November 2015

dude_its_Beef_Tshirt_picI will be setting for a deposition in the “Pink Slime” lawsuit this Wednesday despite that fact that I am representing two of the defendants.  For more than a few hundred food manufacturing CEO’s and managers of companies I have sued and deposed on behalf of victims, the thought that I will be put under oath for 8 hours should give you a perverse pleasure.  As I was preparing for being “grilled” by going though a couple of years of emails and documents, I ran across this Op-ed that still is right on point.

What if you were the CEO of a multimillion dollar, privately held food manufacturing company and awoke one morning to find that the name of your best selling product (you previously had painstakingly crafted the name to sound so appetizing) was now known to the public as “Blue Barf,” “Green Goop,” “Purple Puke,” “Red Rubbish,” or “Yellow Yuck?”

What if you had come from nothing and had worked your adult life to create a product used widely by consumers only to find that those same consumers (despite all your donations to charity) had turned against you?

Now, instead of consumers happily (perhaps unknowingly) eating millions of pounds of your product yearly in homes, schools and restaurants, many of those consumers are “twittering” and “facebooking” that your product is now pure evil.  Thousands of formerly ignorant consumers are now signing petitions asking for the product to be banned or at least labeled.  Bloggers (those damn bloggers) are recycling news articles of years past that cited emails from former government employees that raised questions about the chemicals in your product and coined the terms “Blue Barf,” “Green Goop,” “Purple Puke,” “Red Rubbish,” or “Yellow Yuck.”  Now the “lame stream” media, “faux” news and the 24-hour news channels are piling on.  And, to pour salt into your wounds, the comedians pounce – making your product the butt end of every late night joke.

Consumers have reacted and pressured grocery stores, schools and restaurants to pull your product.  For the first time in decades sales have dropped.  Your plants are temporarily closed and the specter of unemployed workers weighs heavily on the now isolated CEO.

Sitting in the boardroom (it feels more like a bunker) with family, friends, and a pile of consultants (all of them paid handsomely) the CEO feels more than slightly paranoid, and for good reason.  People are actually out to get him.  He turns to his circle of family, friends and consultants and asks: “Why is this happening?”  “How can we rebuild public trust and sales?”

“Why is this happening?”

Although many food companies and their government minders feel that consumers, like mushrooms, are best left in the dark, today where information, accurate or not, is accessed on smartphones, the old rules simply do not apply.

“Why is this happening?”  It is happening because the CEO did not trust consumers with the truth.  Pre-the easily accessible Internet, companies and governments simply made decisions and assumed the public did not care or did not need to know what was in their food.  That is neither no longer possible nor the case.

Not openly explaining how the food product was made and what all the additives and ingredients are was a foundational mistake for this CEO.  Of course, even 10 years ago it was possible to have an idea for a food additive (err, processing aide), to get a college professor hungry for research dollars to give it high marks, and to get a government bureaucrat yearning for a post-public sector job, to approve its quiet introduction into commerce.   Those days are done.

It was also a bad idea to ignore dissenting expert opinions that made it into memos and emails.  Documents, especially electronic ones, now exist forever, and, if there exists something negative about your product it cannot and should not be ignored.

“How can we rebuild public trust and sales?”

First, there are a couple of things not to do.

Do not shoot the messenger.  Blaming what is now happening on the media or the moms who are concerned about their kids health never works.  Had you not built the foundation of your business in part by deciding the public did not need to know something – even something that you believed was good for them – the explosion of negativism you are now experiencing would have been a passing storm instead of a hurricane.

Do not threaten legal action against anyone.  There are too many good lawyers (this one included) who would gladly take up their defense – pro bono.

For goodness sakes, do not play the political card.  Sure, you have given hundreds of thousands of dollars (perhaps millions) to politicians (hopefully from both parties – Republicans and Democrats will equally prostitute themselves), but do not make them dance in support of your product as they try to explain that the money you threw at them has no bearing on their willingness to dance.  And, please do not make them eat your product or say how safe it is in front of the national media.  No one will believe people that you paid to endorse your product.  Remember, politicians are considered only slightly more trustworthy than lawyers, however, both are in single digits.

So, how can you rebuild sales when what consumers see and hear are “Blue Barf,” “Green Goop,” “Purple Puke,” “Red Rubbish,” or “Yellow Yuck?”

Simple, just tell the truth.

Why not say it was a mistake to hide from the public all ingredients and additives that are in the product?  Tell the consumer what they already know – they have a right to know.

Why not tell the public how the product is made and what is in it?  If you are proud of your product, explain in honest and clear terms why you are.

Tell the consumer what the real benefit of the product is.  Does it taste good?  Is it healthful?  Does it save on energy?  Is it sustainable?  Does it create good jobs?  Is it good for the environment?

Is the product itself, what is added to it, and the process to make it, safe?  What have been and are your lab test results?  Why not post them online?  If you are proud of the safety of your product, prove it.

Invite the public, not politicians, to your plant for a tour and a taste test.

Bottom line:  If you have nothing to hide then hide nothing.

Humans have a great capacity to forgive when they are told the facts.  Perhaps someday “Blue Barf,” “Green Goop,” “Purple Puke,” “Red Rubbish,” or “Yellow Yuck” will be forgotten and the name you so painstakingly crafted to sound so appetizing will be remembered – Dude.

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 2.58.23 PMIt has been a busy last several weeks for public health investigators (and lawyers) and uncomfortable (and sometimes deadly) weeks for food poisoning victims, as well as management for several companies. Here are just a few of the outbreaks hitting the news:

Salmonella Cucumbers: As of November 18, 2015, 838 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona have been reported from 38 states. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Alaska (17), Arizona (129), Arkansas (13), California (232), Colorado (19), Connecticut (1), Florida (1), Hawaii (1), Idaho (24), Illinois (9), Indiana (5), Iowa (7), Kansas (2), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (5), Maryland (1), Minnesota (40), Missouri (14), Montana (16), Nebraska (8), Nevada (16), New Hampshire (1), New Mexico (32), New York (6), North Dakota (8), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (13), Oregon (22), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (10), South Dakota (3), Texas (42), Utah (58), Virginia (1), Washington (25), Wisconsin (43), and Wyoming (7). Four deaths have been reported from Arizona (1), California (1), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (1). On September 4, 2015, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce voluntarily recalled all cucumbers sold under the “Limited Edition” brand label during the period from August 1, 2015 through September 3, 2015 because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.

E. coli Chipotle: Forty-five people infected with the outbreak strain of STEC O26 have been reported from 6 states. The majority of illnesses have been reported from Washington and Oregon. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: California (2), Minnesota (2), New York (1), Ohio (1), Oregon (13), and Washington (26). The epidemiologic evidence available to investigators at this time suggests that a meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants at several states is a likely source of this outbreak. The investigation has not identified what specific food is linked to illness.

E. coli Costco Chicken Salad: A total of 19 people infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing STEC O157:H7 have been reported from 7 states. The majority of illnesses have been reported from states in the western United States. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: California (1), Colorado (4), Missouri (1), Montana (6), Utah (5), Virginia (1), and Washington (1). The epidemiologic evidence available to investigators at this time suggests that rotisserie chicken salad made and sold in Costco stores is a likely source of this outbreak. The Montana Public Health Laboratory tested a sample of celery and onion diced blend collected from a Costco location. Preliminary results indicated the presence of E. coli O157:H7. Laboratory testing is ongoing to isolate the E. coli bacteria and then determine the DNA fingerprint. The celery and onion diced blend was supplied to Costco by Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. and was used to make the Costco rotisserie chicken salad eaten by ill people in this outbreak.

Could a person in a “position of responsibility or authority in a firm” above face criminal sanctions? Perhaps. Should they? That is a debate to have. It would make me nervous if I sat in a position of authority in one of the companies above or one of their suppliers.

By way of background, in 1938 Congress passed the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) in reaction to growing public food safety demands.  The primary goal of the Act was to protect the health and safety of the public by preventing deleterious, adulterated or misbranded articles, including food, from entering interstate commerce.

Under section 402(a)(4) of the Act, a food product is deemed “adulterated” if the food was “prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby it may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby it may have been rendered injurious to health.” A food product is also considered “adulterated” if it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance, which may render it injurious to health. Chapter III of the Act addresses prohibited acts, subjecting violators to both civil and criminal liability.

Felony violations include adulterating or misbranding a food, drug, or device, and putting an adulterated or misbranded food, drug, or device into interstate commerce.  Any person who commits a prohibited act violates the FDCA.  A person committing a prohibited act “with the intent to defraud or mislead” is guilty of a felony punishable by years in jail and millions in fines or both. The key here is an intentional act.

A misdemeanor conviction under the FDCA, unlike a felony conviction, does not require proof of fraudulent intent, or even of knowing or willful conduct.  Rather, a person may be convicted if he or she held a position of responsibility or authority in a firm such that the person could have prevented the violation – prevented the tainted product from entering interstate commerce. Again, unlike a felony and misdemeanor charge is a crime with no intent.  Convictions under the misdemeanor provisions are punishable by not more than one year or fined not more than $250,000, or both.

Here are four recent cases where prosecutors brought criminal charges – the first three are misdemeanor charges and the last a felony charge:

  • In 2012 Eric Jensen, age 37, and Ryan Jensen, age 33, brothers who owned and operated Jensen Farms, a fourth generation cantaloupe operation, located in Colorado, presented themselves to U.S. marshals in Denver and were taken into custody on federal charges brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the Food and Drug Administration – Office of Criminal Investigation. According to the six-count indictment, Eric and Ryan Jensen unknowingly introduced adulterated (Listeria-tainted) cantaloupe into interstate commerce. The indictment further stated that the cantaloupe was prepared, packed and held under conditions, which rendered it injurious to health.  The outbreak sickened over 147, killing over 33 in 28 states in the fall of 2011.  The Jensen’s faced up to six years in jail and $1,500,000 in fines each. The eventually pleaded guilty and were sentenced to five years probation.
  • In 2013, Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter DeCoster, both faced charges stemming from a Salmonella outbreak caused by their Iowa egg farms in 2010.  The Salmonella outbreak ran from May 1 to November 30, 2010, and prompted the recall of more than a half-billion eggs. And, while there were 1,939 confirmed infections, statistical models used to account for Salmonella illnesses in the U.S. suggested that the eggs might have sickened more than 62,000 people. The family business, known as Quality Egg LLC, pleaded guilty in 2015 to a federal felony count of bribing a USDA egg inspector and to two misdemeanors of unknowingly introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce. As part of the plea agreement, Quality Egg paid a $6.8-million fine and the DeCosters $100,000 each, for a total of $7 million.  Both DeCosters were sentenced to three months in jail. They are appealing the jail sentence.
  • In 2015 ConAgra Foods agreed to plead guilty and pay $11.2 million in connection with the shipment of Salmonella contaminated peanut butter linked to a 2006 through 2007 nationwide outbreak of that sickened over 700. ConAgra signed a plea agreement admitting that it unknowingly introduced Peter Pan and private label peanut butter contaminated with Salmonella into interstate commerce during the 2006 through 2007 outbreak.
  • In 2014 former Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, his brother and one-time peanut broker, Michael Parnell, and Mary Wilkerson, former quality control manager at the company’s Blakely, Georgia, plant, faced a federal jury in Albany, Georgia. The 12-member jury found Stewart Parnell guilty on 67 federal felony counts, Michael Parnell was found guilty on 30 counts, and Wilkerson was found guilty of one of the two counts of obstruction of justice charged against her. Two other PCA employees earlier pleaded guilty. The felony charges of introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, “with the intent to defraud or mislead,” stemmed from a 2008 to 2009 Salmonella outbreak that sickened 714 and left nine dead. Stewart Parnell is now spending 28 years in prison and Michael 20. Mary Wilkerson is going to jail for 5 years.

So, are the producers of cucumbers, chicken salad or burritos (or ingredient suppliers) likely to face criminal prosecution – perhaps not given the recent history of no prosecutions in similar cases. Here are four where no charges have been brought – at least as of yet:

  • Glass Onion E. coli Outbreak: A total of 33 persons infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 were reported from four states. The number of ill persons identified in each state was as follows: Arizona (1), California (28), Texas (1), and Washington (3). 32% of ill persons were hospitalized. Two ill persons developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and no deaths were reported. Epidemiologic and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials indicated that consumption of two ready-to-eat salads, Field Fresh Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken and Mexicali Salad with Chili Lime Chicken, produced by Glass Onion Catering and sold at grocery store locations, was the likely source of this outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections. On November 10, 2013, Glass Onion Catering recalled numerous ready-to-eat salads and sandwich wrap products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.
  • 2013 Townsend Farms/Costco Hepatitis A Outbreak: A total of 165 people were confirmed to have become ill from hepatitis A linked to pomegranate arils contained in ‘Townsend Farms Organic Antioxidant Blend’ in 10 states: Arizona (23), California (79), Colorado (28), Hawaii (8), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (11), Nevada (6), Utah (3), and Wisconsin (2). The major outbreak strain of hepatitis A virus, belonging to genotype 1B, was found in clinical specimens of 117 people in nine states. This genotype is rarely seen in the Americas but circulates in North Africa and the Middle East. This genotype was identified in a 2013 outbreak of hepatitis A virus infections in Europe linked to frozen berries and a 2012 outbreak in British Columbia related to a frozen berry blend with pomegranate seeds from Egypt.
  • 2014 Bidart Brothers Listeria Apple Outbreak: A total of 35 people infected with the outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes were reported from 12 states: Arizona (5), California (3), Colorado (1), Minnesota (4), Missouri (5), Nevada (1), New Mexico (6), North Carolina (1), Texas (4), Utah (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (3). Of these, 34 people were hospitalized. Listeriosis contributed to at least three of the seven deaths reported. Eleven illnesses were pregnancy-related (occurred in a pregnant woman or her newborn infant), with one illness resulting in a fetal loss. Three invasive illnesses (meningitis) were among otherwise healthy children aged 5–15 years. On January 6, 2015, Bidart Bros. of Bakersfield, California, recalled Granny Smith and Gala apples because environmental testing revealed contamination with Listeria monocytogenes at the firm’s apple-packing facility.
  • 2015 Blue Bell Ice Cream Listeria Outbreak: A total of 10 people with Listeriosis related to this outbreak were reported from 4 states: Arizona (1), Kansas (5), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (3). All ill people were hospitalized. Three deaths were reported from Kansas (3). On April 21, CDC reported that whole genome sequencing confirmed that the people from Arizona (1) and Oklahoma (1) were part of the outbreak, bringing the total case count to 10. On May 7, 2015, FDA released the findings from recent inspections at the Blue Bell production facilities that found significant food safety violations.

So, what are your thoughts?

onions-and-celery-choppedCostco announced Wednesday and Taylor Farms Pacific announced Thursday that they were recalling celery and onion mix (Costco with chicken) because they may include celery, which could potentially contain E. coli 0157:H7. The products were recalled due to a celery and onion diced blend testing positive for E. coli O157:H7 in a sample taken by the Montana Department of Health. The celery and onion diced blend tested by the state of Montana was used in a Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad that has been linked to a multi-state E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has sickened 19.

Are both onions and celery being recalled, or is it just celery and products with celery in them?  It is a bit hard to tell from the FDA Recall Announcement.  Frankly, if it was a blend of celery and onion diced blend that tested positive for E. coli O157:H7, how would you decide what to recall – except for both?

So, was it the celery or the onions? Perhaps a bit of history?

Celery

2014 Outbreak of E. coli O157, Fond du Lac Tribe, Minnesota

In July 2014 Minnesota health and agriculture agencies investigated and outbreak of E. coli O157 among residents of the Fond du Lac reservation. Many of the ill cases attended a variety of events taking place in mid-July. A catering company in Cloque…Read More »

SanGar Produce & Processing Company Listeria Chopped Celery 2010

On October 20, 2010, the Texas Department of State Health Services ordered Sangar Fresh Cut Produce, located in San Antonio, Texas, to stop production, and to recall, all products shipped from the plant since January. An investigation found that all…Read More »

Oregon School Norovirus Celery 2007

A confirmed outbreak of Norovirus occurred among people who had eaten celery while at a school in Oregon.…Read More »

Onions

Canada Green Onions 2010

An outbreak of Salmonella Oranienberg was linked to the consumption of green onions in Ontario, Canada. The green onions were sold through various outlets of the Highland Farms Supermarkets. They were sold unwrapped and held together with a rubber …Read More »

Chi Chi’s Restaurant Green Onions 2003

Pennsylvania State health officials first learned of a Hepatitis A outbreak when unusually high numbers of hepatitis A cases were reported in late October, 2003. All but one of the initial cases had eaten at the Chi Chi’s restaurant at the Beaver …Read More »

Ohio Restaurant Green Onions 1998

An outbreak of hepatitis A occurred among patrons of an Ohio restaurant. The restaurant’s food workers were tested for hepatitis A; there was no evidence that a food handler could have contaminated the food with hepatitis A virus. A case-control st…Read More »

Spokane Dinner Banquet Green Onions 1997

Gastroenteritis caused by Cryptosporidium occurred among members of a group attending a dinner banquet at a Spokane, Washington restaurant on December 18. The ill (87% of the group) had diarrhea and/or abdominal cramping within 10 days of eating the…Read More »

Green Onions/Scallions 1994

An outbreak of Shigella flexneri 6A occurred in two U.S. states. The scallions possibly were contaminated during harvest or packaging in Mexico.…Read More »

tyf_logoToday Taylor Farms Pacific announced that it is recalling celery and onion mix because they may include celery, which could potentially contain E. coli 0157:H7. The products are being recalled due to a celery and onion diced blend testing positive for E. coli O157:H7 in a sample taken by the Montana Department of Health. The celery and onion diced blend tested by the state of Montana was used in a Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad that has been linked to a multi-state E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that has sickened 19.

And, this is not Taylor Farms first outbreak or recall.

Multi-state outbreak of Cyclospora cayetanensis – June-August 2013

During June-August 2013, CDC, state and local public health officials, and the FDA investigated an unusually large number of reports of cyclosporiasis. A total of 631 persons were reported from 25 states and New York City. Investigators concluded that…Read More »

Taylor Farms Shredded lettuce 2009

Shredded lettuce sickened 145 people with Salmonella Typhimurium in the western states of the USA and at least 12 people in Canada. Shredded lettuce, possibly from quick-service restaurant locations, seemed the likely cause of the outbreak. A common…Read More »

 

635840791552948482-uscpcent02-6mmsrmdc1cnuc1fw2we-layoutCross-contamination between raw meat and mousse ingredients likely cause.

The Washoe County Health District believes that the E. coli O157:H7 contamination of the desserts (chocolate mousse) manufactured at Reno Provisions resulted from cross-contamination that occurred during the dessert’s production.   According to Health District officials the food manufacturer has cooperated fully with investigators.  The source of the contamination has been addressed and no additional contaminated food items have been identified.

Due to the cross-contamination which occurred at Reno Provisions and its connection to special food processing operations conducted there, the Health District has directed Reno Provisions to halt these special operations until detailed plans are submitted for review and approval by the Health District.  The plans will be established through a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system approach, which addresses analysis and control of hazards during the food production processes.  The plans will establish active administrative controls for these special food processing operations at Reno Provisions prior to the continuation of these processes.

According to a statement released by Reno Provisions, owner Mark Estee, the E. coli made its way into the kitchen through the cross-contamination of meat and dessert processing equipment.

“Our food production records allowed us to quickly identify that the wrong mixer was used to blend meat, transferring contaminants to the dessert,” Estee said. “This was an isolated incident that violated our preparation protocols.”

Since mid-October twenty-two confirmed and probable cases of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported in Washoe County. The majority of the cases had eaten at a local restaurant (Twisted Fork), which served a dessert (chocolate mousse) manufactured by Reno Provisions. Health District epidemiologists and environmentalists traced the source through hundreds of hours of investigation, interviewing people and testing foods, until the E. coli O157:H7 source was identified.

image-of-labelCDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, and public health officials in several states are investigating an outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157:H7 (STEC O157:H7) infections.

A total of 19 people infected with the outbreak strain of Shiga toxin-producing STEC O157:H7 have been reported from 7 states. The majority of illnesses have been reported from states in the western United States. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: California (1), Colorado (4), Missouri (1), Montana (6), Utah (5), Virginia (1), and Washington (1).

Among people for whom information is available, illnesses started on dates ranging from October 6, 2015 to November 3, 2015. Ill people range in age from 5 years to 84, with a median age of 18. Fifty-seven percent of ill people are female. Five (29%) people reported being hospitalized, and two people developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported..

The epidemiologic evidence available to investigators at this time suggests that rotisserie chicken salad made and sold in Costco stores is a likely source of this outbreak. The ongoing investigation has not identified what specific ingredient in the chicken salad is linked to illness.

State and local public health officials are interviewing ill people to obtain information about foods they might have eaten and other exposures in the week before their illness started. Fourteen (88%) of 16 people purchased or ate rotisserie chicken salad from Costco.

On November 20, 2015, Costco reported to public health officials that the company had removed all remaining rotisserie chicken salad from all stores in the United States and stopped further production of the product until further notice.

costco_wholesale_gettyimages_1374006551448_446408_ver1.0_640_480The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is working with other western states and the CDC to investigate illnesses due to E. coli O157:H7 from chicken salad purchased at Colorado Costco stores in late October.

Consumers with “Chicken Salad made with Rotisserie Chicken” – item number 37719 – purchased from Costco in Colorado should discard it.

Four cases of E. coli O157:H7 have been confirmed in Colorado, including two cases in Jefferson County and one each in Arapahoe and Routt counties. One person was hospitalized; all have recovered. The individuals purchased the product on Oct. 25 and 26 and became ill between Oct. 28 and Nov. 3.

The FDA, USDA-FSIS, and CDC are working with Costco to determine the source of contamination.

Other states with confirmed E. coli cases linked to the chicken salad include Utah, Montana and Washington.

“We are working with Costco,” said Alicia Cronquist, an epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “FDA reported to us the product has been removed from the shelves and no longer is for sale in Colorado.”

People who have eaten the product and feel ill should consult with their health care provider.

The Washington State Department of Health, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other western states, are investigating E. coli illnesses from chicken salad purchased from various Costco stores in late October. Washington has confirmed one case of E. coli O157:H7 from King County, who became ill in late October. This confirmed case was not hospitalized.

“We take E. coli very seriously in Washington,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist, “and we are working with CDC and state partners to determine the source.”

Others states with confirmed E. coli cased linked to Costco chicken salad include Colorado, Montana, and Utah. In addition to CDC, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture are working with Costco to determine the source of the contamination.

People who have eaten this product and feel ill should consult with their health care provider. If you have leftover product in your refrigerator or freezer do not eat it and discard the product. People usually get sick 2-8 days after getting E. coli. Only people who have symptoms should see a health care provider.

A.  Animals in public settings. Measures to prevent human disease. The purpose of this statute is to protect the public from diseases transmitted to humans from animals in public settings. “Animal” means only those animals that may transmit infectious diseases. “Animal contact exhibit” means any sanctioned agricultural fair where animals are displayed on the exhibition grounds for physical contact with humans.

B.  Permit Required. For the protection of the public health and safety, the general public may operate no animal exhibition venue for use unless the owner or operator has first obtained an operation permit issued by the State Board of Agriculture. The State Board of Agriculture may issue an operation permit only after physical inspection of the animal exhibition and a determination that the animal exhibition meets the requirements of this section and rules adopted pursuant to this section.

C.  Educational Outreach. The State Board of Agriculture shall make consultative and educational efforts to inform agricultural fair operators, exhibitors, agritourism business operators, and the general public about the health risks associated with diseases transmitted by physical contact with animals.

D.  Venue Operator Requirements.

1.  Signage. An animal contact exhibit shall provide visible signage at the entrance and exit of the exhibit to educate the public regarding: the fact that animal contact may pose a health risk; items that are prohibited in animal areas; the identity of high risk populations, including the elderly, children under the age of six, women who are pregnant, and people with an existing health condition; and the location of hand-washing stations. Signage shall be provided to direct patrons to hand-washing stations.

2.  Prohibited Items. In order to minimize hand to mouth contact, no pacifiers, baby bottles, drink cups, food, drink or smoking shall be allowed in animal contact exhibits. Only food provided by the animal contact exhibit may be fed to the animals. Animal food shall not be provided in containers that are human food items, such as ice cream cones.

3.  Hand-washing Stations. Hand-washing stations with soap, hot running water, paper towels and disposal containers shall be located within 10 feet of the exit of an animal contact exhibit. Hand-washing stations suitable for small children shall be available. Hand washing facilities should be accessible, sufficient for the maximum anticipated attendance, and configured for use by children and adults. Children aged <5 years should wash their hands with adult supervision. Staff training and posted signs should emphasize the need to wash hands after touching animals or their environment, before eating, and on leaving the interaction area. Communal basins do not constitute adequate hand washing facilities.

4.  Surfaces, Exhibit Areas. Surfaces in the animal contact exhibit that can be touched by both fair patrons and animals shall be cleaned and disinfected daily and at any time visible contamination is present. All animal fencing, feed troughs, and open watering systems shall be disinfected prior to and at the end of each fair.

5.  Regulations. For the protection of the public health and safety, the Commissioner of Agriculture, with the advice and approval of the State Board of Agriculture, and in consultation with the Division of Public Health of the Department of Health and Human Services, shall adopt rules concerning the operation of and issuance of permits for animal exhibitions. Suggested Regulations:

(1) Signage:

An animal contact exhibit shall provide visible signage at the entrance and exit of the exhibit to educate the public regarding:

(i) the fact that animal contact may pose a health risk;

(ii) items that are prohibited in animal areas;

(iii) the identity of high risk populations, including:

(a) the elderly;

(b) children under the age of six;

(c) women who are pregnant;

(d) people with an existing health condition; and

(iiii) the location of hand-washing stations.

(2) Venues:

(a) Animals and bedding shall be separated from the public with fencing to minimize the public’s contact with manure and bedding.

(b) Fencing shall be at least 29 inches high. On the side(s) of the exhibit intended for public contact, the fencing shall have a solid board or panel at the bottom at least eight inches high to contain manure and bedding.

(c) Fencing may allow children to reach through or over to pet and feed animals.

(3) Prohibited Items:

(a) In order to minimize hand to mouth contact, no pacifiers, baby bottles, drink cups, food, drink or smoking shall be allowed in animal contact exhibits.

(4) Venue operators should take the following steps:

  • Become familiar with and implement the recommendations in this compendium.
  • Consult with veterinarians, state and local agencies, and cooperative extension personnel on implementation of the recommendations.
  • Become knowledgeable about the risks for disease and injury associated with animals and be able to explain risk-reduction measures to staff members and visitors.
  • Be aware that direct contact with some animals is inappropriate in public settings, and this should be evaluated separately for different audiences.
  • Develop or obtain training and educational materials and train staff members.
  • Ensure that visitors receive educational messages before they enter the exhibit, including information that animals can cause injuries or carry organisms that can cause serious illness.
  • Provide information in a simple and easy-to-under- stand format that is age and language appropriate.
  • Provide information in multiple formats (e.g., signs, stickers, handouts, and verbal information) and languages.
  • Provide information to persons arranging school field trips or classroom exhibits so that they can educate participants and parents before the visit.
  • Venue staff members should take the following steps:
  • Become knowledgeable about the risks for disease and injury associated with animals and be able to explain risk-reduction recommendations to visitors.
  • Ensure that visitors receive educational messages regarding risks and prevention measures.
  • Encourage compliance by the public with risk- reduction recommendations, especially compliance with hand-washing procedures as visitors exit animal areas.

(5) Venues should be designed to minimize risk. Farm animal contact is not appropriate at food service establishments and infant care settings, and special care should be taken with school-aged children. At venues where farm animal contact is desired, layout should provide a separate area where humans and animals interact and an area where animals are not allowed. Food and beverages should be prepared, served, and consumed only in animal-free areas. Animal petting should occur only in the interaction area to facilitate close supervision and coaching of visitors. Clear separation methods such as double barriers should be present to prevent contact with animals and their environment other than in the interaction area.  Recommendations for animal areas are as follows:

  • Do not allow consumption of food and beverages in these areas.
  • Do not allow toys, pacifiers, spill-proof cups, baby bottles, strollers, or similar items to enter the area.
  • Prohibit smoking and other tobacco product use.
  • Supervise children closely to discourage hand-to- mouth activities (e.g., nail biting and thumb sucking), contact with manure, and contact with soiled bedding. Children should not be allowed to sit or play on the ground in animal areas. If hands become soiled, supervise hand washing immediately.
  • Ensure that regular animal feed and water are not accessible to the public.
  • Allow the public to feed animals only if contact with animals is controlled (e.g., with barriers).
  • Do not provide animal feed in containers that can be eaten by humans (e.g., ice cream cones) to decrease the risk of children eating food that has come into contact with animals.
  • Promptly remove manure and soiled animal bedding from these areas.
  • Assign trained staff members to encourage appropriate human-animal interactions, identify and reduce potential risks for patrons, and process reports of injuries and exposures.
  • Store animal waste and specific tools for waste removal (e.g., shovels and pitchforks) in designated areas that are restricted from public access.
  • Avoid transporting manure and soiled bedding through nonanimal areas or transition areas. If this is unavoidable, take precautions to prevent spillage.
  • Where feasible, disinfect the area (e.g., flooring and railings) at least once daily.
  • Provide adequate ventilation both for animals and humans.
  • Minimize the use of animal areas for public activities (e.g., weddings and dances).
  • If areas previously used for animals must be used for public events, they should be cleaned and disinfected, particularly if food and beverages are served.

(6) Recommendations for nonanimal areas are as follows:

  • Do not permit animals, except for service animals, in nonanimal areas.
  • Store, prepare, serve, or consume food and beverages only in nonanimal areas.
  • Provide hand-washing facilities and display hand- washing signs where food or beverages are served.
  • Entrance transition areas should be designed to facilitate education.
  • Post signs or otherwise notify visitors that they are entering an animal area and that there are risks associated with animal contact.
  • Instruct visitors not to eat, drink, smoke, and place their hands in their mouth, or use bottles or pacifiers while in the animal area.
  • Establish storage or holding areas for strollers and related items (e.g., wagons and diaper bags).
  • Control visitor traffic to prevent overcrowding.
  • Exit transition areas should be designed to facilitate hand washing.
  • Post signs or otherwise instruct visitors to wash their hands when leaving the animal area.
  • Provide accessible hand-washing stations for all visitors, including children and persons with disabilities. Position venue staff members near exits to encourage compliance with proper hand washing.

(6) Age Requirements:

Unsupervised children less than six years old shall not be permitted in animal contact areas.

(7) Feeding of Animals:

Only food provided by the animal contact exhibit may be fed to the animals. Animal food shall not be provided in containers that are human food items, such as ice cream cones.

(8) Staffing:

An animal contact exhibit shall be staffed at all times of operation by at least one person who has the authority to ensure that the exhibit complies with this Subchapter. The owner, operator or person in charge of an animal contact exhibit shall be responsible for compliance with this Subchapter, and shall not knowingly permit violations by its employees, agents or patrons.

(9) Exhibit Areas:

(a) Surfaces in the animal contact exhibit that can be touched by both fair patrons and animals shall be made of impervious material, and shall be cleaned and disinfected daily and at any time visible contamination is present.

(b) All animal fencing, feed troughs, and open watering systems shall be disinfected prior to and at the end of each fair.

(c) Contact animal exhibits shall be held on impervious surfaces whenever feasible.

(d) Impervious exhibit areas shall be cleaned and disinfected at the end of the fair.

(e) Exhibit areas that are not impervious shall be cleaned of all manure at the end of the fair and shall not be used for human activities for at least six months after cleaning.

(10) Waste Disposal:

The fair shall designate a manure disposal area and shall control wastewater runoff. The animal contact exhibit shall have a designated area for temporary storage of animal waste and shall not transport such waste through areas occupied by fair patrons. Manure disposal and storage areas shall be inaccessible to the public, unless waste is bagged and placed in a closeable dumpster.

(11) Handwashing Stations:

(a) Hand-washing stations with soap, hot running water, paper towels and disposal containers shall be located within 10 feet of the exit of an animal contact exhibit, wherever feasible.

(b) Hand-washing stations suitable for small children shall be available in the same area as the stations in Paragraph (a) of this Rule.

(c) Signage shall be provided to direct patrons to hand-washing stations.

(d) In order to promote hand-washing with soap and water, dispensers for waterless hand sanitizing lotions, gels or hand wipes shall not be provided in the transition or exhibit area. Such dispensers may be placed at the entrance of milking booths to reduce the potential for introduction of disease to the exhibit animals.

(12) Food and Drink:

Food and beverages for human consumption shall not be sold, prepared, served, or consumed in transition areas.

(13) Daily Monitoring:

Animals shall be monitored daily by exhibit personnel for signs of illness. Animals that exhibit signs of illness shall be removed from public contact immediately.

(14) High Risk and Birthing Animals:

Animals that pose a high disease risk to humans, as determined by the State Veterinarian or his representative, shall not be allowed in animal contact exhibits. No near-birth or birthing sheep, cattle or goats and no sheep, cattle or goats that have given birth within the previous two weeks shall be allowed in animal contact exhibits.

References:

  1. “Reducing the Risk for Transmission of Enteric Pathogens at Petting Zoos, Open Farms, Animal Exhibits, and Other Venues Where the Public Has Contact With Farm Animals” – 2001 CDC Recommendations
  2. “Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings.” The most recent National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians Animal Contact Compendium Committee 2013
  3. Pennsylvania 3 Pa.C.S. § 2502
  4. North Carolina G.S. 106-520.3A, also known as Aedin’s Law
  5. Washington WAC 246-100-192