Listeria in spinach prompts recalls

Listeria in organic spinach has prompted at least two companies to recall frozen meals.

listeria.amy's.kitchenAmy’s Kitchen, Inc. is voluntarily recalling approximately 73,897 cases of select code dates and manufacturing codes of products.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, GMO-free in Amy’s kitchen, but maybe Listeria.

And Wegmans Organic Food You Feel Good About Just Picked Spinach (frozen), 12oz after Twin City Foods, Inc (Wegmans’ supplier) said the spinach may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Feel-good spinach, now with Listeria.

Growth of Listeria monocytogenes and Listeria innocua on fresh baby spinach leaves: Effect of storage temperature and natural microflora

Leafy greens such as spinach may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes during pre-harvest and postharvest handling. Recent recalls issued for Listeria-contaminated leafy greens are driving the need for technologies to minimize safety issues in fresh and fresh-cut produce.

listeria.spinachThis study assessed the effectiveness of washing treatments as a postharvest practice to minimize the growth of the pathogen and L. innocua on fresh baby spinach leaves under different storage temperatures and to evaluate the feasibility of using L. innocua as a surrogate when access to BL2 facilities is difficult. Each microorganism had a different (P < 0.05) response to the type of washing treatment at room temperature (∼22 °C) and the pathogen was harder to remove from the leaves than the surrogate was. Growth data for L. monocytogenes and L. innocua on fresh baby spinach leaves at 5–36 °C were modeled using the Baranyi and Ratkowsky (secondary) models which were validated by comparing the root mean square error (RMSEs) and biases between the growth data and model predictions. The secondary models showed good agreement between observed and predicted values.

These models can provide useful input to quantitative risk assessment tools to evaluate the growth of pathogens in baby spinach during several stages of processing and distribution such as washing and cold storage. Although the natural microflora on fresh baby spinach leaves affected the growth parameters for both bacteria, the effect was not significant. Thus, in the specific case of spinach leaves, the study shows that L. innocua may be a suitable surrogate in growth studies of L. monocytogenes.

Postharvest Biology and Technology, Volume 100, February 2015, Pages 41–51, DOI: 10.1016/j.postharvbio.2014.09.007

Basri Omac, Rosana G. Moreira, Alejandro Castillo, Elena Castell-Perez


Just wash it doesn’t cut it; new research shows how E. coli O157:H7 binds to fresh vegetables

Research presented today at the Society for General Microbiology’s Annual Meeting in Liverpool shows that the disease-causing E. coli O157:H7 interacts directly with plant cells, allowing it to anchor to the surface of a plant, where it can multiply.

cow.poop.spinachResearchers from the James Hutton Institute in Scotland have identified that E. coli O157:H7 uses whip-link structures on its surface known as flagella – typically used for bacterial motility – to penetrate the plant cell walls. The team showed that purified flagella were able to directly interact with lipid molecules found in the membranes of plant cells. E. coli bacteria lacking flagella were unable to bind to the plant cells.

Once attached, the E. coli are able to grow on, and colonize, the surface of the plant. At this point, they can be removed by washing, although the researchers showed that a small number of bacteria are able to invade inside the plant, where they become protected from washing. The group have shown that E. coli O157:H7 is able to colonise the roots of both spinach and lettuce.

Dr Nicola Holden, who led the research, says: “This work shows the fine detail of how the bacteria bind to plants. We think this mechanism is common to many foodborne bacteria and shows that they can exploit common factors found in both cow.poop2plants and animals to help them grow. Our long term aim is to better understand these interactions so we can reduce the risk of food-borne disease.”

The researchers believe that the E. coli O157:H7 bacteria use the same method of colonizing the surface of plants as they do when colonizing the intestines of animals. The work shows that these bacteria are not simply transported through the food chain in an inert manner, but are actively interacting with both plants and animals.

Farm management, hygiene, weather all affect E. coli rates in spinach

The likelihood that a crop of leafy greens will be contaminated by E. coli, an indicator of fecal contamination, before harvest is strongly influenced by both farm management and environmental factors, according to a study spotlighted on the cover of the new issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The work, led by Dr. Renata Ivanek and her lab in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS) at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & spinachBiomedical Sciences (CVM), was a collaborative effort between researchers at Texas A&M University, Colorado State University, Texas Tech University, and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

In this study, the research team cross-referenced environmental data with information from participating farms in multiple test areas. Then, the team determined how three groups of factors—farm management, location, and weather—affect spinach contamination with E. coli. The team studied spinach samples from 12 farms in Colorado and Texas and compared variables including the local temperature, precipitation, wind speed, soil characteristics, proximity to roads and water bodies, and such farm management practices as the farm workers’ hygiene and manure application practices.

Overall, the study found that farm management, location, and weather factors should be considered jointly in developing agricultural methods and interventions that reduce the threat of E. coli contamination at the pre-harvest level. The odds of spinach contamination decreased to approximately 1 in 17 with implementation of good hygiene practices for farm workers, but they increased to approximately 4 in 1 for every millimeter increase in the average amount of rain in the month before harvest. Furthermore, applying manure fertilizer on the field increased the odds of contamination to approximately 52 in 1.

“Hygiene practices and fertilizers used are relatively easy to change,” Ivanek said. “The challenge, however, will be to use the information about how rainfall affects produce safety into an intervention, or plan, that growers could implement on a daily basis.”

Where was it grown? Spinach with Salmonella recalled in Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Ippolito Fruit and Produce Ltd., are warning the public not to consume the Frisco’s, Queen Victoria and Metro brands spinach described below because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.

These products have been distributed in Ontario and Quebec. frisco's.spinachThese products may also have been distributed to other provinces.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.

The manufacturer, Ippolito Fruit and Produce Ltd., Burlington, Ontario, is voluntarily recalling the affected products from the marketplace. The CFIA is monitoring the effectiveness of the recall.

Affected products

Brand Name


Codes(s) on Product



284 g Lot Code/Best Before
2 D66258/2013 SE 30
0 33383 65201 6


170 g Lot Code/Best Before
2 D66258
0 33383 45041 4

Queen Victoria

227 g Lot Code/Best Before
2 D66258/2013 SE 30
0 60556 00227 9


171 g Lot Code/Best Before
2 D66258/2013 SE 30
0 59749 89955 0



Lowering loads; fresh produce food safety begins on farm; researchers identify factors influencing E. coli contamination of spinach prior to harvest

A team of researchers from Texas and Colorado has identified a variety of factors that influence the likelihood of E. coli contamination of spinach on farms prior to harvest. Their research is published in the July 2013 issue of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

“Microbial contamination of produce seems strongly influenced by the time since the last irrigation, the workers’ personal hygiene and the field’s use spinachprior to planting of produce,” says first author Sangshin Park of Texas A&M University, College Station. “These factors, together with the role of weather in produce contamination should be the targets of future research efforts to design cost-effective strategies for control of produce contamination.”

E. coli contamination of spinach on farms in Colorado and Texas was 172 times more likely if the produce field was within 10 miles of a poultry farm, and 64 times more likely if irrigated by pond water, says Park.

As E. coli is commonly used as an indicator of fecal contamination with food-borne pathogens, the practice of hygiene-availability of portable toilets and hand-washing stations for workers in the fields -and the absence of grazing or hay production on the fields prior to planting spinach, reduced the risk seven-fold.

Other potential risk factors tested in the study included numbers of workers, farm size, organic vs. conventional production, the use of chemical fertilizers, compost, and manure, says Park. The researchers assayed 955 spinach samples from 12 farms in the two states, finding that generic E. coli was present on 63 of them (6.6 percent).

Of particular note, the researchers tested their statistical model for spinach contamination to determine how accurately it was able to pinpoint the level of contamination. “The assessment of the predictive performance of a developed statistical model is largely omitted from food safety studies,” cow.poop2says Park. Their methodology may serve as a useful template for future investigations of contamination on farms, he says.

“Because produce is commonly consumed raw, it would be best to prevent pre-harvest contamination by food-borne pathogens all together or at least to reduce it,” says Park.

Source: Park S, Navratil S, Gregory A, et al. Generic Escherichia coli Contamination of Spinach at the Preharvest Stage: Effects of Farm Management and Environmental Factors. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2013.

Food safety culture and leafy green hacks

Ever since the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to bagged spinach from California in 2006 killed four and sickened 200, the leafy green folks have begged for government inspection and flogged their apparent transparency.

Anyone who brags about having government inspection has nothing to brag lettuce_skull__e_coli__O145_1_story(1)about; see XL Foods in Canada from yesterday.

And why it took 29 outbreaks before something was publicly done to allegedly improve food safety conditions remains one of those unanswered mysteries.

But for their seven years of food safety investment – which has succeeded only in lowering the Sponge Bob cone of silence over any outbreak involving California leafy greens – the best these PR flunkies can do is respond to a week-old article about food safety culture by CNN’s Dr. Gupta with a link to their own website which shows … nothing.

The phrase food safety culture has certainly jumped the shark and is bandied about by people who have no idea. I’m fairly sure Chris Griffiths came up with the phrase in the early 2000s, I used it publicly at IAFP in Calgary in 2006, based on the cultural influence of my French professor wife, and Wal-Mart Frank wrote a book about it in 2009.

Now every hack uses it.

The leafy green folks claim the LGMA website “provides access to the food safety practices, the audit checklist and annual reports which provide inspection and citation data.”

No it doesn’t.

Not anything meaningful.

And these folks are now telling Washington that food safety programs should spongebob_oil_colbert_may3_10(3)(1)(1)(1)be based on what they’ve done.


If the leafy Green Marketing Folks want to be truly transparent, they will make actual inspection data public for mere mortals to review, they will market microbial food safety at retail, and stop stonewalling every time there is an outbreak linked to leafy greens.

Like the E. coli O145 outbreak that sickened 30 people in New Brunswick (that’s in Canada) in 2012.

Or the E. coli O145 linked to Romaine lettuce that sickened some 50 people in Michigan and other states in 2010.

That lettuce was grown in Arizona, but they have also adopted the LGMA model.

And were silent during the outbreak.

A table of leafy green related outbreaks is available at

Multistate outbreak of Escherichia coli O145 infections associated with Romaine lettuce consumption, 2010


Journal of Food Protection, Number 6, June 2013, pp. 928-1108 , pp. 939-944(6)

Taylor, E.V.; Nguyen, T.A.; Machesky, K.D.; Koch, E.; Sotir, M.J.; Bohm, S.R.; Folster, J.P.; Bokanyi, R.; Kupper, A.; Bidol, S.A.; Emanuel, A.; Arends, K.D.; Johnson, S.A.; Dunn, J.; Stroika, S.; Patel, M.K.; Williams, I.

Non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) can cause severe illness, including hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). STEC O145 is the sixth most commonly reported non-O157 STEC in the United States, although outbreaks have been infrequent. In April and May 2010, we investigated a multistate outbreak of STEC O145 infection. Confirmed cases were STEC O145 infections with isolate pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns
indistinguishable from those of the outbreak strain. Probable cases were STEC O145 infections or HUS in persons who were epidemiologically linked. Case-control studies were conducted in Michigan and Ohio; food exposures were analyzed at the restaurant, menu, and ingredient level. Environmental inspections were conducted in implicated food establishments, and food samples were collected and tested. To characterize clinical findings associated with infections, we conducted a chart review for case patients who sought medical care. We identified 27 confirmed and 4 probable cases from five states. Of these, 14 (45%) were hospitalized, 3 (10%) developed HUS, and

none died. Among two case-control studies conducted, illness was significantly associated with consumption of shredded romaine lettuce in Michigan (odds ratio [OR] = undefined; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.6 to undefined) and Ohio (OR = 10.9; 95% CI = 3.1 to 40.5). Samples from an unopened bag of shredded romaine lettuce yielded the predominant outbreak strain. Of 15 case patients included in the chart review, 14 (93%) had diarrhea and abdominal cramps and 11 (73%) developed bloody diarrhea. This report documents the first foodborne outbreak of STEC O145 infections in the United States. Current surveillance efforts focus primarily on E. coli O157 infections; however, non-O157 STEC can cause similar disease and outbreaks, and efforts should be made to identify both O157 and non-O157 STEC infections. Providers should test all patients with bloody diarrhea for both non-O157 and O157 STEC.


Produce safety, US and UAE versions

From Abu Dhabi to Akron, Ohio, people are worried about the safety of leafy greens – spinach, lettuce, rocket, whatever.

Gulf News reports that locally grown fresh salad vegetables in the UAE are, according to academics, contaminated by dangerous bacteria because of unhygienic farm practices and improper food handling from the farm to the table.

They also warned nearly 43 per cent of water wells in the country are contaminated with bacteria that exceed the standard level of safe lettuceconsumption, even for irrigation of crops.

“If there is a serious epidemic or outbreak of life-threatening gastrointestinal disease we will know the source, namely, the contaminated salad greens we are eating nearly every day,” said Dr Dennis J. Russell, professor of biology, department of biology, chemistry and environmental science at the American University of Sharjah.

Research over the past five years showed the presence of persistent coliform and E. coli contamination sequestered within the leaves of the locally grown popular fresh salad vegetable knows locally as jarjeer (ccientific name rocket/rocca) and other salad greens, Dr Russells told Gulf News.

‘All of the samples of jarjeer were found contaminated with E. coli and 100 per cent of the latest samples were also contaminated with large amounts of Salmonella. Tests of other locally grown greens show they too are contaminated with these bacteria, although to a lesser extent,” Dr Russell said.

Michael Doyle, director of the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia told the Daily Herald that a recent study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fingered produce as the leading cause of food poisoning in the U.S.

Doyle said the more cracks and grooves on the skin of a fruit or vegetable, the more easily bacteria can hide. Melons also have a neutral pH, so they offer a perfect growing environment for bacteria.

The problem of contaminated melons is often made worse by grocery stores that sell cut pieces, but often don’t store them in a cold enough lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145environment.

Doyle recalls walking into an upscale grocery store in South Carolina one summer, where a metal tank with ice in the bottom was filled with containers of cut melon. The bottom inch of the containers was inside the ice, leaving the majority of the melon in an environment warm enough for bacteria to multiply rapidly.

In the CDC’s new study, however, leafy greens like lettuce and spinach were revealed as the worst culprits for food poisoning in the study period, between 1998 and 2008.

Salad greens marked “washed and ready to eat” or “triple-washed” remain an area of debate among food safety experts.

Some experts contend that the triple-washing with chlorine that takes place during processing is enough to kill what bacteria can be killed, and advise against washing bagged greens because the risk of cross-contamination in the home kitchen is a greater concern.

Doyle says not to buy bagged greens at all. He advises buying whole heads of lettuce or greens, removing the outer surface layers where bacteria is most likely to be present, and then washing the greens under cold running water.

Doyle has conducted studies that show the cutting and bagging of lettuce in processing plants can actually trap bacteria inside the lettuce leaves, meaning that no amount of scrubbing or washing will ever get rid of the germs. If greens are cut before they are washed — as they commonly are during processing — the bacteria become internalized by the leaves, trapping the germs inside the produce.

As risky as bagged greens can be, Doyle said an even greater concern should be the consumption of raw sprouts like bean and alfalfa.

He believes the only reason they weren’t first on the list of illness-causing produce in the CDC study is that folks just don’t eat nearly as many of them as they do items like lettuce, tomatoes or melon.

He said sprouts, due to their high levels of contamination, should never be consumed raw.

It’s poop: E. coli found on Taylor Farms organic spinach; recall launched

When did press release writing drones come up with the phrase, “out of an abundance of caution?” It seems to be appearing in every recall release.

How about, “in the course of doing our job to provide safe food, we found dangerous E. coli on our raw spinach and decided it would be a good idea to warn

But I don’t get paid the big bucks.

Taylor Farms Retail, Inc. is initiating a voluntary recall of select Organic Baby Spinach products with the potential to be contaminated with (EHEC) Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli.

(That’s the nasty kind)

The company is cooperating with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) regarding this recall. There have been no reported illnesses attributed to the recalled items.

How was this positive picked up, through internal or random testing? What is the strain of E. coli? Where did it come from?

And who knew what when?

28 sick; multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections linked to organic spinach and spring mix blend

CDC has now weighed in on the E. coli O157 outbreak linked to Wegman’s in New York that has sickened at least 28.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports 28 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 (STEC O157:H7) have been reported from five states, with most cases in New York.

42% of ill persons have been hospitalized. Two ill persons have developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure, and no deaths have been reported.

The outbreak was initially in New York. More recently, more ill persons in other states have been reported, and the investigation has expanded.

Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate that Wegmans brand Organic Spinach and Spring Mix blend produced by State Garden of Chelsea, Massachusetts, is one likely source of this outbreak.

Four leftover packages of Wegmans brand Organic Spinach and Spring Mix blend collected from four ill persons’ homes yielded the outbreak strain of STEC O157:H7.

On November 2, 2012, Wegmans recalled 5-ounce and 11-ounce packages of Organic Spinach and Spring Mix blendproduced by State Garden, because they may be contaminated with STEC O157:H7. The products were withdrawn from the market, and shoppers were notified.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat recalled Wegmans brand Organic Spinach and Spring Mix blend and that they dispose of any remaining product in the home or return the product to a Wegmans store location.

Other brands of pre-packaged leafy greens have been reported by ill persons outside of New York. Investigations are ongoing to determine if other contaminated leafy greens are also a source of illness in this outbreak.

This PFGE pattern has very rarely been seen before in PulseNet. It has been seen only 7 times prior to this outbreak. Illnesses that occurred after October 30, 2012 might not be reported yet due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

Questions remain: why did Wegman’s issue a voluntary recall on Nov. 2, 2012, but CDC didn’t announce anything until Nov. 17, 2012 (and didn’t post it until today); was the spinach and spring mix actually produced in Massachusetts or just packaged there by State Garden and originated somewhere else; will State Garden now admit its product has been linked to illnesses after initially stating, “no illnesses have been confirmed as related to State Garden products.”

Epidemiology used to matter.

A table of leafy green related outbreaks is available at