Schaffner in Consumer Reports: ‘you have to recall the whole burrito.’

When a common ingredient used in a bunch of ready-to-eat foods is recalled things snowball. One recall announcement turns quickly into multiple and leads to larger questions about overall systems.

Or as Don told Consumer Reports last week, ‘It’s the nature of our complex food system today. If a potentially contaminated bit of onion gets used in a burrito,’ he explains, ‘you have to recall the whole burrito.’

Since Oct. 16, there have been at least 13 recalls of ready-made foods, such as salads, sandwiches, wraps, pizza, and burritos, due to potential salmonella and listeriacontamination. All of these foods have been traced back to a single plant owned by McCain Foods, in Colton, Calif., which processes, cooks, and freezes vegetables for distribution to other food producers.

To date, almost 4 million pounds of food sold under many different brand names have been recalled, and the Food and Drug Administration says more recalled products may still be announced.

All of the products involved are now past their expiration dates, so they shouldn’t be on store shelves. In addition, according to a spokesperson from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS): “FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks … to verify [that] recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers.” (In this case, “customers” refers to food companies that purchase vegetables from McCain.)

The FDA notes that some of the recalled products require cooking, which could potentially kill dangerous pathogens. However, many of the recalled items are considered “ready-to-eat” or RTE.

And that makes them risky, says James E. Rogers, Ph.D., director of food safety research and testing at Consumer Reports. Even if the product was intended for cooking at home, different food items need to be heated to different temperatures to guarantee bacteria will be killed. Consumers may not always know to heat the product thoroughly.

Additionally, Rogers notes that handling products that contain foodborne pathogens—even if heated thoroughly—could contaminate anything they come into contact with, like your hands. The safest bet is to throw them out.

 

Washington company linked to Listeria monocytogenes illnesses gets a warning letter

Like my RSS feed notification for MMWR, FDA’s warning letter email alerts get me all excited about the potential treasures within. Like bearded dragons. And Whole Foods condensate issues.

Most telling are the letters that come after an outbreak investigation and that state almost 18% of environmental samples tested positive for Listeria monocytigenes (whoa).

FDA posted a warning letter to the Oregon Potato Company, AKA Freeze Pack, which was connected to CRF Frozen Foods outbreak.

FDA’s laboratory analysis of environmental samples collected on March 8, 2016, and March 9, 2016, confirmed that nineteen (19) of one hundred and six (106) environmental swabs tested positive for L. monocytogenes.Oregon_potato_Company

Specifically:

– Seven (7) positive environmental swabs were collected from direct food contact surfaces in both your Processing and Packaging Rooms during the production of your IQF diced onions. These direct food contact surface areas include:

o The chiller water and the interior north wall of the water chiller. Water from this chiller is not treated and is recirculated back to the blancher/chiller and used directly on blanched diced onions as a coolant;

o A white nylon strip in the tunnel discharge chute between the IQF freezer and the finished product Packaging Room. Blanched, finished product is conveyed and comes into direct contact with the nylon strip; and

o The metal arm on your chain conveyor belt between the IQF freezer and Packaging Room where blanched, finished product is conveyed directly on this conveying system and comes into contact with the metal arm.

– The remaining twelve (12) positive environmental swabs were collected from locations in your Processing room and your Packaging Room that were in areas adjacent to food contact surfaces and non-direct food contact surfaces.

WGS analysis was conducted on the nineteen (19) L. monocytogenes isolates obtained from the FDA environmental samples collected on March 8, 2016, and March 9, 2016. The WGS phylogenetic analysis establishes that there are at least two (2) different strains of L. monocytogenes present in the facility, with one strain containing seventeen (17) isolates and the second strain containing two (2) isolates. Specifically, the WGS analysis of the strain with 17 isolates showed that the isolates are identical to each other. WGS analysis of the strain with 2 isolates showed that the isolates are identical to 8 cases of human illness dating back to 2013, and to 6 isolates from finished products. These finished products included onions (2 isolates in 2014) and green beans (3 isolates in 2015) tested by a third party laboratory, and a single isolate from white sweet corn collected and tested by the state of Ohio in 2016. Additional investigation established that at least six (6) individuals were hospitalized as a result of related L. monocytogenes associated illness.

There’s a lot of cGMP Violations noted as well including cleaning and sanitizing issues, condensation dripping over IQF production lines and lots of niches for Listeria.

19 sickened with E. coli O157 from chicken salad: Source not IDed but fast recall by Costco may have limited outbreak

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, and public health officials in several states investigated an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 (STEC O157:H7) infections.

chicken_salad_sandPublic health investigators used the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that were part of this outbreak. PulseNet, the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories, is coordinated by CDC. DNA fingerprinting is performed on E. coli bacteria isolated from ill people by using a technique called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE. PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks.

One DNA fingerprint (outbreak strain) was included in this investigation. A total of 19 people infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing STEC O157:H7 were reported from seven states. The majority of illnesses were reported from the western United States. The number of ill people reported from each state was as follows: California (1), Colorado (4), Missouri (1), Montana (6), Utah (5), Virginia (1), and Washington (1).

Among people for whom information was available, illnesses started on dates ranging from October 6, 2015 to November 3, 2015. Ill people ranged in age from 5 years to 84, with a median age of 18. Fifty-seven percent of ill people were female. Five (29%) people were hospitalized, and two people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths were reported.

 

The epidemiologic evidence collected during this investigation suggested that rotisserie chicken salad made and sold in Costco stores was the likely source of this outbreak.

State and local public health officials interviewed ill people to obtain information about foods they might have eaten and other exposures in the week before their illness started. Fourteen (88%) of 16 people purchased or ate rotisserie chicken salad from Costco.

On November 20, 2015, Costco reported to public health officials that the company had removed all remaining rotisserie chicken salad from all stores in the United States. This voluntary action taken by Costco may have prevented additional illnesses. Costco also worked in collaboration with public health officials during the investigation by providing records and information related to ingredient suppliers to try to determine the source of the outbreak.

The Montana Public Health Laboratory tested a sample of celery and onion diced blend produced by Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. and collected from a Costco store in Montana. Preliminary results indicated the presence of E. coli O157:H7. This product was used to make the Costco rotisserie chicken salad eaten by ill people in this outbreak. According to the FDA, further laboratory analysis was unable to confirm the presence of E. coli O157:H7 in the sample of celery and onion diced blend.

As a result of the preliminary laboratory results and out of an abundance of caution, on November 26, 2015, Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. voluntarily recalled the celery and onion diced blend and many other products containing celery because they might be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

The FDA conducted a traceback investigation of the FDA regulated ingredients used in the chicken salad to try to determine which ingredient was linked to illness. However, the traceback investigation did not identify a common source of contamination.

This outbreak appears to be over.

New food safety infosheet — Harvey’s E. coli O157:H7 Outbreak Report Released

The newest food safety infosheet, a graphical one-page food safety-related story directed at food handlers is also now available at foodsafetyinfosheets.ksu.edu. Infosheets are created weekly and are posted in restaurants, retail stores, on farms and used in training throughout the world.

This week’s food safety infosheet focuses on a Fall 2008 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak inked to a Harvey’s restaurant in North Bay, Ontario, Canada.

Food safety infosheet highlights:
– Health authorities point to Spanish red  onions as most likley source of the outbreak
– Poor sanitation of onion dicer may have prolonged the outbreak
– Equipment should be fully disassembled to allow for cleaning and sanitizing of hard to reach areas
Food safety infosheets are created weekly and are posted in restaurants, retail stores, on farms and used in training throughout the world. If you have any infosheet topic requests, or photos, please contact Ben Chapman at benjamin_chapman@ncsu.edu
You can follow food safety infosheets stories and barfblog on twitter @benjaminchapman and @barfblog.

Click here to download a pdf of the food safety infosheet.