Careful with that toothpick, Eugene

A young man nearly lost his life to a toothpick he didn’t even know he had swallowed, according to a report published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Denise Grady of The New York Times reports a three-inch wood pick, from a sandwich, traveled through most of his digestive tract without doing any harm. But then it poked through the intestinal wall and pierced an artery, creating a conduit for bacteria to invade his bloodstream and damaging the artery enough to cause serious bleeding.

For nearly three weeks, his symptoms — abdominal pain, fever, distressing gut trouble — mystified doctors. By the time they figured out what was wrong, he had a potentially fatal infection. It took extensive surgery to save him.

Injuries like this are not common, but cases have been reported in medical journals over the years.

Toothpicks are everywhere, jabbed into sliders, wraps, club sandwiches and cocktail garnishes. Often, people have no idea they swallowed one, maybe because they were distracted or eating in a hurry.

The picks — unscathed by stomach acid or digestive enzymes — have been found in the stomach and both small and large intestines. In a few cases they have worked their way into other organs, including the liver, pancreas, lung, kidney and even a coronary artery. They can be difficult or impossible to see on scans.

An analysis of 136 cases that were serious enough to be reported in medical journals found that nearly 10 percent were fatal.

Sandwich scandal? Temperature, ingredients sometimes questionable

Though it is nice to know your lunchtime sandwich is handmade, how many hands is that, exactly? Thousands of readers reacted with horror to some startling photographs in yesterday’s Mail taken inside a Nottinghamshire factory that supplies millions of sandwiches to British supermarkets.

sandwich.barehandThey were outraged that workers — an army of them — were smushing and smearing gloopy fillings with their bare hands onto slices of bread, chugging by on a conveyor belt.

Fingers, thumbs and palms all over your lunch, not least the factory workers’ sleeves taking a dip in what looked like chicken mayo. Yuck. No polythene food-safe gloves, no tongs, just the odd sauce-squirter shooting a blob of salad cream smack into the centre of the bread. Bullseye!

Factory owner Greencore, which supplies High Street giants such as Waitrose, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Asda and Boots, insists that the use of bare hands is, in fact, a hygienic and safe way to produce the nation’s favourite lunchtime convenience food. We have to take Greencore’s word for it that strict hand-washing regimes are a better deterrent against cross-contamination.

But never mind the bare hands; what about the rubbish inside some sarnies?

The UK sandwich market is worth approximately £3.6 billion, with consumers buying an estimated two billion sandwiches each year. A survey last month of 2,000 office workers revealed that the nation’s favourite lunch was the humble cheese sandwich, with 32 per cent of those surveyed saying they’d had one for lunch every day for the past four-and-a-half years.

I do not know about the quality of the Nottingham factory’s ingredients, which may not be beset by the problems elsewhere. Greencore prides itself on operating to the highest standards. But I do know that we should be wary of convenience foods — and many of the shop sarnies found on the High Street today. We are often talking about food that is downright fake and overpriced.

sandwich.barehand2For example so-called meats that are actually a glued-together mush of pulped pork, starch, sometimes proteins made with animal blood plasma, water, (lots of) salt, preservatives and flavourings.

Meanwhile, the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain was asked if it was acceptable from a food safety point of view to deviate from the legal storage temperature of sandwiches, in particular 13 °C instead of 4 °C or 7 °C, depending on the type of garnish and if an upward temperature fluctuation of 3 °C, measurement uncertainty included, can still be accepted.  

The Scientific Committee estimates that the additional food safety risk arising as a result of the storage of sandwiches at 13 °C during 3 hours is low if the sandwiches are kept thereafter maximum during 4 hours at ambient temperature. This risk estimation does not apply for sandwiches with fresh meat and meat preparations (including carpaccio, minced meat, steak tartare) or fresh fish which are inherently more susceptible to microbiological contamination and putrefaction or growth of pathogens under non-refrigerated storage conditions. For an upward temperature fluctuation of 3 °C, measurement uncertainty included, the food safety risk is estimated as low if it only occurs when this is necessary for the handling during the preparation, transport, storage, display and delivery of foods.

I always go to the gas station for a sandwich: Detroit-based company distributing tainted sandwiches

The U.S. government wants to stop a Detroit company from distributing ready-to-eat sandwiches which, the government says, are tainted and could be a health hazard to those who eat them.

Scotty-s-Foods-sandwich-jpgA civil complaint has been filed on behalf of the FDA claiming Scotty’s Incorporated’s sandwiches are manufactured “under insanitary conditions.”

“Moreover, the company has failed to implement a written Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for handling seafood and minimizing the potential for harmful contamination in the company’s ready-to-eat tuna sandwiches,” reads a statement from the Justice Department.

The sandwiches can be purchased in vending machines and at gas stations or convenience stores.

The FDA inspected Scotty’s facilities at 3426 Junction Street in Detroit, where the company prepares, packs, holds, and distributes ready-to-eat sandwiches, and also processes seafood, specifically tuna for tuna sandwiches. According to the complaint, the inspection between Jan. 14 and Feb. 6, 2014 found the sandwiches “have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health.”

View: PDF of civil complaint against Scotty’s

Salmonella from food shopping on-line

Do sandwiches and other food purchased via the Intertubes pose a unique food safety risk?

Researchers in Taiwan say, yes, in the current issue of Foodborne Pathogens and Disease.

Food sold over the Internet is an emerging business that also presents a concern with regard to food safety. A nationwide foodborne disease Internet-marketing-sandwichoutbreak associated with sandwiches purchased from an online shop in July 2010 is reported. Consumers were telephone interviewed with a structured questionnaire and specimens were collected for etiological examination. A total of 886 consumers were successfully contacted and completed the questionnaires; 36.6% had become ill, with a median incubation period of 18 h (range, 6–66 h). The major symptoms included diarrhea (89.2%), abdominal pain (69.8%), fever (47.5%), headache (32.7%), and vomiting (17.3%). Microbiological laboratories isolated Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis, Salmonella Virchow, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, and enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli from the contaminated sandwiches, Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Virchow from the patients, and Salmonella Enteritidis and Staphylococcus aureus from food handlers. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis genotyping suggested a common origin of Salmonella bacteria recovered from the patients, food, and a food handler. Among the pathogens detected, the symptoms and incubation period indicated that Salmonella, likely of egg origin, was the probable causative agent of the outbreak. This outbreak illustrates the importance of meticulous hygiene practices during food preparation and temperature control during food shipment and the food safety challenges posed by online food–shopping services.

25 sick: beware anonymous sandwiches, may have rat poison

Twenty-five people have been hospitalized in Germany after eating sandwiches laced with rat poison, police said Wednesday.

So far none of those hospitalized has shown symptoms of illness but they are being kept under observation as a precautionary measure, said police
spokesman Frank Soika.

The sandwiches and a note saying they were a gift had been left on the doorstep of an auto parts company in the northwestern town of Steinfeld on Tuesday.

Employees helped themselves to the sandwiches before someone noticed a strange substance on them.

A Berlin laboratory confirmed overnight that the food had been sprinkled with rat poison, Soika said.

Business class means needles free: needles found in sandwiches on Delta

What appeared to be sewing needles were found in sandwiches served in business-class cabins on four Delta Air Lines flights to the U.S. from Amsterdam on Sunday, the airline confirmed.

The Wall Street Journal reports a passenger on one of the flights was injured but declined medical treatment from paramedics after the plane landed in Minneapolis, Delta said.

The airline said it requires all of its caterers "to adhere to strict criteria in order to offer our customers the very best onboard meals. The safety and security of our passengers and crew is Delta’s No. 1 priority."

Listeria outbreak leads to warning over hospital sandwiches

Almost a month after an elderly patient died in a Northern Ireland hospital and three others were sickened from Listeria, health trusts have been advised to stop serving sandwiches from a specific food company.

Following the outbreak, the trust carried out a review of food supplier and distribution chains with the Food Standards Agency and Environmental Health.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said preliminary results of tests on sandwiches provided to inpatients indicated low levels of listeria were present although he stressed these were within the legal limits.

In response to an Assembly question on the matter, he said: “As a precautionary measure the Northern Trust decided not to serve sandwiches from a particular supplier until investigations have been completed.

In 2008, three patients died during a listeria outbreak at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast.

Also in 2008, 23 people – primarily elderly – died from Listeria in Maple Leaf deli meats in Canada. Maybe the sandwiches could be heated?

Enforcement before illness: Put down the knife and step away from the sandwich; FDA tells Chicago Co to stop because of lousy food safety

“The stars are in our corners” and “Food service beyond expectation since 1960,” are the slogans of catering firm, Triple A Services Inc.

If listeria is a star and beyond expectation.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that a Chicago-area company has agreed to stop making its ready-to-eat sandwiches and produce after FDA investigators repeatedly found unsanitary conditions and bacterial contamination in the facility.

The company, Triple A Services Inc., and its owners and operators, Thomas J. Whennen, Scott C. Whennen and David A. Frisco, have agreed to stop producing and distributing the sandwiches and produce as part of a consent decree filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois.

The terms of the decree would also require Triple A to hire a sanitation expert to help establish an effective sanitation program, to comply with FDA regulations and to eliminate Listeria contamination from company facilities.

The government’s complaint, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on December 22, 2011, describes Triple A’s history of operating under unsanitary conditions and Listeria monocytogenes contamination in the processing facility.

It also outlines Triple A’s failure to comply with Current Good Manufacturing Practice and seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point regulations.

"FDA took these aggressive actions because Triple A Services continued to violate current good manufacturing practice regulations and allow for conditions that could affect the health of consumers," said Dara Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.

No illnesses have been reported to date from Triple A Services’ products.

Dangerous eats: policeman sues deli worker who sabotaged sandwich with (use imagination)

A policeman in Evesham, Pennsylvania who found body hair in his bagel sandwich last year has sued the deli where he bought it and the cook who admitted sabotaging it as payback for a previous run-in with the officer.

Jeremy Merck, 30, a six-year veteran of the department, alleged in the suit that Good Foods to Go was negligent for failing to keep its premises safe and for failing to properly examine the sandwich that Ryan J. Burke served him on Feb. 20, 2010.

Burke confessed to police on the day of the incident that he put hair from his chest and pubic area in Merck’s egg, turkey, and cheese sandwich in retaliation for a 2009 traffic arrest by the officer, according to records.

The New Jersey State Police lab found the hairs contained Burke’s DNA.

Mount Holly attorney Bruce Zamost, who represents Merck, said customers are protected by a state law that makes restaurants liable for serving contaminated food.

Mark R. Sander, an attorney for Good Foods, said Wednesday the eatery was not responsible for Burke’s action.

"Ryan Burke was a 27-year-old man who acted outside the scope of his employment," Sander said.

Burke was fired immediately after he was arrested and Merck and others in the Police Department continued to patronize Good Foods, Sander added.