January 2010

The recall is being expanded as a result of a confirmed finding of Salmonella in an unopened salami product reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

According to FSIS release, Daniele International Inc., an establishment with operations in Pascoag and Mapleville, R.I., is expanding its January 23 recall to include approximately 17,235 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) varieties of Italian sausage products, including salami/salame, that may be contaminated with Salmonella. 1,240,000 pounds had already been recalled.

The recall is being expanded as a result of a confirmed finding of Salmonella in an unopened salami product reported by the Illinois Department of Public Health. The product was sampled during the course of an ongoing investigation of a multi-state outbreak of Salmonella serotype Montevideo illnesses. The product tested was not included in the previous recall (FSIS Recall 006-2010) issued January 23, but is similar to products bought by customers who later became sick in the Montevideo investigation. Product subject to the expanded recall may have been cross-contaminated with black pepper before it was packed. The company believes that black pepper is a possible source of Salmonella contamination.

Further testing is ongoing at a state health partner laboratory, and may determine if the product contained the Salmonella Montevideo strain associated with the multi-state outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), FSIS, state health and agriculture departments, and Daniele International are cooperating in this investigation. The CDC has posted information about the multi-state outbreak on its website (http://www.cdc.gov/salmonella) but the investigation is ongoing, and has not yet definitively identified a food vehicle(s).

FSIS is continuing to work with the CDC, FDA, affected state public health partners, and the company on the investigation and will update the public on the progress of this investigation as information becomes available.

The products subject to recall include:

• Packages of “DANIELE HOT SOPRESSATA CALABRESE,” produced on 11/7/09, 12/16/09 and 12/18/09.
• Packages of “DANIELE SOPRESSATA CALABRESE,” produced on 12/16/09 and 12/18/09.
• Packages of “BOAR’S HEAD BRAND HOT SOPRESSATA CALABRESE,” produced on 11/28/09, 12/9/09 and 12/14/09.

Each package bears a label with establishment number “EST. 54” inside the USDA mark of inspection and weighs approximately 3 to 3.5 pounds. These products were distributed to retail establishments nationwide. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on FSIS’ website at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FSIS_Recalls/ Open_Federal_Cases/index.asp.

Update – According to a press release from Daniele, the black pepper was sourced from Vietnam.

Clearly, I focus on the financial (and emotional) impacts on the customer victims in food poisoning cases.  However, losses to business – directly or indirectly – do happen.  In many outbreaks the financial losses to business and industry can be exponentially higher.  My second speech in Dubai will focus on all financial impacts.  Click on below to download outline (video not added).

Sunday’s Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) said it all: “Blakely peanut illness: Little has changed since scare.”  Not only has Food Safety taken a back seat to nearly everything else in Washington DC, but the political theater that is always Washington has accomplished nothing in bringing justice to those 700, nor the families of the 9 who died.

Who can forget the PCA emails?

“Turn them loose,” Parnell had told his plant manager in an internal e-mail disclosed at the House hearing. The e-mail referred to products that once were deemed contaminated but were cleared in a second test last year.

Parnell ordered products identified with salmonella to be shipped and quoting his complaints that tests discovering the contaminated food were “costing us huge $$$$$.”

Parnell insisted that the outbreak did not start at his plant, calling that a misunderstanding by the media and public health officials. “No salmonella has been found anywhere else in our products, or in our plants, or in any unopened containers of our product.”

Parnell complained to a worker after they notified him that salmonella had been found in more products. “I go thru this about once a week,” he wrote in a June 2008 e-mail. “I will hold my breath ………. again.”

As, the AJC noted:

As for possible criminal charges, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation spokesman said the agency dropped its investigation last year and left it to federal authorities. Federal agencies ranging from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to the FBI to the U.S. Attorney in Macon declined to comment.

Families of victims waver between frustration and outrage. The primary target of their anger: Stewart Parnell, the Peanut Corp. chief executive. When he appeared before Congress last February he declined to answer questions about e-mails and other information that investigators say indicated he knowingly ordered contaminated peanut products sent to buyers.

Bill Marler, a Seattle attorney handling lawsuits for about 45 victims, said, “In 17 years of litigating every major food-borne illness outbreak in the U.S., I have not seen a clearer situation that demanded criminal prosecution.”

Parnell declined to speak with the AJC for this story. One of his lawyers, W. William Gust, said investigators have not contacted Parnell in about six months.

No wonder that people become disgusted with government.  True, Washington has had a few things on its plate, Health Care, Afghanistan, the Economy, etc.  However, food safety legislation passed overwhelmingly last July out of the House and made it out of the Senate HELP committee in the Fall.  Since then – nothing.

A criminal investigation and prosecution against Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), although talked about loudly by all in early 2009, has gone nowhere since.

700 people and the families of 9 deserve and answer.

I have had a good run the last 30 days or so on limited travel.  Next week that all changes.  During the month of February, I will be in Phoenix, Atlanta, Madison, Washington D.C., New York and Dubai either litigating foodborne illness claims, pressing for food safety legislation or giving a speech or three or four or five.  Here is one of two outlines for talks while in Dubai:

The CDC reports that a total of 202 individuals infected with a matching strain of Salmonella Montevideo have been reported from 42 states and District of Columbia since July 1, 2009. The number of ill persons identified in each state with this strain is as follows: AK (1), AL (2), AZ (5), CA (30), CO (4), CT (4), DC (1), DE (2), FL (3), GA (3), IA (1), ID (2), IL (11), IN (3), KS (3), LA (1), MA (12), MD (1), ME (1), MI (3), MN (4), MO (1), NC (9), ND (1), NE (1), NH (1), NJ (7), NM (2), NY (16), OH (9), OK (1), OR (9), PA (5), RI (2), SC (1), SD (3), TN (4), TX (7), UT (7), VA (1), WA (15), WV (1), and WY (2). Because this is a commonly occurring strain, public health investigators may determine that some of the illnesses are not part of this outbreak.

Among the persons with reported dates available, illnesses began between July 4, 2009 and January 11, 2010. Infected individuals range in age from < 1 year old to 93 years old and the median age is 37 years. Fifty-three percent of patients are male. Among the 148 patients with available information, 38 (26%) were hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Date: February 8, 2010
Time: 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM
Location: Great Hall – Memorial Union – Madison, Wisconsin
Sponsor: Center for World Affairs and the Global Economy (WAGE), Distinguished Lecture Series (DLS), Office of Corporate Relations

Overview:

William Marler has built his firm, Marler Clark, into a national powerhouse of foodborne illness litigation. In the process, has elevated the role of personal injury lawyer from ambulance chaser to consumer champion and advocate for change. His involvement in the politics of food safety has had a tangible impact on the development of legislation at every level of government. In his talk, he will discuss his view of personal injury litigation, and how it can help build and maintain a safer society.

Speaker Biography:

As the nation’s leading injury lawyer and national expert in foodborne illness litigation, William Marler has been a major force in food safety policy in the United States and abroad. He and his partners at Marler Clark have represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused serious injury and death.

Speech Overview:

Although officials from USDA, FSIS and FDA remain silent, as has Daniele Salami, both CIDRAP and Food Safety News reported Rhode Island Health Officials have named Wholesome Spice as the likely source of the Salmonella-tainted black pepper that has sickened 189 in 40 states. However, the country of origin of the black pepper is still unnamed.

Robert Roos, CIDRAP News Editor wrote in “Tests strengthen pepper link in Salmonella outbreak” and Dan Flynn, Food Safety News Editor wrote “Black Pepper Positive for Salmonella” that Annemarie Beardsworth, a spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Health, reported findings from the department’s tests of ground pepper from Daniele. "We got positive results for Salmonella, and the strain did match the national outbreak," she said. "The one caveat is the sample was from an opened container of ground pepper. That means it’s the probable source of the outbreak. We do have samples from closed containers that are in the process of being tested."

The fact that the sample came from a previously opened container means the pepper could have been contaminated at Daniele rather than at the facility where it was produced, she noted. "We’re pretty sure that it didn’t get contaminated at Daniele, but we need a positive sample from a closed container to be absolutely 100% sure," she added. Beardsworth said the ground pepper came from a New York firm called Wholesome Spice, a distributor that sells ground pepper only to Daniele.

So, now, where did the black pepper originate from?

Or, Why the Silence of the Steaks and Perjury of the Peppers?

Everyone (in my world) has been following the two latest government and business food mishaps that have poisoned many of our fellow citizens over the last several months.

The first mishap, linked (apparently, in part) to blade-tenderized steaks from National Steak and Poultry has sickened 21 people from 16 states. Most victims became ill between mid-October and late November 2009. They ranged in age from 14 to 87 years. There have been 9 reported hospitalizations and 1 case of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

On December 24, 2009, FSIS issued a notice about a recall of 248,000 pounds of beef products from National Steak and Poultry that “may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.” The recall was issued after FSIS determined there was an association between non-intact steaks (blade-tenderized prior to further processing) and illnesses in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, South Dakota and Washington. The CDC has said that at least “some” of the illnesses appear to be associated with products subject to the FSIS recall. Rumor has it that a state (Minnesota, perhaps?) has ill people who ate hamburger, not blade-tenderized steaks.

That begs the question, why the silence of the steaks? Where did the National Steak and Poultry get the steaks? Where did the Minnesota hamburger (or trim) come from? Rumors are that it is from a Colorado facility (JBS Swift, perhaps?) that has seen its share of E. coli O157:H7 problems in the past. So, again why the silence of the steaks?

Mishap number two is linked to 189 people with a matching strain of Salmonella Montevideo being reported from 40 states since July 2009. According to the CDC, Illnesses began between July 2, 2009 and January 1, 2010 and infected individuals range in age from <1 year old to 88 years old and the median age is 37 years. 35 were hospitalized. The CDC also weighed in with this helpful bit of advice about the product poisoning us – it was a “widely distributed contaminated food product.”

Late at night on Friday, January 22, 2010, Daniele International Inc. recalled a sliced salami variety pack. On January 23, 2010, FSIS also issued a notice that Daniele International Inc. was recalling approximately 1,240,000 pounds of ready-to-eat varieties of Italian sausage products (including salame/salami). According to FSIS, this recall followed isolation of Salmonella in a private laboratory from a retail sample of a salami product produced by Daniele International. However, this Salmonella strain was different from the strains causing the outbreak. FSIS also added this helpful bit of advice: “It is possible that more than one food product may be causing illnesses.” In fact, FSIS also said that the company believes that black pepper “is the possible source of contamination.”

My friend over at efoodalert posted tonight that the Rhode Island Department of Health has confirmed that Salmonella has been found in samples of ground black pepper taken from an open container at Daniele International, Inc. The Salmonella recovered from Daniele’s black pepper matches the outbreak strain of Salmonella Montevideo that has sickened at least 189 individuals in 40 states. Interestingly, efoodalert posted days ago that the FDA had refused entry to 27 shipments of black pepper in the first six months of 2009 and that most of the consignments came from India. All of them were rejected because of Salmonella contamination.

So, we know that it is the pepper, but the company, FSIS and FDA remain silent? That too begs the question, why the perjury of the peppers?

Back to my main question, why do the US Government and US Business not believe in Capitalism? The one thing that makes capitalism – free markets – work is knowledge and transparency. If you know who poisoned you, you can stop buying food from them. However, here – especially here – the government and industry do everything they can to not tell us the facts. In both instances they put the information out on a holiday or a Friday night, so no one but a loser blogger would be paying attention. More importantly is the fact that they withhold information about the ultimate source of the contamination? Why not say whom the supplier of steaks and trim is? Why not let the public know who produced the peppers and where they are from?

Tip o” the blog to www.efoodalert.com for posting the update FAQ’s from Daniele:

Daniele, Inc. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Why is this product being recalled?

A: Samples of the black pepper used to coat some of our products have tested positive for salmonella. A sample of the recalled product has been linked to an outbreak of salmonellosis.

My emphasis.

Q: Are plant operations suspended?

A: We have suspended new production of all Pepper-Coated Salame products included in the recall. In addition, we have stopped using pepper from our inventory and switched to using only pasteurized pepper.

According to FSIS, Daniele International Inc., an establishment with operations in Pascoag and Mapleville, R.I., is recalling approximately 1,240,000 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) varieties of Italian sausage products, including salami/salame, in commerce and potentially available to customers in retail locations because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.

The CDC reports a total of 189 individuals infected with a matching strain of Salmonella Montevideo have been reported from 40 states since July 1, 2009. The number of ill persons identified in each state with this strain is as follows: AL (2), AZ (5), CA (30), CO (3), CT (4), DE (2), FL (2), GA (3), IA (1), ID (2), IL (11), IN (3), KS (3), LA (1), MA (12), MD (1), ME (1), MI (1), MN (4), MO (1), NC (9), ND (1), NE (1), NH (1), NJ (7), NY (15), OH (9), OK (1), OR (8), PA (3), RI (2), SC (1), SD (3), TN (4), TX (7), UT (7), VA (1), WA (14), WV (1), and WY (2).

So, Daniele, why not tell the public where you got the pepper?  Where is the FSIS and FDA on this?