March 2014

Lao Thai Nam Corp., of Dallas, Texas is recalling Number One Sompa Salted Fish, because it has the potential to be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium which can cause life-threatening illness or death. Consumers are warned not to use the product even if it does not look or smell spoiled.

Botulism, a potentially fatal form of food poisoning, can cause the following symptoms: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension and constipation may also be common symptoms. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

Number one Sompa Salted Fish was distributed in the state of Texas (Irving and Houston areas) through retail stores, prior to 03/31/2014.

Number One Sompa Salted Fish is contained in a clear vacuum packaged pouch. The pouch contains red and black lettering with a fish logo on the left hand portion. The product is a 7-ounce package containing a whole processed Tin Foil Barb fish, UPC: 8 8433200019 4.

I was reading a few news reports about the some of the Clinton presidential papers being released and this item caught my attention:

The White House also debated hard-ball strategies to undercut Republicans and garner favorable press coverage. In July 1995, the White House considered enlisting disease victims to help criticize Republican-led budget cuts. Public anger over reductions in meat inspections was “wounding the Republicans,” the memo said.  “This would be an opportunity to once again hit them,” wrote chief speechwriter Michael Waldman. “We could, for example, have an event with E-coli families.”

That meeting never happened.  And, that is true about most meetings with victims of foodborne illnesses.  The above reminded me of a blog post I penned after a meeting with Dave Theno in Tampa a few years ago:

Shortly after leaving Tampa, I spent time with a family in South Carolina whose 4 year old ate cookie dough tainted with E. coli O157:H7 and suffered months of hospitalizations, weeks of dialysis and seizures. She faces a lifetime of complications despite oversight by the Food and Drug Administration of the food she consumed.

After leaving South Carolina I headed to Cleveland, Ohio where I sat across the kitchen table with a family who lost their only daughter, Abby, because she died from an E. coli O157:H7 infection from meat inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety Inspection Services.

Neither head of either agency, nor the president of either corporation, whose product took the life of one and nearly the life of the other, ever visited either family, and, that is a shame.

In 20 years of litigation, in 20 years of spending time with Lauren’s or Abby’s family, I am changed.  I see the world far differently than most do now.

If I had any advice to offer to corporate or governmental leaders – run your departments like Dave ran food safety at Jack in the Box. Go meet the families that Dave and I have met.  Sit across their kitchen tables. Go to their child’s hospital room and see more tubes and wires than you can count. Understand what these people have lived though. Take their stories into your heart.

It is hard, very hard, but it will give you a real reason to do your jobs and to love it.

Next time Mr. President, have that meeting.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently ordered Jensen’s Old Fashioned Smokehouse Inc., a processor of smoked fish products in Seattle, Wash., to stop processing, preparing, packing, holding and distributing any food at or from its facility.

The order follows the FDA’s analysis of environmental samples collected during its most recent inspection of the company’s facility, which confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) in the facility, including in food processing and storage areas.

Jensen’s Old Fashioned Smokehouse Inc. is subject to a consent decree of permanent injunction, which was entered by the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington in 2001. Under the terms of the consent decree, the company agreed to comply with requirements to control food safety hazards and ensure that its products are not adulterated.

The findings of the FDA’s most recent inspection establish that food in the company’s facility is adulterated and led the FDA to issue the order to cease operations under the terms of the consent decree.In order to resume operations, Jensen’s must meet several requirements, including thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing the facility and hiring an expert to develop a Sanitation Standard Operation Procedure and an environmental microbial monitoring program for L. mono. Jensen’s must also test representative samples of all vacuum-packaged smoked fishery products on hand at the company for L. mono and provide the results to the FDA.

Jensen’s processes smoked fish products and distributes or sells them in its retail store, online and through other businesses in Washington, Oregon and California.

L. mono can cause a serious illness called listeriosis, which can be fatal, especially in certain high-risk groups. These groups include older adults, people with compromised immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as cancer) and unborn babies and newborns. In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and serious illness or death in newborn babies, though the mother herself rarely becomes seriously ill. To date, no illnesses have been reported to the FDA associated with Jensen’s smoked seafood products.

Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck is warning people about the dangers of consuming illegally manufactured cheeses. Health officials are reporting around 100 cases of salmonellosis in 13 counties believed to be linked to consumption of an illegally manufactured Mexican-style cheese. A sample of the cheese obtained from the home of a person who became ill tested positive for Salmonella. IDPH is working with local health departments to identify the manufacturer of the contaminated cheese.

“We’re concerned that people who consume this manufactured cheese may become sick from Salmonella,” said Dr. Hasbrouck. “It is important for you to check the labeling to make sure the product was made by a licensed dairy manufacturer – even if you purchased the cheese from a grocery store. If you become ill after eating Mexican-style cheese, contact your health care provider and your local health department.”

Local health departments in Boone, Cook (including the city of Chicago), DuPage, Fayette, Kane, Lake, LaSalle, Macon, Marion, McHenry, Vermillion, Washington and Will counties have reported to IDPH since July 2012 around 100 cases with the same strain of Salmonella believed to be associated with this cheese. The average age of people who have become ill is nine-years-old and a third of all the cases have been hospitalized.

Anyone with information about illegally manufactured cheese should contact their local health department for follow up. Without this information, it will not be possible to prevent further illnesses. People who become ill after eating illegally manufactured cheese, should keep the cheese for possible testing.

Many cases have reported consuming Mexican-style cheese obtained from worksites, including factories, and at train stations, from street vendors and from relatives and friends. The cheese is not labeled and is often wrapped in aluminum foil. IDPH recommends that people who have Mexican-style cheese in their home, but cannot clearly identify the product was made by a licensed or regulated manufacturer, should not eat the cheese.

While Salmonella bacteria cannot be detected by sight, taste or smell, it can cause illness, including fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Most individuals can recover on their own in 3 to 5 days. The infection can be more severe in young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune system.

IDPH advises against buying or consuming cheese that is suspected to be made by an unlicensed dairy manufacturer. IDPH encourages consumers to always purchase milk and dairy products made by licensed dairy manufacturers. Legitimate Mexican-style cheeses are available in the refrigerated case at retail stores and in most cases, label information specifies the legal name of the product, the name and address of distributor or processor, quantity of contents, an ingredient statement, and nutrition facts.

When, will it be the chicken too?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing a public health alert because Nutriom LLC, a Lacey, Wash. establishment, declined to expand its Feb. 15, 2014 recall to include an additional 118,541 pounds of processed egg products for which there is reason to conclude that they are unfit for human consumption.

The request for expansion was based on evidence collected during an ongoing investigation conducted by FSIS at this establishment. The company has refused to recall the additional processed egg products. As a consequence, FSIS intends to take appropriate action to remove the products from commerce.

FSIS issued the original recall because the company allegedly recorded false laboratory results. The company allegedly produced negative laboratory results for Salmonella when the results were actually positive, or reported that sampling had occurred when, in fact, no microbial testing was performed. FSIS requested the company to include additional products, but it declined. Because the product was not produced in accordance with FSIS requirements, it is unfit for human consumption.

The following products were shipped to co-packers for incorporation into consumer-size packages:

  • 3,884-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “H0613-B”
  • 1,031-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “I0413-A”
  • 958-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “I0413-A”
  • 4,422-lb. super sack of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the lot code “L1713-A”

The following products were packaged in consumer-sized packages:

  • 1.75-lb. packs of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the Julian dates “0374,” “0384,” “2683” and “2693”
  • 66-gram spray bottles of “Bak-Klene Egg Wash” with the lot code “L1013A”
  • 1.17-lb. packs of “OvaEasy UGRA, Reduced Cholesterol” with the Julian dates “3129,” “3228,” “3229,” “3230,” “3231,” “3281,” “3282,” “3283,” “3284,” “3337,” “3338,” “3339” and “3340”
  • 4.5-oz. cans of “OvaEasy Whole Plain Egg” with the Julian date “2883”
  • 571-gram packs of “Vitovo Low Fat” with the Julian date “3193”
  • 1.1-lb. bags of “OvaEasy Boil-in-Bag UGR, Heat & Serve (HS)” with the Julian dates “3161,” “3162,” “3182,” “3183,” “3188,” “3201,” “3202,” “3203,” “3204,” “3205,” “3208,” “3209,” “3210,” “3211,” “3212,” “3213,” “3220,” “3221” and “3222”
  • 2-oz. packs of “OvaEasy Plain Whole Egg” with the Julian dates “0074,” “0084,” “0094,” “0354,” “0364,” “0374,” “2243,” “2253,” “2953,” “2963,” “3463,” “3473” and “3483”
  • 66-gram spray bottles of “Panera Egg Wash” with the Julian dates “0104,” “0154,” “0164,” “0174,” “0214,” “0224,” “0234,” “0244,” “0284,” “0294,” “0304” and “0314”
  • 2-oz. pack of “Wise Company, Wise Blend” with the Julian date “0943”

On Feb. 15, 2014, the company recalled 226,710 pounds of processed egg products.

The dried egg products were produced from May 2013 through January 2014, and bear the establishment number “INSPECTED EGG PRODUCTS PLANT 21493G” inside the USDA Mark of Inspection. These products were shipped nationwide and to U.S. military installations in the United States and abroad, and to Mexico.

FSIS inspects egg products under the Egg Products Inspection Act. FDA typically takes jurisdiction of egg products after they leave the egg facility if they are incorporated into FDA-regulated products. In this case, USDA handled the original recall rather than FDA because the products are in consumer packages with an identifiable USDA Mark of Inspection, and FSIS had jurisdiction over the product when the contamination occurred. FSIS and FDA are continuing to work together to ensure food safety, and the management of Recall 015-2014 is such an example.

The BBC reports that Guinea has banned the sale and consumption of bats to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus, its health minister has said.  Bats, a local delicacy, appeared to be the “main agents” for the Ebola outbreak.  People who eat bats often boil them into a spicy pepper soup.  The soup is sold in village stores where people gather to drink alcohol.

The virus in Guinea has now killed sixty-two people, with suspected cases reported in neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ebola is spread by close contact. There is no known cure or vaccine.  It kills between 25% and 90% of victims, depending on the strain of the virus. Symptoms include internal and external bleeding, diarrhea and vomiting.

Food Safety News reported over the weekend that Parkers Farm Inc., a Minnesota company that makes peanut butter, cheese spreads and dips, bagel spreads and salsas, recalled all its products for possible Listeria contamination.  The Coon Rapids -based company said a problem with its products was discovered through testing by the State of Minnesota. No illnesses have yet been associated with the recall.

The products are distributed nationwide under the Parkers Farm, Parkers, Happy Farms, Central Markets, Hy-Top, Amish Classic, Say Cheez, Win Schuler, and Bucky Badger labels. These products were sold at several retail stores, including but not limited to, Hy-Vee, Cub, Rainbow, Byerly’s, Lunds, Target, Whole Foods, Price Chopper, Nash Finch, Costco, Aldi, Walmart and Brookshire stores.

This sounded a bit familiar.

On January 8, 2010, Parkers also prompted a Listeria recall of peanut butter, cheese and salsa.  The recall was a result of a sampling done by the state of Wisconsin and the state of Minnesota which revealed that some finished products contained the bacteria. On January 15, the recall was expanded to include all products and all sell by dates. The recalled products were distributed nationwide in the following retail stores: Hy-Vee, Cub, Rainbow, Byerlys, Lunds, Target, Whole Foods, Jewel, Dominicks, Marsh, Price Chopper, Shop Rite, Nash Finch, Sams Club, Costco, Safeway, Kroger, Wal-Mart and Aldi.

Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and sometimes fatal infection in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Food Safety News will report in the morning that the retail list for the Rancho Feeding Corporation recall of nearly 9,000,000 pounds of meat is one of the longest ever, with more than 5,800 stores.

However, what is truly stunning is the report that a Bush administration decision (continued under the Obama administration) thwarts transparency in where recalled product was ultimately sold and consumed.  According to Food Safety News, it turns out that restaurants that make direct purchases from establishments involved in the recall are excluded from the retail recall list.

Why?

According to Food Safety News, Dr. Richard Raymond, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety during President George W. Bush’s second term, was head of FSIS when the agency began releasing retail recall lists. Raymond said that when he sent the regulation permitting FSIS to issue retail lists over to the Office of Management and Budget for its approval, restaurants were dropped.

Why?

Who else received Rancho Feeding Corporation’s recalled meat?  Why are restaurants excluded?  What other establishments are excluded?  The School Lunch Program?  Hospitals?

Looking back over the last several years of recalls, how often were the names of restaurants and others excluded from publication?

Why?

In the 1970’s comedian Flip Wilson made the phrase “The devil made me do it” a household punchline.  It was funny.  A twist on Flip’s humor is now making its way into a Georgia federal courthouse.

Judge W. Louis Sands, presiding over the criminal case against Stewart Parnell, the owner, of the now-defunct Peanut Corp. of America, linked to the 2009 nationwide Salmonella outbreak that sickened over 700 and killed nine, conducted a hearing on March 13, 2014, to determine whether the expert testimony offered as to Parnell’s ability to form the intent to commit the alleged crimes is admissible under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

According to defense expert Joseph Conley, a clinical psychologist, Parnell has an Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) condition. Defense counsel claims that Conley’s testimony will show that Parnell did not commit the alleged crimes because he did not factually acquire the knowledge necessary to form intent about the actions the government has alleged. Conley would testify that Parnell’s ADHD is so severe that he likely never read, nor understood the significance of, many of the emails on which the government’s case relies.  Emails like:

“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.”

In rebuttal, the prosecution filed a report prepared by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Professor David Schretlen, who challenges the reliability of Conley’s principles and methods, claiming that he failed to secure sufficient information, including grade school performance and childhood diagnoses, or administer tests that would support the defense’s argument. Schretlen observed that: “both his cognitive test performance and his own written replies show that Mr. Parnell can pay attention to details, think and respond quickly, and grasp the significance of communiqués about product safety. Thus, I do not believe that neuropsychological expertise will help the trier of fact better understand evidence about whether Mr. Parnell had sufficient knowledge to commit the alleged crimes.”

If it were not for the sick and dead, Parnell’s punchline – err, defense – would be funny.  Frankly, it is just pathetic.

Over the last year the CDC reported a total of 481 persons infected with seven outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg in 25 states and Puerto Rico and an earlier total of 134 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg in 13 states.  Although FSIS issued a Public Health Alert following the second outbreak announcement, no recall was issued despite the chicken products being linked to Foster Farms.

However, during 2013, the following recalls were announced by the FDA on pet food tainted with Salmonella with no reported illnesses of pets or humans:

Bailey’s Choice Recalls Chicken Treats Because of Possible Salmonella Contamination

Nestle Purina Voluntarily Recalls Limited Number of Purina ONE beyOnd Our White Meat Chicken and Whole Barley Recipe Adult Dry Dog Food Bags Due to a Potential Health Risk

Goldenfeast® Inc. Recalls Bird Food Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination from Parsley

P&G Voluntarily Recalls Limited Quantity of Dry Pet Food Due to Possible Health Risk

Natura Pet Issues Voluntary Recall of Specialized Dry Pet Foods Due to a Possible Health Risk

Hartz Mountain Corporation is Voluntarily Recalling One Specific Lot of 1.2 oz. Size of Wardley Betta Fish Food Due to Possible Health Risk

Rural King Recalls Deer Corn Because of Possible Health Risk

Natura Pet Expands Voluntary Recall of Dry Pet Foods Due to Possible Health Risk

Merit Bird Company, LLS Recalls Vitae Because of Possible Health Risk

Bravo! Issues a Voluntary Recall for Three Raw Frozen Food Diet for Dogs and Cats Because of Possible Salmonella Health Risk

Natura Pet Expands Voluntary Recall of Dry Pet Foods Due to Possible Health Risk

Natura Pet Issues Voluntary Recall of Specialized Dry Pet Foods Due to Possible Health Risk

Bravo! Recalls 2 lb Tubes of Chicken Blend-Raw Frozen Food Diet for Dogs and Cats (One Lot Code) Because of Possible Salmonella Health Risk

Diggin’ Your Dog Recalls Strippin’ Chicks Pet Treats Distributed in Colorado and Nevada Due to Possible Salmonella Hazard

Steve’s Real Food Recalls Turducken Canine Recipe Patties Because of Possible Health Risk

Jones Natural Chews Co Recalls Woofers Dog Treats Because Of Possible Salmonella Health Risk

United Pet Group Inc., Voluntarily Withdraws “Ultra Blend Gourmet Food for Parakeets,” “eCotrition Grains & Greens Nutritional Supplement for Parakeets,” “eCotrition Grains & Greens Nutritional Supplement for Canaries and Finches,” and “eCotrition Grains & Greens Nutritional Supplement for Cockatiels” Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination

Kasel Associates Industries Recalling Certain Pet Treats Due to Salmonella Contamination

The Honest Kitchen® Voluntarily Recalls Limited Lots Of Verve®, Zeal®And Thrive® Products Due To Possible Health Risk

Nutri-Vet, LLC Recalls Nutri-Vet and Nutripet Chicken Jerky Products Because Of Possible Salmonella Health Risk

Kaytee Recalls Bird Treats and Greens Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination from Parsley Flakes

Kasel Associated Industries Recalls All Products Manufactured at its Denver, Colorado Facility from April 20, 2012 thru September 19, 2012 Because of Possible Salmonella Health Risk

Hmm, the dog is much cuter than the kid above anyway.