak in the U.S., a greater degree of caution is appropriate given that lettuce is almost always consumed raw,” says James Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety and research at Consumer Reports.

“There is not enough epidemiologic evidence at this time to indicate a specific source of the illnesses in the United States,” says Brittany Behm, MPH, a CDC spokesperson. “Although some sick people reported eating romaine lettuce, preliminary data available at this time shows they were not more likely than healthy people to have eaten romaine, based on a CDC food consumption survey.” Health officials, Behm says, take action when there is clear and convincing information linking illness to a contaminated food.

“The FDA should follow the lead of the Canadian government and immediately warn the public about this risk,“ said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization division of Consumer Reports.

“The available data strongly suggest that romaine lettuce is the source of the U.S. outbreak,” she says. “If so, and people aren’t warned, more may get sick.”

That got attention, and many media outlets chimed in.

barfblog.com’s Ben Chapman told Rachael Rettner of Live Science that, “[To] say ‘avoid romaine for now,’ I don’t know if I have enough information to agree with that statement,”  Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University.

“Avoiding just romaine may or may not be enough,” because other lettuces or foods could also be affected, Chapman told Live Science. “It could be that there’s a different [food] source of this exact same pathogen,” he said.

Another possibility is that the E. coli strain causing illness in the United States is actually slightly different from the strain in Canada. “We could be looking at two different outbreaks at the same time,” Chapman said.

About four times a day I’ll get a tweet from the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement – the folks who set themselves up after the spinach outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in 2006 that killed four and sickened 200 – blowing themselves about how great they are, and how their products are so safe.

If you want that kind of PR, then you have to take the hits as well.

LGMA never talks about an outbreak linked to leafy greens (publicly).

To me, they’ve succeeded best at lowering the leafy greens cone of silence and intimidating public health types into delaying reports of outbreaks.

But late on Jan. 4, 2018, LGMA finally made a public statement, below, with my comments.

A group of produce industry associations today issued the following statement to update consumers on a recent e.coli outbreak being investigated in Canada in the U.S.:

It’s E coli. You folks should be well-versed in that.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not identified what food likely caused this foodborne illness.  No public agency has contacted any Romaine lettuce grower, shipper or processor and requested that they either stop shipping or recall product already in the marketplace.

Defensive.

Even if this outbreak is actually confirmed to be caused by Romaine lettuce, it’s important to recognize this is a highly perishable product with a limited usable shelf life and it’s highly unlikely a specific affected lot would still be available for sale or in a home refrigerator with the last U.S. illness being reported on December 8th.

Carry on, it’s all gone.

Food safety remains a top priority of leafy greens farmers, shippers and processors and the industry has robust food safety programs in place that incorporate stringent government regulatory oversight.

The Pinto defense. Audits and inspections are never enough, and saying we have government oversight does nothing to build trust with the consuming public, as research shows.

Our leading produce industry associations have and will continue to cooperate fully with public health officials investigating this foodborne illness outbreak.

Play nice in the sandbox.

Anytime we see an outbreak of any foodborne illness, our hearts go out to the victims.

This is what you should have led with. Now it reads like a tack-on.

If the leafy green marketing folks want to be truly transparent, they will make actual inspection data public for mere mortals to review, they will market microbial food safety at retail, and stop stonewalling every time there is an outbreak linked to leafy greens.

I have lots of respect for individual farmers who make a go of it and produce the bounty of produce we enjoy.

I have no respect for self-serving associations with bad soundbites.

A table of leafy green related outbreaks is available at http://www.barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/lettuce-leafy-greens-outbreaks-table-_1-5-18.xlsx

Canadian STEC/lettuce outbreak leads to a death

Every day I eat food that doesn’t kill me. Or hasn’t yet.

I get kinda emotional when I read about a death linked to food.

While billions of servings of food every year don’t lead to tragedy, when it does I take notice.

I’ve met folks who continue to suffer the life-long impacts of foodborne pathogens; people who have watched their loved ones in pain in a hospital bed and ultimately them.

All from food.

According to an updated statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada, 30 people across Canada are dealing with E. coli O157 linked to romaine lettuce.  There’s not a lot of details though.

Currently, there are 30 cases of E. coli O157 illness under investigation in five provinces: Ontario, (6), Quebec (5), New Brunswick (5), Nova Scotia (1), and Newfoundland and Labrador (13). Individuals became sick in November and December 2017. Twelve individuals have been hospitalized. One individual has died. Individuals who became ill are between the ages of 4 and 80 years of age. The majority of cases (70%) are female.

Many individuals who became sick reported eating romaine lettuce before their illnesses occurred. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is working with public health officials to determine the source of the romaine lettuce that ill individuals were exposed to.

No one should die as a result of food they ate.

21 sick with E. coli O157 from Romaine lettuce in Canada: What says LGMA?

The Sponge-Bob leafy greens cone of silence has once again been deployed with 21 sick from E. coli O157 linked to Romaine lettuce.

The Public Health Agency of Canada made the announcement Monday night, so it’s time for another edition of spokesthingy fairytales. The statements in italics are from the Public Health Agency of Canada. The comments below are mine.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada.

How do you know a Canadian is making a presentation at a scientific conference? They spend half the talk noting collaborations.

At this time, there are no product recalls associated with this outbreak. The outbreak investigation is ongoing, and this public health notice will be updated on a regular basis as the investigation evolves.

We’ll see.

The risk to Canadians is low.

If you have no product recalls, no real clues other than some lettuce, how can you say the risk is low?

However, Canadians are reminded to follow safe food handling practices for lettuce to avoid becoming ill.

Washing does almost nothing to improve the safety of leafy greens, other than to remove the snot from an appropriately heightened 5-year-old and make consumers feel better.

Most people with an E. coli infection will become ill for a few days and then recover fully.

Unless you’re part of the percentage that has life-long health issues from eating a salad.

Some E. coli infections can be life threatening, though this is rare.

But it really sucks when it happens.

Currently, there are 21 cases of E. coli O157 illness under investigation in three provinces: Quebec (3), New Brunswick (5), and Newfoundland and Labrador (13).

These are not prime lettuce growing areas in Canada, in November.

Individuals became sick in November 2017. Ten individuals have been hospitalized.

No deaths have been reported.

See, no biggie. But this was issued Dec. 11. 2017. So was it early November or late November. The difference is hugely significant when assessing the timeliness of the announcement.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is working with public health officials to determine the source of the romaine lettuce that ill individuals were exposed to.
Which will be buried and vaguely released in some journal article a couple of years from now.
The following food safety tips for lettuce will help you reduce your risk of getting an E. coli infection.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds, before and after handling lettuce.

Water temperature doesn’t matter.

  • Discard outer leaves of fresh lettuce.
  • Wash your unpackaged lettuce under fresh, cool running water. There is no need to use anything other than water to wash lettuce. Washing it gently with water is as effective as using produce cleansers.

And neither are effective at removing pathogens.

  • Keep rinsing your lettuce until all of the dirt has been washed away.
  • Don’t soak lettuce in a sink full of water. It can become contaminated by bacteria in the sink.
  • Ready-to-eat lettuce products sold in sealed packages and labelled as washed, pre-washed or triple washed do not need to be washed again.
  • Use warm water and soap to thoroughly wash all utensils, countertops and cutting boards before and after handling lettuce to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Store lettuce in the refrigerator for up to seven days. Discard when leaves become wilted or brown.
  • Bagged, ready-to-eat, pre-washed lettuce products should also be refrigerated and used before the expiration date.

The Government of Canada is committed to food safety.

The Government of Canada is committed to creating a perception of commitment to food safety.

The Public Health Agency of Canada leads the human health investigation into an outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal and provincial partners to monitor the situation and to collaborate on steps to address the outbreak.

Thanks for the org-chart update.

This is nothing but crass industry-government-academia politico ass-covering.

At some point, the people barfing would probably appreciate something just a tad more human.

What’s in your weed?

In Hawaii, one of the testing labs certified by the state to check the quality of medical marijuana said they found contamination in more than half of the samples from the black market.   

The lab, Steep Hill Hawaii, says over 50 percent of the black market product had contaminants that included mold, yeast, and pesticides. 

The lab says that doesn’t mean all homegrown products are bad, but patients should be aware of what’s in their medicine. 

“I personally was shocked to find out how much stuff was in black market cannabis that you would never expect. E. coli, which comes from fecal matter. Salmonella, which comes from raw egg and chicken. We found that on product we tested,” said Michael Covington, of Steep Hill Hawaii. 

In Canada, CannaDrinks may be all the rage in some parts of the world, but there are some serious health concerns surrounding new products being formulated.

Sure it sounds cool, to order some cannabis-infused drinks at the bar for you and your buddies. However, a leading food safety expert is warning that these cool drinks may be dangerous, and the public (apparently) needs to take note.

While a $245 million deal was penned between Constellation Brands and Canopy Growth last week, for a 10 percent stake of CP, Canada’s largest cannabis producer, to produce the new CannaDrinks, Rick Holley claims the drinks are problematic, “[Producers] could screw this all up if they don’t get into the mechanics of how to safely prepare and develop new food products,” he said, adding, “They could kill people!”

BNN reported that Constellation Brands told them via email that the company, “has a long-standing commitment to producing products with the highest quality standards and that comply with all regulations.”

According to Lawrence Goodridge, a McGill University food safety expert (Larry, you’re an expert), alcohol has the advantage of killing bacteria and toxins in sealed bottles or cans, whereas cannabis-infused products may not, “Because cannabis is a plant, there are certain concerns — like the possibility of pesticides used in production, or the type of fertilizer used, or the potential presence of heavy metals that could be toxic to humans,” said Goodridge, adding that, “Bacteria like e-coli or listeria that could be on the plant and that could make it onto the food, whether it is drinks or edibles, the risk is the same — but alcohol is special because we know that helps to kill some of those toxins.”

Also, Sikora et al. identified a case of Hepatitis A associated with cannabis use.

We identified a case of acute Hepatitis A virus (HAV) infection linked to cannabis use. The local Public Health department received report of a man in his mid-20s with a classic presentation of hepatitis – jaundice, abdominal pain, vomiting, general malaise, and dark urine – as well as elevated serum aminotransferase levels and a positive anti-HAV IgM. Upon questioning, he reported no contact with ill individuals, or travel outside his metropolitan area. His exclusive source of water was the local municipal supply. He reported consuming mainly pre-packaged lower risk foods from large chain-style supermarket stores and eating at several local restaurants. While administering the questionnaire, the investigator identified that the patient smoked cannabis. Upon request, the patient agreed to provide a sample of cannabis for testing purposes. A viral elution of fresh cannabis leaves was completed. The sequences derived from the patient’s serum sample and the eluate from the cannabis leaves were identical, but did not match any other HAV sub-genotype 1B sequences from Canadian isolates within the National Microbiology Laboratory database. Hepatitis A virus can survive >60 days when dried and kept at room temperature and low humidity; HAV can remain infectious in water at room temperature for 300 days. It cannot be concluded with certainty that the cannabis was the source of the hepatitis A; however, as other sources were excluded, or were of lesser probability, the association of cannabis with his disease acquisition remains strong.

 

1 dead, 18 sick: Raw frozen chicken thingies strike again, in Canada

Sofina Foods Inc. of London, Ontario (that’s in Canada, not the UK), is recalling Janes brand frozen uncooked breaded chicken products from the marketplace due to possible Salmonella contamination. Consumers should not consume the recalled products described below.

This recall was triggered by findings by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) during its investigation into a foodborne illness outbreak. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

Recalled products

Brand Name//Common Name//Size//Code(s) on Product//UPC

Janes//Pub Style Chicken Burgers – Uncooked Breaded Chicken Burgers//800 g//2018 MA 12//0 69299 12491 0

Janes//Pub Style Snacks Popcorn Chicken – Uncooked Breaded Chicken Cutlettes//800 g//2018 MA 15//0 69299 12542 9

The agency said frozen raw breaded chicken products may look pre-cooked, but they contain raw poultry and must be cooked correctly.

Been there, done that.

As we found back in 2007, when preparing frozen foods, adolescents are less likely than adults to wash their hands and are more susceptible to cross-contaminating raw foods while cooking.

“While half of the adults we observed washed their hands after touching raw chicken, none of the adolescents did,” said Casey Jacob, a food safety research assistant at Kansaas State. “The non-existent hand washing rate, combined with certain age-specific behaviors like hair flipping and scratching in a variety of areas, could lead directly to instances of cross-contamination compared to the adults.”

Food safety isn’t simple, and instructions for safe handling of frozen chicken entrees or strips are rarely followed by consumers despite their best intentions, said Doug Powell, K-State associate professor of food safety who led the study.

As the number and type of convenience meal solutions increases — check out the frozen food section of a local supermarket — the researchers found a need to understand how both adults and adolescents are preparing these products and what can be done to enhance the safety of frozen foods.

In 2007, K-State researchers developed a novel video capture system to observe the food preparation practices of 41 consumers – 21 primary meal preparers and 20 adolescents – in a mock domestic kitchen using frozen, uncooked, commercially available breaded chicken products. The researchers wanted to determine actual food handling behavior of these two groups in relation to safe food handling practices and instructions provided on product labels. Self-report surveys were used to determine whether differences exist between consumers’ reported food handling practices and observed behavior.

The research appeared in the November 2009 issue of the British Food Journal. In addition to Jacob and Powell, the authors were: Sarah DeDonder, K-State doctoral student in pathobiology; Brae Surgeoner, Powell’s former graduate student; Benjamin Chapman, an assistant professor at North Carolina State University and Powell’s former graduate student; and Randall Phebus, K-State professor of animal science and industry.

Beyond the discrepancy between adult and adolescent food safety practices, the researchers also found that even when provided with instructions, food preparers don’t follow them. They may not have even seen them or they assume they know what to do.

“Our results suggest that while labels might contain correct risk-reduction steps, food manufacturers have to make that information as compelling as possible or it will be ignored,” Chapman said.

They also found that observational research using discreet video recording is far more accurate than self-reported surveys. For example, while almost all of the primary meal preparers reported washing hands after every instance in which they touched raw poultry, only half were observed washing hands correctly after handling chicken products in the study.

Powell said that future work will examine the effectiveness of different food safety labels, messages and delivery mechanisms on consumer behavior in their home kitchens.

 Self-reported and observed behavior of primary meal preparers and adolescents during preparation of frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products

01.nov.09

British Food Journal, Vol 111, Issue 9, p 915-929

Sarah DeDonder, Casey J. Jacob, Brae V. Surgeoner, Benjamin Chapman, Randall Phebus, Douglas A. Powell

http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do;jsessionid=6146E6AFABCC349C376B7E55A3866D4A?contentType=Article&contentId=1811820

Abstract:

Purpose – The purpose of the present study was to observe the preparation practices of both adult and young consumers using frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products, which were previously involved in outbreaks linked to consumer mishandling. The study also sought to observe behaviors of adolescents as home food preparers. Finally, the study aimed to compare food handler behaviors with those prescribed on product labels.

Design/methodology/approach – The study sought, through video observation and self-report surveys, to determine if differences exist between consumers’ intent and actual behavior.

Findings – A survey study of consumer reactions to safe food-handling labels on raw meat and poultry products suggested that instructions for safe handling found on labels had only limited influence on consumer practices. The labels studied by these researchers were found on the packaging of chicken products examined in the current study alongside step-by-step cooking instructions. Observational techniques, as mentioned above, provide a different perception of consumer behaviors.

Originality/value – This paper finds areas that have not been studied in previous observational research and is an excellent addition to existing literature.

Mental health

When I was a kid, we used to spend about every other weekend at my grandfather’s place in Cookstown, Ont., where my father grew up after being in Wales for 15 years.

I usually barfed on the way there, and the way back.

I was about 12-years-old, my sister was 10, and the grandparents decided to take us to Seaworld or whatever it was called in Niagara Falls.

That was when I first detected the Alheimers.

I didn’t know what it was then, just knew he was confused because instead of taking the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) exit in Toronto, he  took the Queensway Blvd. exit to some suburban area.

I said this is wrong, but he was set.

Eventually he found his way back to the proper highway and we went off to Niagara.

Seven years later, I was visiting him in a care facility and he had no idea who he was.

My grandma did the same thing, and eventually ended her life voluntarily.

I carried her into the emergency ward.

Mental health issues are common to many of us.

I only hope that sharing will provide optimism to others.

 

Hip, hockey and concrete

Like any good Canadian, I spent my Australian day watching hockey (Detroit at Toronto) with the volume off and the Tragically Hip blaring in the background, applying to renew my Canadian passport along with one for Sorenne, and watching concrete being poured as we stop our house from sliding down the hill.

(Should make to a good shooting gallery for Sorenne and Amy to improve their puck skills.)

Excited to have Canadian daughter 4-of-4 arrive with her boyfriend on Tuesday.

Leafs won, 6-3, to go to 5-1-1.

My friend Steve is already planning the June parade, and I said I would return to Canada for that, since the Leafs last won the Cup in 1967, when I was 5-years-old, and started receiving pucks to head.

From the duh files: ‘People are being duped’ at Canadian farmers markets

Some farmers market vendors push bogus homegrown stories to consumers looking for fresh local fruits and veggies — and Marketplace has the hidden camera footage to prove it.

The Marketplace team went undercover at 11 bustling markets across Ontario this summer to ask vendors where their produce comes from and then tested the veracity of those claims using surveillance and other investigative techniques.

The results suggest many consumers could be paying premium prices for produce with fake backstories about where it was grown.

At four of the markets, the investigation exposed five different vendors who claimed to be selling fresh produce they had grown themselves but who were actually cashing in by reselling wholesale goods purchased elsewhere.

At a fifth market, the team discovered a vendor passing off Mexican produce as Ontario-grown.

Most of the markets Marketplace visited had vendors known as resellers, who sell produce they didn’t grow. They purchase wholesale fruits and vegetables from places such as the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto — Canada’s largest wholesale market — and take it to farmers markets to sell for a profit.

When asked directly, many resellers were upfront about the fact they didn’t grow the produce, but others were not.

Lauren Nurse, who farms 6 ½ acres in Stirling, Ont., relies on farmers markets as a source of income. She says this kind of behaviour undermines the industry.

“People are being duped,” she says. “There’s no difference between food that you buy at the grocery store and food at the farmers market if it all comes from the food terminal.”

At the Peterborough Farmers’ Market, one of the largest and longest running in Ontario, Marketplace identified two resellers making misleading claims about their products.

The largest of these vendors, Kent Farms, operates two different stalls at the market. One is run by James Kent, and the other by Brent Kent.

They say they’re third generation farmers and have properties northeast of Toronto in Newcastle, Orono and Lindsay.

They told undercover Marketplace journalists that most of the produce they were selling was grown on their family farms, or was from neighbouring properties.

Marketplace started digging after noticing the cucumbers Brent Kent claimed to have grown were labelled with stickers from a large multinational corporation that grows greenhouse vegetables 500 kilometres away in Kingsville, Ont., located south of Windsor on the northwestern shore of Lake Erie.

To determine where the Kents were getting the rest of their produce, Marketplace followed a Kent Farms truck the day before the Peterborough market.

Long before dawn, the truck drove 100 kilometres from James Kent’s property in Newcastle to the Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto. There, the journalists witnessed James Kent and his employees loading their truck with more than 50 boxes of produce including peppers, zucchinis, strawberries and radishes.

At market the next day, James and Brent Kent were seen unloading boxes that looked to be the same as those from the terminal. Staff at Brent Kent’s stall peeled stickers off peppers and James Kent transferred vegetables from wholesale boxes to farm bushels.

When undercover Marketplace journalists asked about the zucchinis, James Kent said: “They’re mine.” He also claimed the radishes were from his neighbour “across the field.”

“He buys all my strawberries,” he said. “The last thing I can do is say no to him when he sells me some radishes.”

Brent Kent said he grew the peppers that Marketplace filmed having their stickers removed earlier that day.

‘Believe in transparency’

Both James and Brent Kent declined to be interviewed.

In an emailed statement, James Kent said they “believe in transparency” and are committed to their customers. He said he grows some of what he sells and purchases some Ontario produce at the food terminal because he believes it’s a “benefit to consumers to provide products from other regions of Ontario.”

Marketplace found four more examples of vendors at markets in Burlington, Gravenhurst, Orillia and Toronto who weren’t clear or upfront about what they were selling.

A vendor at the Burlington Mall Farmers’ Market southwest of Toronto told undercover Marketplace journalists that the tomatoes he was selling were from his farm, which he said is called Koornneef. But Koornneef Produce is actually a large wholesaler that only sells produce at the Ontario Food Terminal.

1 sick: Smoked lake trout recalled in Canada due to potential presence of C. botulinum

I was food shopping at Coles, one-half of the supermarket duopoly in Australia, and an announcement came over through the normal background music of 1980s punk – I’m sure The Clash aspired to have London Calling played as muzak in a grocery store full of old people – that smoked (farmed) trout was being introduced.

Trout is the only aquaculture species in Ontario (that’s in Canada), so I knew my friend Steve would be pleased.

Except when the trout carries botulism because of lousy processing.

Yummy Market Inc. is recalling Yummy Market brand Smoked Lake Trout w/Pepper with Cracked Black Pepper from the marketplace because it may permit the growth of Clostridium botulinum. Consumers should not consume the recalled product described below.

The following product has been sold from Yummy Market – 1390 Major Mackenize Drive W, Maple, ON

If you think you became sick from consuming a recalled product, call your doctor.

Food contaminated with Clostridium botulinum toxin may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick.

This recall was triggered by a consumer complaint. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. If other high-risk products are recalled, the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace.

There has been one reported illness that may be associated with the consumption of this product.

Organic BS: Hucksters make a buck, plead guilty to fraud in Canada

Chapman and I toured southern Ontario tomato farms and processors 16 years ago, and shot youtube video, but youtube didn’t exist, so we didn’t know what to do with the video.

Here it is.

Trevor Wilhelm of the Windsor Star reports that bankrupt Maidstone tomato processing company received a controversial $3- million provincial grant is expected to plead guilty next month to purposely mislabelling products as organic.

An order signed by a Toronto judge states that William (Bill) Thomas, owner of Thomas Canning, has agreed to plead guilty on behalf of the company and pay a $40,000 fine. In exchange, several other charges against the company and Thomas himself will be withdrawn.

The judge’s order states the guilty plea must be entered no later than Nov. 23. Thomas’s next scheduled court appearance in Windsor is Nov. 6.

The guilty plea and $40,000 fine is part of a joint submission from prosecution and defence lawyers. But the judge’s order states the court is not bound by that submission.

According to documents previously filed in Ontario court by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Thomas and his company are accused of 11 offences in contravention of the Food and Drug Act, the Consumer Packaging Act and the Canada Agricultural Products Act.

Thomas Canning and its owner are accused of labelling regular canned tomato products as organic.

The company and Thomas were also charged with falsifying the country of origin on their products between September 2013 and July 2015, passing off American tomato products as Canadian with labels that read “Product of Canada.”

Thomas was also charged personally with lying to a federal food inspector on Jan. 8, 2015, about canned tomato paste sold under the brand Tree of Life.

The company’s website, which is no longer accessible, previously stated that Thomas Canning charged a 20 per cent premium for organic products.

Thomas Canning received a $3-million grant from the province in 2014 to build a new fruit and vegetable processing facility. The plant was never built.

Farmers planted additional crops, signing contracts with Thomas Canning to supply tomatoes to the new plant. Those additional tomatoes rotted in the field.

Before the company went into receivership earlier this year, nine farmers were suing Thomas Canning for $2.85 million for reneging on contracts to grow tomatoes in 2016.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has said it’s fine with the way Thomas Canning used the money. The ministry said the money was used to create and retain jobs, rebrand its Utopia products and open up markets in Nigeria and China.

After receiving the $3 million, Thomas Canning went bankrupt. That process is still winding its way through court.