April 2011

2010 and 2011 seem to have been busy times for the attempted expansion of the raw milk industry. For California, Iowa, Wyoming, and as of a few days ago Washington, the march towards unpasteurized milk sales has slowed. However, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Wisconsin are still in play. (PDF with legislation links).

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Many of the Representatives and Senators have appreciated the facts at Real Raw Milk Facts, as have a few Governors – they really like the Raw Milk Videos.  Politicians do not want to be known for creating more videos, or enlarging my bank account – well, unless they want to ask for a donation.

So, it is four down and eight more to go.

grape_tomatoes.jpgSix L’s of Immokalee, Fla. is voluntarily recalling a single lot of grape tomatoes, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. The strain of Salmonella has not been determined and no illnesses have been reported.

The specific lot was packed on April 11 and was comprised of grape tomatoes that can be identified by Cherry Berry lot code DW-H in either in clam shells or 20 lbs. cardboard containers. The product was distributed to North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California, Georgia and Canada, and reached consumers through retail stores and restaurant distribution.

The contamination was detected through a random sample obtained by the USDA at a distributor in New York. The product is from a farm in Estero, Fla. which has since ceased production of that commodity.

Screen shot 2011-04-29 at 6.46.38 PM.pngSatur Farms of Cutchogue, NY is recalling 88.5 pounds of Satur Farms Cilantro, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

The Satur Farms Cilantro was distributed in New York City and Long Island, New York.

The Cilantro in question was distributed to food service customers in 1/2 LB. and 1 LB. bulk bags which contained a small white stick-on label with four digit number lot number 6361.

Really?

According to the CDC, preliminary analysis has suggested exposure to clinical and teaching microbiology laboratories is a possible source of illness. Illnesses have been identified among students in microbiology teaching laboratories and employees in clinical microbiology laboratories. Ill persons (60%) were significantly more likely than control persons (2%) to report exposure to a microbiology laboratory in the week before the illness began. Additionally, multiple ill persons reported working specifically with Salmonella bacteria in microbiology laboratories. The New Mexico Department of Health found that the outbreak strain was indistinguishable from a commercially available Salmonella Typhimurium strain used in laboratory settings. This commercially available strain was known to be present in several teaching or clinical laboratories associated with ill students or employees infected with the outbreak strain. These data suggest this strain is the source of some of these illnesses. Additionally, several children who live in households with a person who works or studies in a microbiology laboratory have become ill with the outbreak strain.

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73 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 35 states: AK (1), AL (3), AZ (2), CA (1), GA (5), IA (1), ID (2), IL (3), IN (1), KS (1), KY (3), MA (2), MD (2), MI (2), MN (4), MO (2), NC (1), ND (1), NE (2), NJ (2), NM (3), NV (1), NY (1), OH (1), OK (1), OR (1), PA (6), SC (2), SD (1), TN (2), TX (1), UT (3), WA (5), WI (3), WY (1).

So, how did this happen?

A few days ago I posted “Perhaps the most disturbing animal cruelty video ever.” I still cannot watch it in full. Even though I grew up on a farm and killed chickens, pigs, turkeys, cows and rabbits for food, I always did it with a feeling a dread, but with nothing to hide.

Minnesota House Bill 1369 and Senate Bill 1118 would make a prohibited act “a person who acts without the consent of the owner of an animal facility (defined as “a location where an agricultural animal is maintained, including but not limited to a location dedicated to farming, a livestock market, or exhibitions; a location where an animal is maintained for educational or scientific purposes, including, but not limited to, a research facility”) to willfully do any of the following is guilty of animal facility interference:

(1) produce a record which reproduces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility if:

(i) the record is created by the person while at the animal facility; and

(ii) the record is a reproduction of a visual or audio experience occurring at the animal facility, including but not limited to a photographic or audio medium;

(2) possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility which was produced as provided in clause (1); …

The penalty for such behavior would be: “A person who commits animal facility interference is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. For a second or subsequent conviction of animal facility interference, the person is guilty of a felony. And, a person convicted of animal facility interference is subject to an order of restitution.”

Iowa Senate Bill 431 and House Bill 589 in large measure mirror Minnesota. In Iowa, “a person is guilty of animal facility interference, if the person acts without the consent of the owner of an animal facility to willfully do any of the following:

a. Produce a record which reproduces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility as follows:

(1) The record must be created by the person while at the animal facility

(2) The record must be a reproduction of a visual or audio experience occurring at the animal facility, including but not limited to a photographic or audio medium.

b. Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility which was produced as provided in paragraph “a”….

A person who commits the offense of animal facility interference is guilty of the following:

a. For the first conviction, the person is guilty of an aggravated misdemeanor.

b. For a second or subsequent conviction, the person is guilty of a class “D” felony.

c. A person convicted of animal facility interference is subject to an order of restitution as provided in chapter 910.

The Florida Senate Bill 1246 is a tad less verbose, but the point is the same.  Any person, except an employee or agent of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services acting pursuant to s. 570.15, Florida Statutes, or a law enforcement officer conducting a lawful inspection or investigation, who enters onto a farm or other property where legal agriculture operations are being conducted and produces audio or video records without the written consent of the owner or an authorized representative of the owner, commits misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083, Florida Statutes.  As used in this section, the term:

(a) “Audio or video records” means any audio or video recording, regardless of the recording medium or format, including, but not limited to, photographs, audio or videotapes, cd’s, dvd’s, or streaming media, whether stored on film stock, hard disks, solid state storage, or any electrical, magnetic, or optical or other form of data storage.

(b) “Farm” means any tract of land cultivated for the purpose of agricultural production, the raising and breeding of domestic animals, or the storage of a commodity.

You have to wonder what the so-called “farmers” in these states are seeking to protect? Yes, having someone film you abusing animals or running an operation without any concern to food safety, is embarrassing – and it should be – and it should be punished. But, punishing those who expose it should not be. With billion dollar holes in state budgets, legislatures have more important things to do than making our food supply even less transparent.

Thanks to my friends at Simple, Good and Tasty.

A report and policy brief released today identifies the Top 10 riskiest combinations of foods and disease-causing bugs, a finding that will help the FDA, USDA and other agencies do a better job when it comes to keeping the nation’s food supply safe.

Screen shot 2011-04-28 at 9.04.47 AM.pngScreen shot 2011-04-28 at 9.05.12 AM.pngThe Top 10 list, by researchers at the University of Florida’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, is the first to rank not just pathogens (bugs like Salmonella) but the combinations of foods and pathogens that cause significant outbreaks of illness, high costs and long-term complications.

Some key findings and recommendations of the report include:

• The Top 10 pathogen-food combinations cost the United States an estimated $8 billion a year.

• Salmonella is the leading pathogen, causing the largest number of hospitalizations, the greatest number of deaths and the highest cost burden. The report recommends that FDA and USDA develop a joint initiative to target Salmonella, which is found in a wide variety of foods.

• The researchers recommend that federal, state and local agencies coordinate their efforts and target the biggest food safety problems, including the Top 10 list.

From and FDA Press Release:

Rainbow Acres distributed raw milk in violation of federal law

The Justice Department, at the request of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, has filed a complaint for permanent injunction against Daniel L. Allgyer, owner of the Rainbow Acres Farm, in Kinzers, Pa., for distributing unpasteurized (or “raw”) milk for human consumption in interstate commerce.

The complaint, filed on April 19, 2011, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, also alleges that Allgyer violated federal law by misbranding the “raw” milk containers by failing to provide the label information required by law. Defendant Allgyer was served with the complaint earlier today.

Raw milk can contain a wide variety of harmful bacteria, including Listeria, E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Yersinia, and Brucella.

“Drinking raw milk is dangerous and shouldn’t be consumed under any circumstances,” said Dara A. Corrigan, FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “FDA has warned the defendant on multiple occasions that introducing raw milk into interstate commerce is in violation of Federal law.”

FDA investigators determined during an inspection of Rainbow Acres Farm that the farm was producing, packaging, selling, and distributing unpasteurized and unlabeled milk for human consumption in interstate commerce.

The FDA issued a Warning Letter to Allgyer on April 20, 2010, informing him of the violations and stating that regulatory action might be taken. The farm has continued to operate in violation of federal law.

If the court grants an injunction, Allgyer may be prohibited from distributing unpasteurized milk and milk products for human consumption in interstate commerce.

pointing-finger.jpgI have always been a bit amazed at the meat industry and the USDA. In the 18 years of litigating E. coli O157:H7 (and other bacterial and viral) cases – mostly on behalf of children – I am tired (and a bit disgusted) by the constant din of blaming the consumer. Sometimes the industry goes so far as to sue the parent of an injured child. One company went so far a few years ago as to sue the church that it had supplied with E. coli-tainted meat. So, several years ago I penned this Op-ed:

“It is not the failure of the Meat Industry in not keeping cattle feces out of hamburger that sickened the child, but it is the fault of the parent who handled and cooked the hamburger that was fed to the child.” This is a typical response to a sickened child by the meat industry and their lawyers. At first I calmly tried to respond that the Meat Industry that makes a profit off of selling “USDA Inspected Meat” can not blame the consumer if the product actually contains a pathogen that can severely sicken or kill a child. What other product in the United States would a manufacturer expect consumers to fix themselves before they used it?

The reply to my calm response was “the consumer should know that meat may contain bacteria and they are told to cook it.” My calmness has now faded. Think about the little labels on meat that you buy in the store – the ones that tell you to cook the meat to 160 degrees – of course they also say USDA inspected too. However, the labels do not say “THE USDA INSPECTION MEANS NOTHING. THIS PRODUCT MAY CONTAIN A PATHOGENIC BACTERIA THAT CAN SEVERELY SICKEN OR KILL YOU AND/OR YOUR CHILD. HANDLE THIS PRODUCT WITH EXTREME CARE.”

I wonder why the Meat Industry does not want a label like that on your pound of hamburger. It knows that the label is truthful. Do you think it might be concerned that Moms and Dads would stop buying it? The day the industry puts a similar label on hamburger is the day that I will go work for them. The reality is that the Meat Industry cannot assure the public that the meat we buy is not contaminated. So, instead of finding a way to get cattle feces out of our meat, they blame parents (and presumably all the teenagers that work at all the burger joints in America) when children get sick.

Consumers can always do better. However, study after study shows that, despite the CDC estimated 76 million people getting sick every year from food borne illnesses, the American public still has misconceptions and overconfidence in our Nation’s food supply. According to a study by the Partnership for Food Safety Education, fewer than half of the respondents knew that fresh vegetables and fruits could contain harmful bacteria, and only 25% thought that eggs and dairy products could be contaminated. Most consumers believe that food safety hazards can be seen or smelled. Only 25% of consumers surveyed knew that cooking temperatures were critical to food safety, and even fewer knew that foods should be refrigerated promptly after cooking. Consumers do not expect that things that you cannot see in your food can kill you. Consumers are being blamed, but most lack the knowledge or tools to properly protect themselves and their children.

The FDA has stated, “unlike other pathogens, E. coli O157:H7 has no margin for error. It takes only a microscopic amount to cause serious illness or even death.” Over the last few years our Government and the Meat Industry have repeatedly told the consumer to cook hamburger until there is no pink. Yet, recent university and USDA studies show meat can turn brown before it is actually “done.” Now the consumer is urged to use a thermometer to test the internal temperature of the meat. However, how do you use one, and who really has one? Many consumers wrongly believe the Government is protecting the food supply. How many times have we heard our Government officials spout “The US food supply is the safest in the world.” Remember, however, that it was the USDA that sat on positive E. coli tests for over a week that allowed this recent Con Agra E. coli outbreak to spiral out of control.

Where is the multi-million dollar ad campaign to convince us of the dangers of hamburger, like we do for tobacco? The USDA’s FightBAC and Thermy education programs are limited, and there are no studies to suggest that they are effective. Most consumers learn about food safety from TV and family members – If your TV viewing habits and family are like mine, these are highly suspect sources of good information. The bottom line is that you cannot leave the last bacteria “Kill Step” to a parent or to a kid in a fast food joint. The industry that makes billions off of selling meat must step up and clean up their mess. They can, and someday will, if I have anything to say about it. That day will come much faster if they start working on it now, and stop blaming the victims.

So a few years ago, I almost spilled my hot coffee on my lap when I read James Marsden’s Op-ed in “Meating Place” – “Why “just cook it” won’t cut it:”

Continue Reading The Food Industry Will Never Solve the Poisoning Problem Until It Stops Blaming the Consumer

vitor-belfort1.jpgAccording to press report, in a series of Twitter messages issued today, former UFC champion and recent contender Vitor Belfort (19-9 MMA, 8-4 UFC) revealed that he has contracted hepatitis A – a “moderately” serious infection caused by contaminated food or water that’s often mistaken for the flu.

The illness will keep Belfort from cornering Randy Couture in Toronto this Saturday at UFC 129, though it won’t endanger his fight with Yoshihiro Akiyama (13-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) at UFC 133, which takes place Aug. 6 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

In fact, Belfort wrote today that the illness is a minor bump in the road.

“Guys I just want to let u know that … hepatitis A is easy to treat so don’t worry, in two weeks I am back in the gym,” he stated.

Not so for everyone.  In late October 2003, Beaver County ER doctors reported an alarming number of Hepatitis A cases. Investigators from the Pennsylvania Department of Health initiated an investigation immediately and discovered that many, if not all, cases had eaten at Chi Chi’s restaurant in Monaca, Pennsylvania’s Beaver Valley Mall. Along with the health department, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted further studies of the outbreak. Preliminary analysis of a case-control study suggested that green onions were the probable source of the outbreak. The onions had been shipped to the restaurant in boxes and were stored and refrigerated in buckets of ice. They were eventually chopped up and served in various dishes at the restaurant, often uncooked, as in the preparation of mild salsa. “Preliminary trace-back information indicated that the green onions supplied to Chi Chi’s had been grown in Mexico.” Ultimately, over 650 people were sickened in the outbreak. The victims included at least thirteen Chi Chi’s employees and numerous residents of six other states. Four people died from their injuries, and more than 9,000 people obtained immune globulin shots as protection against the virus. This is the story of one of those cases.

Richard Miller Hepatitis A Food Poisoning Illness and Lawsuit from Marlerclark on Vimeo.

Jonathans Sprouts of Rochester, MA is upgrading its recall of conventional alfalfa sprout products with a specific sell-by date to include all of its alfalfa products, conventional and organic, with all sell-by dates, as a precaution, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.  Six products are involved:

• Jonathan’s 4oz Alfalfa Sprouts – all sell-by dates • Jonathan’s 4oz Organic Alfalfa Sprouts – all sell-by dates • Jonathan’s 4oz Alfalfa with Radish Sprouts – all sell-by dates • Jonathan’s 4oz Organic Alfalfa with Radish Sprouts – all sell-by dates • Jonathan’s 4oz Gourmet Sprouts – all sell-by dates • Jonathan’s 4oz Alfalfa with Dill Sprouts – all sell-by dates • Jonathan’s 8oz Alfalfa Sprouts – all sell-by dates • Jonathan’s Organic Sprout Salad – all sell by dates

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The product is sold in plastic containers, approximately 4 inches cube.

They are sold at the following stores:

A&P, Grand Union, Stop & Shop, Shaws, Hannaford, Donnelans, Foodmaster, Truccis, Roche Brothers

The product listed below is distributed in bulk to food service establishments (restaurants, etc)

• Jonathan’s 5lb Bulk Alfalfa in waxed 18”x11” cardboard cartons – all codes • Jonathan’s 5lb Bulk Organic Alfalfa Sprouts in waxed 18” x 11” cardboard cartons – all codes • Jonathan’s 4lb Bulk Alfalfa Sprouts in bags 2lb bags in a 13”x9”x6” cardboard carton – all codes

The products containing alfalfa sprouts were distributed in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware.

The product being recalled was identified through routine sampling as part of the USDA Microbiological Data Program.  No illnesses have been reported.