Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Allergy Alert: Dried Apricots Recalled in UK

December 31, 2008

The Health Store has recalled a batch of its own brand of Whole, Dried Apricots due to the presence of undeclared sulphites in the fruit, according to an Allergy Alert released by the UK Food Standards Agency.

The recalled The Health Store brand Whole, Dried Apricots are sold in 500g packages labeled with a Best before date of 13 June 2009 and Batch code 40 259.

While most individuals will not experience any adverse effects from eating this batch of apricots, people who are sensitive to sulphites may suffer severe – possibly life-threatening – allergy-like symptoms after consuming even a small quantity of the recalled apricots.

Consumers who purchased Batch code 40 259 of the Whole, Dried Apricots should check with the store for instructions.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chicken Jerky Dog Treats: The Latest Word From FDA

December 30, 2008

As we wrote earlier this month, there appears to be a connection between kidney failure in dogs and consumption of chicken jerky dog treats made in China. The problem has been reported in Australia, where one brand of treats already has been recalled by The Kramar Pet Company as a precaution. The Kramar treats had been manufactured in China.

The US investigation into this mysterious kidney ailment has been in progress for more than a year. FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine issued a warning to consumers in 2007, and repeated the advisory earlier this month – shortly after the Australian recall was announced.

FDA posted a Consumer Update on its website on December 24th, entitled Caution to Dog Owners About Chicken Jerky Products. This update summarized the information contained in the agency's earlier 2007 and 2008 warnings, but provided no new information. Our curiosity was piqued, and we e-mailed the Center for Veterinary Medicine to ask some direct questions on the status and progress of the FDA investigation.

Earlier today, we received the following statement from FDA spokeswoman, Laura Alvey:
"FDA is actively investigating the matter and conducting analysis for multiple different chemical and microbiological contaminants. We have tested numerous samples of chicken jerky products for possible contaminants including melamine. 

The complaints received have been on various chicken jerky products but to date we have not detected any contaminants and therefore have not issued a recall or implicated any products. We are continuing to test and will notify the public if we find evidence of any contaminants."

What should we conclude from this statement?
  • The problem is not linked to a single manufacturer or importer of chicken jerky dog treats.
  • The problem is chronic and long-standing – not of short duration.
  • The contaminant still has not been identified, but is probably NOT melamine.
  • FDA is taking this problem seriously, and has not put it on the back-burner.

As for any possible recalls, FDA's hands are tied – understandably so. Before requesting a recall, the agency must have evidence that links a specific product and/or contaminant to the problem. Until FDA is able to pinpoint the source of the problem, it can do no more than issue generalized warnings to consumers – at it has done twice this month.

Until this mystery is solved, consumers can take certain actions to protect their dogs:
  • Pay attention to the country of origin when purchasing dog treats.
  • Only offer treats in very small quantities, and not as a substitute for a meal.
  • Watch closely for any unusual behavior or symptoms.
  • Report any adverse reactions to pet foods or treats to FDA.

We'll continue to watch for, and report, any new developments 

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Great Eggnog Debate - Round Two

December 29, 2008

Hidden amid the great holiday controversies – whose family to visit first, whether to make ham or turkey for Christmas dinner, should potato latkes be eaten with sour cream or apple sauce – is the annual debate over the safety of homemade eggnog.

At last, there is an answer – sort of.

We talked about this last year. USDA estimates that approximately one egg in 20,000 contains Salmonella, and recommends that consumers use pasteurized eggs in recipes that call for eggs and have no final cooking step. "But," several people asked us, "doesn't the alcohol in the eggnog kill all the Salmonella?"

This year, National Public Radio asked that question of a researcher at The Rockefeller University. Dr. Fischetti obliged NPR by whipping up a batch of homemade eggnog (with alcohol) and comparing its bacterial counts against the store-bought variety. He found that the eggnog made with raw eggs and 20% rum and bourbon contained far fewer bacteria than the alcohol-free store-bought eggnog.

Next, Dr. Fischetti upped the ante by adding Salmonella to the homemade eggnog, holding the concoction – presumably in the refrigerator – for 24 hours, and then checking for survivors. He found that at least some of the Salmonella survived. 

In commenting on this result, Dr. Fischetti pointed out that his lab spiked the eggnog with roughly 1,000 times as many Salmonella as was likely to be found in a contaminated egg. He added that more experiments would be needed to obtain a definitive answer.

As so often happens with a "quick-and-dirty" lab experiment, more questions were generated by this report than answers. For example,
  • How much alcohol was in the eggnog?  Rum and bourbon vary in their alcohol content, and the disinfecting action of alcohol is concentration-dependent.
  • How much of the Salmonella was killed? 10%? 50%? 90%?
  • How was the Salmonella measured in the eggnog? – Lab methods vary greatly in their sensitivity.

Until someone decides to fund a more elaborate set of lab experiments, the safest bet still is to use pasteurized eggs in your homemade eggnog, and give Salmonella a holiday.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Chile's Other Food-Borne Disease Outbreak

December 27, 2008

While most of the attention is focused on Chile's cheese-related outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes, health investigators are also working to contain another – completely unrelated – outbreak, linked to consumption of raw or undercooked seafood.

In just two weeks, from December 8th to the 21st, Chile's Ministry of Health has received reports of 493 cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus gastroenteritis – 399 of them in the week of December 15th, alone. Most of the illnesses were clustered in just three regions, Maule (218), Bio Bio (137) and Los Lagos (118).

Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a salt-loving bacterium that grows best in warm ocean waters, such as are found along the coastlines during summer months. The microbe dies off quickly when refrigerated or frozen, and also is killed readily by cooking. It finds its victims among those who enjoy raw or nearly raw shellfish.

Gastroenteritis outbreaks caused by Vibrio parahaemolyticus are an annual summer event Chile, in spite of the Ministry of Health's efforts to educate the public about the hazards of consuming raw shellfish. The pathogen caused nearly 11,000 cases of gastroenteritis in the summer of 2004/05, 3,651 cases in 2005/06, 1,008 in 2006/07 and 3,643 cases in 2007/08.

Fortunately, Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections usually result in a relatively mild gastroenteritis. Of the most recent 493 victims, only two required hospitalization. Symptoms may include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, fever and chills, lasting just a few days.

The pathogen is not unique to Chile. Vibrio parahaemolyticus can be found in warm coastal waters in many parts of the world. It has long been a major cause of gastroenteritis in Japan, where raw and minimally cooked seafood is a dietary mainstay. Coastal regions of the United States also have a history of Vibrio parahaemolyticus outbreaks.

Minimizing the risk of being struck down by Vibrio parahaemolyticus gastroenteritis is simple. All that's needed is to forego raw seafood.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cholera in Zimbabwe and Beyond: The Perfect Storm

December 26, 2008

According to the latest report from the World Health Organization, the current cholera epidemic has killed 1,518 Zimbabwean victims. As of December 25th, 26,497 confirmed cases of cholera have been recorded, with more to come. And these numbers already are out of date.

While international aid agencies appeal – successfully – for money and supplies to fight the epidemic, Mugabe continues to resist the international community's attempts to assist victims. According to Zimbabwe's president, the cholera epidemic is a plot hatched by the United Kingdom to overthrow the government.

As we've reported previously, the Zimbabwe epidemic has spilled into neighboring countries, especially South Africa. Botswana and Zambia are on alert for cholera flare-ups, while Zimbabwe's remaining neighbor – Mozambique – is struggling to contain its own outbreak, which has claimed 31 lives (out of 1,585 confirmed cases) so far.

Africa's cholera problems, unfortunately, extend well beyond Zimbabwe and its immediate neighbors. Look for poverty, war, and natural disasters, and you will find cholera. In addition to Zimbabwe and Mozambique, WHO's cholera "hot spots" include Angola (10,186 cases and 232 deaths), Democratic Republic of Congo (357 new cases and 1 death in a two week period), Ethiopia (3,804 cases of "acute watery diarrhea", with 23 deaths) and Kenya (1,400+ cases and 13 deaths).

Other African countries that have been – or are still – battling cholera outbreaks include Guinea Bissau (14, 201 cases and 224 deaths), Namibia (29 cases and 3 deaths), Togo (100 cases and 1 death), Uganda (66 cases in a camp set up to house Congolese refugees), Nigeria (10 deaths) and Malawi (30+ victims and at least 8 deaths).

A seasonal disease, cholera's appearances often coincide with the rainy season. During dry periods, it lingers in the background, causing occasional illnesses in places such as the Philippines and India, where a young visitor from Hong Kong recently became infected.

Zimbabwe's rainy season extends from November to March. The UN estimates that more than 5 million of its residents are in need of food aid. 

No sanitation, no food, a dysfunctional government, and a cholera epidemic – all with the rainy season just beginning. A perfect recipe for a perfect storm.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Smoked Salmon Mousse Recalled in Québec

December 25, 2008

The Québec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAPAQ) advised consumers yesterday that several production batches of MOUSSE AU SAUMON FUMÉ SUMMERSWEET (Summersweet brand Smoked Salmon Mousse) was recalled by the producer after E. coli was detected in the product. 

The recalled smoked salmon mousse was produced and sold at La Petite Grange enr. (415, chemin Larocque, Salaberry-de Valleyfield, QC). All production batches labeled as having been packaged between December 9 and December 21, inclusive are covered by this recall.

E. coli is a normal inhabitant of the intestinal tracts of many animal species – including humans. While most strains are not hazardous to health, the presence of E. coli in a ready-to-eat food is viewed as an indicator of fecal contamination. And some strains of this species – notably, E. coli O157:H7 – can be especially hazardous to children and the elderly.

Due to the implications associated with E. coli contamination, consumers are advised not to eat the recalled product. Instead, it should be either discarded or returned to the store for a refund.

Sausage From "Show-Me" State Recalled

December 25, 2008

T. Piekutowski European Style Sausage (St. Louis, MO) has recalled approximately 750 pounds of sausage products after learning that USDA detected Listeria monocytogenes in a sample of the sausage as part of a routine monitoring program.

The recalled Krakow sausage products were produced on December 18 and sold at T. Piekutowski's retail counter in St. Louis on December 18 and 19. The sausage was wrapped in unmarked butcher paper at the time of sale. 

There have been no illnesses reported. Nevertheless, Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious – sometimes fatal – illness in susceptible individuals, including the elderly, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems.

Consumers who purchased the recalled sausage should return it to the retail counter for a refund. For more information about this recall, contact the Owner-Operator, Ted Piekutowski, at (314) 534-6256.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Allergy Alert: Fish Cake Sushi

December 24, 2008

KRC Food Trading Inc. (Los Angeles, CA) has recalled two production batches of Fish Cake Sushi due to the presence of undeclared eggs in the product.

The sushi, which was produced on December 19th and December 22nd, was distributed in coffee shops, bakeries, and Korean markets in Los Angeles, and in two retail stores owned by KRC.

Individuals who are allergic to egg may experience a severe – possibly life-threatening – allergic reaction after eating the Fish Cake Sushi. Consumers who purchased the item should either discard it or return it to the store for a refund.

For more information about this recall, contact Ms. Joanna Kim of KRC at 1-213-388-8215, between the hours of 7:00 am and 7:00 pm, PST.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wisconsin Producer Recalls Salmonella-Contaminated Sprouts

December 23, 2008

Sunrise Farms, Inc. (Neenah, WI) has recalled alfalfa sprouts and certain sprout mixes after the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection detected Salmonella in a sample of the Company's alfalfa sprouts.

The recall includes 4-ounce packages of Sunrise Farms brand Alfalfa Sprouts, Spicy Sprouts, Crunchy Sprouts and Onion Sprouts. These items were sold in retail grocery stores in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Other varieties of Sunrise Farms sprouts are unaffected by the recall.

Sunrise is asking customers to discard any recalled sprouts that they may still have on hand, and to submit their purchase receipt for a credit.

Sporadic contamination of sprouts by Salmonella and E. coli is an ongoing problem in the industry, and one that can be difficult to avoid completely. According to information posted on its web site, Sunrise maintains a comprehensive food safety program, including: screening of batches of seeds for sprouting, a seed sanitation program, HACCP and Good Manufacturing Practices programs, and third-party audit, verification and testing. Nevertheless, Salmonella managed to find its way into a batch of sprouts.

Infections caused by Salmonella produce symptoms of gastroenteritis – diarrhea, stomach pains, a low-grade fever, and – less often – nausea and vomiting. Salmonella infections usually are self-limiting; however, young children and the elderly may suffer severe dehydration as a result of gastroenteritis, requiring fluid and electrolyte replacement. In rare cases, an infection with Salmonella will lead to the development of a chronic arthritis condition, such as Reiter's Syndrome (a form of arthritis). 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Chile's Listeria Outbreak(s)

December 22, 2008

Chile, with a population of approximately 16.5 million, has recorded 138 lab-confirmed cases of listeriosis so far this year, including 5 deaths.

Fifty-six of the victims were infected with a single outbreak strain of Listeria monocytogenes. That same strain was recovered from samples of Brie Lescure cheese obtained from the refrigerators of two patients.

Chilean government investigators visited the manufacturing facility and reported on December 1st having recovered the outbreak strain from 24 cheese samples. The government immediately prohibited the distribution and sale of all dairy products made at the facility, including all varieties of Chevrita, Las Pircas and Lescure brands of Brie and Camembert cheeses.

Investigations are continuing into the origin of the contamination. Milk used in the production of the cheeses apparently has been ruled out as the source of the Listeria monocytogenes. Suspicion is falling on environmental contamination in the production facility.

The demographics of this outbreak are somewhat different from the recent major outbreak in Canada. The Canadian list of victims was skewed toward the elderly – much of the meat that was the source of the pathogen was distributed to nursing homes and seniors residents. The hardest-hit demographic group – 43% of the victims – in Chile consists of pregnant women. Not surprisingly, there are also a number of newborns and young infants who have been infected – 15% of the outbreak victims.

While the source of this present outbreak seems to have been identified, officials are still puzzling over the unusually large number of confirmed cases of listeriosis reported so far this year – more than five times as many as in either 2006 or 2007. 

The attorney for Chevrita, the manufacturer of the contaminated cheese, was quick to point out that the additional cases are, in his opinion, a clear indication that the problem of Listeria monocytogenes contamination is industry-wide and not specific to his client's production facility. 

Now that the implicated cheese is off the market, the number of new outbreak-related cases should start to diminish. But the long incubation period associated with Listeria monocytogenes means that it will be a couple of months before the Chilean Ministry of Health will be able to close the books on this outbreak.

The China Syndrome: International Recalls and Alerts

Updated December 22, 2008

As a convenience to readers, we have developed a list of international melamine-related recalls and alerts on milk products from China. 

The information is organized alphabetically by country or entity (e.g., European Union). We'll be adding to the list as we find additional items. Please check back.

On October 2nd, Argentina banned the sale of 48 milk-containing products from China, including items such as White Rabbit candies and Lotte Koala biscuits. The government issued a warning to consumers to avoid the products, and instructed retailers to remove them from store shelves. 

Food Standards Australia advises that Australia does not import infant formula products from China. FSA also has confirmed that no dairy products have been imported from China since April 2007. The government is warning caregivers to not use any infant formula from China that may have been imported into Australia by travelers returning from a visit to that country.

Seven food items made in China have now been withdrawn from sale in Australia due to the presence of melamine traces. They include White Rabbit candies, Cadbury chocolate eclairs, Lotte Koala biscuits, Kirin milk tea, Orion Tiramisu Italian Cake, Dali Yuan brand First Milk (vanilla flavour), Boxer Lovers Body Pen Set (body paint), Munchy's Mini Crackers Cheese Cream, Danco WafflesFour Seas Premium Cake (3 flavours), and Mengniu Monmilk (two flavours). In addition, a consumer-level recall notice has been issued by the Australian government for Kirin milk tea.

The country has banned all Chinese food imports indefinitely. 

The Brunei Darussalam Ministry of Health has issued a full recall of milk products from China. Stores have been instructed to removed the products from their shelves. Consumers who purchased the Chinese milk products have been asked to turn the items over to the store, to the importer, or to the ministry of health. Brunei also has initiated a ban on the importation of dairy products from China.

Burundi has banned the sale of all milk products from China. The two Chinese companies that sell milk products to Burundi both have been implicated in the melamine contamination scandal.

Six melamine-related recalls have been announced: Nissin Cha Cha Dessert (a dairy-based product that contains Yili milk), Mr. Brown 3-in-1 instant coffee (a non-dairy product in which New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore government labs found melamine), White Rabbit candies, Lotte brand March Koala cookiesOK OK Kaiser brand pretzels
and Mengniu strawberry flavour sour milk beverage.

CFIA also has conducted a retail survey of 300 stores across Canada and has not found any infant formula imported from China. The agency continues to warn Canadians against purchasing Chinese-manufactured infant formula over the Internet. In addition, Canada has established an enhanced Border Lookout for products containing milk ingredients from China.

The Canadian government has extended its Border Lookout to include dairy ingredients and soybean meal from China intended for use as animal feed. Importers will be required to provide the CFIA, at the time of importation, with test results from an accredited Canadian laboratory to prove that the imported material does not contain detectable levels of melamine or cyanuric acid. The new policy specifies the lab methods that are to be used. Importers who do not meet this requirement will have their products detained at the border pending CFIA testing. 

The Chilean government issued a "do not consume" warning on milk products imported from China in late September and seized some products pending a more complete investigation. 

European Union
The EU imposed a ban on milk products from China in 2002. Nevertheless, the EU Commission has asked the EU Food Safety Authority to assess the risk to residents of EU member countries. The possibility exists that some milk products might have been used in the manufacture of biscuits or other food products, or that small amounts of milk products might have been imported privately from China (e.g., by returning travelers). EU member states have been asked to test all foods imported from China that contain more than 15% milk. 

The EU instituted a partial ban on soya-based food products from China after a French company reported finding melamine in a shipment of "organic" soymeal (see below). The importation from China of soy-based foods meant for infants and young children has been banned unconditionally. All other soya-containing products from China will require testing at the time of import. Melamine testing also has been instituted on shipments of ammonium bicarbonate intended for food and feed, and on food and feed that contains soy or soya-products from China. NEW Dec 22
The Czech Republic has ordered its public health officers to visit Asian restaurants throughout the country in order to ensure that they are not serving milk from China, or other products that may contain a dairy ingredient from China. 

France – a member of the EU – has taken its own precautions by carrying out retail market checks, especially in Asian ethnic markets. It has taken the additional precaution of requiring that any food product containing a dairy ingredient that originated in China should be withdrawn from the market. France has found White Rabbit candies and Koala biscuits in retail stores and has ordered these items recalled, as they contain in excess of 2.5 ppm melamine. Terrena, a French farming co-op, reported that it had found 75 ppm of melamine in a shipment of 293 metric tonnes of "organic" soymeal that it had imported from China. The soymeal was used to produce feed for organic poultry. Tests carried out on the poultry that were fed the melamine-contaminated feed did not detect any melamine in the flesh of the birds.

The Netherlands reports having detected melamine in Koala brand cookies and has ordered the products be removed from store shelves. Based on the Netherlands findings, the UK Food Standards Agency has announced that all date codes of four Koala varieties have been withdrawn from sale.

The UK, also a member of the European Union, has issued a news release assuring its citizens that none of the affected milk products were imported into the country, and that the Food Standards Agency is actively monitoring the situation. The Tesco supermarket chain in the UK has removed White Rabbit Creamy Candies from its stores. 

The UK Food Standards Agency also has alerted consumers to the withdrawal of several imported "novelty" items from retail sale, due to melamine contamination, including three chocolate itemsfour edible "body spread" items, and other miscellaneous confectionery products. 

The UK has consolidated all of its melamine alert information onto a single web page, which is updated regularly.

This African country has banned the importation of milk products from China.

Hong Kong
A complete ban on melamine in foods has been announced and will be "gazetted" today. In order to allow for accidental trace migration of melamine into foodstuffs, Hong Kong has set limits of 1 ppm (1 mg/Kg) for foods intended for children under 36 months, and for lactating or pregnant women. The maximum level of melamine permitted in all other foods will be 2.5 ppm (2.5 mg/Kg). The new law puts the onus on industry to ensure that no melamine has been added to foods, and sets penalties of 6 months in jail and a $50,000 fine for transgressors.

Hong Kong has been systematically screening dairy imports from mainland China for melamine and has posted detailed results – including levels of melamine detected – daily. Two new items – Heinz DHA+AA Vegetable Formula Cereal and Silang House of Steamed Potato Wasabi Crackers – were added to the list of melamine-contaminated foods on September 26th.

The Centre for Food Safety has detected 16 ppm of melamine in a 454g package of White Rabbit Creamy Candies with an expiry date of November 20, 2009, and has instructed retailers to stop selling the products. 

The Centre for Food Safety has detected melamine in three different flavors of Lotte Koala biscuits. The agency has advised stores to withdraw the products, and the importer of this made-in-China biscuit has initiated a recall. 

The Centre for Food Safety has announced a recall of Lipton milk tea powders after Unilever's internal tests detected melamine. 

The Centre for Food Safety has found melamine at a level of 8.5 ppm in a sample of EDO Pack Almond Cacao Biscuit Sticks. CFS has requested retailers to stop carrying the product and has asked the agent to withdraw it.

The Centre for Food Safety has found melamine at a level of 12ppm in a sample of muscat flavor Doraemon Chocolate Gummy, and has requested that the product be withdrawn from the market. The sample was drawn from a 50g package with an expire date of August 19, 2009.

The Centre for Food Safety has found excessive melamine levels in two varieties of Munchy's Mini Crackers and in a sample of  strawberry flavour cream malt biscuits. All three items were imported from the Chinese mainland, and have been withdrawn from sale.

The Centre for Food Safety has found excessive melamine levels in a sample of Julie's Wheat Crackers. According to the Hong Kong government lab, the 350g pack of crackers, labeled with an expiry date of August 9, 2009, was contaminated with 5.8 ppm melamine.

A package of a third variety of Munchy crackers – Munchy's The Original Sugar Crackers – was reported by the Centre for Food Safety to contain 4 ppm melamine. CFS has asked that the product be withdrawn from sale. A restaurant-made cake, "Mai-lai" sponge cake, was withdrawn from sale after CFS detected excessive melamine. The agency is testing the ingredients that were used in the cake.

Select extra large fresh brown eggs with an expiry date of October 25, 2008, and Croley Foods Blueberry Cream Sandwich Sunflower Crackers (270g 10-pack) with an expiry date of December 5, 2008 were found to contain excessive melamine, and have been withdrawn from the market. 

An egg imported from China's Hubei Province was sampled at a Hong Kong restaurant and found to contain excessive melamine. The Centre for Food Safety has asked local tradesmen to stop selling eggs produced on October 10, 2008 and identified with batch number 4200/D0701808223. Another batch of eggs – from Jilin province – was reported on December 2nd to contain excessive melamine. The importer was notified and asked to stop selling the eggs; CFS is following up with bakeries that purchased eggs from the contaminated shipment.

The Indonesian government has banned the sale of milk imported from China, and has advised consumers to avoid foods that contain dairy ingredients from China. The country's Food and Drug Monitoring Agency is conducting systematic tests on Chinese dairy products.

Marudai Food Co. (Osaka) has announced a voluntary recall of five products that were manufactured at the factory of its Chinese subsidiary, and which contain milk as an ingredient. The products are identified as: Matcha Azuki Mirukuman, Cream Panda, Gratin Crepe Corn, Kakuni Pao, and Mocchiri Nikuman.

The Japanese health ministry has instructed food importers to determine which of the products that they import contain milk from Sanlu, Yili, Mengniu or Bright Dairy & Food Co. – the four largest Chinese dairy producers implicated in the melamine adulteration scheme.

The Osaka city government has found melamine in a chocolate product – "Chocolate Pillows" – imported from China by NS International Co., of Osaka. The city government has directed the importer to recall all "Chocolate Pillows" packages with an expiry date of April 14, 2009. 

Mitsui & Co has recalled egg powder imported from the PRC after finding that the powder contained low levels of melamine. Mitsui supplied some of the egg powder to Q.P. Egg Corp., a mayonnaise producer. Mitsui tested the imported egg powder after being informed by its supplier, Dalian Hanovo Foods, that melamine had been found in its egg powder and in poultry feed. Separately, the Japanese Health Ministry announced that melamine had been found in frozen fried chicken from China. The contaminated chicken was caught before it reached the retail market. 

The Malaysian government has instructed retailers and wholesalers to remove from sale all foods made using milk from China. The ban includes White Rabbit Creamy Candies, as well as biscuits and chocolates that contain milk powder imported from China. The government has initiated a random sampling of the withdrawn products from melamine testing, and has indicated that the order will remain in force until the melamine contamination issue is resolved in China. Malaysia has confiscated 866 food products suspected of containing melamine.

Malaysia announced that they were on the alert for melamine-contaminated vegetable products from China, after South Korea apparently detected melamine in some vegetables. No additional details were offered. 

The Malaysian government is warning consumers not to buy unlabeled biscuits, as these may be contaminated with melamine. The government detected melamine in two brands of biscuits – Khong Guan and Khian Guan – and ordered their withdrawal from the market. But some shopkeepers decided, instead, to break open the packages and sell the biscuits unlabeled. According to the government, the source of the melamine was ammonium bicarbonate (a chemical leavening agent used in baking) imported from China. 

Malaysia is investigating Munchy Food Industries as a result of the Hong Kong Centre for Food Safety having detected melamine in two flavors of Munchy's Mini Crackers. The CEO of Munchy claims that the company does not use any dairy ingredients from China in its products.

Myanmar (Burma)
The government of Myanmar has detected melamine in 9 of 16 brands of milk powder imported from China. The melamine-contaminated brands include Star Milk Powder (20g), Star (450g), Crown, Happy Baby Toys, Dulac (Dumex) Step 1 Infant Formula, Mandalay (raw milk powder), Two Cows Shi Lin (whole sweet milk powder), Rainbow and Enfagrow. Supermarkets and wholesale markets in the former national capital, Yangon, have removed the adulterated milk from sale, and Myanmar has banned future importation of these brands.

New Zealand
The New Zealand Food Safety Authority has been conducting random tests of Chinese-made dairy products for the presence of melamine. 

NZFSA is advising consumers to avoid consuming White Rabbit Creamy Candies, after finding 180 ppm of melamine in a sample of the product. The candies are sold through Asian retail stores, supermarkets and dairies. Anyone who has purchased the candies should either dispose of them or return them to the retailer for a refund. Parents of children who have eaten these candies may want to consult their medical practitioner.

The Warehouse has withdrawn four Chinese-made products from store shelves. The confectionery and biscuit products have been removed as a precautionary measure, pending receipt of test results.

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority has posted an expanded explanation of its current risk management approach to the melamine contamination issue. The agency also reports having completed testing on 116 samples of dairy products, covering all major manufacturers. All but four of the samples were negative for melamine. Four samples of lactoferrin were contaminated with "trace" amounts of the chemical.

Melamine at a concentration of 3.3 ppm has been detected in "Wahaha AD Milk Drink", an imported food from China. The importer has been contacted and has voluntarily withdrawn the product from sale. 

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority announced that four Chinese-made food products have been withdrawn due to excessive levels of melamine: Lotte Koala strawberry and chocolate biscuits, Q-show biscuits, and 220 mL bottles of Wahaha AD milk drink.

The government of the Philippines has banned the importation and sale of baby formula and other milk products from China, and the Bureau of Food and Drugs has called upon citizens to report to the government any Chinese milk products that they encounter in the marketplace. The government has detected melamine in two milk brands from China so far – Mengniu and Yili. Both of these brands have been implicated in the Chinese melamine milk adulteration scandal. 

Republic of Ireland
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland has announced a recall of White Rabbit Creamy Candy from China, after learning of the New Zealand test results. The candy is available for sale in some Asian and Chinese specialty stores. 

The country's Chief Sanitary Officer has announced a ban on imports of all Chinese food products that contain milk or milk derivatives. Foods containing powdered milk from China have been found in the Khabarovsk region of far eastern Russia and have been withdrawn from sale. These items had been imported from China before the ban went into effect.

Russia continues to identify milk-containing products from China and remove them from sale. On October 7th, the government found and withdrew two (metric) tonnes of Golden Milk, a vegetable-based dairy substitute containing 10% milk powder. Consumers are advised to avoid using this made-in-China milk substitute pending lab test results. Itar-Tass reported October 11th that Russian authorities had found and ordered withdrawn 63Kg of milk powder from China in three rural communities in the Altai Republic

Singapore has suspended the sale and import of all milk-containing products from China, after finding melamine in a Yili yogurt bar, Dutch Lady Strawberry Milk, and White Rabbit Creamy Candy. The ban covers milk, ice cream, yogurt, chocolate, biscuits, candy, and any other products that contain milk from China as an ingredient. 

Since its initial release of test results, Singapore reports having found excessive amounts of melamine in six additional biscuits: Baby Looney Tunes Cream Filled Biscuits Assorted Family Pack, C & OK Vigour 888 Egg & Milk, Khong Guan Mini Burger Biscuit Bulk Pack, Liluo Fruit P.D. Almond Flavour, Potter Potato Chips Pizza and Tom & Jerry Cheese Balls. This brings to 22 the total number of melamine-contaminated products from China that have been detected by Singapore authorities.

Singapore has lifted a ban on "Julie's" brand biscuits – manufactured in Malaysia – after inspecting the factories. The action is contingent on each consignment being accompanied by a health certificate and lab report.

Singapore has lifted its suspension of milk and milk-based products imported from China. Products manufactured on or after December 18, as long as the manufacturers have complied with agreed-to conditions. NEW Dec 22

South Africa
The South Africa Department of Health has issued an order to detain all Chinese food products that contain milk or any other dairy component, including whey, lactose or casein. 

South Korea (Republic of Korea)
The Korean Food and Drug Administration is expanding its melamine surveillance to include all dairy products and ingredients imported from China. The program, which at first was limited to imported products that contained a dairy ingredient, has been widened to include item such as whey, casein, powdered milk and condensed milk.

Separately, South Korea has reported finding traces of melamine in fish feed made from squid caught domestically and in China.

South Korea has detected melamine in a total of 10 products so far. Most recently, the Korean Food and Drug Administration detected very low levels of the chemical in two Mars products – Snickers Peanut Funsize and M&Ms chocolate milk – Nestlé's KitKat wafers, and a biscuit made by Lotte Confectionery Co. Nestlé did not respond immediately to the finding; Mars Korea and Lotte both indicated that they would withdraw the contaminated products from sale. 

Chocolate pies manufactured by Master Kong Dingyi International Food Corporation (Tianjin, China) – later found to contain melamine – were imported into Sweden by a Stockholm wholesaler. The pies arrived in Sweden at the end of June 2008 and are believed to have already been consumed. No official recall notice has been issued. 

All tainted milk products from the People's Republic of China have been banned from sale in Taiwan. In addition, Taiwan has detected melamine in several products that contain non-dairy vegetable proteins. The tainted non-dairy items were Mr Brown products imported by King Car Company. Taiwan is the only country, so far to report finding melamine in non-dairy protein-containing products from mainland China.

The Taiwan Department of Health has instructed all distributors and retailers to remove from sale "... all food and beverages using Chinese-made milk powder, cream and vegetable protein." All of the withdrawn foods will be subjected to testing for melamine contamination. Foods that meet government standards will be allowed back onto store shelves. 

Taiwan also has ordered a recall of melamine-contaminated lactoferrin imported from New Zealand. 

The government of Taiwan has tested Nestlé milk powders from China and has found low levels of melamine (0.3 to 0.85 ppm) in some of the samples. While the Taiwan health ministry acknowledges that these very low levels do not pose any significant health threat, the government has requested – and Nestlé has agreed to – a recall.

Taiwan also has ordered the withdrawal of frozen octopus balls imported from China, pending testing for melamine contamination.

Taiwan is attempting to trace 200 tonnes of ammonium bicarbonate – a chemical leavening agent used in baking and some other food applications – that was reported to be contaminated with melamine. The bicarbonate was imported from China by Sesoda Corp., and sold to food processors and bakeries. Hunya Foods Co. has recalled all of its products that were manufactured with the ammonium bicarbonate imported by Sesoda.

Peacock brand biscuits, manufactured by Kuai Kuai Co., Ltd., were discovered to contain low levels of melamine and withdrawn from sale. The biscuits, which contained some melamine-contaminate leavening agent, were sold in convenience stores, and in Carrefour, Geant and RT-marts retail outlets.

Several samples of protein powder from two mainland China suppliers were found to contain melamine and have been withdrawn by the importing companies. As a result of this latest melamine finding, Taiwan has banned the importation of all protein powder from mainland China. 

Tanzania has banned the importation of Chinese milk products.

Bangkok Post has reported that the Thai Food and Drug Administration has asked retailers to suspend the sale of several biscuits and candies, which might contain dairy products from China, in order to give the agency some time to conduct tests for melamine. The list of products includes Oreo wafer sticks, Dove milk chocolate bars, M&M chocolate candies, Snickers caramel peanut bars and nougat, Mentos yoghurt candies, and Mao Huad coffee and oatmeal crackers. 

The Thai Food and Drug Administration reported that all ten brands of dairy products imported into Thailand from China were free from melamine contamination.

The bakery company S&P Syndicate PCL has withdrawn Milk Cookies S&P from its 280 outlets nationwide as a precaution after it was advised that the Swiss government had found melamine in a sample of the cookies. The bakery advised Thai media that the cookies contained milk powder from Australia – not from China – and that the company would be submitting samples to the Thai government for melamine tests. 

The Thai FDA reports having found "very high levels" of melamine (92.82 ppm) in a domestic brand of condensed milk. Mali brand unsweetened condensed milk, a product of Thai Dairy Industry Co. Ltd., is manufactured with ingredients imported from several countries, including Belgium, Switzerland, Australia, Germany and India. The Reuters press report does not indicate whether any ingredients were imported directly from China. 

United States
FDA has advised consumers that infant formulas approved for sale in the United States do not contain any ingredients from China. The agency, in cooperation with state health agencies, has visited more than 1,000 Asian ethnic food markets to check for the presence of Chinese-made infant formulas. So far, none have been found. The FDA strongly advises consumers not to purchase Chinese-made infant formula over the Internet or from any other sources.

In 2007, the United States instituted an Import Alert allowing for automatic detention of vegetable protein products from China after melamine-laced wheat gluten used in in the manufacture of pet foods was fingered as the cause of widespread poisoning of dogs and cats. That Import Alert is still in force.

FDA has issued recall notices for White Rabbit Candy, imported from China by QFCO, Inc., for Mr. Brown 3-in-1 Instant Coffee and Milk Tea and for Fresh and Crispy Jacobina Biscuits, distributed by Everlasting Distributors (Bayonne, NJ). The California Department of Public Health has posted a list of retail outlets in the state that carry White Rabbit candies. FDA also has announced a recall of several flavors of Blue Cat Flavor Drinks after the agency's own tests detected melamine in the product in excess of 2.5 ppm. 

FDA announced a recall of two varieties of Yili brand milk drinks after the agency detected melamine in samples of both drinks. 

FDA advised consumers on October 17th that Lotte USA, Inc. had recalled all varieties of Koala March brand biscuits from the US market on September 29th.

Walgreen's recalled 173 teddy bears with chocolate bars. The chocolate was determined to contain more than 2.5 ppm of melamine.

FDA advised consumers of recalls of Wonderfarm Biscuits and G&J Gourmet Market cocoa products, samples of which were determined to contain more than 2.5 ppm melamine.

Other US states continue to remind consumers to avoid White Rabbit Candy. Connecticut and Wisconsin, in particular, have announced finding the candies in stores located in several communities in those states. And the Minnesota Department of Agriculture announced that several samples of Wonderfarm brand "Successful" biscuits contained excessive levels of melamine.

The state of Connecticut reported on November 28th that it had found excessive amounts of melamine in Topaz Wafer Rolls with Hazelnut Chocolate-Flavored Cream Filling (production lot #L832 99D). The wafer rolls were distributed by National Brands (Valley Stream, NY) and sold in Ocean State Job Lot stores. The Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection is working to obtain retail distribution information from National Brands, and is continuing to cooperate with FDA on the melamine investigation.

An indefinite ban on all dairy imports from China was announced October 2nd. 

The government of Vietnam ordered importers to recall and destroy 18 dairy-containing products from China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand after finding traces of melamine in samples of those products. The Ministry of Health did not name all of the implicated products, but noted that most of the recalled items were made in China, including five varieties of Yili milk. Vietnam has instituted a requirement that milk products be tested for melamine before being allowed into the country. 

Smoked Goose Recalled In Belgium

December 22, 2008

The Belgian Food Safety Agency (AFSCA) is advising the public that one production lot of Greußener brand Smoked Goose Filets (ready-to-eat) may be contaminated with Salmonella, and has been recalled.

The recall notice was issued as a result of an advisory received through Europe's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). Other countries, therefore, may also be involved.

The recalled item is described as:

Greußener brand Filets d'oie fumés, 80g: Lot No. L8329319, Expiration date 05 janvier 09

The smoked goose filets were sold through the Match, Cora and Nopri supermarket chains, in addition to other retail food stores.

AFSCA is urging customers not to consume this recalled item. It should be returned to the store where it was purchased.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stilton Cheese Recall Expands

December 21, 2008

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has expanded its December 10th Health Hazard Alert on Cropwell Bishop Creamery Finest Blue Stilton Cheese to include all package sizes and Best Before date codes.

One Canadian case of Listeria monocytogenes illness has been traced to this cheese.

The cheese, a product of the United Kingdom, was sold in Costco Canada stores nationwide, and in other retail stores. The cheese also was distributed to food service operations, including hotels, restaurants, cafeterias and other institutional kitchens. 

In some cases, the cheese has been repackaged for retail sale. Before purchasing repackaged Blue Stilton cheese, check with the retailer to determine its origin.

The importer has initiated a voluntary recall, which is being monitored by CFIA. Consumers who purchased the recalled cheese should return it to the store for a refund.

NOTE: There has been no announced recall of this cheese in the UK as yet.

Genoa-Style Sausage Recalled in Québec

December 21, 2008

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is warning the public in the province of Québec that Nostrano brand Genoa Mild Sausage may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes and has been recalled by the manufacturer.

The Health Hazard Alert was issued late yesterday, on the heels of a recall of approximately one pound of a different Nostrano product – Sopressata sausage – in the United States.

The recalled sausage is sold in 325g packages, labeled with a Best before date of 09 JL 09 (same Best before date as the sausage recalled in the US), and codes 91009 and 1017. The product was distributed only in the province of Québec.

Consumers who purchased the recalled sausage should return it to the store for a refund. For more information about this recall, please contact Guy-Bernard Tené of Nostrano Inc., at 514-271-4688, ext. 235.

Food Safety: Perpetual Policy Orphan

December 21, 2008

President-elect Obama has introduced his Cabinet nominees and major staff appointments, and has left Chicago for a two-week rest – admittedly well-earned – in Hawaii with his family.

We have met the new President's foreign policy team, his economic team, his energy/climate change team, his trade & commerce team, and the rest of the people who will be sitting around the Cabinet table.

We have been introduced to the incoming President's Energy Czarina, his Chief Science & Technology Advisor, and his Director of the new White House Office on Health Care Reform.

We can deduce – to some extent – from these appointments the new policy directions in which President-elect Obama hopes to lead the United States. But on one issue that affects the health of every US resident, the incoming President has remained silent.

There is no one at the Cabinet table to speak for food safety.

The responsibility for ensuring the microbiological and chemical safety of our food supply is shared among several federal departments, most prominently the Department of Health & Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. In each case, food safety is a Cinderella praying for her fairy godmother to save her from the ashes.

Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, the current FDA Commissioner, has already announced that he will resign effective Inauguration Day. His replacement will have a full plate replenishing an agency that has been bleeding expertise for the last eight years and more. The FDA's food safety enforcement activities represent only a small part of the agency's overall mandate.

The newly nominated Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, is a proponent of bioethanol, and was governor of an agricultural state. We haven't received a single hint of his attitude toward the food safety side of USDA – again only a small part of the department's mandate.

Food safety, once more, will be the orphan of US government policy – unless President-elect Obama gives this vital area a seat at the Cabinet table. There is precedent for this move.

Former President Clinton established a President's Council on Food Safety to review, and recommend improvements to, the country's food safety policies. The Council's recommendations, for the most part, have been gathering dust for the last eight years.

Please, Mr. President-elect. Give food safety policy a strong voice in your administration. Give those of us who care about food safety "Change We Can Believe In."