Ready-to-eat meals may be popular but have risks

Eugene Boisvert of Au News writes that more than 40 per cent of ready-to-eat meals tested by South Australian health types contained an unsatisfactory level of bacteria, according to survey results published in the Eastern Health Authority’s annual report this month.

The SA Health survey said one of the tested meals contained 310 times the safe level of Bacillus cereus, and another had almost 13 times the safe level of E. coli, which comes from feces.

Out of 98 meals bought at local supermarkets and shops with a shelf life of 10 or more days, 42 had an unsatisfactory microorganism count.

Eastern Health Authority chief executive Michael Livori said more small businesses were trying to capitalise on the growing popularity of ready-to-eat meals without understanding the health risks involved.

“Most manufacturers who are normally in this business will (understand the risks) but there’s an increase in small businesses or retailers getting into this realm but not without risk,” Mr Livori said.

The SA Health survey and subsequent report, published in June, was sparked by Eastern Health Authority concerns about the standard of manufacturing processes of ready-to-eat meals.

The SA Health report recommended measures to prevent bacteria growing in ready-to-eat meals, including that they be heated to at least 90C for 10 minutes when being cooked.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Health Authority issued 10 businesses with prohibition orders in 2016/17, banning them from preparing, selling or transporting food until they cleaned up their act, compared with three in the previous two financial years.

Investors beware: Grocers tackle new food-safety issues as tastes grow for prepared meals

I read food safety fairytales daily.

But as noted by Jesse Newman and Heather Haddon of the Wall Street Journal, supermarkets are starting to look a lot more like takeout restaurants, and the explosion of prepared meals has brought new food-safety issues that even leading chains are racing to manage.

fairytale-foodInvestors beware.

Whole Foods Market Inc., (which sucks a food safety) a trailblazer in the sale of fresh-cooked items, was recently forced to temporarily shutter one of its commercial kitchens producing fresh meals for stores. The move was a response to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s warning over safety gaps in the Boston-area plant.

The grocer is now overhauling its approach, including discontinuing the processing of meat, poultry and raw seafood in that kitchen and two others, according to a letter obtained through a public document request and the company.

The FDA’s warning followed an E.coli outbreak last year that was linked to rotisserie chicken salad made at Costco Wholesale Corp. and sickened 19 people. Deli foods from the Boise Co-Op, a natural-foods grocer in Idaho, were also tied to a salmonella outbreak last year that sickened nearly 300 people.

The grocers’ woes highlight challenges facing supermarkets competing for consumers forgoing home-cooking and traditional restaurant meals in favor of fresh offerings from sushi counters or taco bars at neighborhood grocery stores. As prepared-food offerings increase in volume and complexity, the risk of food-safety issues also grows, with supermarkets now facing safety concerns that have beset the restaurant industry for years.

Fresh prepared foods generated $15 billion in sales in supermarkets in 2005, a figure that has nearly doubled to about $28 billion last year, according to Technomic, a food industry research firm.

But while grocers have long offered fresh options from delis and salad bars, they now are selling more sophisticated meals, which require more complex cooking and serving practices.

 

Are ready-to-eat salads ready to eat?

We investigated a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Coeln in Norway, including 26 cases identified between 20 October 2013 and 4 January 2014. We performed a matched case-control study, environmental investigation and detailed traceback of food purchases to identify the source of the outbreak.

lettuce.skull.noroIn the case-control study, cases were found to be more likely than controls to have consumed a ready-to-eat salad mix (matched odds ratio 20, 95% confidence interval 2·7–∞). By traceback of purchases one brand of ready-to-eat salad was indicated, but all environmental samples were negative for Salmonella.

This outbreak underlines that pre-washed and bagged salads carry a risk of infection despite thorough cleaning procedures by the importer. To further reduce the risk of infection by consumption of ready-to-eat salads product quality should be ensured by importers.

Outbreaks linked to salads reinforce the importance of implementation of appropriate food safety management systems, including good practices in lettuce production.

Are ready-to-eat salads ready to eat? An outbreak of Salmonella Coeln linked to imported, mixed, pre-washed and bagged salad, Norway, November 2013

F. Vestrheima1a2 c1, H. Langea1a3, K. Nygårda1, K. Borgena1, A. L. Westera1, M. L. Kvarmea4 and L. Volda1

Epidemiology and Infection, Volume 144, Issue 8, June 2016, pages 1756-1760, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0950268815002769

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=10299069&utm_source=Issue_Alert&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=HYG

Traces of listeria found in Vancouver ready-to-eat fish products

Kevin Dr.-Dreamy Allen, (right, sortof as shown) found traces of listeria in ready-to-eat fish products sold in Metro Vancouver, according to this boring University of British Columbia press release.

There’s so much Kevin Dr.-Hockey-Goon Allen material to work with, but UBC went with the boring and predictable.

Allen tested a total of 40 ready-to-eat fish samples prior to their best before date. Purchased from seven large chain stores and 10 small retailers in Metro Vancouver, these products included lox, smoked tuna, candied salmon and fish jerky.

The findings – published in a recent issue of the journal Food Microbiology – show that listeria was present in 20 per cent of the ready-to-eat fish products. Of these, five per cent had the more virulent variety of Listeria monocytogenes.

Allen says although the Listeria monocytogenes levels in the ready-to-eat fish products met federal guidelines, the bacteria can multiply during handling and storage – particularly toward the end of shelf life.

“Additional handling of ready-to-eat foods in stores, such as slicing, weighing, and packaging, may increase the potential for cross-contamination,” says Allen. “While listeria bacteria can be killed by high heat, most people eat these fish products without further cooking. What this means for consumers is that pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system should be aware of the health risks.”

Listeria plentiful in BC ready-to-eat seafood at retail

Hockey goon and budding academic Kevin Allen of the University of British Columbia says there’s lots of listeria in ready-to-eat seafood in British Columbia (that’s in Canada).

According to a new paper in Food Microbiology, Allen along with Lili Mesak and Javana Kova?evic found lots of anti-microbial resistant Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat salmon, but none in RTE deli meats. The paper offers a thorough microbiologial and genomic description of the listeria strains isolated but what this means for consumers is less clear.

But Kevin, describing listeria-vulnerable populations as “the really young and the elderly?” What about the really, really young? Or the super-young. The uber-young?

Abstract below.

Occurrence and characterization of Listeria spp. in ready-to-eat retail foods from Vancouver, British Columbia
02.jan.12
Food Microbiology
Jovana Kova?evi?, Lili R. Mesak, Kevin J. Allen
Abstract
The occurrence of Listeria spp. and L. monocytogenes in retail RTE meat and fish products in Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.) was investigated. To assess potential consumer health risk, recovered L. monocytogenes isolates were subjected to genotypic and phenotypic characterization. Conventional methods were used to recover Listeria spp. from deli meat (n=40) and fish (n=40) samples collected from 17 stores. Listeria spp. were recovered only from fish samples (20 %); 5 % harboured L. innocua, 5 % had L. monocytogenes and 10 % contained L. welshimeri. Listeria monocytogenes isolates serotyped as 1/2a and 1/2b, possessed dissimilar PFGE patterns, and had full-length InlA. Three 1/2a clonal isolates encoded the 50 kb genomic island, LGI1. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) profiling showed all Listeria spp. possessed resistance to cefoxitin and nalidixic acid. Listeria monocytogenes were resistant to clindamycin, two were resistant to streptomycin, and one to amikacin. Reduced susceptibility to ciprofloxacin was seen in all L. monocytogenes, L. innocua and three L. welshimeri isolates. Reduced susceptibility to amikacin and chloramphenicol was also observed in one L. monocytogenes and three L. welshimeri isolates, respectively. Recovery of L. monocytogenes in fish samples possessing AMR, full-length InlA, LGI1, and serotypes frequently associated with listeriosis suggest B.C. consumers are exposed to high-risk strains.
Highlights
? Listeria spp. were frequently recovered from RTE salmon samples, but not deli meat. ? High risk strains of L. monocytogenes were present in BC retail RTE seafood. ? This is the first report of the LGI1 genomic island from retail RTE seafood. ? AMR was observed in all Listeria, and included clinically relevant antimicrobials

Don’t use same equipment on raw and ready-to-eat food – it’s too hard to clean

Abby Alford of the Western Mail reports that the mother of a five-year-old boy who died following an outbreak of E. coli has said new food safety guidelines could mean his death was not in vain.

Mason Jones (right), from Deri, near Bargoed, Caerphilly, died in the worst E.coli O157 food poisoning outbreak to hit Wales five years ago.

Now guidelines which could compel food businesses to use separate machinery to process raw and cooked meat are being seriously considered by food safety officials as a result of the outbreak, which began after contaminated meat was distributed to 44 South Wales Valleys school.

The move by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) comes after it was revealed some firms continue to use the same equipment for both types of meat, risking public health.

The FSA said the new guidelines will go out to public consultation by the summer.

What public consultation is needed? Don’t cross-contaminate. It kills people.

Complex, hard-to-clean equipment should never be used for raw meat and ready-to-eat foods.