Reducing the risk of illness from listeria after Tauranga, NZ cases reported

The New Zealand Herald reports Toi Te Ora Public Health and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) are reminding the public of the recommended food safety measures to reduce any risk from the bacteria.

“Listeria is a bacteria that can occasionally contaminate food and cause illness which can be serious for those with poor immunity and also pregnant women,” Toi Te Ora Public Health medical officer of health Dr Neil de Wet said.

“Our investigations include determining what the cases may have eaten in order to identify any common risk factors or food that may be the source of infection.”

MPI compliance director Gary Orr said if there was a link identified between these cases and the food supply chain, immediate action would be taken to ensure public safety.

People who are at risk of more serious illness from listeria include pregnant women and their unborn babies, newborn babies, people with weakened immune systems and elderly people, especially if they have poor health.

While detailed investigations are underway and a source of infection for these recently notified cases is not yet clear, and often a source is not able to be identified for individual cases, it is a timely reminder that people who are in an at-risk group should avoid certain foods.

These foods include:
uncooked, smoked or ready-to-eat fish or seafood, including oysters, prawns, sashimi or sushi.
paté, hummus and tahini-based dips and spreads.
cold pre-cooked chicken.
processed meats including ham and all other chilled pre-cooked meat products including chicken, salami and other fermented or dried sausages.
pre-prepared, pre-packaged or stored salads (including fruit salads) and coleslaw
raw (unpasteurised) milk and any food that contains unpasteurised milk.
soft-serve ice creams.
soft, semi-soft or surface-ripened soft cheese (for example, brie, camembert, feta, ricotta, roquefort).

Who puts spinach in ice cream? Ramar foods recalls mint chocolate chip with hidden spinach ice cream because of Listeria risk

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that Ramar Foods of Pittsburg, CA, is recalling its 14 ounce packages of Peekaboo branded Mint Chocolate Chip with Hidden Spinach Ice Cream product out of an abundance of caution because of the potential contamination of Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The ice cream product being recalled was available for purchase at select Target stores in FL, GA, SC, and NC. Only thirty-three (33) containers of the ice cream product were purchased by consumers and the remaining containers have been removed from commerce. The ice cream affected comes in a 14 ounce, printed paper container with UPC# 8685400001, and a Best Before date of 10/08/2021 printed on the bottom.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this product.

The potential for contamination was discovered after internal routine testing by Ramar Foods revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in some packages of the ice cream.

Blue Bell’s Ex.-CEO charged in conspiracy to cover up Listeria outbreak

Christopher Mele of the New York Times writes the former chief executive of Blue Bell Creameries was charged with conspiracy in connection with his repeated efforts to cover up what became a deadly outbreak of listeria in some of the company’s products in 2015.

In addition, the company pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of distributing adulterated ice cream products and agreed to pay a total of $19.4 million in fines, forfeitures and civil payments — the second-largest amount ever paid to resolve a food safety case, officials said. (Chipotle Mexican Grill last month agreed to pay a $25 million fine related to charges stemming from more than 1,100 cases of foodborne illnesses.)

Prosecutors charged that Blue Bell, which is based in Brenham, Texas, about 75 miles northwest of Houston, distributed ice cream products that were manufactured under unsanitary conditions and contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Three deaths and 10 hospitalizations across four states were tied to the 2015 outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The former chief executive, Paul Kruse, who was also Blue Bell’s president, directed a scheme to cover up the discovery that some products tested positive for listeria, according to court papers. He directed a company employee to stop a testing program for listeria even after two samples sent to a lab came back positive, court records said.

Further, Mr. Kruse did not order the recall of the affected products despite Blue Bell filing a report to federal regulators that it was recalling them “as quickly as possible,” court papers said.

For a period of more than two months in 2015, Mr. Kruse learned from state and federal officials as well as third-party labs that test samples of at least seven company ice cream products made at two different plants had tested positive for listeria, court papers said.

Yet, prosecutors contend, he repeatedly minimized, ignored or tried to cover up the problem products, which included Blue Bell Great Divide Bar and Chocolate Chip Country Cookie, despite concerns raised by company employees and customers, including a Kansas hospital and a Florida school.

For instance, he directed employees to tell customers that there had been an unspecified issue with a manufacturing machine rather than that samples of the products had tested positive for listeria, officials said.

On Feb. 17, 2015, Mr. Kruse rejected sending a draft news release about two products that tested positive for listeria, the withdrawal of those products and a warning to consumers about the potential health consequences. Mr. Kruse instructed the company executive who brought him the proposed release that it was unnecessary, court papers said.

Chris Flood, a lawyer for Mr. Kruse, said on Friday that his client was innocent of the charges.

Blanching fruit and vegetables not good enough to control Listeria

A multi‐country outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes ST6 linked to blanched frozen vegetables (bfV) took place in the EU (2015–2018). Evidence of food‐borne outbreaks shows that L. monocytogenes is the most relevant pathogen associated with bfV.

The probability of illness per serving of uncooked bfV, for the elderly (65–74 years old) population, is up to 3,600 times greater than cooked bfV and very likely lower than any of the evaluated ready‐to‐eat food categories. The main factors affecting contamination and growth of L. monocytogenes in bfV during processing are the hygiene of the raw materials and process water; the hygienic conditions of the food processing environment (FPE); and the time/Temperature (t/T) combinations used for storage and processing (e.g. blanching, cooling). Relevant factors after processing are the intrinsic characteristics of the bfV, the t/T combinations used for thawing and storage and subsequent cooking conditions, unless eaten uncooked.

Analysis of the possible control options suggests that application of a complete HACCP plan is either not possible or would not further enhance food safety. Instead, specific prerequisite programmes (PRP) and operational PRP activities should be applied such as cleaning and disinfection of the FPE, water control, t/T control and product information and consumer awareness. The occurrence of low levels of L. monocytogenes at the end of the production process (e.g. < 10 CFU/g) would be compatible with the limit of 100 CFU/g at the moment of consumption if any labelling recommendations are strictly followed (i.e. 24 h at 5°C). Under reasonably foreseeable conditions of use (i.e. 48 h at 12°C), L. monocytogenes levels need to be considerably lower (not detected in 25 g). Routine monitoring programmes for L. monocytogenes should be designed following a risk‐based approach and regularly revised based on trend analysis, being FPE monitoring a key activity in the frozen vegetable industry.

The public health risk posed by Listeria monocytogenes in frozen fruit and vegetables including herbs, blanched during processing, 20 April 2020

EFSA

DOI: 

10.2903/j.efsa.2020.6092

http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/efsajournal/pub/6092

Smoked trout spread sold throughout Quebec likely to contain

I have this weird affliction (among many): Every time a food is involved in an outbreak or recall, I tend to crave that food.

Earlier in March, food safety officials warned the public about a possible health risk in consuming a smoked trout spread sold at several establishments throughout Quebec because it is likely to contain Listeria monocytogenes.

The spread, ‘Tartinade de truite fumee,’ was sold in 160g units and was produced by the National Herring Import Company Ltd. at 9820 Ray-Lawson Boulevard in Montreal. The units had a best before date of April 2, 2020.

The product was packaged in a clear plastic container with a black plastic cover and was refrigerated.

That’s not a trout lunch, this is, which I made yesterday (this not mine, but similar, because I forgot to take a picture).

Four listeria deaths over three years traced to enoki mushrooms

Enoki mushrooms from South Korea have been recalled and investigators are linking them to a multi-year outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes that has killed four people.

The importer, Sun Hong Foods Inc., Montebello, Calif., recalled the mushrooms March 9 after Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development officials found two samples of the mushrooms were positive for the listeria strain.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health agencies are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses linked to the outbreak, using “DNA fingerprinting” through whole genome sequencing. 

The agencies did not report when the deaths occurred. Patients in California, Hawaii and New Jersey died.

The cases traced to the mushrooms have a high rate of hospitalization, with 30 of the 36 patients identified requiring hospitalization, according to the Food and Drug Administration, which released a warning to consumers March 10 to not eat any enoki mushrooms from Sun Hong Foods.

Sun Hong Foods, Inc 1105 W Olympic Blvd, Montebello, CA 90640 is recalling All Cases Enoki Mushroom (Product of Korea) Net Wt 7.05/200g because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium which can cause life-threatening illness or death. Consumers are warned not to even if it does not look or smell spoiled.

CDC’s At A Glance concluded:

Reported Cases: 36

States: 17

Hospitalizations: 30

Deaths: 4

Recall: Yes

Outbreak investigation of Listeria monocytogenes: Hard-boiled eggs (December 2019)

Why did Listeria appear in hard-boiled eggs? Insufficient cooking? Cross-contamination? Dirty pails? This report doesn’t say.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, CDC, and state and local partners investigated an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to hard-boiled eggs produced by Almark Foods’ Gainesville, Georgia facility. Almark Foods announced an initial voluntary recall of hard-boiled and peeled eggs in pails on December 20, 2019, and then on December 23, 2019 expanded the recall to include all hard-boiled eggs produced at the Gainesville, Georgia facility. All recalled products are now past their “best by” dates.

CDC has announced this outbreak is over. FDA’s investigational activities, including an inspection, are complete. At this time, the firm is no longer producing products at this facility.

Recommendation

Recalled products are now past their “best by” dates and should be thrown away.

FDA recommends that food processors, restaurants and retailers who received recalled products use extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces that may have come in contact with these products, to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Case Counts

Total Illnesses: 8
Illnesses in 2019: 5
Hospitalizations: 5
Deaths: 1
Last illness isolation date: December 7, 2019
States with Cases: FL (1), ME (2), PA (1), SC (2), TX (2)
States with Cases in 2019: FL (1), ME (2), SC (2), TX (1)
Product Distribution*: Nationwide
*Distribution has been confirmed for states list, but at this time we believe the product was distributed nationwide. Updates will be provided as more information becomes available.

What Products are Recalled?

Recalled products include bulk product sold in pails, as well as products sold at retail. Companies who received recalled product from Almark Foods have initiated recalls of products containing these eggs. A list of all these recalls is available on the FDA website.

 

Oh no, not the nuts: Listeria found in Superfood Smoothie Kits

From a company announcement (and stop with the super foods BS; food is food):

Blendtopia Products, LLC is voluntarily recalling 29,078 cases of 7 ounce frozen Blendtopia brand Superfood Smoothie Kits because of potential contamination with Listeria monocytogenes.

The smoothie blends affected include: Blendtopia brand “Glow”, “Detox”, “Energy”, “Immunity” and “Strength” Superfood Smoothie Kits. The impacted product is labeled as “Best By July 2021, Best By Oct 2021, and Best By Nov 2021”. Product was distributed nationwide and is sold at select retailers and through online sales.

The company discovered the issue through its quality control processes. The issue is believed to be isolated to a supplied ingredient. The products are being voluntarily recalled as a precaution, with the health and safety of consumers as top priority and in full cooperation with the FDA. There have been no reports of sickness or illness to date associated with any consumption of products related to this recall.

“Food safety is our highest priority, and we’re committed to assuring consumers can have full confidence in our products,” said Tiffany Taylor, founder of Blendtopia.

Uh huh.

3 dead, one miscarriage, Listeria, ready-to-eat products, EU, 2017-2019

The European Centers for Disease Control reports patients had onset of illness between 2017 and August 2019. Three patients have died and one suffered a miscarriage due to the infection. The close genetic relatedness of the strains (≤3 allelic differences), and the temporal distribution of the cases suggest a prolonged, intermittent, common source foodborne outbreak which occurred in at least two EU Member States.

Nine isolates from six sliced ready-to-eat (RTE) meat products, produced between 2017 and 2019 by the Dutch Manufacturing Company A, were found to be contaminated with L. monocytogenes strains matching the outbreak strain (≤3 allelic differences). Although the exact points of contamination have not been identified yet, the results of the investigation suggest that the contamination may have happened at the Dutch Manufacturing Company A, which represents the only common manufacturing point of the contaminated products. The Dutch Manufacturing Company A distributed products to several EU countries as well as to countries outside the EU.

Following the detection in food of L. monocytogenes isolates matching the outbreak strain, and the discovery of the environmental contamination with other L. monocytogenes strains, the Dutch Manufacturing Company A stopped the production in October 2019, and finalised the withdrawals and recalls of all RTE meat products. This measure decreases the risk of new cases occurring possibly associated with products from this company.

Pregnant women, the elderly and immunocompromised people are at higher risk of invasive listeriosis, which is associated with severe clinical course and potential death. Therefore, specific attention should be paid to the administration of RTE meat products to people in hospitals, nursing homes and those belonging to vulnerable population groups.

We’re all hosts on a viral planet, even bacteria

Listeria monocytogenes may persist in food production environments and cause listeriosis. In Norway, a product of concern is the traditional and popular fermented fish product “rakfisk”, which is made from freshwater salmonid fish by mild-salting and brine maturation at low temperatures for several months. It is eaten without any heat treatment, and L. monocytogenes, therefore, poses a potential hazard.

We investigated the effect of salt and temperature on the growth of L. monocytogenes in rakfisk during the 91 days of maturation. The amounts of organic acids produced during fermentation were too low to inhibit growth of L. monocytogenes.

Temperature was clearly the most important parameter for controlling L. monocytogenes. At 7 °C, approximately 2 log growth was observed during the first 14 days of fermentation, and the level of L. monocytogenes thereafter remained constant. At 4 °C, only a little growth potential of the pathogen was recorded. We also investigated the effect of the anti-Listeria bacteriophage P100 on rakfisk with added L. monocytogenes. The phage was introduced to the L. monocytogenes-inoculated fish before fermentation, and an average of 0.9 log reduction was observed throughout the fermentation period.

This is the first study of L. monocytogenes behavior in rakfisk and points to possible measures for increasing the product safety.

Growth behavior of listeria monocytogenes in a traditional Norwegian fermented fish product (rakfisk), and its inhibition through bacteriophage addition

Foods

Lars Axelsson, Guro Alette Bjerke, Anette McLeod, Ingunn Berget and Askild L. Holck

https://www.google.com/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=https://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/9/2/119/pdf&ct=ga&cd=CAEYASoTMTE1NzcxMjA4OTIyNjc2MTc3NDIaYmM3NzBmMDk3NWY0YjI4ZTpjb206ZW46VVM&usg=AFQjCNFJNVQuk-sddOTM-d7FT6mqcqo94w