When it starts to fall apart it really falls apart: McCain Foods closes California facility responsible for 2018’s largest food safety recall

On Oct. 14, 2018, McCain Foods initiated a creeping crawling outbreak of processing vegetables from its Colton Calif. plant that lasted six weeks.

Now that plant has been closed.

Early in Jan., 2019, Sam Bloch of New Food Economy wrote that the Colton facility produced commercial ingredients—the invisible mortar of the food system.

You might not know McCain, but you’ve probably eaten its food. The multi-billion-dollar foodservice corporation, based in Toronto, Ontario (that’s in Canada), manufactures frozen foods—primarily potatoes, but also fruits and vegetables, pizzas, juices, and various oven meals—in 53 plants around the world.

(Bloch writes that McCain brags that one in every four French fries eaten globally is McCain. Bloch could have done a little digging and found that the McCain family are an on-going soap-opera of Machiavellian proportions, in Canadian terms, rivalled only by the Seagram family who made their fortune running booze to the U.S. during U.S. Prohibition. Oh, and the McCain family also killed genetically-engineered Bt potatoes which would have offered some chemical relief to the steams and environment, especially in Eastern Canada, but that’s another story. Back to the veggies).

In October a number of grocery stores, from Whole Foods to Walmart, pulled thousands of branded salads, wraps and burritos, from their shelves, out of concern over roasted corn and onion ingredients that may have been contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes.

Combined, the McCain recalls will affect over 99 million pounds of food.

Now Bloch writes McCain has closed its Colton, California plant, which had processed the vegetables, including chopped onions, peppers, and roasted corn, and sold them as ingredients to commercial kitchens and food manufacturers all over the country. The recalls spread to what seemed like every aisle of the supermarket, from prepackaged salads at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to cheese dips and frozen Kashi grain bowls. The total amount of product affected exceeds 100 million pounds, making it the largest recall of 2018, and perhaps of recent memory.  

McCain announced the plant’s closure on January 11, which, according to a statement from the company, will result in layoffs for 100 employees. In an email to The New Food Economy, Andrea Davis, a McCain spokeswoman confirmed the recall influenced the decision to close the plant,but said there were other factors involved.

“The product mix produced at the Colton facility does not support the changing needs of our portfolio,” Davis wrote. “While the recent recall was one consideration, the decision to permanently close the facility was ultimately a business decision.”

It is not clear exactly when the plant will be closed, and McCain representatives could not be reached for further comment by press time.  

The facility in question had a history of food safety violations.

Of course they did.

Everyone has a camera, licking fetish edition: Meat in Ohio, doorknob in California

A video has surfaced showing a worker at “La Plaza Tapatia” international market in Columbus licking meat that was meant for customers.

Customers are outraged after the video was posted to social media. Now, the incident has gotten the attention of Franklin County Public Health.

“We do take that very seriously,” said Garrett Guillozet supervisor of the food safety program.

Guillozet, told ABC6/FOX28 that the images are disturbing.

“I was definitely surprised,” said Guillozet.

A tipster sent the clip to ABC6/FOX28 after it was posted to Snapchat. ABC6/FOX28 discovered the incident is just the latest in a string of potential customer health dangers at the west Columbus market. For a time in 2018, the grocery was placed on the Enforcement Program due to violations.

One the store’s Facebook page, the workers involved posted an apology video. They claim the meat had been dropped on the floor and after recording the video they threw it away.

For their part, administrators at Franklin County Public Health told ABC6/FOX28 that the market owners had been working to clean up issues.

“To see this happen after that was kind of disheartening and frustrating,” said Guillozet.

The owner of the store released the following statement to ABC6/FOX28. The below statement may be attributed to Gustavo Salazar, owner, La Plaza Tapatia:

La Plaza Tapatia is committed to the highest standards for the safety and quality of the foods we sell. We are extremely disappointed in the behavior of two of our employees, who posted a video of inappropriate actions in our meat handling area.

The video only involved the single piece of meat shown in the video, and it was immediately discarded (below, not exactly as shown, because I couldn’t find the real one). None of the meat we have for sale was affected.

This is unacceptable behavior, and the two employees have been terminated from their positions. We also will retrain all our employees in our firm expectations for food safety. Further, the Franklin County Health Department inspected our store on January 30 and found our operations to be both well maintained and with good food handling practices.

The trust and confidence of our customers and the Hispanic community is of great importance to us, and we apologize for any concern this situation has caused.

In weirdly related news, a California man was caught on surveillance video licking a doorbell for quite a while in a California neighborhood.

The suspect, whom police identified as 33-year-old Roberto Arroyo, spent about three hours licking the doorbell and milling around the Salinas, California yard of Sylvia and Dave Dungan.

The incident happened around 5:00 am. The homeowners were not home at the time, but they told news station KION that their children were.

They were alerted to the incident when their surveillance system notified them of movement by the front door.

The man was also caught relieving himself in the front yard, and reportedly also approached a neighbor’s house.

“You kind of laugh about it afterwards because technically he didn’t do anything,” said Sylvia Dungan, who owns the house shown in the video, told KION.

Police are searching for the suspect and say that he could face two misdemeanor charges for petty theft and prowling.

120 sick: California wildfire evacuees face the misery of norovirus

The European Cleaning Journal reports that more than 120 people forced to flee the deadly California wildfires are now battling the norovirus to add to their woes.

Sick evacuees are being housed in separate shelters and active monitoring of all shelter residents is being carried out. Meanwhile, separate washrooms are being allocated to the ill and protective equipment is being supplied to medical staff.

Outbreaks of the norovirus is not uncommon in situations where hundreds of people live in close quarters, says public information officer for Butte County Public Health Lisa Almaguer. The health department is working with the Red Cross plus state and federal partners to reduce the spread of the illness.

One evacuee claims to have seen someone “puking into a toilet”, adding that health officials were urging all evacuees to wash their hands repeatedly, avoid handshakes and to use hand sanitiser before eating.

FDA’s update on Romaine-linked outbreak investigation – it is California stuff

The normal folks who I hang out with at the hockey arena have already started asking when they can start eating Romaine again (who knew there were so many Caesar fans).

FDA’s answer to when is soon

Some places never stopped serving it. 

Earlier today I told Korin Miller at Yahoo the below:

If you happen to visit a restaurant that tries to claim its romaine is safe, it’s really best to avoid the food. “I would send it back,” Benjamin Chapman, an assistant professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “When the CDC comes out with a message that says ‘Don’t eat romaine lettuce,’ you should heed that advice,” he says. “Right now, we don’t have any indication that it’s romaine from any certain part of the country or a certain company. It’s a standing blanket statement.”

And now we’ve got more information (that’s how quickly this stuff moves).

FDA announced late today that they have narrowed their investigation to field grown Romaine from Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California.

All other lettuce is as safe as it was last week before the announcement.

FDA is taking things a step further, in a really positive way in concept – asking producers to label where it came from.

Based on discussions with producers and distributors, romaine lettuce entering the market will now be labeled with a harvest location and a harvest date or labeled as being hydroponically- or greenhouse-grown. If it does not have this information, you should not eat or use it.

There is no recommendation for consumers or retailers to avoid using romaine lettuce that is certain to have been harvested from areas outside of the Central Coast growing regions of northern and central California. For example, romaine lettuce harvested from areas that include, but are not limited to the desert growing region near Yuma, the California desert growing region near Imperial County and Riverside County, the state of Florida, and Mexico, does not appear to be related to the current outbreak. Additionally, there is no evidence hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown romaine is related to the current outbreak.

During this new stage of the investigation, it is vital that consumers and retailers have an easy way to identify romaine lettuce by both harvest date and harvest location. Labeling with this information on each bag of romaine or signage in stores where labels are not an option would easily differentiate for consumers romaine from unaffected growing regions.

Poop makeup in California

Never got the make-up thing: My partners always looked great without it.

CBS Sacramento reports, buyers beware! Sometimes when you spot a good makeup deal, it’s too good to be true.

The Los Angeles Police Department says it confiscated counterfeit makeup that tested positive for high levels of bacteria and animal waste.

The department seized $700,000 worth of bootleg cosmetics on Thursday after raiding 21 locations in Santee Alley, a Los Angeles fashion district, said LAPD Capt. Marc Reina.

“Those feces will just basically somehow get mixed into the product they’re manufacturing in their garage or in their bathroom — wherever they’re manufacturing this stuff,” Detective Rick Ishitani told CNN affiliate KABC.

One of the brands being knocked off was Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics. Kim Kardashian West, Jenner’s sister, took to Twitter to respond to the raid:

“Counterfeit Kylie lip kits seized in LAPD raid test positive for feces. SO GROSS! Never buy counterfeit products!”

Other prominent makeup brands that were faked included Urban Decay, MAC and NARS.

The LAPD was tipped off by the brand-name companies, which received complaints from consumers who said they had rashes and bumps after using their products. The complainants had one thing in common: They bought the product in the Los Angeles fashion district.

The packaging of the bogus products looks like the real deal, but the prices are way too low.

California sisters fighting to recover from E. coli

The Public Health Agency of Canada may think Shiga-toxin producing E. coli is no biggie, but tell that to the Niles sisters of southern California, who were both hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

ABC 30 reports that Mariska and Willow were active and healthy kids with no medical history. Their parents thought it was a terrible case of the flu. Originally their pediatrician thought it was norovirus. But after days of worsening symptoms, they were admitted to Valley Children’s Hospital with E. coli.

13-year-old Mariska Niles is finally starting to improve after 16 days in the hospital. She’s had more blood transfusions than she can count along with excruciating stomach pain and she was hallucinating.

The sisters were diagnosed with E. coli HUS or typical hemolytic uremic syndrome but the girls had unique cases.

Dr. Molly Dorfman said, “There’s was pretty atypical. Particularly the severity of Willow’s case was very very severe.”

This form of bacteria usually originates from contaminated food or water products. Pinpointing the exact source has been difficult. They haven’t traveled anywhere recently. The family hadn’t eaten out lately. It’s likely other family members also ate what the girls did but did not become violently ill. Even more puzzling, Mariska and Willow rarely eat the same things.

9-year-old Willow’s kidney’s still are not working. She has been debilitated by toxins from the infection, and at one point couldn’t wake up. Both sisters have had blood transfusion and dialysis.

Hepatitis A transmission: Door knob edition

There’s a lot of hepatitis A going around in Southern California. With an outbreak going through the homeless population in a couple of counties and potential exposure of fruit cart patrons, there’s lots of paranoia.

The San Diego Tribune asks, can you get hep A from a door knob (this outbreak’s version of a toilet seat can give you HIV). My friend, colleague, and virologist extraordinaire, Lee-Ann Jaykus answers the call:

Lee-Ann Jaykus, a microbiologist at North Carolina State University who specializes in hepatitis and other types of food-borne illness, said that, while it is definitely possible for this bug to linger on a surface — maybe for weeks — it’s not likely.

She noted that only one activity is known to spread a hepatitis A infection: Accidentally ingesting a tiny amount of an infected person’s feces.

Even though this microbe is tough enough to live on surfaces for extended periods, it would take quite a large amount of material, she said, to actually have a transfer occur.
“It’s not impossible, but the chances are very slim. You would need people walking around with a lot of poop on their hands all of the time to be causing a problem in the general population,” Jaykus said.

Research shows that the chance of transference decreases with each thing that person touches after their hands are contaminated, she said. And dry surfaces tend to be less prone to collecting and holding substances than wet surfaces.

So, an infected food service worker who does not adequately wash his or her hands after going to the bathroom is more likely to transfer the illness to a moist, cold piece of lettuce while building your burger than a homeless person is to leave behind a significant contamination on the door handle of a downtown restaurant.

In all cases, Jaykus added, the bit of bad stuff would have to make it into your mouth. So, in the context of public transportation, just don’t lick anything at your local bus stop and wash your hands before putting them near your mouth. You should be just fine.

14 sick, 4 with HUS from E. coli in Calif. lake

An E. coli-contaminated lake in Nevada County, Calif., linked to the illnesses of 14 people will remain closed until at least Aug. 23, county officials announced Wednesday.

Hannah Knowles of the Sacramento Bee reports authorities closed all of Lake Wildwood’s public beaches last week after water testing confirmed reports linking E. coli infections to the lake’s Main Beach, also called Commodore Park. The county also advised against any swimming in the lake.

As of Wednesday, 14 people – 11 children and three adults – are believed to have contracted E. coli after visiting the Main Beach and, in many cases, ingesting lake water, according to the Nevada County Public Health Department. Lab results so far confirm 11 of those 14 cases are connected to the lake’s bacteria.

By Tuesday, nine people had been hospitalized in connection with the outbreak, county Public Health Coordinator Patti Carter said. Six had been discharged by Wednesday evening.

Four sickened children developed a serious condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to potentially fatal kidney failure and anemia.

At least 5 children sick with E. coli O157:H7 possibly linked to Calif. lake

The Nevada County Public Health Department (NCPHD) has received reports of five young children with recent crampy abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea. Initial tests for three of the children have come back preliminarily positive for E. coli 0157:H7, which is the most commonly recognized Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli strain.

To date, no common food or animal exposure has been identified, but the Lake Wildwood Main Beach area has been a common recreational site among the cases.

NCEHD, in coordination with NCPHD and the Lake Wildwood Association, has temporarily closed the Main Beach access and swimming area associated with the Main Beach as a precaution to ensure public health and safety. Their staff collected water samples near the beach shoreline and the swim area. Test results received today show elevated fecal coliforms which are bacteria that can cause serious illness. For this reason, the Main Beach and swimming area will remain closed until levels fall. In addition, NCPHD and NCEHD advise no recreational swimming in the lake until additional beach areas have been tested. This is most critical for more vulnerable populations including young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with weakened immune systems.

Bambi poops in water, 4 kids get sick with E. coli O157, 2016

In May 2016, an outbreak of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli O157 infections occurred among children who had played in a stream flowing through a park. Analysis of E. coli isolates from the patients, stream water, and deer and coyote scat showed that feces from deer were the most likely source of contamination.

In the United States, recreational water is a relatively uncommon source of Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157 outbreaks (1). We describe an outbreak of STEC O157 infections among children exposed to a contaminated stream in northern California, USA, and provide laboratory evidence establishing wildlife as the source of water contamination.

In May 2016, four cases of Shiga toxin (Stx) 1– and 2–producing E. coli O157 infection were reported to a local health department in northern California; investigation revealed a common source of exposure. The case-patients, ranging in age from 1 to 3 years, had played in a stream adjacent to a children’s playground within a city park. Exposure of the case-patients to the stream occurred on 3 separate days spanning a 2-week period. Two case-patients are known to have ingested water while playing in the stream. Two case-patients were siblings. All case-patients had diarrhea and abdominal cramps; bloody diarrhea was reported for 3. One case-patient was hospitalized with hemolytic uremic syndrome.

The stream is a second-order waterway located in a northern California community of ≈7,500 residents. At the time of exposures, stream flow was <30 ft3/s. The land upstream is not used for agricultural activities such as livestock production. The community is serviced by a public sewer system; inspection of sewer lines indicated no breach to the system.

Water samples were collected from the exposure site 7 days after the last case-patient was exposed and weekly thereafter for 17 weeks; samples were tested quantitatively for fecal indicator organisms. Throughout the study period, all water samples exceeded recreational water quality limits for E. coli and enterococci levels (2). Water samples were also cultured for STEC isolation and PCR detection of stx1 and stx2 (3). Stx1- and Stx2-producing E. coli O157 were isolated from stream water each week for the first 4 weeks. Additionally, an Stx2-producing E. coli non-O157 strain was isolated from the stream in the first week of sampling. Enrichment broth cultures of water samples were also positive by PCR for stx1 and stx2 for the first 4 weeks of sampling. Thereafter, both stx1 and stx2, or stx2 only, were intermittently detected in enrichment broth cultures for 9 additional weeks.

In the absence of an obvious source (e.g., upstream agricultural operation or sewer leak), wildlife was considered as a possible contributor to water contamination. Thirteen fresh wildlife scat specimens were collected along the stream for STEC culture and PCR. Of the 13 scat specimens, 8 originated from deer, 2 from raccoon, and 1 each from coyote, turkey, and river otter. Six scat specimens (4 deer, 1 coyote, 1 river otter) were positive for stx1 and stx2 or for stx2 by PCR (Technical Appendix[PDF – 16 KB – 1 page]). Stx1- and Stx2-producing E. coli O157 were isolated from deer scat and coyote scat. An Stx2-producing E. coli non-O157 strain was isolated from a deer scat specimen. The animal origin of the coyote and river otter scat specimens were definitively identified by partial DNA sequencing of mitochondrial cytochrome b (4).

To assess strain relatedness, we compared STEC O157 isolates from the case-patients, water, deer scat, and coyote scat by using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multilocus variable-number tandem-repeat analysis (MLVA) (5). PFGE patterns for XbaI-digested genomic DNA were highly similar among all isolates; only slight variations were found in the lower-sized bands (Figure). PFGE patterns for genomic DNA samples digested with BlnI also demonstrated a high degree of similarity (data not shown). Furthermore, MLVA profiles were identical for the case-patient, water, and deer scat isolates; only the coyote scat isolate differed from the main profile by 2 repeats at a single locus (VNTR_3).

This study provides laboratory evidence linking STEC O157 infections with the ingestion of recreational water that was probably contaminated by wildlife scat. Wild ruminants, including deer and elk, are known carriers of STEC and have been connected to outbreaks of human infections (69). We detected STEC in 50% of deer scat specimens collected from the stream bank. One of these specimens, found 1.5 miles upstream of the exposure site, contained an E. coli O157 isolate that was highly similar by molecular subtyping to case-patient and water isolates. These findings support the likelihood that feces from deer carrying STEC were the source of water contamination or, at the very least, contributed to the persistence of STEC in the water. It is unknown whether the STEC detected in coyote and river otter scat represents carriage or transitory colonization within these animals.

The common risk factor among the case-patients in this STEC O157 outbreak was exposure to a natural stream within a city park. After the outbreak was recognized, signs warning of bacterial contamination were posted along the stream. No further STEC O157 infections attributed to stream water exposure were reported.

Dr. Probert is the assistant director for the Napa-Solano-Yolo-Marin County Public Health Laboratory. His research interests focus on the development of molecular diagnostic tools for the detection of infectious agents.

Acknowledgment

We thank Frank Reyes, Keith Snipes, and Nailah Souder for their technical assistance; the County of Marin Health and Human Services and Environmental Health Services for information about the epidemiologic and environmental investigation; and the Microbial Diseases Laboratory Branch of the California Department of Public Health and the Santa Clara County Public Health Laboratory for the molecular subtyping data.

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 Contaminated stream water as source for Escherichia coli O157 illness in children

05.may.17

William S. Probert, Glen M. Miller, and Katya E. Ledin

Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 23, no. 7, July 2017

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/23/7/17-0226_article