Food safety culture? Walmart restaurant linked to Shigella outbreak ready to reopen

Salsarita’s Restaurant in the Walmart Home Office Café will reopen Wednesday following a Shigella outbreak that made hundreds sick.

Salsaritas-Chimichurri-Fajita-BurritoThe email said Eurest, the third-party company in charge of managing the kitchen, will hire a quality assurance manager and will retrain staff on the company’s safety protocols.

Shigella outbreak in Arkansas linked to Walmart?

The Salsarita’s Restaurant at the Walmart Home Office Cafe in Bentonville is closed while the Arkansas Health Department works to figure out how people got sick with Shigella.

walmartAccording to health department conducted an inspection last Wednesday right after people started getting sick.

Inspectors found nine violations on that inspection.

Of those nine violations, five were marked priority, meaning they were concerns that needed to be fixed fast.

Some violations included, employees not washing their hands or touching cooked food without wearing gloves.

The report said raw chicken had been dripping on bottled drinks.

A second inspection was done Monday. Inspectors found seven violations, some of them are the same.

The follow-up report said employees were out of the kitchen’s service containers and are still not washing their hands enough.

Eurest, the company responsible for managing the Home Office Cafe, said they are continuing to work with the health department and Walmart to figure out how the sickness spread.

Wal-Mart triples spending on food safety in China

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Tuesday it will triple its spending on food safety in China by the end of 2015 after criticism of its operating procedures and a reported mislabeling of donkey meat.

walmart_groceriesThe world’s largest retailer said it will shell out $48.2 million on food safety between 2013 and 2015. That’s nearly three times the $16.1 million it had previously earmarked.

The extra spending will go toward food testing, permits, DNA testing of meat sold in China and supplier audits, said Paul Gallemore, Wal-Mart’s chief compliance officer in China.

The intensified DNA testing comes after fox meat was found throughout various Chinese stores in packages labeled as “Five Spice” donkey meat in January. The company also was fined for selling expired duck meat in 2011.

Wal-Mart has about 7,000 food suppliers in China but recently cut 4% for failing to pass various food safety tests or audits.

Walmart challenging Chinese regulators

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is, according to this story, fighting back against Chinese regulatory authorities after facing continuous investigations.

The world’s largest retailer has been forced to pay roughly $10 million over the last three years for violating Chinese food and safety standards. These fines have not only impacted the company’s profitability, they have also hurt its long-term growth prospects by driving traffic away from Walmart stores.

walmart.chinaIn January, it was alleged to have been selling donkey meat, and it was found later there was fox meat in the product under question. Since then, the retailer has worked to improve quality standards through increased testing and new inspection techniques. Over 600 products are now tested daily at Walmart’s distribution centers in China for any flaws. The company also plans to start DNA testing for its meat products.

Although Walmart has taken the initiative to rectify these problems, they say manufacturers need to be investigated by regulatory authorities as well.

Food safety has been one of the biggest issues in China, as thousands of Chinese have fallen ill after consuming unsafe products. However, the story says, Chinese regulators do not investigate or fine local manufacturers or supermarket chains with the same frequency they regulate and fine international retailers.

Lawyers win: Wal-Mart files suit in Jensen cantaloupe case

There’s a food safety shell game for fresh produce involving growers, retailers and auditors.

Consumers are losing, lawyers are winning.

Tom Karst of The Packer reports that Wal-Mart Stores Inc., facing a lawsuit from the family of a man who died after eating a cantaloupe bought at one of its stores – one of 33 who died in the 2011 listeria-in-cantaloupe.salmonellacantaloupe outbreak —  is now suing the grower, distributor and the grower’s third-party auditor.

In a complaint filed in Wyoming federal court in late January, Wal-Mart asserts third-party claims against Edinburg, Texas, distributor Frontera Produce Ltd., auditors Primus Group Inc. and Bio Food Safety Inc., and Jensen Farms. Primus subcontracted Bio Food Safety to undertake the on-site audit of the cantaloupe farm, which resulted in a superior rating of 96%.

The third-party complaint is tied to a wrongful death lawsuit brought in Wyoming against Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart by Frederick Lollar, the husband of the deceased woman..

Bill Marler, Seattle food safety attorney handling about 45 of the 66 victim cases related to the listeria outbreak, said it is not unusual for a retailer to bring action against upstream suppliers, but Wal-Mart’s naming of a third-party auditor is unusual.

You call that a donkey? It’s a fox, mate; Walmart recalls donkey meat after DNA of fox discovered by China’s FDA

In further evidence that food fraud continues to be a huge problem, despite DNA testing, Walmart has recalled donkey meat after the DNA of other animals was discovered in the meat during an inspection by China’s Food and Drug Administration.

The meat was sold in China under the label of “Five Spice” donkey meat.

Walmart will reimburse the consumers for their purchases of the recalled donkey meat, donkey.meataccording to NBC News on Jan. 2.

Walmart is also cooperating with authorities in their investigation into the Chinese food supplier who shipped the meat to Walmart. Gaining the trust of the Chinese people around offering quality in their products is important today as Walmart plans to open 110 new stores in China in the next few years.

The new stores are part of the retail and grocery giant’s latest bid to get a sizable piece of China’s $1 trillion food and grocery market today. Selling tainted donkey meat doesn’t fare well for the chain when it comes to the wealthy shoppers, suggests Shaun Rein, the managing director of the China Market Research Group.

Donkey meat probably doesn’t appeal to the majority of the population in the U.S., but it is a favorite among the Chinese people as snack. The donkey meat market only accounts for a small fraction of the meat sold in China, but much like U.S. citizens, folks in China want to trust that they are buying what the label indicates. Shoppers want to purchase the product without worrying it could be tainted with an unwanted ingredient.

Woman shows WFTV live frog in unopened bag of lettuce in Florida

A Minneola woman told WFTV she bought a bag of Market Fresh lettuce at a Walmart and found a frog alive inside. 

Dwanita Pitman said she couldn’t believe it when she discovered a frog crawling around the bag of Market Side salad mix that she bought on Thursday. 

The woman said she noticed the frog in the bagged lettuce after she washed some grapes and went to put them back in the crisper drawer. 

“I noticed, like, legs and a hand print,” Pitman said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, babe. Oh, my gosh. Something’s in this bag, something’s in this bag, and it’s moving.'” 

Food and Drug Administration officials were at the woman’s Lake County home conducting an investigation, but would not comment on the issue. 

After making this discovery, Pitman called the company that made the salad mix. She also called the FDA and WFTV. 

“I was like, somebody has got to see this. Nobody’s going to believe this, that it stays alive and the bag’s not open,” Pitman said. 

Pittman said the incident is so crazy, some may doubt her story, but she said it’s not a hoax, and she’s not looking to sue. 

“I don’t have anything to gain,” she said. 

Walmart released the following statement: 

“Thanks for bringing this to our attention. This fails to meet our high standards of quality food at every level. 

“We have reached out directly to the customer to express our sincerest apologies. 

“The store has removed the product with this lot number from its shelves and we’re currently working with our supplier to find out how this could have happened.”


Walmart stopped selling raw sprouts over a year ago for food safety reasons; why haven’t others?

If Walmart can figure out that raw sprouts are too risky to sell in their stores, why are fancy food service providers, like Emirates airlines still serving sprouts?

Rebekah Denn of the Seattle Times reports Walmart U.S. quietly stopped selling raw sprouts in October of 2010.

"This decision was made because of our commitment to our customers’ safety as well as our knowing of the inherent microbial risks associated with sprouts," said spokeswoman Dianna Gee. "Over the past year, we have been working with sprout growers within the industry to research enhanced food safety controls and microbial intervention strategies that would result in safer sprouts, before re-introducing them for sale in our stores and clubs."

Don’t look to Macpherson’s Produce on Beacon Hill either, which pulled the health food after an E. coli outbreak linked to sprouts sickened thousands and killed 53 people in Europe and a salmonella outbreak linked to Northwest sprouts sickened 21 people last summer, including some in our state. The crunchy garnish is slipping off the menu at other outlets nationwide, says NPR.

I checked in with one of my favorite food-safety sources, Professor Doug Powell of Kansas State University, who brings blunt talk and scientific rigor to outbreaks and scares. He mentioned to me that sprouts were no longer available at Walmart, the first I’d heard of that move — and noted that plenty of others have taken that route. They’re one of the few foods he won’t touch himself.

"They are a hazardous food, and a lot of food service companies stopped serving them years ago…" Powell said.

"The industry is working on it, and my hat goes off to them, but…any industry is only as good as its worst producer."

So. How to decide if you want to eat them yourself, and how to do it safely?

As Dr. Raj Mody, an epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control, puts it in an online article, some people think of sprouts as the ultimate healthy food. But Mody also calls them "a perfect vehicle for pathogens," and suggests cooking them if you’re going to eat them at all.

The big problem. The seeds themselves can be contaminated, and they’re sprouted in a wet, warm medium that’s perfect for spreading contamination no matter where it originated.

Sometimes when we write about food safety, producers of the affected products can come off as extremely defensive, sure that their food cannot be at fault. But talking with Bob Sanderson, president of the International Sprout Growers Association, I found a guy who is both proud of what he grows and very concerned about finding ways to make sure it’s safe industry-wide. The association started as a way to promote the nutritional value of sprouts, he said, but food safety has become more of its focus.

"(The sprout) has never been a big item in the produce world, and it’s always had a very dedicated customer base. But there have been a number of outbreaks, and they’ve caused a lot of concern. The best way to try to rebuld confidence in the product is to standardize the best practices for minimizing that kind of situation," he said.

The association is working with the FDA and, in particular, with the Institute for Food Safety and Health, figuring out the best practices to follow. A current project is designing an audit for sprout production, looking at all the most critical areas. Some of the bigger companies are doing their own research as well, he noted.

For sprouts to return to Walmart, for instance, Sanderson said the rigorous list of requirements growers are working on includes items such as having the growers show documentation on their seed sourcing and sanitizing, showing that they have tested their spent irrigation water, undergoing this "extremely detailed third-party audit…it covers absolutely everything", and being able to trace any problem sources.

"A lot of these things the industry for the most part is already doing," he said. There are not a lot of seed suppliers, but "the main ones are certainly doing a lot of testing and they won’t accept a seed lot if anything comes up in their tests," he said. That said, it’s not a complete guarantee, and they would like to see better sanitizing treatments for seeds than the chlorine-based one the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommended years back. Testing the spent irrigation water is is something that he thinks almost all the commercial growers are doing. "It’s been designed so you’ll get the results back before the product goes out the door," he said.

A table of sprout-related outbreaks is available at

Wal-Mart and Costco want nothing to do with DeCoster eggs (good); multi-million lawsuits between egg execs does nothing for sick people (bad)

 Executives with the Iowa egg farms at the center of last year’s salmonella outbreak that sickened nearly 2,000 and led to the recall of 500 million eggs are locked in a legal battle.

Austin "Jack" DeCoster, the man who owns the egg farms, and his former right-hand man, John Glessner are bickering to the tune of $40 million in lawsuits.

In one lawsuit Glessner claims that the DeCoster family has mismanaged its Iowa egg production facilities and deprived him of more than $40 million, including more than $10 million in rent for use of his Hardin County facility, defaulted on bank loans, been "blackballed" by food vendors and been barred from bidding on contracts with retailers.

Clark Kauffman of The Des Moines Register writes in today’s USA Today that DeCoster’s Ohio Fresh Egg company is suing Glessner, accusing him of looting the company before he was fired this summer.

An executive with Hillandale Farms of Iowa, which was forced to recall 170 million eggs, sent an e-mail to Glessner in August 2010 saying DeCoster had become a liability to Hillandale.

"Unfortunately, Hillandale Farms can have absolutely no association with Jack, anywhere," wrote Orland Bethel, Hillandale’s founder. "We have been told by Costco and Wal-Mart that they will not be doing any business if Jack and his people have any involvement in management."

Pennsylvania man charged with eating raw beef off Walmart shelf, enters mugshot-hall-of-fame

A Carlisle, Penn., man faces felony charges after police said he was seen eating raw meat from off of the shelf of the Carlisle Walmart Monday afternoon.

Carlisle police told The Sentinel an employee saw Scott T. Shover, 53 (right, exactly as shown), opening packages of raw ground beef and raw stew beef in the store and eating some of it at 2:40 p.m. Shover then placed the opened packages back on the shelf to be sold and never paid for them, according to police.

The total loss of meat was valued at $24.53, police said.

The potential for foodborne illness? Free.