April 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 5.44.08 PMAccording to the Bellingham Herald – of the 32 cases traced to the festival:

  • 17 have been confirmed by the state’s public health lab or tested positive at local labs — or were people with E. coli symptoms who had been in close contact with someone in the first two groups.
  • 15 additional people had been at the festival and were sick but lab results, some of which were pending, weren’t available yet.
  • 4 have been hospitalized.

We have been retained by several of the families, including one child who has developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

The Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) continues to investigate an outbreak of shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157:H7 associated with the Milk Makers Fest that was held at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden Washington on 4/21 – 4/23/15. WCHD is continuing to interview cases to determine if there was a common food or water source or activity, such as the petting zoo or other contact with livestock.

It is certainly not like we have not seen this before:

For more information on the risks of zoonotic exposures, see Fair Safety Dot Com.

According to WCHD, shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections are caused by bacteria found in the guts of many mammals, some of which can cause severe infections. It takes only a relatively few (hundreds) of bacteria to cause infection. The bacteria can contaminate food, water, or surfaces where they can go from hand to mouth. Secondary cases are common among household members. Illness occurs 1-8 days after infection, and can be mild or severe. Symptoms include cramping diarrhea, which can become bloody after a few days. Usually there is no fever, or only a low grade one. Maintaining hydration can reduce the risk of complications. Severe disease can result in hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). Antibiotics and antimotility (antidiarrheal) medicines can increase the risk of HUS in STEC infections.

HY-VEE-LOGO-04292015Hy-Vee issued a recall Tuesday for its Hy-Vee Summer Fresh Pasta Salad due to possible listeria contamination. Hy-Vee recalled the pasta salad after the store was notified vegetables used in the pasta were potentially contaminated with listeria.

The company released a list of 45 stores on Wednesday that received the pasta salad.

“We immediately notified our stores and we identified which stores may have been distributed that product. We immediately identified and told them to dispose of that product,” said Tara Deering-Hanson, a spokeswoman for Hy-Vee.

The Summer Fresh Pasta Salad is sold in the kitchen department cold cases and salad bars. The recalled product would have been available between April 9 and April 27.

Hy-Vee officials said it has not received any complaints regarding the pasta salad.

sunimageSliced apples and products containing them produced by Sun Rich Fresh Foods Ltd., of Brampton, Ont., are being recalled because of the possible presence of Listeria.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency says the recall is based on its test results and there has been one illness linked to the slices.

The recall covers Sun Rich Apple Slices in 57-gram, 595-gram and three-pound packages with a best-before date of May 17. Other Sun Rich products – Fruit Medley, Waldorf Salad Kit and Apple Slices with Grapes – are also being recalled.

Shoppers Drug Mart Apples and Grapes, Starbucks Seasonal Fruit Salad and Subway Apples are also part of the recall.

The CFIA says food service establishments such as hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, hospitals and nursing homes should also avoid selling or using these products.

Food contaminated with Listeria can produce symptoms that include vomiting, nausea, persistent fever, muscle aches, severe headache and neck stiffness. Pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.

A list of the recalled products, package sizes and best-before dates are available at the CFIA website.

jenis-logoAccording to the Jeni’s website, after its ice cream has tested positive for Listeria, Jeni’s is destroying more than 535,000 pounds (265 tons) of ice cream. According to Jeni’s CEO, that is 15 semi-truck loads or more than 300 pallets. He estimates that this recall will cost the company more than $2.5 million.

That is a lot of ice cream. All of this, and the risk to the company and its employees could have been avoided with a more rigorous sanitation program and well as environmental and product testing – all of which Jeni’s has implemented – post problem.

And, some news on the topic:

Tainted ice cream raises larger questions about food safety

Jeni’s may face long recovery from recall

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-petting-zoo-image1008725The Whatcom County Health Department (WCHD) is investigating an outbreak of E. coli among school children. WCHD officials say four school children have lab-confirmed cases of E. coli and two others have E. coli symptoms after attending the Milk Makers Fest at the Northwest Fairgrounds in Lynden on 4/21/15. Two children have been hospitalized.

WCHD is interviewing the ill students and their parents to identify whether there was a common food or water source or activity, such as the petting zoo or other livestock contact. WCHD is also monitoring for spread to other household members. WCHD has contacted medical providers in Whatcom County about the outbreak and have asked them to obtain stool cultures and notify us of any cases of diarrhea in children that attended the event in Lynden.

WCHD is urging that if your child attended the Milk Makers Fest and develops diarrhea before May 1, please take your child to your regular health care provider for evaluation and testing. It is important to wash hands carefully with soap and running water after using the toilet and before eating to prevent the spread of infection. Children with diarrhea should stay home and not return to school until 24 hours after the diarrhea has stopped.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramping, sometimes with vomiting, with or without a low-grade fever. After several days, the diarrhea can become bloody. These infections can be mild, without bloody diarrhea, or can be severe, and complicated by kidney failure and hemolysis (breakdown of red blood cells). Antibiotics and antimotility medicines (antidiarrheal medicines) should not be used with STEC infections, since they increase the risk of kidney failure. Keeping the ill person well hydrated can reduce the risk of kidney failure.

thConsumer Federation of America (CFA) today released an in-depth analysis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) primary meat and poultry food safety regulatory program. The report found that while the program has resulted in benefits to public health, further progress has been hindered by gaps in the program and by a legal challenge which has constrained robust action.

The program, known as the Pathogen Reduction/Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (PR/HACCP) regulation, was implemented following the 1993 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses and deaths linked to undercooked hamburgers sold at Jack in the Box restaurants in the northwestern United States. The PR/HACCP regulation, which went into effect in 1998, requires meat and poultry plants to develop food safety systems in which plants take steps to identify and prevent contamination of meat and poultry products.

CFA’s report, titled “The Promise and Problems of HACCP: A Review of USDA’s Approach to Meat and Poultry Safety” traces the history of USDA’s implementation of the PR/HACCP regulation and identifies gaps which have hindered the ability of the regulation to fully protect consumers.

Specifically, the report cites two examples of ongoing problems which have not been adequately addressed in the 17 years since the regulation first took effect:

  • Too often plants have failed to develop effective food safety plans while USDA has failed to adequately identify problems with those plans.
  • Plants are repeatedly cited for reoccurring food safety violations with little consequence.

These gaps have continued to occur and have often been identified in the wake of large, nationwide foodborne illness outbreaks, yet the problems have not been adequately addressed. CFA recommends that USDA develop better approaches to reviewing plant food safety plans, including requiring that plants be required to prevent specific pathogens; and that USDA establish clear procedures to address reoccurring violations and when to take increased enforcement action.

The report also identifies how a court case brought against USDA by meat processor Supreme Beef in 1999 has hindered how USDA enforces its food safety regulations. In particular, the court case (Supreme Beef v USDA) limited the ability of USDA to enforce its regulations, effectively barring the government from shutting down a plant which fails to meet safety standards for Salmonella. Consumer groups have argued since that Congress should provide USDA with explicit authority to set and enforce food safety performance standards.

“USDA needs to provide better assurance that plants are reducing contamination of meat and poultry products and that the agency is effectively enforcing its regulations,” said Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at Consumer Federation of America. “Enforceable standards would allow the agency to take decisive action when a problem is first identified rather than after an outbreak has already occurred.”

The Report

The Summary

ucm444786Waymouth Farms, Inc. of New Hope, MN is recalling RAW PINE NUTS in various sizes, 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 product was distributed nationwide through retail stores and mail order under the Good Sense® brand. A list of packaging sizes, UPC codes and expiration dates is found here.

The 4 oz. bags above may have been sold as a floor display, UPC 30243 86683 with a date range of Sep 05, 2015 to Feb 04, 2016.

Product was also sold in a 5 lb. bulk box, UPC 30243 02860, from 06/04/14 to 03/26/15 using the following Julian Codes:

1 155 14

1 183 14

1 210 14

1 223 14

1 239 14

1 260 14

1 281 14

1 282 14

1 317 14

1 351 14

1 020 15

1 050 15

1 085 15

This bulk product would have been sold from bulk self-service grocery bins.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with the problem.

The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by the FDA revealed the presence of Salmonella in a 4 ounce package.

Production of the Pine Nuts has been suspended while Waymouth Farms, Inc. continues their investigation as to the source of the problem.

051914_groundbeef_600Skyline Provisions, Inc., a Harvey, Ill., establishment, is recalling 1,029 pounds of beef products contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

Produced between April 15-25, 2015, the following products are subject to recall:

17 ½ boxes of Aurora Packers Intact Beef Round Flats

On April 15, 2015, Skyline sold the product under their D&S label (Establishment number: 19300), ground and tested one and a half cases of the product. On April 21, 2015, these products were found positive for E. coli O157:H7. The remaining intact, products were sold to Jack & Pat’s Old Fashioned Market in Chicago Ridge, Ill., where the product was ground and sold in various amounts of ground chuck patties, ground chuck, ground round, sirloin patties and porter house patties.

FSIS discovered the problem during a routine sampling program. Neither FSIS nor the company received any reports of illnesses associated with consumption of this product. FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may have been sold and stored in consumers’ freezers.

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps 2–8 days (3–4 days, on average) after exposure the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

shrimp_on_the_barbieConsumer Reports scientists tested 342 packages of frozen shrimp: 284 raw, 58 cooked, purchased at stores around the country. Among the findings:

  • Bacterial residues were found on more than half the raw samples (60 percent) tested — including salmonella, E. coli and listeria.
  • In seven raw shrimp samples, scientists detected the antibiotic-resistant superbug Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which can cause dangerous infections.
  • Illegal antibiotic residues were present on 11 samples.
  • The fish packages were purchased at Albertsons, Costco, Fry’s Marketplace, Hy-Vee, Kroger, Sprouts Farmers Market, and Walmart in 27 cities across the U.S.

Yummy, NOT time to put “shrimp on the Barbie.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-27 at 3.07.42 PM21 Confirmed Cases with One Death and 10 Suspected Cases

Based on laboratory tests and interviews with potluck attendees, public health officials have concluded that potato salad made with home-canned potatoes is the likely cause of a foodborne botulism outbreak following a church potluck in Lancaster on April 19.

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by certain kinds of bacteria.

As of today, there are 21 confirmed cases of botulism associated with this outbreak, including one death. There are 10 suspected cases in which the individuals are exhibiting symptoms consistent with botulism. Patients have been treated with a botulism antitoxin provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 12 remain hospitalized.

“This is a difficult time for our community, and our thoughts and prayers are with the affected individuals and their families,” said Mark Aebi, M.D., Health Commissioner & Medical Director for Fairfield Department of Health. “I want to thank our staff for their dedication and hard work during this outbreak as well as the tremendous support we have received from ODH and the CDC. FMC’s rapid assessment and participation in this response has been invaluable as well.”

Mary DiOrio, M.D., Medical Director of the Ohio Department of Health, noted the local, state and federal collaboration in responding to the outbreak. The response involved public health including Fairfield Department of Health, Ohio Department of Health, and CDC, as well as central Ohio hospitals including Fairfield Medical Center.

“I want to thank my colleagues in these public health agencies and hospitals for the tremendous work that they have done to treat individuals who have been sickened, and to investigate and control the outbreak,” she said.