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August 2015

bainbridge-islandThe power was out for several hours on Bainbridge Island on Saturday after high winds and rain.  Fortunately our generator kicked in so we did not have to worry about spoiled food.  However, other residences and the restaurants and grocery stores had a bit more to worry about.   The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has compiled a list of what foods should be discarded if it has been held at a temperature above 4.4°C or 39.9°F for over two hours:

Refrigerated perishable foods that should be discarded:

  • Raw or leftover cooked meat, poultry, fish, or seafood; soy meat substitutes
  • Thawing meat or poultry
  • Salads: Meat, tuna, shrimp, chicken, or egg salad
  • Gravy, stuffing, broth
  • Lunchmeats, hot dogs, bacon, sausage, dried beef
  • Pizza – with any topping
  • Canned hams labeled “Keep Refrigerated”
  • Canned meats and fish, opened
  • Casseroles, soups, stews
  • Soft Cheeses: blue/bleu, Roquefort, Brie, Camembert, cottage, cream, Edam, Monterey
  • Jack, ricotta, mozzarella, Muenster, Neufchatel, queso blanco, queso fresco
  • Shredded Cheeses
  • Low-fat Cheeses
  • Milk, cream, sour cream, buttermilk, evaporated milk, yogurt, eggnog, soy milk
  • Baby formula, opened
  • Fresh eggs, hard-cooked in shell, egg dishes, egg products
  • Custards and puddings, quiche
  • Fresh fruits, cut
  • Opened mayonnaise, tartar sauce, horseradish (discard if above 10°C for over 8 hours)
  • Fish sauces, oyster sauce
  • Opened creamy-based dressings
  • Spaghetti sauce, opened jar
  • Refrigerator biscuits, rolls, cookie dough
  • Cooked pasta, rice, potatoes
  • Pasta salads with mayonnaise or vinaigrette
  • Fresh pasta
  • Cheesecake
  • Pastries, cream filled
  • Pies – custard, cheese filled, or chiffon; quiche
  • Vegetables: Greens, pre-cut, pre-washed, packaged
  • Vegetables, cooked; tofu
  • Vegetable juice, opened
  • Baked potatoes
  • Commercial garlic in oil
  • Potato salad
  • Casseroles, soups, stews

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Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 6.46.51 PMMarler Clark represents over a dozen sickened customers.  Pork shipped to retail outlets in Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

Kapowsin Meats, a Graham, Wash. establishment, is recalling approximately 523,380 pounds of pork products that may be contaminated with Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

FSIS has been conducting intensified sampling at Kapowsin Meats while this establishment took steps to address sanitary conditions at their facility after the original recall on August 13, 2015. Sampling revealed positive results for Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- on Whole Hogs for Barbeque, associated pork products and throughout the establishment. FSIS has deemed sanitary improvement efforts made by the Kapowsin Meats insufficient, and the scope of this recall has been expanded to include all products associated with contaminated source material. The establishment has voluntarily suspended operations.

The whole hogs and associated items were produced on various dates between April 18, 2015 and August 26, 2015. The following products are subject to recall:

  • Varying weights of boxed/bagged Whole Hogs for Barbeque
  • Varying weights of boxed/bagged fabricated pork products including various pork offal products, pork blood and pork trim.

The product subject to recall bears the establishment number “Est. 1628” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The product was shipped to various individuals, retail locations, institutions, and distributors in Alaska, Oregon and Washington.

On July 15, 2015, the Washington State Department of Health notified FSIS of an investigation of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- illnesses. Working in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FSIS determined that there is a link between whole hogs for barbeque and pork products from Kapowsin Meats and these illnesses. Traceback investigation has identified 36 case-patients who consumed whole hogs for barbeque or pork products from this establishment prior to illness onset. These illnesses are part of a larger illness investigation. Based on epidemiological evidence, 152 case-patients have been identified in Washington with illness onset dates ranging from April 25, 2015 to August 12, 2015. FSIS continues to work with our public health partners on this ongoing investigation.

PROTFIG24The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Health Canada to investigate 92 Canadian cases of Cyclospora infections in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec. The source of this outbreak is not yet known, and the Agency and its partners continue to investigate.

The risk to Canadians is low, but people with weakened immune systems, young children and older adults are at increased risk for developing complications if they get sick. In Canada and the US, past foodborne outbreaks of Cyclospora have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce.

Cyclospora is a microscopic single-celled parasite that is passed in people’s feces. If it comes in contact with food or water, it can infect the people who consume it. This causes an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis.

Cyclospora is most common in certain tropical and subtropical countries and regions.

In Canada, non-travel related illnesses due to Cyclospora occur more frequently in the spring and summer months. lllnesses among travellers can happen at any time of year.

In Canada, a total of 92 cases have been reported in British Columbia (4), Alberta (1), Ontario (82), and Quebec (5). Two cases have been hospitalized, and are recovered or recovering. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between May 3 and August 5, 2015. To date, no source has been identified. The investigation is ongoing.

Previous foodborne illness outbreaks of Cyclospora, in Canada and US have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce, such as pre-packaged salad mix, basil, cilantro, berries, mesclun lettuce and snow peas. Safety News reports that 115 people were reported sick after eating at a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley, CA last week.

Ventura County Public Health told Food Safety News that 98 customers and 17 employees were sickened on Aug. 18 and 19.

A number of people went to the ER, but it’s unknown if anyone was hospitalized.

After customers reported the illnesses to Chipotle, the “fast casual” restaurant notified health department officials and closed on Friday afternoon to clean and bring in new food before reopening on Saturday for lunch.

It’s unclear what made the customers ill, but the health department is collecting samples to test.

Public health officer Dr. Robert Levin, said the agency is “optimistic that we will find the culprit.”

An inspection of the Chipotle location posted Monday referenced violations for:

  • The premises and/or floors, walls, or ceiling are in an unsanitary condition.
  • Equipment or utensils are not clean, fully operative and in good repair.
  • Flying insects were observed within the food facility.
  • Food handlers employed at this facility do not possess a valid food handler card and/or records documenting that food employees possess a valid food handler card are not maintained by the food facility for review as required.
  • Equipment is connected directly to the sewer.
  • Wall and/or ceiling surfaces are deteriorated and/or damaged.
  • The restroom is unclean and in disrepair.
outbreak_map_8_25_2015As of August 21, 2015, CDC had been notified of 495 ill persons with confirmed Cyclospora infection from 30 states in 2015.

Most of these persons—293 (59%) of 495—experienced onset of illness on or after May 1, 2015, and did not have a history of international travel within 2 weeks before illness onset. These 293 persons were from the following 23 states: Arkansas (3), California (2), Connecticut (3), Florida (10), Georgia (23), Illinois (8), Iowa (1), Kansas (2), Maryland (1), Massachusetts (10), Michigan (2), Missouri (1), Montana (3), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (6), New Mexico (2), New York (excluding NYC) (9), New York City (21), North Carolina (1), Texas (168), Utah (1), Virginia (3), Washington (2), and Wisconsin (10).

  • Clusters of illness linked to restaurants or events have been identified in Texas, Wisconsin, and Georgia.
  • Cluster investigations are ongoing in Texas and Georgia.
  • Cluster investigations in Wisconsin and Texas have preliminarily identified cilantro as a suspect vehicle.
  • Investigations are ongoing to identify specific food item(s) linked to the cases that are not part of the identified clusters.

Previous U.S. outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to imported fresh produce, including cilantro from the Puebla region of Mexico. Read the related FDA Import Alert.

According to Texas, its count is 243.

Canada counts 87.

-gpndc5-5wazonvn82a18ke3s43toriginal.jpg20100922Four months ago, Iowa egg producers Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter, were each sentenced to 90 days in prison for their role in the nation’s largest egg-related salmonella outbreak.

Now, however, the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, the National Association of Manufacturers and other major business organizations are fighting to keep the DeCosters out of prison.

They’ve filed briefs with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, siding with the DeCosters in arguing that while fines and probation are acceptable in such cases, it’s unconstitutional to put corporate executives behind bars for the criminal actions of their underlings.

It’s an interesting case with major legal and ethical implications. After all, mere fines aren’t much of a deterrent to executives who collect multi-million-dollar salaries. But a 90-day stint in prison, as the DeCosters themselves argue in their court filings, carries with it the “personal loss and stigma” associated with becoming a convict.

In this case, a prison sentence certainly seems warranted. The Quality Egg salmonella outbreak of 2010 sickened at least 56,000 people and triggered a record-setting recall of more than half a billion eggs.

As to whether the DeCosters themselves were to blame for the outbreak, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett found the two men had created a “culture of rampant safety violations” and a “work environment where employees not only felt comfortable disregarding regulations and bribing USDA officials, but may have even felt pressure to do so.”

According to federal authorities, Quality Egg routinely, for at least three years, provided false paperwork to auditors who inspected the plant and reviewed company records to ensure egg safety. On at least two occasions, Quality Egg officials bribed a USDA inspector to overlook regulatory violations in return for cash. For at least eight years, the company regularly shipped eggs that were labeled with falsified processing dates and expiration dates to conceal the fact that the eggs were old.

Were Jack and Peter DeCoster — whose companies had previously violated regulations dealing not just with salmonella, but with the minimum wage, pollution, workplace safety, animal cruelty, child labor and the hiring of undocumented immigrants — conscientious business executives repeatedly victimized by rogue, low-level employees?

Hardly. The DeCosters either facilitated, or were willfully blind to, the crimes that transpired on their watch. As “responsible corporate officers,” the two voluntarily pleaded guilty to the crime of introducing contaminated eggs into the nation’s food supply.

Now the National Association of Manufacturers, which has told the appeals court it “has a substantial interest in ensuring that executives at companies that are members of NAM are not subject to prison sentences,” is arguing that the DeCosters shouldn’t go to jail, even for one day.

“If executives can be imprisoned for criminal violations of strict liability laws by virtue of the position they hold within a company, the United States economy would suffer,” the association says in its court filing. “Executive business decisions would be motivated less by good business principles and more by fear of possible future prison sentences.”

That is pure claptrap.

Decisions driven by “good business principles” don’t lend themselves to criminal prosecution. On the other hand, executives who facilitate and profit from crimes committed by their hired hands should not be exempt from the full measure of the law.

Tens of thousands of people were sickened as a direct result of the manner in which the DeCosters managed — or, rather, mismanaged — Quality Egg and its employees. For that, the DeCosters should be held accountable. A prison sentence is entirely appropriate.

Consumer Reports produced a report today – “How Safe Is Your Ground Beef” – and there is some bad news – some fecal contamination in nearly every sample – and there is some good news – what was found will not likely kill you.

Consumer Reports “purchased 300 packages—a total of 458 pounds (the equivalent of 1,832 quarter-pounders)—from 103 grocery, big-box, and natural food stores in 26 cities across the country.”  The bought “conventional” beef – feedlots and finished on grain with a touch of antibiotics; as well as “sustainable” – grass fed and without antibiotics. Below are charts of the findings:


CR-Health-Where-Superbugs-Lurk-Chart-08-15According to the report:

All 458 pounds of beef we examined contained bacteria that signified fecal contamination (enterococcus and/or nontoxin-producing E. coli), which can cause blood or urinary tract infections. Almost 20 percent contained C. perfringens, a bacteria that causes almost 1 million cases of food poisoning annually. Ten percent of the samples had a strain of S. aureus bacteria that can produce a toxin that can make you sick. That toxin can’t be destroyed—even with proper cooking.

Just 1 percent of our samples contained salmonella. That may not sound worrisome, but, says Rangan, “extrapolate that to the billions of pounds of ground beef we eat every year, and that’s a lot of burgers with the potential to make you sick.” Indeed, salmonella causes an estimated 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths in the U.S. each year.

One of the most significant findings of our research is that beef from conventionally raised cows was more likely to have bacteria overall, as well as bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, than beef from sustainably raised cows. We found a type of antibiotic-resistant S. aureus bacteria called MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), which kills about 11,000 people in the U.S. every year, on three conventional samples (and none on sustainable samples). And 18 percent of conventional beef samples were contaminated with superbugs—the dangerous bacteria that are resistant to three or more classes of antibiotics—compared with just 9 percent of beef from samples that were sustainably produced. “We know that sustainable methods are better for the environment and more humane to animals. But our tests also show that these methods can produce ground beef that poses fewer public health risks,” Rangan says.

Packers-Seahawks.1aThe case count has continued to grow as state health officials work with Public Health — Seattle & King County along with other local, state, and federal partners on the disease investigation. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent its team of “disease detectives” to the state to help. Investigators are interviewing the most recent cases and comparing information to early cases, which were first reported in the spring.

Disease investigators are searching for possible contamination and exposure sources from a wide range of possible venues, including restaurants, markets, slaughter facilities, and farms/ranches. Salmonella bacteria are commonly found in animals used for food, and proper storage, handling, preparation, and cooking can help prevent the illness known as salmonellosis.

Most of the illnesses have been confirmed with the outbreak strain of Salmonella 4,5,12:I:- bacteria, and early testing shows a connection to a slaughter facility in Graham, WA. Samples were collected at Kapowsin Meats in Pierce County last week. Testing confirms the outbreak strain was present. The business, which is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, has cooperated with the investigation. There may be other sources and disease investigators are searching for the origin of the Salmonella bacteria in the outbreak.

The 134 cases include residents of Clark (2), Cowlitz (1), Grays Harbor (1), King (84), Kitsap (1), Mason (2), Pierce (12), Snohomish (24), Thurston (2), and Yakima (5) counties.

In May 2015 public health officials in Kenosha, Wisconsin investigated an outbreak of Salmonella linked to food purchased over Mother’s Day weekend (May 9-10) at the Supermercado Los Corrales in Kenosha. More than 70 people were reported to be ill. Thirty five patients were laboratory confirmed with Salmonella 4,5,12:I:-. Patients were infected with an indistinguishable strain. The outbreak strain was isolated in pork carnitas. The meat and food preparation areas of the facility were closed during the investigation.

DeepCoriander_250x406Chetak New York LLC of Edison, NJ, is recalling “Deep Coriander Powder” because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The recalled Lot# LE15152 “Deep Coriander Powder” jars were distributed nationwide in retail store from July 30, 2015, to August 13, 2015. The product comes in a 14.1-oz. clear plastic jar marked with the UPC number 011433134347 on the rear of the package. The lot number can be located on the bottom of the jar.

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

The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing conducted by FDA.