Nuts to you

Salmonella in nuts strikes again. Nuts and seeds seem to be prone to Salmonella contamination. This year alone peanuts, pistchios, sesame and sunflower seeds, pecans and now hazelnuts from two Oregon companies have been recalled due to Salmonella contamination.

Kunze Farms of Dayton, OR is recalling 32,950 lbs. of hazelnut kernels distributed to several different processors and wholesaler’s in the following areas:  

Dayton, OR; , Milton-Freewater, OR; Hauppauge, NY; Mesa, AZ; Cottonwood, AZ; Seattle, WA; Ogden, UT;  San Antonio, TX.; and Parker, CO. The product was packed in 25 lb cartons, under our product brand name of Kunze Farms, ‘Select Shelled Hazelnuts’ Dayton, Oregon with the code numbers 289091A or 299091A.

Willamette Filbert Growers of Newberg, OR is recalling 29,861 lbs of Shelled Hazelnuts and Shelled Organic Hazelnuts.

After product sampling, Salmonella was found on one production lot at the facility where Willamette Filbert Grower’s hazelnuts were shelled. To ensure consumer safety, Willamette Filbert Growers has decided to recall all shelled hazelnuts and shelled organic hazelnuts processed from October 12th 2009 through November 25th 2009. Shelled Hazelnuts and Shelled Organic Hazelnuts were distributed in Oregon and California through wholesale distributors and direct delivery. Unshelled hazelnuts are not subject to this recall. All products subject to recall were packed in 25 lbs. corrugated boxes bearing Willamette Filbert Growers or Meridian Organic Hazelnuts labeled with lot code numbers 289091A and 311091A.

Two Salmonella outbreaks linked to peanut butter, and an additional two Salmonella outbreaks linked to almonds earlier in the decade demonstrate how resilient Salmonella can be on and in dried nut products. At IAFP in August 2005, I co-moderated a symposium at which Robert Tauxe of the CDC said sesame seeds and Salmonella was the next big thing on the international food safety horizon.  His prediction is still looking pretty good.

Ground beef recall linked to cluster of E. coli O157 illnesses in New England

USDA FSIS has announced a recall of 545,699 pounds of fresh ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and distributed in seven states. According to FSIS, the product has been linked to a cluster of illnesses in New England.

There are quite a few recalls going on most of the time; this one is notable because this product has been linked to an outbreak of illnesses at a camp in Massachusetts. It’s also notable because bulk amounts of the product were shipped down the East Coast for further processing. Retail outlets receiving some of this product include Shaw, Giant, Price Chopper,Trader Joe’s, BJs and others.

From the press release:
"Products for further processing:
     Each case bears the establishment number "EST. 492" inside the USDA mark of inspection; has package dates of "09.14.09," "09.15.09," or "09.16.09;" and sell-by dates of "10.3.09," "10.4.09," or "10.5.09. These products were distributed to retail establishments in Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia for further processing. However, these products at retail will likely not bear the package dates and sell-by dates listed above. Customers with concerns should contact their point of purchase."

It is unlikely that any of the product is still being sold fresh at retail stores (the best-if-sold-before dates range from mid-September to early October) but it’s likely that the affected beef is still around in freezers. The meat juices from thawing can provide a nice vehicle for pathogen transfer.

Stick it in with a tip-sensitive digital thermometer (in multiple spots) to ensure that ground beef has reached a safe temperature and be vigilant in containing meat juices when thawing frozen meats. Juicy is good, nasty meat juice spread around the kitchen isn’t.

Sit and drink Salmonella tea?

Another in a long line of Salmonella in low water activity foods (here, here and here), Fireside Coffee is recalling packages of their chai tea due to possible Salmonella contamination. The recall includes certain flavors of the tea: spiced, chocolate, vanilla and decaf vanilla.

According to AP:

No illness has been reported. The recalled chai tea was sold nationwide at retail stores, through mail order and at art fairs. The recall includes select lot numbers of four flavors of the tea: spiced, chocolate, vanilla and decaf vanilla. Details: by phone at 800-344-5282.

Growing up in the age of grunge, Salmonella tea reminded me of the flannel-wearing guitar heroes of my youth, check out Nirvana’s Pennyroyal Tea below. This MTV unplugged special actually did blow my mind when I was 14.

Cilantro recalled after Salmonella test; no one sick

Fresh herbs are particularly prone to bacterial contamination: parsley, basil, and especially cilantro.

Sweet Superior Fruit Co, based in McAllen, Texas, announced Saturday it is recalling 104 crates of fresh cilantro over concerns of possible salmonella contamination discovered through testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The company says no illnesses have been reported.

The company said the potentially contaminated cilantro was sold July 13-16 at its McAllen facility. Sweet Superior Fruit said it may have been sold again by retail outlets in the McAllen area or used to manufacture additional products.

Sweet Superior Fruit is urging companies to try to recall the product and telling consumers to return it or throw it away.

Fresh Anaheim peppers pulled from Wegmans on Salmonella suspicion

Wegmans has removed fresh Anaheim peppers from its Produce departments due to the possibility of salmonella contamination.  The FDA is currently investigating the situation.

If you still have Anaheim peppers, please throw them away.  Do not return them to the store.  You may go to the service desk for information on receiving a refund.

For more information, please call Wegmans Consumer Affairs at 1-800-934-6267, x-4760, Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm.

Sprout farm to begin testing for listeria

Close to 15,000 pounds of Chang Farm bean and soy sprouts were recalled from retailers and restaurants in four northeastern states last week after Listeria monocytogenes was found in a bag of sprouts at a retail store.

Speaking for the company, Sidney Chang said,

"We followed FDA guidelines to test for salmonella and E. coli 0517:H7. We don’t test for listeria, because they don’t require that."


It is consumers who ultimately decide which food companies stay in business and make a profit, and consumers demand food that is free of all pathogens.

Is Chang Farm willing to step it up?

As stated in an article by The Packer,

“We want to make sure our facility is safe," Chang said. "We’re going to add more measures. We thought we were doing the right things.”

Valley Meats ground beef recalled due to E. coli

Almost 100,000 pounds of ground beef are being recalled today after an epidemiological investigation linked E. coli O157:H7 infections in three states to the products.

The meat—sold frozen as ground beef, chopped steak, and pre-formed patties—was produced by Valley Meats LLC of Coal Valley, Illinois, on March 10, 2009 and distributed to various consignees nationwide.

A USDA FSIS press release states,

“The problem was discovered through an epidemiological investigation of illnesses. On May 13, 2009, FSIS was informed by the Ohio Department of Health of a cluster of
E. coli O157:H7 infections. Illnesses have been reported in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.”

The pathogen, found in the poop of warm-blooded animals, can be killed with sufficient heat

However, as the president and chief executive of the American Frozen Food Institute, Kraig R. Naasz, stated today in a letter to the editor of the New York Times,

“While food safety is a shared responsibility among food producers, government agencies and consumers, we recognize that the primary responsibility rests with food producers. Providing consumers with safe and nutritious products is a responsibility frozen food producers stake their names and reputations on.”

The letter was written in response to the Times’ May 15 article on frozen entrees, which Naasz felt did not “fully depict the frozen food industry’s commitment to product safety.”

With the name and reputation of Valley Meats on the line, will they be able to demonstrate a similar commitment to the safety of food? As the data on those sickened by Valley Meats’ products are released, it’s likely we’ll find out.

Food Safety Working Group hears ‘good is simply not good enough’

A White House Food Safety Working Group Listening Session was held Wednesday that marked "the beginning of a significant and critical process that will fully review the safety of our nation’s food supply," according to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

In his opening remarks, Vislack outlined several specific challenges that would require imput from the stakeholders present at the session. These included the development of an approach consistent between the FDA and USDA for preventing foodborne illnesses, as well as an active surveillance and response system for foodborne disease outbreaks.

In regards to the latter, Vislack stated, "Our regulatory agencies must actively watch for disease outbreaks and take rapid action to ensure that we have effective and targeted recalls. Such recalls are in the interests of public health and the strength of industry sectors that might otherwise be tarnished by massive recalls."

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who oversees the FDA and the CDC, also briefly mentioned the subject of foodborne outbreaks in her opening remarks, saying, "When outbreaks do occur, we must all respond quickly, both to protect public health and to speed the recovery of affected industries."

Sebelius went on to say, “We have already made good use of new tools to protect and inform the public. When peanut products were recalled, we produced a widget that was placed on more than 20,000 external Web sites and resulted in 9.6 million page views. And as we saw during the H1N1 flu outbreak, communication is critical during any kind of crisis and we will use every tool possible to get the word out."

However, she failed to mention how effective that tool was in protecting public health and speeding the recovery of the peanut industry.

As Vislack stated at the end of his opening remarks, "[W]e need to develop a way to measure our success… Lives are at stake and good is simply not good enough."

Kraft unit recalls Salmonella-tainted trail mix; it’s the pistachios

Back to Nature Foods Co., a Wisconsin firm owned by Kraft Foods Inc., issued a nationwide recall Wednesday on its Nantucket Blend trail mix because some of the pistachio nuts tested positive for Salmonella.

And the pistachios came from a supplier to the Georgia Nut Company, which found the Salmonella through its own testing.

The press release from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said,

This possible contamination is not connected with the recent outbreak associated with peanuts or peanut butter and no cases of Salmonellosis have been reported in connection with the recall.

Back to Nature Foods products are sold in Chicago area Dominick’s, Jewel, Target, Wal-mart, Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Hy-Vee, Kroger, Meijer and Woodman’s stores, as well as at military commissaries.

Casey did a quick search and found there have been no Salmonella outbreaks or reported positives associated with pistachios, although 2006 Good Agricultural Practice documents suggest limiting exposure of pistachios to irrigation water and carefully handling on-farm manure because of the possibility of microbial contaminants. It appears there’s a widespread belief that the hull protects the edible parts, and drying and roasting further mitigate risks of contamination, although the GAP document and research on other nuts has concluded such assumptions remain unverified.

Sesame, sunflower seeds possibly linked to UK salmonella outbreak

The Independent reports that Tesco, Waitrose and well-known health food shops have withdrawn tens of thousands of packets of edible seeds in one of the biggest product recalls in a decade after a survey found "unacceptable" levels of salmonella and E. coli.

One-in-50 packs of ready-to-eat seeds such as sesame and sunflower was found to be contaminated.

The study’s authors pointed out that although there was no direct link to the contaminated seeds, 137 people in England and Wales fell ill from six sub-types of salmonella found in the seeds during the six-month study. Many more ill people are likely to have not reported their symptoms to GPs. The Health Protection Agency and the local authority group Lacors, which conducted the study, warned food manufacturers and retailers to improve hygiene during harvesting and drying of seeds.

The study was carried out because seeds – a popular snack among health-conscious shoppers wishing to avoid high-calorie chocolate and sweets – have become associated with at least seven outbreaks of salmonella in countries such as Germany, Norway, Sweden and Australia since 2000.

To gauge levels of contamination here, environmental health officers from 317 local authorities collected 3,735 packets of ready-to-eat seeds from 3,390 supermarkets, health food shops, convenience stores and market stalls between October 2007 and March 2008. They were analysed in 32 food laboratories.