Eating broken glass sucks; Trader Joe’s salad recalled

Friend of barfblog and mentor Tanya MacLaurin told me a story when I was in grad school that I still use when telling folks about physical hazards.

It goes sorta like this (or this is the version I remember):

Tanya was running food services at Kansas State and had a really big event with donors and university administrators. She came into the kitchen and saw her staff picking something out of a couple of hundred of salads that were prepped and ready to go our for service. Someone had broken a fluorescent light that was situated over the staging area and everyone was scrambling to pick out the glass.

A great risk manager, Tanya shut down the coverup operation.

Glass removal by eyesight isn’t a great critical control point.

In related news, a supplier of Trader Joe’s salads is recalling a whole bunch of prepared salads due to glass contamination.

Green Cuisine, a San Fernando, Calif. establishment, is recalling approximately 36,854 pounds of chicken and turkey salad products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically hard silica and glass fragments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The ready-to-eat chicken and turkey salads were produced from Nov. 4 – 15, 2017. The following products are subject to recall:

* 10.5-oz. clear plastic individual serving packages containing “TRADER JOE’S White Meat Chicken Salad with celery, carrots and green onions” with a “Use By” date of November 10 – 21, 2017.

* 11.0-oz. clear plastic individual serving packages containing “TRADER JOE’S CURRIED WHITE CHICKEN DELI SALAD with toasted cashews, green onion and a bit of honey” with a “Use By” date of November 10 – 21, 2017.

* 10.25-oz. clear plastic individual serving packages containing “TRADER JOE’S TURKEY CRANBERRY APPLE SALAD TURKEY BREAST MEAT WITH SWEET DRIED CRANBERRIES, TANGY GREEN APPLES, PECANS AND SAGE” with a “Use By” date of November 10 – 21, 2017.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “P-40299” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to retail locations in the following states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

11 sick: Not-so Wonderful Pistachios linked to Salmonella outbreak

An intrepid reader e-mailed me two days ago to say she had been shopping at Trader Joe’s and they were pulling pistachios off the shelves. She surmised they were either slow on a previous Salmonella-in-pistachios, or there was a new outbreak.

lot-code-imageIt was the later.

Trader Joes publicly announced the recall the next day and last night, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control linked the Trader Joe’s pistachios to a national outbreak of Salmonella Montevideo that has so far sickened at least 11 people in nine states.

Local, state and federal health officials are investigating the outbreak. Meanwhile, California-based Wonderful Pistachios has voluntarily recalled a limited number of flavors and sizes of its product, the CDC statement said.

The pistachios were sold nationwide and in Canada under the brand names Wonderful, Paramount Farms and Trader Joe’s.

The recalled products can be identified by their lot number, which can be found at the bottom of packaging. The CDC has a guide on which pistachios were recalled and how to tell on its website. The Food and Drug Administration has a list of the (many) recalled products.


Salmonella in Trader Joe’s walnuts

Trader Joe’s Company is recalling Raw Walnuts because these products have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

ucm438493The recalled Trader Joe’s Raw Walnuts were distributed to Trader Joe’s stores nationwide.

The products are packaged in clear plastic bags with the UPC Codes printed on the back. For the Raw California Walnut products, the “BEST BY” dates and Lot Numbers can be found printed on the back of the packages. For the Organic Raw Walnut products, the “BEST BY” dates can be found printed on the front of the packages.

The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by an outside company contracted by the FDA revealed the presence of Salmonella in certain packages of Trader Joe’s Raw Walnuts.

Out of an abundance of caution, Trader Joe’s removed all lots of these products from store shelves and will suspend sale of these products while the FDA and the manufacturers involved continue their investigation into the source of the problem.

To date, Trader Joe’s Company has not received any illness complaints related to these recalled products.


Leafy greens cone of silence; Phoenix E. coli victim sues Trader Joe’s, salad maker

A Phoenix man is suing Trader Joe’s and Glass Onion Catering and Gourmet Foods, the manufacturer of ready-to-eat salads that were linked to an outbreak of a deadly strain of E. coli last year that sickened 33 people in four Western states.

spongebob.oil.colbert.may3.10Steven Rabinowitz was the only Arizona resident who became seriously ill after eating the salads, which were sold at Trader Joe’s stores in the West. Seven others who were sickened also have sued.

The outbreak has been traced back to romaine lettuce produced in a single field, grown directly across from a cattle operation in Modesto, Calif. The strain of E. coli linked to the outbreak is most commonly found in cattle manure.

State public-health investigators from California could not determine a root cause of the outbreak, but they believe contaminants from the cattle field may have blown on to the lettuce grown by Ratto Bros., according to the investigative report. The grower has improved and adopted new procedures to prevent future contamination, the report says.

The case highlights the responsibility of everyone involved in the farm-to-table continuum — including growers, manufacturers and sellers — because consumers have no control over how a pre-packaged product is made, said Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney representing Rabinowitz and the other victims in the outbreak.

“There’s no consumer intervention here at all. You’re not going to buy a pre-made salad, take it out and wash it, and put it back in again,” said Marler, a national expert who has represented food-poisoning victims for more than 20 years. “Frankly, that’s why we sued. … This really requires more responsibility on the part of the entity that’s selling you the product.”

From the Salmonella in low moisture foods file: Trader Joe’s almond butter edition

At the 2007 IAFP annual meeting in Florida, CDC foodborne illness outbreak guru Robert Tauxe told symposium audience that the next big thing for food safety was low-moisture ingredients. Salmonella is hardy, especially when stressed through drying, so it sticks around for a while. It might not grow much without available water, many low-moisture foods are also high-fat which protects the pathogen in the gut and leads to a lower mean infectious dose. Tauxe’s comments were post- Salmonella Tennessee in Peter Pan peanut butter and pre- Salmonella Wandsworth in Veggie Booty (and other outbreaks) and he talked about dried spices and flavorings and peanut butter-type products like hummus and tahini. And almond butter.91989-Raw-Crunchy-Unsalted-Almond-Butter

According to a message on the Trader Joe’s website, the retailer is recalling specific lots of two types of of almond butter.

We have been alerted by our supplier of Trader Joe’s Raw Almond Butters that there is a possibility that product with the specified date codes may be contaminated with Salmonella:

Raw Crunchy Unsalted Almond Butter

SKU 91989

USE BY 28DEC14 thru 18JUN15

Raw Creamy Unsalted Almond Butter

SKU 56995

USE BY 27DEC14 thru 18JUL15

 In accordance with our stringent health and safety standards, and as an extreme precaution, all of the potentially affected product has been removed from sale and destroyed.

Customers who have purchased any of these items with the specified code dates are urged to not eat them and to dispose of them or return them to any Trader Joe’s for a full refund.

No other Trader Joe’s products are included in this recall.

Glass Onion Catering products sold at Trader Joe’s (and elsewhere) recalled after link to E. coli O157 Illnesses

According to USDA FSIS, 26 people in three states suffering from E. coli O157 have  been linked together as a cluster of related illnesses. Investigators have identified pre-packaged salads containing grilled chicken produced by Glass Onion Catering as the likely source. Screen Shot 2013-11-10 at 2.51.01 PM

According to a USDA FSIS press release, Glass Onion Catering is recalling 181,620 pounds of ready-to-eat salads and sandwich wrap products associated with outbreak. From the press release:

FSIS began monitoring a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses on Oct. 29, 2013 then was notified by FDA on Nov. 6, 2013 that California authorities had reported case-patients consuming pre-packaged salads with grilled chicken. Working in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FDA, the California Department of Public Health, the Washington State Department of Health, and the Arizona Department of Health Services, FSIS has determined that there is a link between the grilled chicken salads and the illness cluster. Twenty-six case-patients have been identified in three states with indistinguishable E. coli O157:H7 PFGE (genetic fingerprint) patterns with illness onset dates ranging from Sept 29, 2013 to Oct. 26, 2013. Based on epidemiological information, 15 case-patients reported consumption of ready-to-eat pre-packaged salads prior to illness onset. A traceback investigation determined Glass Onion Catering was the supplier of the products implicated in the outbreak.   

While uncommon to find E. coli O157:H7 in a poultry product, FSIS will continue its investigation in conjunction with the FDA to identify the source of the contamination. FSIS continues to work with the CDC, FDA and state public health partners on this investigation and will provide updated information as it becomes available.

A list and pictures of the affected product labels, including many branded as Trader Joe’s private label is found here.

According to their website, Glass Onion Catering and Gourmet Foods, “is a rising force in the prepackaged, grab and go gourmet food industry. A trusted source for several top retail brands, Glass Onion was envisioned and created by Tom, a Northern California native.”

Nothing related to what they do to address food safety is listed on the site. Listing their systems would make them a more trusted source for me.

41 sickened; New Mexico plant shuttered for 8 months amid salmonella outbreak is making peanut butter again

In fall, 2012, 41 people in 20 states contracted Salmonella from natural and organic peanut butter, primarily through purchases at Trader Joe’s.
By Nov. 2012, Sunland was eager to reopen, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had other ideas, and filed a permanent injunction against Sunland.

But today, the eastern New Mexico peanut butter plant shuttered eight months ago after a salmonella outbreak is back in production, and sunland_20120925084929_320_240company officials say their barf-inducing coveted natural and organic butters could be back on store shelves within a month.

Sunland Inc. Vice President Katalin Coburn says the company last week got the go-ahead from the Food and Drug Administration to restart peanut butter operations at its factory in Portales. It is currently in a test phase of production, she said.

The company processes Valencia peanuts, a sweet variety of peanut that is unique to the region and preferred for natural butters because it is flavorful without additives. It makes peanut butter under a number of different labels for retailers like Costco, Kroger and Trader Joe’s. It also makes nut butter products under its own name.

“They were saying, ‘We want Valencia. We want you guys. We want organic. So hurry up.’

Replace Valencia and organic with Salmonella. More entertaining, and possibly accurate.

36 sick; New Mexico peanut butter town seeks comeback after massive recall

A 5-year-old girl from the eastern New Mexico county where peanuts are grown and processed for Sunland Inc. is the latest of 36 confirmed Salmonella victims in a national outbreak.

But Sunland, the country’s largest organic peanut processing plant is getting a major scrub down in hopes of getting it back to business after a massive recall of products linked to a salmonella outbreak.

Health and business go together; it’s bad to make your customers barf.

But the competing goals are often played off against each other, rather than a drum circle of inclusiveness.

The New Mexico Health Department said it confirmed the girl from Roosevelt County had been sickened by the same bacteria that had been found in Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Peanut Butter and the Sunland Inc. plant where it was produced.

To date, most cases have been linked to the Trader Joe’s brand. But the health department said the young girl in Roosevelt County — which is some 200 miles from the closest Trader Joe’s store — had eaten multiple peanut products.

Health Department spokesman Kenny Vigil said the girl was never hospitalized and has recovered.

More than 300 products, including peanuts, peanut butter and other nut products processed at the plant, have been recalled.

The recall has impacted peanut butter and other nut products sold at major stores throughout the country, raising concern about the long-term impact on the industry, especially in products grown and processed in Portales, New Mexico.

The region is home to the prized Valencia peanut, representing a small percentage of the nation’s giant peanut crop. It is favored for natural peanut butter products because of its sweet taste.

Sunland closed late September when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked a salmonella outbreak to peanut butter it produced for retailer Trader Joe’s. After the FDA discovered salmonella, the recall expanded in October to include peanuts and other nut butters. Sunland’s roasting and processing facilities were also closed.

Sunland has recalled everything made within their facilities since March 2010.

That’s probably because FDA found some nasty stuff.

The recall affects many peanut butters labeled “organic” or “natural.” It does not include major brands, including Jif, Skippy or Peanut Butter.

Sunland manufactures products for Target, Costco and other major retailers.

Salmonella in Sunland peanut butter – again (the repetition is really boring and the soundbites meaningless)

Having lived in Brisbane for a year, I can testify to the range of fantastical insects and rodent-like creatures.

Beginning in April 1996, some 500 people across Australia were stricken with Salmonella that made its way into peanut butter.

At first, investigators focused on chicken; that chickens carry Salmonella has been worn into the public’s food safety conscious for decades. But as cases of Salmonella increased across the country and after questioning the sick and the vomiting, an unlikely food source emerged: peanut butter.

In the 1996 Australia outbreak, researchers first found the same genetic strain of Salmonella in peanut butter from the homes of some of the sick (unlike fresh produce, the long shelf-life of peanut butter provides an advantage for disease detectives). Because the manufacturer retained samples for shelf-life tests, the peanut butter was found to contain the same strain of Salmonella, as did the roasted peanuts from a single supplier.

After six months of investigation, Australian researchers came up with a theory: the roasting company had moved and separated the roasted peanuts with an auger, a drill-like machine with a spiraling blade that could lift piles of peanuts, that had been contaminated with mouse feces.

Peter Wood, senior lecturer in microbiology at Queensland, University of Technology, Brisbane, was quoted as telling the American Society of Microbiology in 1999 that, “The auger was only used four times because it proved not to be as time-saving as first thought,” and the machine had been kept in the company tool yard. During that time, eastern Australia was in the throes of a plague of mice. The rodents nested everywhere, including the tool yard, where their droppings contaminated the auger. When the auger was brought in to the plant, it was washed down but Wood said it was not sanitized before it was used on Jan. 10, 1996. Salmonella from the auger mixed with the peanuts, and contaminated the system.

Salmonella is commonly associated with the feces of birds and animals, has been found to survive in soil in almond orchards, and could be introduced at a multitude of stages in the peanut butter-making process. Although processing normally eliminates contamination, several studies following the 1996 Australian outbreak have revealed that the high fat content of peanut butter can actually protect individual bacteria during the heating process.

Similarly, in 2006, Cadbury in the U.K. recalled 1 million candy bars after tentative links with Salmonella cases stretching over 6 months. A leaky pipe in the production facility may have been the cause. Maintenance and sanitation, two departments integral in food safety system success, appear to have failed in both outbreaks.

Additional outbreaks involving ConAgra (2007) and Peanut Corporation of America (2009) further demonstrated the vulnerability of an invulnerable foodstuff.

Now, 29 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Bredeney have been reported to PulseNet from 18 states linked to Trader Joe’s Valencia Creamy Salted Peanut Butter.

The peanut butter was made by Sunland, Inc and manufactured between May 1, 2012 and September 24, 2012.

What’s worse is that at the same time, CBS reports food manufacturers in Georgia may be dodging a first-of-its-kind law requiring that they inform state food inspectors when their products test positive for contamination, according to an audit of the state’s food inspection service.

An audit released this summer offers a combination of anecdotal and statistical evidence suggesting the so-called “red flag law” was not strictly followed after it was implemented in 2010. The state adopted the law after a deadly salmonella outbreak that killed nine people and sickened hundreds more was traced back to a filthy southwest Georgia peanut producer. The crisis put a big dent in the state’s peanut industry, then valued around $2.5 billion annually.

Guess they never heard of that in New Mexico, where Sunland is based, and brags about a bunch of audits resulting in a big thumbs up.

Anyone can talk a good food safety game; and since most food safety is faith-based, the pronouncements from on high are treated with reverence by the consuming public.

But the data just isn’t there.

And if it is, companies and growers need to start making it public until this whole food safety thing goes off into some sort of golden plates religion.

Keep the faith.

Salmonella Bredeney outbreak update: Sunland, Inc recalls lots of nut butter products

Peanut butter is one of the staples in our house. With a four-year-old who won’t eat much beyond bread, pasta and hummus, peanut butter is one of the protein sources we count on for growth and development. But it’s faith-based risk management wherever we buy it.
There isn’t much I can do to reduce the risk at home. I have to hope that whomever made it is effectively reducing the chance that Salmonella gets into their plant – and if it does, that they have some sort of validated kill-step and their sanitation crew is paying attention while cleaning and sanitizing lines and equipment.

On Friday the keen public health folks in Pennsylvania put out some information about a cluster of Salmonella Bredeney illnesses linked to a private-label Trader Joe’s peanut butter. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Saturday they are investigating 29 illnesses going back to June 8, 2012. And Illnesses that occurring after August 29, 2012 might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

According to CDC, 22 of the ill individuals are under 18, and the median age is 7. I guess lots of other kids eat peanut butter.

Trader Joe’s recalled the stuff Saturday and today, the supplier, Sunland Inc have recalled all peanut and almond butter products produced since March – including products packed under Target’s Archer Farms brand.