February 2013

I am somewhere in the air over Nebraska off to give another food safety speech, and my office emailed me a letter that I have been awarded the Seattle University Law School Distinguished Graduate Award.  According to the letter, the award was established to honor an alumnus whose career achievements embody the mission, principles, and goals of Seattle University School of Law as it emphasizes academic excellence and education for justice.  Awardees are graduates who have distinguished themselves in their field, earned high respect among their colleagues and the general community, and whose impact is realized on a local, national or global level.

Goes to show that if you live long enough people notice you standing around.

Distinguished Law Graduate Award at SU Law’s upcoming 40th Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, April 11 at 5:30pm in Sullivan Hall.

Over 700 people were sickened and nine died as a result of the 2009 Salmonella outbreak and massive peanut recall.

AP reports today that Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, his food broker brother Michael Parnell, Georgia plant manager Samuel Lightsey and Georgia plant quality assurance manager Mary Wilkerson entered pleas of not guilty in Georgia federal court.  Among the various charges are conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and the introduction of adulterated and misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead.  A fifth defendant, Daniel Kilgore, another plant manager, has already plead guilty.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Langstaff set bond at $100,000 each for the Parnell brothers, $50,000 for Lightsey and $25,000 for Wilkerson. The defendants and their family members, who attended Thursday’s hearing, did not speak to reporters.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Dasher told the court that Stewart Parnell faces a maximum 754 years in prison and $17 million in fines if convicted. His brother Michael faces a maximum 437 years and $10 million.

The FDA posted a recall notice from Zachary Confections, Inc., which announced yesterday a voluntary recall of certain production lots of its Zachary Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Eggs because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Zachary Confections has initiated this voluntary recall in response to a test result indicating the potential for Salmonella contamination in a sample taken during routine post-production testing from one of the production lots of product that is the subject of this recall. Out of an abundance of caution, Zachary Confections is recalling all lots of product that may have been affected.

The product is packaged in white egg crates with purple, green and yellow lettering. Zachary Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Egg Crates 5 oz. [Product # 31-797] (white colored egg crate with colored lettering).  The Best Buy Date and Code Dates are located on the side panel of the product packaging next to the Unit UPC bar code label.

The recalled product was manufactured on February 20 and February 21, 2013, and was shipped from the Zachary Confections’ facility on February 21 and February 22, 2013.The recalled products have been distributed to some retail stores located in sections of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

No other Zachary Confections products are involved in this recall.

Production of the product has been suspended while FDA and the company continue their investigation as to the source of the potential problem.

This E. coli O157:H7 outbreak cost a school district $6,100,000.

On Thursday, October 15 the Benton-Franklin Health Department (BFHD) was notified of two hospitalized children at Kennewick General Hospital with bloody diarrhea, one of whom was culture confirmed with infection of E. coli O157:H7. On the same day a clinician in Kennewick, Washington notified BFHD of two additional cases of bloody diarrhea in children. BFHD staff interviewed parents of the four children and determined that they all attended the Finley Elementary School (FES).  As the average incubation period for E. coli O157:H7 ranges from 3 to 8 days, exposure to the agent most likely occurred sometime during the school week of October 5-9.

On October 16 Dr. Dan Jernigan at the Washington State Department of Health (WDOH) was notified by the Benton-Franlin Health District ~FHD) of the cluster of cases. Dr. Lauren Ball and Patti Waller, WDOH epidemiologists, were assigned to the BFHD outbreak investigation team. This report summarizes the findings.


Finley is located in a predominately rural area in east Benton County. Family farms/pastures, irrigation systems, and residential water supplied by private wells are common in the community.  The Finley School District includes a high school (grades 9-12), a middle school (grades 6-8) and an elementary school (pre-school classes and grades K-S). The elementary school serves 466 students and employs 55 staff.

Both breakfast and lunch are served at the schools.  Typically meals are partially prepared in a central kitchen located at the high school and delivered to each of the schools in the morning for additional cooking and preparation for serving.  Water is supplied to the elementary school via a private well system.  The BFHD inspects the system regularly. Sewage disposal is via a private drain field.

Surveillance and Case Definition

On Friday October 16, 1998 the Finley School District telephoned parents/guardians of all children who had been absent from school to inform them of illness occurring among Finley students.  Parents of absent children were advised to seek medical advice if their children were experiencing a diarrheal illness or other flu-like illness.  Informational letters from the school district were sent to all parents of children attending Finley Elementary notifying them that the communicable illness E. coli O157:H7 had been diagnosed in some FES children.  These letters included educational information describing possible sources of infection, clinical symptoms, and the possibility of person to person transmission. Information on preventing E. coli infections was also disseminated widely by BFHD through local media, local physicians, and through the school district.  In addition, the school district sent a letter to all residents of the Finley community to inform the public of the outbreak.

A confirmed case was defined as a Finley resident or visitor with culture confirmed E. coli O157:H7 diarrhea occurring after October 1, 1998 and epidemiologic linkage to FES.

A probable case was defined as a Finley resident or visitor with bloody diarrhea of unknown origin occurring after October 1, 1998, and/or complications of hemolytic uremic syndrome with epidemiologic linkage to FES.

Continue Reading 1998 Outbreak of E coli O157:H7 at Finley Elementary School – Epidemiology and Environmental Science Working Well Together

Earlier today, FDA released the letter in which the agency threw down its gauntlet and demanded that Kasel Associates Industries, Inc. recall contaminated pet treats. The February 13, 2013 “Notification of Opportunity to Initiate a Voluntary Recall”, was hand-delivered to Raymond J. Kasel. The letter stated the basis for FDA’s determination that “…there is a reasonable probability that the affected pet treats are adulterated under section 402(a)(1) and (a)(4) of the FD&C Act and that there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to the pet treats will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals…” A sampling of the findings include:

  • Multiple finished product samples of Kasel pet treats obtained by the State of Colorado’s Department of Agriculture in September and October 2012, were tested and subsequently found to be positive for Salmonella.
  • In response to the state of Colorado’s Salmonella-positive results, FDA conducted an inspection of Kasel’s manufacturing facility from September 19-28, 2012. During the inspection, the FDA investigators collected various samples for further testing, including bulk and finished product samples and numerous environmental samples. Many of these samples tested positive for Salmonella.
  • Salmonella is a pathogenic organism that can cause serious adverse health consequences or death in humans and animals. The presence of Salmonella in pet food can pose a particularly acute health risk to children and people who are elderly or immunocompromised.
  • [E]vidence collected by FDA and the state of Colorado, including environmental and product samples collected and analyzed by Colorado and the FDA, and observations made by FDA during the inspection of [Kasel], establishes the following:
    • Pet treat products manufactured, processed, packed, or held by [Kasel] from April 20, 2012, through September 19, 2012, are contaminated with Salmonella, or are at risk for contamination with Salmonella, based on the conditions in your facility and multiple Salmonella-positive results from environmental samples, including positive results on food contact surfaces within your facility, and from samples of your finished product. Test results indicate there are more than a dozen different Salmonella serotypes in your firm’s manufacturing facility and finished products. In addition, the test results indicate that various Salmonella positive samples from finished products are serotype matches to, and in some cases share a Pulsed Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern with, other finished products and/or various environmental swabs taken at the facility during the September 2012 inspection. Due to this widespread Salmonella contamination and/or risk of contamination, FDA has determined that there is a reasonable probability these products are adulterated under section 402 of the FD&C Act and there is a reasonable probability that the use of or exposure to these pet treats will cause serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.
    • [Kasel] created, caused or was otherwise responsible for this reasonable probability of adulteration: under section 402 of the FD&C Act. Specifically, FDA has determined that the conditions within your facility (e.g., the presence of Salmonella in various locations throughout the facility and multiple sanitation deficiencies) that could lead to cross contamination between raw materials and finished products caused the reasonable probability.”

The letter, which was signed by Michael R. Taylor (FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine), demanded action within two (2) business days of its receipt by Mr. Kasel, and concluded with the following two statements:

“If you do not voluntarily cease distribution and conduct a recall in the time and manner described in this section, FDA may, by order, require you to immediately cease distribution of the affected pet treats. Additionally, FDA may, by order require you to immediately notify all persons manufacturing, processing, packing, transporting, distributing, receiving, holding, or importing and selling the affected pet treats to immediately cease distribution of such articles; and to immediately notify all persons to which such articles have been distributed, transported, or sold, to immediately cease distribution of the affected pet treats.”

“If a response is not received from you within two (2) business days of your receipt of this letter, FDA may by order require you to immediately cease distribution and notify applicable parties, as explained above.”

The food and pet food industries are now on notice. FDA is ready, willing and able to use its mandatory recall authority to achieve the removal of dangerously contaminated food and pet food from the marketplace.

Thanks for the above from EFoodAlert and to my dog Rowan for sleeping through taking his picture.

I am heading to South Africa in October of this year to give a series of lectures on safe food a.k.a., “why it is a bad idea to poison your customer.”  It appears that I might need to move up the timing of my trip.  According to South African news:

As the horse meat scandal rages in Europe, top local researchers have found “fraudulent meat products” across South Africa. The study found that anything from soy, donkey, goat and water buffalo was found in up to 68 percent of the minced meats, burger patties, deli meats, sausages and dried meats that were tested.  In other cases, undeclared plant matter was detected.  These ingredients were not declared on the products’ packaging labels.

The study was published in the international Food Control journal, and was carried out by Dr. Donna-Maree Cawthorn and Professor Louw Hoffman of the Stellenbosch University Department of Animal Sciences, with Harris Steinman of Food & Allergy Consulting & Testing Services in Milnerton.

“Our study confirms that the mislabeling of processed meats is commonplace in South Africa and not only violates food labeling regulations but also poses economic, religious, ethical and health impacts,” said Professor Louw Hoffman of the Department of Animal Sciences.

The study found that soy, donkey, goat and water buffalo were contained in up to 68 percent of the 139 minced meats, burger patties, deli meats, sausages and dried meats that were tested.

Seriously, all of Europe and South Africa are having this issue and nothing is going on in the United States?  Really?

According to the Wall Street Journal, IKEA, the Swedish furniture giant, was drawn into Europe’s growing horse meat scandal after food inspectors in the Czech Republic found traces of horse meat in a batch of IKEA’s signature food item – Swedish meatballs.  While the scandal has been raging in Europe for weeks, many of the tainted products were relatively obscure. Not so for the IKEA meatball—an estimated 150 million of which are consumed around the world.

Looking for local flavor, I spoke to the Seattle Times yesterday:

Bill Marler, managing partner of Marler Clark, a Seattle law firm that specializes in foodborne-illnesses cases, said had he been asked two months ago (before horse meat was found in EU products from burgers to lasagna) whether IKEA could be sure of what is in their meatballs in the United States, “I would have said of course their system is airtight.”  But, he added, “Given that there appears to be little if any genetic testing being done on the meat supply in the U.S., I think everything’s questionable now.”

“It is hard to doubt the sincerity of IKEA in the U.S. and I’m sure they’re confident their systems work.  But, I’m assuming they were confident of the system in Europe, too,” Marler added.


Read Seattle Times article on Dungeness Valley Creamery from 2010.

Today the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) is warning consumers not to drink Dungeness Valley Creamery brand raw Jersey whole milk, raw Jersey skim milk, and raw Jersey cream because the products may be contaminated with Escherichia coli bacteria (E. coli) that can cause serious illness. Dungeness Valley Creamery raw Jersey cream, raw Jersey whole milk and raw Jersey skim milk with any Best Buy dates of 03/02 or later may be contaminated. The firm sells its products in gallon, half gallon, quart and pint containers. Today’s health alert includes all container sizes of the unpasteurized milk products. The health alert is being initiated after routine sampling by WSDA found toxin-producing E. coli in a sample of raw cream. Based in Sequim, the Dungeness Valley Creamery and WSDA are continuing their investigation into the source of the problem. Currently, no human illnesses have been linked with these products. According to the Dungeness Valley Creamery website, the firm’s products are sold at the following retail locations:

  • Bainbridge Island: Real Foods; Pan D’Amore; Walt’s Lynwood Center Market
  • Bothell: Tru Health
  • Bremerton: CJ’s Evergreen General Store; Fresh Local
  • Federal Way: Marlene’s Market & Deli
  • Issaquah: Front Street Red Apple
  • Longview: Country village Nutrition Shoppe
  • Olympia: Olympia Food Co-op East; Olympia Food Co-op West
  • Port Angeles: Country Aire; Good To Go
  • Port Townsend: Port Townsend Food Co-op
  • Poulsbo: Abundantly Green
  • Seattle: Madison Market; My Asia’s Essentials; Pike Place Market Creamery
  • Sequim: Sequim Prairie Grange; Red Rooster Grocery; Sunny Farms Farm Store
  • Tacoma: Marlene’s Market & Deli
  • Vancouver: Chuck’s Produce; Neighbors Market

During the time period of the outbreak, April 18 to April 30, 2002, over 7,000 people ate at the Western Sizzlin’ restaurant in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.  The Health Department in the Toe River Health District handled over 900 telephone calls and conducted 621 surveys of people who ate at the restaurant.  There were 369 reported illnesses that may have been linked to the outbreak.  Of those with symptoms, there were 39 lab-confirmed cases of Salmonella infection.

On Friday, April 26, 2002, the Health Director and one of the Environmental Health (EH) personnel from the Mitchell County HD inspected the restaurant.  Deficiencies were noted.  On Monday, the EH team collected food samples from an individual patron who had taken food home.  The food collected for sampling included:  hamburger steak with gravy; fried chicken; hamburger steak without gravy; and ham (which was under the hamburger steak without gravy).  These specimens were sent to the State Laboratory for Public health (SLPH) for analysis.  The Health Director, EH Supervisor and Regional EH Supervisor visited the restaurant and asked the manager to voluntarily close the restaurant pending the results of the epidemiological study.  The manager, Darren King, closed his restaurant around 3:00 or 4:00 p.m. on Monday, April 27, 2002.

On Tuesday, EH obtained the following samples from the restaurant:  1) water from the tap in the kitchen; 2) water from the waitress service station; 3) leftover prepared mashed potatoes and gravy from the restaurant and 4) unopened packages of dried mashed potatoes and gravy.  These were also sent to the SLPH.  On Wednesday (May 1, 2002), samples of ice from the bottom of the large ice chest in the kitchen area were obtained.  The restaurant was toured by EH from Mitchell County HD and Pam Jenkins from the State HD

Two asymptomatic employees of the restaurant were found to be infected with Salmonella.  Lengthy interviews with the two employees were conducted.  Both individuals ate at the restaurant.  It could not be determined whether they got their infection from eating at the restaurant or infected the food at the restaurant.  The serotypes of cultures from the two asymptomatic restaurant workers were identified as Salmonella heidelberg.  The following are the results of the food samples sent to the SLPH:

Hamburger steak with gravyPositive for S. heidelberg

Hamburger steak without gravy – Negative

Fried ChickenPositive for S heidelberg

Ham – Positive for S. heidelberg

Applicator stick marked “gravy” – Positive for S. heidelberg

Obviously, a number of different foods served by the restaurant, and various cooking utensils and surfaces, were found to be contaminated with the Salmonella strain associated with the outbreak.

A review of the health department records indicates that management at Western Sizzlin’ was not particularly helpful in the handling of the investigation.  Management denied its employees were sick, but a number of individual members described themselves with nausea and upset stomachs.  Additionally, it also appears that foodmakers were allowed to return to work despite the possibility that they could still be shedding Salmonella.

It has been my experience in outbreak litigation that, when all the dust settles and discovery is done, juries will tend always to believe the unbiased reports of the investigating health department employees.  Here, the health department report paints a bleak picture of Western Sizzlin’s practices as being the cause of so many unnecessary illnesses.  (See,  Toe River Health Department Records)

What would we do without efoodalert?

  • Food Safety Recall: Altiza Inc. (Chula Vista, CA) recalls Malichita brand Cucumbers (44 lbs/box; Lot #MA012304), due to possible Salmonella contamination. The recalled product was distributed in California.
  • Food Safety Recall: Hoop Nuts LLC, dba Christophers Nut Co. (Van Nuys, CA) recalls ARO Pistachio/Orandi Farms Pistachio Halves ‘n’ Pieces raw pistachios (30-lb boxes; Lot #121203) due to Salmonella contamination. The recalled product was distributed in California.
  • Food Safety Recall: Hoop Nuts LLC, dba Christophers Nut Co. (Van Nuys, CA) recalls ARO Pistachio / Orandi Farms Pistachio Halves ‘n’ Pieces dry roasted pistachios (30-lb boxes; Lot #1-121213), due to Salmonella contamination. The recalled product was distributed in California.

I received this email this morning:

I am attaching the link to the FDA food recall page for you to peruse and see there is NO recall nor will there be regarding ARO Pistachios, Inc. and Orandi Ranch. Nor has there ever been in the 40+ years of our operations.

To be very clear: the initiative will not advance to a recall. The FDA inspection has fully concluded, cleared any accusations, and commended our safety protocol. There was an initiative and that testing for salmonella performed by the FDA resulted in NEGATIVE findings.

Please proceed with rectifying your articles on your sites and channels for which you are responsible concerning this matter. We are a small family owned-and-operated pistachio ranch with an on-site processing plant that we oversee with hands-on quality control and stewardship of our orchards. Our intention and commitment have always been to cultivate the best product possible. We take great strides to uphold our quality control and safety standards.


Many thanks,

Pamela Heath,

Communications Manager