Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Canadian Listeria "Outbreak" A Fizzle

September 30, 2009

There have been no new illnesses reported in Canada's most recent suspected Listeria monocytogenes outbreak, according to information received today from Robert Paterson, who works in Media Relations for the Public Health Agency of Canada ("PHAC").

On September 21, PHAC advised Canadians that six cases of listeriosis – all caused by the same "relatively common" strain – were being investigated by federal and provincial government agencies. One of the reported victims had died.

The PHAC report left several questions unanswered, so we contacted the agency on September 24th, and posed our questions to Mr. Paterson. Here is what we learned from him today.

  • The Listeria monocytogenes recovered from all six cases of illness share the same genetic fingerprint.
  • The Listeria monocytogenes strain recovered from the six victims is different from the strain that was responsible for Canada's 2008 outbreak, and also differs from the strain that triggered Maple Leaf Food's August 2009 recall of hot dogs and wieners.
  • The six cases do not appear to be linked in any way, except that the same strain of Listeria monocytogenes was recovered from all six victims.
  • No other cases of listeriosis caused by this strain have been reported since September 21st.
  • PHAC declined to identify which provinces reported these six cases – or even how many provinces were involved – because no linkage has been established and no outbreak has been declared.

This evening, several hours after we spoke with Mr. Paterson, PHAC posted a short statement advising that their investigation of this "illness cluster" had closed.

The bottom line is that this was a simple coincidence. It's not unheard of for a common strain of pathogen to turn up in different locations within a relatively short period of time. It's happened before. It will happen again.

At least someone at PHAC is keeping his or her eyes open.

Recall Roundup: September 30, 2009

Here is today's list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals and allergy alerts. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.



Canada
  • Allergy Alert: Intermarché de Risi (8700 boul. Langelier, St-Léonard, QC) recalls all ground meat purchased up to and including September 22, 2009 due to the presence of undeclared sulfites.


Europe
  • Food Recall (Ireland): Odlums recalls certain batches of Odlums Quick Bread and Odlums Quick Scones as a precautionary measure because of possible presence of insects.


Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket's recall web site.


*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains, listed on the Kroger corporate home page.


If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the link on our sidebar.

Probiotic Pickles

September 30, 2009

Probiotic: A microbe that protects its host and prevents disease. (www.medterms.com)


It doesn't take much more than a stroll down the supermarket dairy case aisle to realize that probiotics are hot. A quick glance at the yogurt display reveals competing claims by two major international dairy brands, Dannon (Danone in France) and Yoplait.

Nor is the marketing of probiotic foods limited to the dairy industry. Even sour pickles are getting into the act, as we discovered during our recent stroll through the San Francisco Farmer's Market.

The Happy Girl Kitchen Co. is a Central California packing company that specializes in preserving and packing local organic produce. The company sells its wares over the Internet as well as at Farmer's Markets in Santa Cruz and in the San Francisco Bay area.

While the Company's web site makes no probiotic claims for its dill pickles – or any other of its fermented products – the Happy Girl who we met at the Farmer's Market told us the following:


video


Happy Girl is not alone in claiming health benefits for fermented dill pickles and other fermented non-dairy foods, such as sauerkraut and various ethnic pickled vegetables. A quick Google search turns up numerous blogs, web sites and other articles on the subject.

While some of the claims may be exaggerated, the fundamental principles are sound. Yogurts, other fermented dairy products (e.g., cheeses, buttermilk and kefir), pickles and sauerkraut result from the growth of lactic acid-producing bacteria – notably Lactobacillus. The benefits of consuming foods that have been fermented by lactic acid bacteria are several:

  • Lactic acid is a natural preservative
  • While growing, Lactobacillus produces compounds (known as prebiotics) that encourage the development of helpful bacteria in the intestinal tract
  • Many Lactobacillus bacteria produce natural anti-microbial compounds (known as bacteriocins) that act against pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes
  • The presence in the intestines of probiotic bacteria – including many Lactobacillus bacteria – aids digestion and helps lactose-intolerant individuals to digest dairy-based products

Unfortunately, not all Lactobacillus are created equal. Not all strains produce effective bacteriocins. And some strains are better able than others to survive the harsh acid environment of the stomach and take up residence in the intestines. In a completely natural fermentation, there is no way to predict which strains of lactic acid bacteria will take charge.

Despite these caveats, the health benefits of prebiotics and probiotics are well established, and the role of Lactobacillus strains and other lactic acid bacteria in aiding digestion has been recognized for many years. And whether or not a particular batch of pickles contains a strongly probiotic Lactobacillus strain, it still can be counted on for some prebiotic benefits.

Happy Girl's customers can keep on smiling.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Recall Roundup: September 29, 2009

Here is today's list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals and allergy alerts. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.



United States


Europe
  • Allergy Alert (UK): James T Blakeman and Co. Ltd. recalls some sausages because they contain wheat (gluten) and sulphites that are not declared on the label.


Asia, Africa and the Pacific


Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket's recall web site.


*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains, listed on the Kroger corporate home page.


If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the link on our sidebar.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Recall Roundup: September 28, 2009

Here is today's list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals and allergy alerts. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.



United States
  • Infant Formula Recall: Nutricia North America, Inc. ("Nutricia") recalls and replaces a limited quantity of individual cans from Lot #P91877 of the specialized infant formula product, Neocate®. Due to a blending error, these cans contain lower levels of protein than is declared on the label.


Europe
  • Food Safety Recall (EU): Listeria monocytogenes detected in smoked trout fillets imported into Germany from Poland.


Asia, Africa and the Pacific
  • Food Safety Recall: GlaxoSmithKline recalls two types of Lucozade Sport HydroActive Drinks after mold was detected in the products.


Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket's recall web site.


*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains, listed on the Kroger corporate home page.


If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the link on our sidebar.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bruschetta: It's What's For Lunch

September 27, 2009

One of the joys of travel – for me, anyway – is visiting local food markets and farmer's markets. Whether in SouthEast Asia or the south of France, these markets are a reflection of local culture and cuisine.


A street market in Luang Prabang, Laos



A fruit stall in Cannes, on the French Riviera



One of the most impressive farmer's markets I have seen is held every Tuesday and Saturday in and around the San Francisco Ferry Terminal building at the foot of Market Street. A determined grazer can enter the market hungry and emerge replete, having experienced a savory blend of fruits, preserves, salsas, cheeses and baked goods.


Samples of goat cheeses – free for the asking



A variety of salsas and dips on offer to passers-by



The ripe strawberries were very tempting



A more sophisticated grazer could opt for champagne and caviar



The Bruschetta stand was especially popular around noon. The open-faced Tuscan-style sandwiches were heaped with fresh tomatoes, sliced onions, capers and crumbled cheese.



The Bruschetta stand's operator was well organized

video


I'll be offering more video visits to the San Francisco Farmer's Market in upcoming posts.

Recall Roundup: September 26, 2009

Here is today's list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals and allergy alerts. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.



United States
  • Allergy Alert: Fannie May Confections Brands, Inc. recalls select 2 ounce Fannie May Milk Chocolate & Almonds candy bars because the ingredient statement does not mention that the bars contain almonds. The recall encompasses code dates 92291, 92292, 92301, 92302, 92451, 92452, 92511, 92512, 92521, 92522, 92661, and 92662. This recall notice has not yet been posted on the FDA recall web page.
  • Allergy Alert: Pampanga Food Corporation (Anaheim, CA) recalls approximately 28,470 pounds of a frozen skinless sausage cooked cured pork longanisa product that may contain undeclared anchovies and/or sardines


Canada
  • Allergy Alert: À La Miche Sans Gluten (formerly La Miche Et La Quiche), Boucherville, QC, recalls several pâté dishes due to the presence of undeclared egg ingredients


Australia & New Zealand
  • Food Safety Recall: West Australia Department of Health announces recall of pawpaw (papaya) fruit produced by one grower after the fruit was linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul infections.


Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket's recall web site.


*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains, listed on the Kroger corporate home page.


If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the link on our sidebar.

Friday, September 25, 2009

UK Petting Farm Outbreak Grows – Another Farm Closes

September 25, 2009

The number of E. coli O157 illnesses that can be traced to the Godstone Farm petting farm in Surrey, England has risen to 82. Three children remain hospitalized – all in stable condition.

As a result of the outbreak investigation, the UK Health Protection Agency has recommended the closure of two additional petting farms, bringing the tally of closed farms to five. The latest petting farm to shut down is the Big Sheep and Little Cow Farm, in North Yorkshire.

The most recent closure followed confirmation of three cases of E. coli O157 that may be linked to the Big Sheep and Little Cow Farm. Another five suspected cases among recent visitors to this petting farm have not yet been confirmed.

This series of E. coli O157 outbreaks clearly demonstrates the potential downside of petting farm visits. Toddlers and young children – who don't understand the importance of keeping their hands away from their mouths after touching the animals – are especially at risk of infection. And these children also are susceptible to serious complications, such as hemolytic uremic syndrome.

Simply making hand sanitizers available to farm visitors, and posting signs exhorting people to wash their hands – as most petting farms routinely do – clearly is not enough. Perhaps it's time that petting farms and petting zoos be required to test their animals for E. coli O157 as part of a state or county licensing program.

Recall Roundup: September 25, 2009

Here is today's list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals and allergy alerts. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.



United States
  • Allergy Alert: Adamba Imports International, Inc. (Brooklyn, NY) recalls Ziolopex Bakaliada Morele Suszone (Dried Apricots) due to the presence of undeclared sulfites. The recalled product was imported from Poland and distributed across the United States.
  • Allergy Alert: Associated Brands Inc. (Medina, NY) recalls 320 cases (3,840 selling units) of Price Rite Beef Flavored Bouillon Cubes (lot code 22 JUL 11), because the product may contain an undeclared dairy ingredient. The bouillon cubes were available at Price Rite retail stores in Pennsylvania.
  • Allergy Alert: Frick's Quality Meats (Washington, MO) recalls approximately 756 pounds of Braunschweiger liver sausage products. Due to a packaging error, the product contains undeclared milk ingredients.
  • OTC Drug Recall: Wyeth Consumer Healthcare recalls all lots of Robitussin Night Time Cough and Chest Congestion Syrup. The product is being recalled because the active ingredients are outside the scope of the applicable FDA OTC drug monograph. This recall notice was posted on the Buehlers and the Big Y World Class Market web sites. Although the recall notice is dated September 16, 2009, it has not yet appeared on the FDA recall web page.


Europe
  • Pet Food Recall (EU): Finland advises that it has rejected a shipment of dog food from Brazil due to the presence of Salmonella in four out of 13 samples. The rejected dog food did not enter the retail distribution system.


Australia & New Zealand
  • Allergy Alert: Win Kwong Pty Ltd recalls Pun Chun Sesame Sauce (290g; Best Before: 9-12-2010), imported from Hong Kong, due to the presence of undeclared traces of peanuts.


Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket's recall web site.


*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains, listed on the Kroger corporate home page.


If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the link on our sidebar.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Recall Roundup: September 24, 2009

Here is today's list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals and allergy alerts. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.



Europe


Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket's recall web site.


*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains, listed on the Kroger corporate home page.


If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the link on our sidebar.

Life's Sweet Mysteries

September 24, 2009

I've been on a "busman's holiday" for most of this month, chasing down – with the assistance of my intrepid photographer – the answers to some of life's mysteries.

I thought of beginning my quest by delving into the metaphysics of how Cadbury gets the caramel into its Caramilk bar. But that's already been done.

Next, I considered investigating how the trademark "m" is placed so consistently in the center of each M&M candy. But someone else beat me to it.

So I decided to focus on that other sweet mystery, namely:

"How do they get the fortune into the fortune cookie?"


The investigation took us westward to an exotic destination.



Sorry – overshot the destination. I think we're on the right track now.


Ah, yes. Chinatown!


Around the corner and down a back lane, we found the solution to our mystery – the tiny Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, which has been a San Francisco fixture for many decades.


Please play the video to see how fortune cookies are made.

video


I'll be reporting on more sweet (and sour) mysteries in future posts.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recall Roundup: September 23, 2009

Here is today's list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals and allergy alerts. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.



United States
  • Warning Letter: Pyramid Sprouters (Buffalo, MN) receives Warning Letter from FDA citing insanitary conditions and misbranding issues.


Canada
  • Cosmetic Product Recall: Markwins Canada Corporation (Mississauga, ON) recalls Wet n Wild Eye Make-up Remover (manufactured by Markwins International of Shenzhen, China) because the product contains high levels of bacteria, including Enterobacter gergoviae and Listeria monocytogenes.


Europe
  • Food Safety Recall (Ireland): Mars Food UK recalls certain batches of Dolmio Express Creamy Carbonara Pasta Sauce (manufactured in The Netherlands) due to possible contamination with pieces of hard plastic.




Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket's recall web site.


*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains, listed on the Kroger corporate home page.


If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the link on our sidebar.

Guest Blog: Solving the E. coli Problem – The Cantaloupe Theory

The following Guest Blog first appeared on Safety Zone, a regular blog feature on the Meatingplace.com site, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of its author, Dr. James Marsden.

Solving the E. coli Problem – The Cantaloupe Theory


When Undersecretary Michael Taylor announced that USDA would consider raw ground beef contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 to be adulterated within the meaning of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, he made a courageous stand for food safety.

His move accomplished quite a lot. It certainly got the attention of the meat industry. After an unsuccessful attempt to block the policy change in federal court, a number of actions were taken to reduce the risk of E. coli O157:H7. Over the past 16 years, measureable progress has been made and beef is undeniably microbiologically cleaner and safer today than it was in 1993.

However, the problem is still not solved. We know much more about the causes of E. coli contamination than we did in 1993. Given what we know today, it's time to recognize that the policy announced by Mr. Taylor has a fatal flaw. That flaw is the regulatory focus on contaminated ground beef instead of contaminated beef carcasses. If we are going to truly solve the problem, we need to rethink our approach. (In fairness to Mr. Taylor, he probably recognized this flaw at the time, but his options were limited because he knew that USDA would have to defend their position in federal court. A policy that addressed ground beef was more likely to be upheld).

At a recent NAMP Meeting, former Undersecretary for Food Safety, Dr. Richard Raymond and I both spoke about the need to shift the emphasis to chilled carcass pasteurization. Dr. Raymond discussed carcass irradiation as an option. I addressed all of the available technologies, including carcass irradiation, treatment with Ammonia Gas and treatment with Reactive Oxygen Species (Ozone and Vapor Hydrogen Peroxide).

During the discussion with NAMP members, an analogy developed that I believe makes the case for a course correction and defines exactly where our focus should be placed. I will call it the "Cantaloupe Theory".

Over the past several years, cantaloupes have been implicated in several Salmonella outbreaks. Imagine if FDA had announced that Salmonella is an adulterant in cut, prepared cantaloupe, but not on whole cantaloupes. Taking the analogy to the next step, imagine if regulatory and industry efforts to solve the problem focused on technologies to eliminate Salmonella from cut cantaloupe. If this had occurred, the problem would probably never be solved. Instead, the regulatory and industry focus was properly placed on eliminating Salmonella from the outside surface of cantaloupes. When cantaloupes are whole and intact, all of the contamination is on the outside where it is relatively easy to eliminate.

We have the exact same situation in the beef industry. E. coli contamination starts on the outside of beef carcasses. The meat inside contaminated carcasses is sterile until contamination occurs from the outside - in.

Regulatory focus and industry control strategies should address contamination on chilled carcasses, before they are fabricated and turned into ground beef and other consumer products. This is the point in the process when E. coli contamination is limited to one finite area. It is also the point where E. coli contamination is easiest to eliminate and where there is ample time to apply pasteurization technologies.

If we solve the problem on chilled carcasses, processing that occurs downstream will always start with a pasteurized raw material. Of course, food safety would still be a shared responsibility. Processors should continue to use effective interventions to prevent recontamination and to apply excellent sanitation measures.

The key to this approach is that instead of trying to accomplish the impossible – the decontamination of all of the small pieces after they become contaminated, we would take care of the problem when it is solvable, when the carcass is whole.

That is the solution to the E. coli problem.


About Jim Marsden: Dr. James L. Marsden is Regent's Distinguished Professor of Food Safety and Security at Kansas State University, and the senior science advisor for the North American Meat Processors Association. He is the past president of the American Meat Institute Foundation in Washington, DC and a graduate of Oklahoma State University.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recall Roundup: September 22, 2009

Here is today's list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals and allergy alerts. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.



United States
  • Allergy Alert: Americas Favorite Noshers Inc. (Brooklyn, NY) recalls Nosher's Choice brand Just Fruit because it contains undeclared sulfites. The recalled product was distributed in New York State and New Jersey.
  • Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning Alert (Oregon): The entire Oregon coast has been closed to recreational mussel and clam harvesting due to the risk of paralytic shellfish poisoning. Crab harvesting is not affected by this closure, but the consumption of whole recreational scallops is not recommended.
  • Retailer's Food Recall: Buehler's Fresh Foods (Ohio) recalls several products supplied by Nash Finch for various reasons, including mold, infestation, and an incorrect recipe.

Europe
  • Food Safety Recall: Mars Food UK recalls two date codes of Dolmio Express Creamy Carbonara Pasta Sauce due to possible contamination with small pieces of hard plastic.
  • Food Safety Alert (EU): Salmonella enteritidis detected in buckwheat flour from France that was distributed to Luxembourg
  • Food Safety Alert (EU): Salmonella detected in fresh cha om leaf and fresh holy basil from Thailand that was distributed to The Netherlands
  • Food Safety Alert (EU): Soy bean curd from China rejected by Italy due to the presence of excessive Bacillus cereus, a potential pathogen



Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket's recall web site.


*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains, listed on the Kroger corporate home page.


If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the link on our sidebar.