Recall: Apples and goat milk may not mix

This is a little old, but I’m playing catch-up.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises consumers not to eat goat cheese products manufactured by Apple Tree Goat Dairy of Richfield, Penn. (Apple Tree), because the products have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

apple-tree-goat-dairyApple Tree manufactures pasteurized and 60-day aged, semi-soft, and hard goat cheeses under the Apple Tree Goat Dairy brand. The products were sold in Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey through Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative, West End Farmers Market in Alexandria, Va., Ambler (Penn.) Farmers Market, and Doylestown (Penn.) Farmers Market.

On September 12, 2016, FDA began its inspection of Apple Tree’s manufacturing facility in Richfield, PA. In addition to observing poor sanitation practices, FDA took environmental samples that identified Listeria monocytogenes in 18 environmental samples from Apple Tree’s processing, packaging, and storage areas, including food-contact surfaces such as a cheese slicer, cheese mold, tables, and plates used to hold cheese before packaging. FDA also tested Apple Tree’s goat cheese. Two of the finished goat cheeses and 18 of the environmental samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

On September 20, 2016, Apple Tree initiated a voluntary recall of the four lots of goat cheeses that PDA tested and found positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Later in September, Apple Tree expanded its recall to include all of its goat cheeses, but FDA is not aware of any public notification to consumers announcing the expanded recall. Accordingly, FDA is issuing this release and working with PDA to monitor this situation and take appropriate actions to protect consumers from Apple Tree goat cheeses that may have been exposed to or contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Although no illnesses have been reported to date in association with Apple Tree’s goat cheeses, Listeria monocytogenes can cause a serious, potentially life-threatening infection called listeriosis.

Irrigation water safety in Penn.

Recent produce-associated foodborne illness outbreaks have been attributed to contaminated irrigation water. This study examined microbial levels in Pennsylvania surface waters used for irrigation, relationships between microbial indicator organisms and water physicochemical characteristics, and the potential use of indicators for predicting the presence of human pathogens.

A total of 153 samples taken from surface water sources used for irrigation in southeastern Pennsylvania were collected from 39 farms over a 2-year period. Samples were analyzed for six microbial indicator organisms (aerobic plate count, Enterobacteriaceae, coliform, fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, and enterococci), two human pathogens (Salmonella and E. coli O157), and seven physical and environmental characteristics (pH, conductivity, turbidity, air and water temperature, and sampling day and 3-day-accumulated precipitation levels).

Indicator populations were highly variable and not predicted by water and environmental characteristics. Only five samples were confirmed positive for Salmonella, and no E. coli O157 was detected in any samples. Predictive relationships between microbial indicators and the occurrence of pathogens could therefore not be determined.

Microbial survey of Pennsylvania surface water used for irrigating produce crops

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 6, June 2016, pp. 896-1055, pp. 902-912(11)

Draper, Audrey D.; Doores, Stephanie; Gourama, Hassan; LaBorde, Luke F.


Pennsylvania eatery inspections not enough

According to this editorial, it’s too difficult for Pa. diners walking into a restaurant to know if it has failed inspections recently.

Insect infestations. Rodent droppings. Unsanitary food storage.

web1_Restaurant_Inspections_WingsUnfortunately, these are common problems uncovered by state restaurant inspectors – who provide an important service to protect diners against illness or even death.

But a recent YDR inspection of the inspection system shows that it could be more useful and transparent for citizens.

The state does not require restaurants to post notices when they have failed inspections. Restaurants are required to post a sign saying the most recent inspection report is available upon request. But it’s up to customers to ask to see those reports. How useful is that? How many people walking into a restaurant would feel comfortable asking for an inspection report?

Customers can also check out inspection reports online. But that database is not easy to find and is very difficult to use on a mobile phone. You can find the database at the state Department of Agriculture’s website, but how many people would guess they need to go to the ag department for that information?

State officials will find that people really want easy access to this information. YDR reports on restaurant inspections are among the most popular stories on our website.

The state should develop an app.

The state largely depends on the power of shame to punish poorly run eateries. Publicity about failed inspections can result in business losses.

Restaurants with severe violations can also be fined – an average of $100.

Is that enough? And are fines and civil penalties pursued often enough?


Most inspectors don’t levy fines because then they have to show up in court – a big hassle for a measly $100 fine. But when people’s lives are potentially at risk because of poor food handling, it’s worth the hassle of a court appearance.

State lawmakers should consider increasing fines – particularly for chronic inspection failures. And the state should charge restaurants that fail inspections for all follow-up visits. As it stands now, the first re-inspection is free.

Another thing lawmakers should consider: A visible rating system for restaurants.

Some other states use systems whereby restaurants are graded (A, B, C, D, F) or given a color code (green, yellow, red) based on inspection results.

What happens when a restaurant refuses health order to close: Nothing (maybe double-secret probabtion)

The Allegheny County Health Department issued a second notice of closure to Rudy’s Submarines at 270 Yost Boulevard Friday after the restaurant’s health permit was suspended Thursday.

rudys-submarinesRudy’s was ordered to close for failing to correct numerous violations, according to the Health Department. The violations include lacking a certified food protection manager, as well as not having a hand washing sink in a food preparation area, hot water in a hand washing sink, soap to wash hands or date-marking equipment.

In addition, the Health Department said that a “food contact surface” at the restaurant on Yost Boulevard was not properly cleaned and sanitized, and the floor and ceiling were in poor condition.

Although Rudy’s health permit was suspended Thursday, the Health Department found that the restaurant remained open Friday. It was again ordered to close.

Deer brains, other parts found at Pennsylvania restaurant

I’ve always referred to The Odds song, Eat My Brain, as the CJD song.

my.brain.hurtsEating brains is not a good idea.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission confiscated deer brains and other deer parts from a Lititz restaurant earlier this month, according to state inspectors.

The brains, heads, muscle meat and other parts were taken after New China House’s operator couldn’t provide documentation the game meat was from an approved source, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture inspection report. 

The game commission is investigating, according to PennLive.

A confidential tip led to the investigation, a commission spokesman told PennLive. Travis Lau said game animals for consumption must be farm-raised and game shot by hunters cannot be sold.

New China’s owner told PennLive that he doesn’t sell deer meat and that deer bones confiscated were for soup for him and his wife.

The deer parts violation was one of 18 violations documented on a Dec. 16 inspection, according to the agriculture department’s report. A follow-up inspection Dec. 17 documented 14 violations, including an unidentifiable pig organ, which the operator’s wife said was her lunch. It was discarded.

Pennsylvania funeral director dismayed by court ruling reinstating food ban

“I drove down your road

to Hazeldean where I tasted

greasy.jungle.hipyour funeral home’s sandwiches and coffee

I saw your hands melt into one another

I saw you grieve and grow

care a lot about one another”

Greasy Jungle, 1994, Tragically Hip

A federal judge has ordered no more food service at Pennsylvania funeral homes.

The food ban at Pennsylvania funeral homes was instituted in 1952 out of food safety concerns.  Then, in 2012, a federal judge deemed the earlier ruling unconstitutional.

Now, a federal appeals court has reversed the reversal, once again banning food at funeral homes in the commonwealth.

Chad Snyder, director of Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home in Lancaster, Pa. says he’s baffled and  disappointed by the ruling.

“There are many other places that would come to the conclusion of health hazards,” he said today.  “I mean, retirement communities, hospitals — they also provide food service.”

He says it was an ancillary service that gave comfort to families.

5 sick, again, from Campylobacter linked to Penn. raw milk

In Jan. 2010, the owners of The Family Cow, a producer of raw milk in Pennsylvania, in partnership with Whole Foods, took the Intertubes to extol the virtues of raw milk (video below).

In Jan. 2012, after a preliminary investigation had linked 12 people sick with Campylobacter to raw milk consumption, Edwin Shank, the owner of Shankstead EcoFarm, trading as The Family Cow in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, wrote in an e-mail to customers, “In spite of some over-eager reporting, there have been NO positive raw_milk_family_cow(1)campylobacter tests from unopened container of our raw milk either by the PDA lab or from QC Labs, the certified lab that we use.

“When your emails started pouring in, one thing became immediate obvious. There is an unusually powerful stomach and lower gastrointestinal illness with acute 7-10 day diarrhea going through our communities. Some say it’s nationwide.

“So, if we were looking for an easy way out, and looking to shift the blame, it looks like we could have our answer. It’s not us! It’s not our milk! It’s a virus. It’s the flu. It is nationwide so don’t blame us!”

At least 65 people were sickened in that outbreak.

Now, the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture and Health has advised consumers to discard raw milk produced by The Family Cow because of potential bacterial contamination, based on laboratory tests and five sick people.

Again Campylobacter.

Again, epidemiology works.

The Family Cow, owned and operated by Edwin Shank, sells directly to consumers in an on-farm retail store and at drop off locations and retail stores around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley, as well as south-central Pennsylvania.

Agriculture officials ordered the owners of the farm to stop the sale of all raw milk until further notice.

Shank, 43, told Trib Live, “We’re working with the state, doing additional testing and strengthening safety protocols. We have our laboratory. We test and hold every batch.”

Raw milk sickened scores despite inspections

The majority of those sickened in raw milk outbreaks is children under 10-years-old. And there’s good immunological reasons for that. If adults want to take the risk with raw milk, they will, just like with cigarettes and alcohol. But parents generally don’t have a scotch and smoke with their 4-year-olds.

That’s what I told Karen Rowan of My Health News Daily in her report about a report appearing in Clinical Infectious Diseases, summarizing a Jan. 2012 campylobacter outbreak linked to raw milk that sickened 148 people in four states.

The dairy that sold the milk had a permit for selling unpasteurized milk, and had passed all inspections. The farm was among the largest sellers of unpasteurized colbert.raw.milkmilk in the state.

The dairy also tested its own milk for E. coli bacteria more often than was required. The vast majority of the sick people drank the milk before its “best by” date.

The only deficiencies that investigators found were that a mechanical milk bottle capper was broken, so employees had capped the bottles by hand, and that the water used to clean equipment was cooler than recommended (110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of 160 to 170 degrees F).

But these issues were “minimal,” and this campylobacter outbreak demonstrates “the ongoing hazards of unpasteurized dairy products.”

Douglas Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University advises that raw milk not be given to children. “As adults, you’re free to choose. But don’t give it to your kids.”

The people sickened in the outbreak ranged in age from 2 to 74, the report said. Typically, campylobacter infections cause diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever that last about a week, and most people get better on their own. In the outbreak, 10 people were hospitalized.

The dairy immediately suspended unpasteurized milk sales when it was informed of the outbreak.

The researchers recommended that state officials consider more regulation of unpasteurized milk, such as monthly pathogen testing.

Pennsylvania student recovering from E. coli after farm visit

The Mercury reports a recent trip to a local farm left a Perkiomen Valley School District student sick with a strain of E. coli.

A letter sent out to parents Tuesday signed by district Superintendent Clifford Rogers announced the student did not attend school “for the duration of the illness and the case was reported to the Montgomery County Health Department.”

Jessica Lester, Perkiomen Valley’s manager of school and community engagement, said the student attends South Elementary School but his exact grade wasn’t being released for his privacy.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at

Erdozain G, Kukanich K, Chapman B, Powell D. 2012. Observation of public health risk behaviours, risk communication and hand hygiene at Kansas and Missouri petting zoos – 2010-2011. Zoonoses Public Health. 2012 Jul 30. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2012.01531.x. [Epub ahead of print]

Outbreaks of human illness have been linked to visiting settings with animal contact throughout developed countries. This paper details an observational study of hand hygiene tool availability and recommendations; frequency of risky behavior; and, handwashing attempts by visitors in Kansas (9) and Missouri (4), U.S., petting zoos. Handwashing signs and hand hygiene stations were available at the exit of animal-contact areas in 10/13 and 8/13 petting zoos respectively. Risky behaviors were observed being performed at all petting zoos by at least one visitor. Frequently observed behaviors were: children (10/13 petting zoos) and adults (9/13 petting zoos) touching hands to face within animal-contact areas; animals licking children’s and adults’ hands (7/13 and 4/13 petting zoos, respectively); and children and adults drinking within animal-contact areas (5/13 petting zoos each). Of 574 visitors observed for hand hygiene when exiting animal-contact areas, 37% (n=214) of individuals attempted some type of hand hygiene, with male adults, female adults, and children attempting at similar rates (32%, 40%, and 37% respectively). Visitors were 4.8x more likely to wash their hands when a staff member was present within or at the exit to the animal-contact area (136/231, 59%) than when no staff member was present (78/343, 23%; p<0.001, OR=4.863, 95% C.I.=3.380-6.998). Visitors at zoos with a fence as a partial barrier to human-animal contact were 2.3x more likely to wash their hands (188/460, 40.9%) than visitors allowed to enter the animals’ yard for contact (26/114, 22.8%; p<0.001, OR= 2.339, 95% CI= 1.454-3.763). Inconsistencies existed in tool availability, signage, and supervision of animal-contact. Risk communication was poor, with few petting zoos outlining risks associated with animal-contact, or providing recommendations for precautions to be taken to reduce these risks.

1 sick; cheese recalled from Whole Foods in Pennsylvania

The Allegheny County Health Department and Whole Foods Market announce that Jean Perrin Edel de Cleron cheese sold in the East Liberty Whole Foods Market store is being recalled because some samples tested positive for listeria.

The recalled cheese was cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap with a Whole Foods Market scale label, and a code beginning with 293351. The recalled cheese was sold between May 20 and July 3, 2012.

One illness has been reported.