Tuesday, 29 July 2008

US food safety recalls for salmon and lobster

The FDA has issued further product recall press releases this week including:

Vita Food Products, Inc. of Chicago, Illinois notifying the public that twelve individual packages of Vita Nova Salmon, were sold at Kroger stores in Houston, Texas on or after July 22 of this year that may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. A further 192 individual packages may also have been affected. Follow the link for more details.

The FDA has warned against eating tomalley in American Lobster (Maine Lobster), because of potential contamination with dangerous levels of the toxins that cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP). Being English I didn't know what tomalley was, but tomalley is the substance found in the body cavity of lobsters that fulfills the functions of both the liver and the pancreas.

Asda recalls roasted nuts due to undeclared allergen

The UK Food Standards Agency have issued an Allergy Alert because Asda has recalled Wholefoods Organic Roasted Mixed Nuts. The product contains peanuts which are not declared on the label and the product is a potential health risk for individuals with an allergy to peanuts. For more details follow the link

Friday, 25 July 2008

Smoked salmon spread has undeclared egg

The US FDA has issued a recall press release because Sau-Sea foods, Inc, of Water Mill NY is recalling all tubs of smoked salmon spread discovered that spread containing egg was distributed in packaging that was not appropriately labelled. Follow the link for more details.

Ginger contains undeclared sulphites

The US FDA has issued a recall press release because DOMEGA INTERNATIONAL CO., LTD., 98 Bay 35th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11214 is recalling Korica Brand “Mut Gung” Sweetened Ginger because it contains undeclared sulphites. Follow the link for more details.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Discussion on Salmonella outbreak

There has been lots of discussion on the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak in the last twenty four hours Salmonella Blog has linked to the Minnesota Star Tribune and their article on how an outbreak in a restaurant was linked and then traced back to jalapeno peppers. The article suggests that the investigation methods used, the way the food safety and agriculture departments interrelate and also the fact that by then tomatoes had been all but eliminated from the investigation helped to speed up the investigation. The article states that:

"27 people who ate at the same Twin Cities restaurant fell ill from the exact rare salmonella strain in the national outbreak. On Monday, federal officials said they found the same strain on a jalapeno pepper in a giant produce warehouse in McAllen, Texas -- the same warehouse identified by Minnesota investigators weeks ago".

On June 30, Ben Miller, the state Agriculture Department's "traceback coordinator," began tracking the suspect peppers' roots. Using restaurant invoices to find the wholesale supplier, he followed the trail to California and Texas distributors. He found the farms that grew the peppers in Mexico.

On July 3, Smith gave the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA information on Minnesota's cases and Miller's traceback. Smith called back on July 9 "so they could be crystal clear about the detail. The pepper [in Texas] was collected on the 11th." Federal officials were also looking at outbreaks in two Texas restaurants linked to salsa that used jalapenos.

Food Poisoning Law Blog has reflected on the food safety investigation infrastructure with a post on a letter written by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, FDA Commissioner with regard to the Salmonella Saintpaul outbreak. Senator Clinton asked for details with regard to the following questions:

1. What is your schedule for meetings with stakeholders and industry regarding traceability? With which groups will you be meeting?

2. Given that models exist for traceability, when you will release a “best practices” document?

3. What is your schedule for meetings and implementation of the Food Protection Plan with our neighboring nations, particularly Canada?

4. You have scheduled a meeting with the states on food safety for August 2008. What is the agenda for this meeting, and what does the FDA anticipate as action steps that will emerge from this conference?

I will follow developments at the August 2008 meeting with interest.

Marion Nestle has also written a post about the Government Accountability Office, and a recent report they have produced: Food Safety: Selected Countries’ Systems Can Offer Insights into Ensuring Import Safety and Responding to Foodborne Illness.

The report defines the following areas as key parts of a food safety strategy and I would fully endorse this:

  • Farm-to-table oversight (otherwise known as "field to fork");
  • Producer responsibility;
  • Separate risk assessment and risk management;
  • Risk-based inspection systems;
  • Certain food imports must meet equivalent safety standards (all food imports should reach equivalent food safety standards);
  • Traceback procedures ;
  • Cooperation between government veterinarians and public health officials; and a
  • Mandatory recall authority.

This strategy can be both market and regulation led and it is important to develop such systems that are appropriate to the stage in the supply chain, the resources that are available and with appropriate training of those who have to implement the systems.

I also read the article on MainStreet.com "Jalapeno protection - a cheap and easy food safety tip" and whilst I agree with and support most of its content I think that there needs to be a clear distinction drawn so as not to confuse readers.

In the home environment effective handwashing, utensil management and separation of raw foods, ready to eat foods and produce is very important to prevent cross-contamination from foods likely to harbour microorganisms to those that will be eaten without any further steps, such as cooking, to reduce them to a safe level. Soap, or detergent is a chemical designed to remove dirt; it is not a chemical designed to reduce bacteria to a safe level. Washing produce with water or detergent will not on its own reduce bacteria to a safe level if they are present, this will only be done by the practice of disinfection, and then only the outer surface - as the article says if the bacteria are internal then disinfecting the outside of the leaf or surface may not be sufficient.

In practice in most homes disinfection of produce is not practiced. Food businesses would however be expected to draw this distinction within their protocols. The most important aspect is prevention - not contaminating with bacteria, and viruses in the first place either during growing, harvesting, processing, distribution, retail and/or food service. This requires the implementation of good hygienic practices, standards and protocols and then monitoring to see that they have been followed and are effective. Salmonella can come from a range of sources including workers, pests, equipment, dust, soil, water and so on and at this stage it has not been established where this type of Salmonella originated. The interaction of factors that affect food safety status are complicated and difficult to unravel and the most important aspect is to ensure that individuals have access to the information that they need to minimise their risk of food poisoning either at the point of purchase or in their own homes.

First published in The Human Imprint.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Salmonella Saintpaul and peppers

The internet is full of reports about Salmonella Saintpaul as the investigation may have moved forward towards finding the potential source. Yesterday the FDA issued two recall press releases. The first was for Grande Produce, LTD. CO of Hidalgo, Texas who was recalling Jalapeno Peppers and Serrano Peppers distributed between May 17th and July 17th, 2008; and Avocados, all sizes, with lot #HUE08160090889. This was due to the potential presence of Salmonella, although the recall notice stated that:

"According to the Texas and North Carolina Departments of Health, the strain of Salmonella found in this company's jalapeƱo and serrano peppers and in its avocado is not Salmonella Saintpaul, and is not believed to be related to the current Salmonella outbreak.

The recall is a result of sampling not by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but by the Texas Department of State Health Services (Texas Health) and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (North Carolina Health ) which revealed that these products contained the bacteria.

The company has voluntarily initiated a recall of its already distributed products and has stopped future distribution while the FDA, Texas Health, North Carolina Health and the company continue to investigate to determine the source of the problem."

The second recall press release was a recall of Jalapeno Peppers by Agricola Zaragoza, Inc. of McAllen, TX that had been distributed since June 30th, 2008 because they too were potential ly contaminated with Salmonella. The recall note states that:

"The recall is a result of sampling by FDA, which revealed that these Jalapeno Peppers were contaminated with the same strain of Salmonella Saintpaul responsible for the current Salmonella outbreak. It is unknown at this time which, if any, of the more than 1,200 illnesses reported to date are related to this particular product or to the grower who supplied this product. Distribution of these products has been suspended while FDA, the Texas Department of State Health Services and the company continue their investigation as to the source of the problem."

A number of blogs have been discussing the context of this outbreak and are worth checking out including Marler Blog, BarfBlog, and also MarketWatch .

Monday, 21 July 2008

FDA round-up

The FDA has issued a number of recent releases on product recalls including:

Salmon and Listeria

Garlic bread and undeclared milk protein allergen

Chicken noodle soup and undeclared milk protein allergen

Sweet products and potential plastic contamination

Water and potential cleaning chemical contamination

Cheese and Listeria

Cereal and undeclared tree nuts

Corn and Listeria

and finally

Cheese and Listeria again

Basil recall in the US

The FDA has issued a press release about a recent recall of basil due to potential contamination with Salmonella, but not Salmonella Saintpaul. Follow the link for more details.

Salmonella Saintpaul - update

The CDC report that since April 1237 people have been infected with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint have been identified in 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. There is still no definitive identification of the source of the outbreak.

Norovirus outbreak in New York State

Norovirus Blog identifies that over 200 people have been infected with norovirus in an outbreak in New York State

Cryptosporidium outbreak in UK

Over the last four weeks there has been an ongoing issue with Cryptosporidium contamination of water. Routine tests by Anglian Water found cryptosporidium in a sample from supplies back at the end of June. 108, 000 homes were affected with the "boil" notice., which was lifted on July 4th. The homes affected could not drink tap water for ten days and 13 people were found to have Cryptosporidium. Anglian Water has confirmed that a small rabbit that gained access to the treatment system caused the contamination at the Pitsford Water Treatment Works. The Northampton Chronicle reports that a further 13 cases are still under investigation, but over 700 people have reported symptoms of the illness to their doctor.

For more details on Cryptosporidium and water follow the link to the Drinking Water Inspectorate website.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Sixth food safety ebook published

The sixth book in the Food Safety Series has just been published - Equipment and Maintenance. These books are designed to be a stand alone resource that build together to form a comprehensive guide to the procedures, protocols and monitoring systems that need to be implemented to ensure food safety by manufacturers, processors and food producers. Do check them out.

Follow the link to find out more and preview the contents at the e-books storefront.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Morrisons recalls beans and sausages because of undeclared allergen

The Food Standards Agency has issued an allergy alert because Morrisons has withdrawn its own-brand Bettabuy Beans and Sausages 425g due to unlabelled gluten-containing cereal ingredients (wheat). The product contains breadcrumbs (wheat) and wheat proteins that are not listed in the ingredients list and this poses a potential health risk for individuals allergic or intolerant to wheat or intolerant to gluten.

Marks and Spencer withdraw olive spread

The Food Standards Agency has issued an allergy alert because Marks and Spencer has withdrawn its Reduced Fat Olive Spread due to incorrect allergen information because some of the packs have been incorrectly labelled as the milk ingredient is not declared on the label. This is a potential health risk for milk allergic and milk intolerant individuals. Follow the link for more details.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

New food safety e-books published

Are you reviewing your food safety and quality management system?
Do you need to improve and enhance some of your pre-requisite programmes and procedures?

Then this series of e-books will provide an essential source of information. The Food Safety Series has been extended to five e-books with more due to be published in the coming weeks. The e-books to date are:

Food Safety Series - Allergens
Food Safety Series - Calibration
Food Safety Series - Pest Control
Food Safety Series - Preventive and Corrective Action
Food Safety Series - Product Identification and Traceability

Follow the link to find out more and preview the contents at the e-books storefront.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Second GM rice recall

A third post because the FSA has issued a food alert because SOP International Ltd has recalled one batch of Kong Moon Rice Stick 454g due to the presence of unauthorised ‘Bt63’ genetically modified rice. This came hot on the heels of the previous outbreak

Sainsburys recall "gluten free" products

The FSA reports that Sainsbury's has withdrawn two of its Freefrom products due to the presence of undeclared gluten. It was highlighted in routine internal testing that the products may contain traces of gluten and would be a potential health risk for people allergic or intolerant to gluten.

Tesco withdraws chocolate cake

The FSA reports that Tesco has withdrawn all date codes of Tesco Finest Triple Layer Chocolate Indulgence Cake because whilst hazelnuts are correctly identified in the ingredient list on the label, the allergy advice incorrectly states 'Recipe: No nuts'. This makes this product a potential health risk for people with an allergy to nuts. Follow the link for more details.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Preventive and Corrective Action E-book

Louise Manning has published the latest e-book in the Food Safety Series entitled "Preventive and Corrective Action". This book will assist all those who are developing quality management procedures to address this important pre-requisite for managing food safety, quality and legality or those seeking to learn more about food safety management. Follow the link to the storefront more details and to view the other e-books in the series.

Salsa now the focus of attention

It was only a week ago that I last did a post about Salmonella Saintpaul and the number of people associated with the outbreak continues to rise. Salsa ingredients are now being looked at as well as the tomato component in order to identify whether other produce such as onions, peppers or garlic could have been the source of the outbreak. The number of confirmed cases has now increased to 943 in 40 US states and one case in Canada.

GM rice causes recall

The Food Standards Agency reports that Day In Import & Export Co Ltd has recalled one batch of Guilin rice-flour noodles due to the presence of unauthorised 'Bt63' genetically modified rice. Fore more details follow the link.

Co-op Turkey Breast and Listeria

The UK Food Standards Agency reports that the Co-operative Group has recalled from sale one date code of sliced cooked turkey breast due to contamination with low levels of Listeria monocytogenes. For more details follow the link.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

E.coli and Nebraska Beef

Marler Blog has written a very informative post on the latest incident with an E.coli outbreak and its link to Nebraska Beef.

Salmonella Saintpaul update

Since April, 851 people have now been positively identified as having been infected with Salmonella Saintpaul with the same genetic fingerprint over 36 states.

Botulism outbreak - shortfalls identified

Back on the 12 February I wrote about two botulism incidents in the US. USA Today has written a recent report on the problems identified at the Castleberry's Food site. The FDA Inspectors identified that:
  • Two 10-foot-tall cookers may not have heated cans enough to kill all bacteria, including those leading to botulism toxin.
  • The cookers had broken alarms, a leaky valve and an inaccurate temperature device.
Sobering reading.