My friend, Darin Detwiler, let me post this tonight for tomorrow.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the day the last of four young children died during the landmark 1993 “Jack in the Box” E. coli outbreak

That child was 17-month-old Riley Edward Detwiler.

I learned about the reality of this foodborne pathogen on Riley’s death bed.  When he was only a few months old, I justified being out to sea on a Navy submarine by telling myself that I was making the world a safer place for him, and I thought that I would spend the rest of my life making up lost time with him when he was older.

Riley would now be older than I was during that outbreak.  I never got to see him grow older than he appeared in the few photos and videos from so long ago.  Over the years since his death, however, I have seen news of recalls and outbreaks and deaths on a far too regular basis.  I have also seen much improvement in food safety.

We have gained new federal food safety regulations and policies at the USDA and, most recently at the FDA.  We have witnessed advancements in science and data collection, and even a whole new “culture of food safety.” We have trainings, certifications, university programs, conferences, magazines, books, and even movies that serve to inform and motivate new generations of food safety experts.

Many of the changes in food safety policies came about through the hard work of victims, families, advocacy groups, and industry leaders. Statistics and charts alone achieve little without victim’s voices.  Facts rarely motivate policymakers as much as seeing the faces and stories. I am very proud of their efforts.  I am also proud to have stood with them and before them trying to prevent other parents from looking at their family table with one chair forever empty due to preventable illnesses and deaths from foodborne pathogens.

One thing that hits me hard lately is how the faces and stories of victims from mass shootings are seemingly not enough to bring about change in terms of gun control.  While no new policies will bring back the dead, they would bring hope and an increased safety for others.  I am saddened by the thought that so many parents will live with the belief that their child’s death did not result in some element of change.

Perhaps the reasons matter not as to why parents worry about making the world a safer place for their children.  Too many homes in this country include a chair forever empty at a family table due to reasons that could and should have been prevented.

Dr. Darin Detwiler is the Assistant Dean, the Lead Faculty of the MS in Regulatory Affairs of Food and Food Industry, and Professor of Food Policy at Northeastern University in Boston.  In addition to serving as the executive vice president for public health at the International Food Authenticity Assurance Organization, he is the founder and president of Detwiler Consulting Group, LLC. Detwiler and serves on numerous committees and advisory panels related to food science, nutrition, fraud, and policy. He is a sought-after speaker on key issues in food policy at corporate and regulatory training events, as well as national and international events. Detwiler holds a doctorate of Law and Policy.

The new mother,Michelle Carr, of a 10-week-old newborn boy was enjoying a quick lunch on Jan. 29 as she washed her lettuce, inverted it to drain, ripped it apart by hand and threw on some grape tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then, as she went to take a bite, she stuck her fork into something firm, but it wasn’t a slice of avocado.

It was the scaly, tail-less carcass of a lizard.

“It was longer than my middle finger without its tail. We’re not talking about a spider or a bug or even a little salamander. This was a huge lizard with scales,” said Carr, a registered hematology oncology bone marrow transplant nurse. “I instantly wretched and I was revolted because I thought for a second I could’ve eaten its tail.”

Carr said she purchased the bag of store-brand romaine lettuce at the Shaw’s supermarket in Portsmouth on Jan. 26.

Carr said she had a friend who is a biologist examine the lizard and told her it could have been a blue-bellied lizard, which primarily live in California and can be up to 8.4 inches long, according to the Burke Museum at the University of Washington. The lettuce is distributed by a company out of California.

Carr said she then called representatives at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (NHDHHS), Shaw’s and the Food and Drug Administration but had not yet heard if her complaint was being investigated.

On Monday, NHDHHS communications director Jake Leon took a call from Seacoast Media Group and confirmed his agency had received the complaint from Carr. Because the lettuce was packaged and shipped from another state, he said that any investigation would be conducted by the FDA.

Today interviewed me earlier in the week on the food I tend to avoid and why:

The alarming food recalls keep coming: Romaine lettucepackaged vegetableschickenfrozen fruitcheesespotato chips and many more products in just the last couple of years. All were feared to be contaminated by harmful bacteria.

Bill Marler knows all too well what kind of damage tainted food can do. The Seattle attorney has represented victims of foodborne illness for 25 years — people who came close to death just by eating a hamburger. Marler’s work hasn’t put him off from eating in restaurants, but he’s more wary when he eats out.

“If I had a rule that I follow, it’s that I eat things that are well-cooked or that are cold, because bacteria tend to not do well at hot temperatures and tend to not grow at cold temperatures,” Marler told TODAY.

“There’s just some good common sense when you’re not controlling the food you consume.”

Each year, 48 million Americans get sick from foodborne diseases and 3,000 die, the CDC estimates. It names norovirus, salmonella and clostridium perfringens as the top three illness-causing germs. Bugs that are more likely to lead to hospital stays include botulism, listeria and E. coli. E. coli cases linked to red meat are down, but Marler has been alarmed by an increase in cases of listeria, which — unlike most bacteria — can grow at refrigerator temperatures.

Based on the cases he’s been involved in, Marler has come up with a list of seven foods he never eats:

1. Raw sprouts

All types of raw sprouts, including alfalfa, mung bean, clover and radish sprouts, are at the top of Marler’s list.

“Sprouts are just a really difficult product to make safe,” he said. “Seeds get contaminated and then when you sprout things in warm water, it’s a perfect bath for the bacteria to grow.”

The Barf Blog, a website run by a former professor of food safety, has documented at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks — or “sprout-breaks,” as Marler calls them — worldwide since 1988. Most have been caused by salmonella and E. coli.

The latest suspected outbreak has sickened eight people with salmonella in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota since December, with raw sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants “a likely source,” the CDC reports. The Illinois Department of Public Health asked the restaurant chain to remove sprouts from their menus until the investigation is complete.

Sprouts should be cooked thoroughly to reduce your risk of illness, the government advises. Children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems should avoid eating any raw sprouts, it notes.

2. “Raw” milk and juices

Whatever possible benefit you think you might get from unpasteurized milk or “raw” packaged juice, it’s not worth the risk, said Marler, who helped create a website listing some of the consequences of people drinking contaminated raw milk, including kidney failure and paralysis.

Raw milk and products made from it can contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites that pose “severe health risks, including death,” the CDC warns. Possible germs include campylobacter, E. coli, salmonella and listeria, with 81 outbreaks in 26 states linked to raw milk from 2007-2012, the agency notes.

As for raw juice, if you’re making it at home in a clean environment, washing the exterior of the fruit, and then drinking the juice right away, the risks are very low, Marler said. Just skip any packaged “raw” juice.

Marler would also stay away from “raw” water: “It’s sometimes amazing to me how we humans forget our history,” he said. “You just sort of scratch your head and wonder what people are thinking.”

3. Raw flour

Raw flour has been linked to E. coli outbreaks, so resist the temptation to eat cookie dough or taste raw cake batter.

“It’s something I think the public is pretty unaware of and we need to educate people that when handling flour you buy in the bags in the grocery store, you have to consider it a raw agricultural product that could be the source of a pathogen,” Marler said.

People often dust their kitchen counter top with flour when rolling out dough. Think about it this way: it’s not dissimilar to putting raw chicken on your counter, so wipe things down and consider using wax paper instead, he advised.

4. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables

The more you control food in your own kitchen, the less likely it is to be a problem, Marler believes. He finds it much safer to take your own apple, wash it, cut it and put it in a plastic bag for lunch than to go to the grocery store and buy an apple that was sliced a few days ago in facility 500 miles away.

“It’s certainly convenient, but sometimes I think the convenience isn’t worth the risk,” he said. “I don’t buy pre-washed, pre-bagged products, but if I did, I would wash it again myself. It’s all about decreasing the bacterial load.”

5. Ground meat that’s not well done

Any ground meat has to be cooked thoroughly, Marler said. That’s because bacteria on the surface of the meat can get mixed throughout the product when it’s ground. Be sure to cook ground beef, veal, pork and lamb to an internal temperature of 160°F, the CDC notes.

When it comes to a whole piece of beef steak, like filet mignon, Marler would consider eating it medium or medium-well done. But chicken, turkey and other poultry has to be cooked thoroughly, he noted. The CDC recommends cooking it to an internal temperature of 165°F.

In case you’re wondering, Marler isn’t that concerned about raw fish, but he still doesn’t eat a lot of sushi.

6. Raw oysters

Marler has seen a spike in bacterial and viral illnesses linked to raw oysters in the last several years, perhaps because the water is warmer for longer periods of time, he said. Eating raw oysters is not worth the risk, he added.

7. Raw eggs

They’re still on Marler’s list, although government oversight and industry intervention have made eggs a lot safer today than they were a decade ago, he said.

But even though the likelihood of salmonella has “decreased a lot,” he still wouldn’t eat eggs raw (even from the chickens he raises at home), sunny-side-up or soft-boiled, especially in a restaurant. He always opts for scrambled eggs.

SONY DSC

Tony Turnbull of the Times dropped this headscratcher on us the morning: “Cooking with your Mouth:  Why using a knife for chopping your carrots is so last year.” Like the story of drinking – very expensive – “raw water,” eating food that has been prepared in someone elses mouth sounds a bit more likely coming from the Onion, than the more conventional media.  And, as he pointed out deeper in the story, the video of the “cook” was in fact a spoof.

But in case you are wondering why it might have been a bad idea in any event, here is a bit on what can come from ones mouth to yours:

Infectious diseases can be spread through saliva or shared foods and drinks. When a person accidentally consumes microbe-contaminated items, such as saliva, the swallowing action of the tongue wipes the microbes against the back of the throat, allowing the microbe to enter the body. Infections, such as mononucleosis, caused by Epstein-Barr virus and cytomegalovirus are examples of infections spread via oral transmission from virus-containing saliva. Other infectious microbes that spread through saliva do so by sticking to the inner surface of the cheeks and mouth, the tongue, or teeth. An example is the bacterium Streptococcus, which can cause an array of infections, including gum disease strep throat. As a result, microbes that are found in the saliva can generally be found in other parts of the respiratory tract, including the nose and throat. Therefore, even colds and flu (and other respiratory infections) can potentially be spread through the saliva. Certain other infections causing ulcerations in the mouth can also be spread through saliva, such as cold sores (herpes virus) and hand, foot and mouth disease.

The program includes three days of sessions facilitated by Frank Yiannas, Vice President of Food Safety & Health, Walmart, USA and Adjunct Professor in the Online Master of Science in Food Safety Program at MSU.The program also includes guest lectures by William “Bill” Marler, Managing Partner, Marler Clark LLP PS, and The Robert Leader Endowed Lecture with Guest Lecturer Dr. Patricia Griffin, Chief of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch.

Frank Yiannas  Patricia Griffin, CDC  Bill Marler

The program will be conducted at the James B. Henry Center for Executive Development at Michigan State University. Evening activities include a welcome reception at the University Club of MSU on Tuesday, May 22; dinner and a tour of the internationally celebrated Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on Wednesday, May 23 and a “tailgate” dinner at the Huntington Club at Spartan Stadium on Thursday, May 24.

Yiannas is the author of Food Safety Culture – Creating a Behavior-based Food Safety Management System and Food Safety = Behavior (30 Proven Techniques to Enhance Employee Compliance). He is also Vice–Chair of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) and past President of the International Association for Food Protection.

NOTE: Cancellations are subject to a $100.00 administrative fee. No refunds will be granted after May 1, 2018. Send cancellation requests in writing to Esther Haviland at estherh@msu.edu.

From Business Insider:

A deep knowledge of thousands of food poisoning cases across the US has scared Bill Marler off of certain foods.

With more than two decades working as a food poisoning advocate and attorney, there are simply some things that Marler has cut out of his diet. Marler has won more than $600 million for clients in foodborne-illness cases — and become convinced that some foods aren’t worth the risk.

In an article by Health Insider from BottomLine and in conversations with Business Insider, Marler has identified certain foods that he avoids — and that others should be wary of as well.

Here are the foods that this expert says scare him the most:

Marler told Business Insider that the idea he would have to warn people against drinking unfiltered, untreated water didn’t cross his mind until recently.

“Almost everything conceivable that can make you sick can be found in water,” Marler says.

Unfiltered, untreated water — even from the cleanest streams — can contain animal feces, spreading Giardia, which has symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea and results in roughly 4,600 hospitalizations a year. Hepatitis A, which resulted in 20 deaths in a California outbreak in 2017, can be spread through water if it isn’t treated. E. coli and cholera can also be transmitted via untreated water.

Uncooked flour is on the other end of the spectrum — something that most people see as harmless, but that can actually spread bacteria, Marler says.

From late 2015 to 2016, 56 people in 24 states developed an E. coli infection from eating raw or uncooked flour, Consumer Reports reported. 

Most people think that raw eggs are the biggest food poisoning threat in cookie dough, Marler says. However, flour can also be a culprit — and you don’t even have to eat it. Simply not washing your hands after getting uncooked flour on them can spread E. coli.

Marler says that he has seen more foodborne illnesses linked to shellfish in the past five years than in the two preceding decades.

The culprit: warming waters. As global waters heat up, they produce microbial growth, which ends up in the raw oysters consumers are slurping down.

Marler says that he avoids these “like the plague.” Convenience may be nice, but, as more people handling and processing the food means more chances for contamination, it isn’t worth the risk.

For example, a study from Consumer Reports found unacceptable levels of bacteria that commonly cause food poisoning in about a third of the 208 salad bags that were tested. As Business Insider’s Rebecca Harrington notes, that doesn’t mean these bacteria would cause illness; just that they had the potential to do so.

Sprout outbreaks are surprisingly common, with more than 30 bacterial outbreaks — primarily salmonella and E. coli — in the past two decades.

“There have been too many outbreaks to not pay attention to the risk of sprout contamination,” Marler says. “Those are products that I just don’t eat at all.”

Marler agrees with known-germaphobe President Trump on at least one thing: well-cooked meat is the way to go.

According to the expert, meat needs to be cooked to 160 degrees throughout to kill bacteria that could cause E. coli or salmonella.

For anyone who remembers the salmonella epidemic of the 1980s and early ’90s, this is a no-brainer. According to Marler, the chance of getting food poisoning from raw eggs is much lower today than it was 20 years ago, but he still isn’t taking any chances.

A precursor to the raw water trend is the movement encouraging people to drink “raw” milk and juices, arguing that pasteurization depletes nutritional value.

Marler says that pasteurization is not dangerous — but raw beverages can be, as skipping the safety step means an increased risk of contamination by bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

“There’s no benefit big enough to take away the risk of drinking products that can be made safe by pasteurization,” he says.

Our plan is to ask nicely for the records in this case so the FDA can see the benefit or transparency.  If the FDA refuses to respond by disclosing the information, we will ask a Court to decide if the public has a right to know.  FSIS has done this on recalls of beef, pork and poultry for over a decade and the world did not stop spinning.

 

January 3, 2018

Food and Drug Administration

Division of Freedom of Information

Office of the Executive Secretariat, OC

5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1035

Rockville, MD 20857

 

 

REQUEST FOR PUBLIC RECORDS

Outbreak of E. coli, January-March 2017

                        I.M Healthy SoyNut Butter, I.M Healthy Granola, Dixie Diner’s Club Carb Not Beanit Butter, and 20/20 Life Styles Yogurt Peanut Crunch Bars

                       

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to request copies of public records on file at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the names and locations of all retailers known by the FDA to have received shipments of I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter, I.M. Healthy Granola, Dixie Diner’s Club Brand Carb Not Beanit Butter, and 20/20 Life Styles Yogurt Peanut Crunch bars that have been recalled due to potential contamination with E. coli.

On March 3, 2017, The SoyNut Butter Company voluntarily recalled its I.M. Healthy Original Creamy SoyNut Butter with Best By dates of August 30, 2018 and August 31, 2018. On March 4, 2017, The SoyNut Butter Company expanded the recall of its I.M. Healthy Original Creamy SoyNut Butter to include product packaged in 15oz. plastic jars with Best By dates of July 05, 2018, August 30, 2018, and August 31, 2018; individual portion cups with a Best By date of August 08, 2018; and 4lb. plastic tubs with Best By dates of November 16, 2018 and July 25, 2018.

On March 7, 2017, The SoyNut Butter Company recalled all lots of I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter and I.M. Healthy Granola. I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter is packaged in 15 oz. plastic jars, individual portion cups, 4 lb. plastic tubs or 45 lb. pails. The products are available in Original Creamy, Chunky, Honey Creamy, Unsweetened and Chocolate. I.M Healthy Granola is packaged in individual serving packages, 12 oz. bags, 50 oz. bags, and 25 lb. bulk bag. I.M. Healthy Granola is available in Original, Apple, Blueberry, with Raisin, and Cranberry.

On March 10, 2017, The SoyNut Butter Company expanded its recall to include all best buy dates of Dixie Diner’s Club brand Carb Not Beanit Butter. The recalled product was only available for purchase via mail order or online portals.

On March 24, 2017, Pro Sports Club recalled 20/20 Life Styles Yogurt Peanut Crunch bars because they were made with soy nut butter supplied by The SoyNut Butter Company.

Despite the recall of these products, Amazon was still selling I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter as of September 5, 2017, a Lucky’s Market in Redwood City, California was still selling I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter as of September 26, 2017, and Shop.com was still selling I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter as of October 12, 2017.

We are willing to pay all costs associated with providing the requested records.  If you require pre-payment, please contact me and I will arrange for it to be made. Responsive documents can be sent via email, facsimile (206-346-1898) or by U.S. Mail.  If you choose to mail documents please send them to my attention at the following address.

 Marler Clark Law Firm

1012 First Avenue, Fifth Floor

Seattle, WA 98104-1008

If you have any questions about my request or need further information, please contact me.  Thank you in advance for your prompt reply.

 

 

Very truly yours

Katrina Deardorff, MPH

Epidemiologist

I talked to Kate Taylor at Business Insider about “Raw Water” yesterday:

When food-safety expert Bill Marler saw The New York Times’ trend pieceon Silicon Valley’s recent obsession with raw water, he thought he was reading a headline from The Onion.

According to The Times, demand for unfiltered water is skyrocketing as tech-industry insiders develop a taste for water that hasn’t been treated, to prevent the spread of bacteria or other contaminants.

In San Francisco, “unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized spring water” is selling for as much as $60.99 for a 2.5 gallon jug. Startups dedicated to untreated water are popping up. People — including startup Juicero’s cofounder Doug Evans — are gathering gallons of untreated water from natural springs to bring to Burning Man.

Tourmaline Spring sells an untreated water as “sacred, living water.” 

While Evans and other fans say raw water is perfect for those who are “extreme about health,” Marler — a food-safety advocate and a lawyer — says the opposite is true.

“Almost everything conceivable that can make you sick can be found in water,” Marler told Business Insider.

Unfiltered, untreated water, even from the cleanest streams, can contain animal feces, spreading Giardia, which has symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea and results in roughly 4,600 hospitalizations a year. Hepatitis A, which resulted in 20 deaths in a California outbreak in 2017, can be spread through water if it isn’t treated. E. coli, and cholera can also be transmitted via untreated water.

Because filtered, treated water has become the norm, Marler says, most people don’t realize how dangerous s0-called raw water can be.

“The diseases that killed our great-grandparents were completely forgotten about,” he said.

Most Americans don’t personally know anyone who died of Hepatitis A or cholera, thanks to advances in technology and more stringent safety standards. As a result, they had a hard time realizing the risks involved in consuming untreated water.

“It’s fine till some 10-year-old girl dies a horrible death from cholera in Montecito, California,” Marler said.

On January 2, Business Insider’s Melia Robinson visited a San Francisco supermarket where a small company called Live Water sells its untreated water. Rainbow Grocery was sold out of the Fountain of Truth Spring Water from Live Water, but a sign indicated a “slight price increase.”

The cost of a 2.5 gallon jug increased from $36.99 to $60.99 since The Times’ article published. While the price includes the glass container, a refill costs only $14.99, according to The Times.

According to Marler, the raw-water trend is similar to people’s obsession with raw milk or opposition to vaccines. While they lack scientific evidence, they’re convinced that they are correct, in part because they have failed to see the repercussions of life without scientific advances.

“You can’t stop consenting adults from being stupid,” Marler said. “But we should at least try.”

The Food and Drug Administration’s Food-Recall Process Did Not Always Ensure the Safety of the Nation’s Food Supply 

Prior Office of Inspector General (OIG) reviews focused on U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversight of food recalls. Food recalls are the most effective means of protecting public health when a widely consumed food product is either defective or potentially harmful. At the time of those OIG reviews, FDA did not have statutory authority to require food manufacturers to initiate recalls of most foods.

After those reviews, enactment of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act gave FDA new authority to order a mandatory recall and require firms to recall certain harmful foods. We conducted this review to determine whether FDA is fulfilling its responsibility in safeguarding the Nation’s food supply now that it has mandatory recall authority.

Our objective was to determine whether FDA had an efficient and effective food-recall process that ensured the safety of the Nation’s food supply. Specifically, we focused on FDA’s (1) oversight of firms’ initiation of food recalls, (2) monitoring of firm-initiated recalls, and (3) maintenance of food-recall data in the electronic recall data system.

We reviewed documentation for 30 voluntary food recalls judgmentally selected from the 1,557 food recalls reported to FDA between October 1, 2012, and May 4, 2015.

FDA did not always have an efficient and effective food-recall process that ensured the safety of the Nation’s food supply. We identified deficiencies in FDA’s oversight of recall initiation, monitoring of recalls, and the recall information captured and maintained in FDA’s electronic recall data system, the Recall Enterprise System (RES). Specifically, we found that FDA could not always ensure that firms initiated recalls promptly and that FDA did not always (1) evaluate health hazards in a timely manner, (2) issue audit check assignments at the appropriate level, (3) complete audit checks in accordance with its procedures, (4) collect timely and complete status reports from firms that have issued recalls, (5) track key recall data in the RES, and (6) maintain accurate recall data in the RES.

Recalls were not always initiated promptly because FDA does not have adequate procedures to ensure that firms take prompt and effective action in initiating voluntary food recalls. FDA’s monitoring of recalls was not always adequate because FDA staff had insufficient oversight to ensure that the assignment was at the appropriate level, and FDA obtained incomplete or inaccurate consignee information from firms initiating recalls. Additionally, FDA lacked adequate procedures to collect timely and complete status reports from these firms because the procedures did not require staff to request status reports at the time the recall was initiated. Lastly, the RES contained deficient recall information because it did not track all information necessary for FDA to effectively monitor recall activities and assess the timeliness of recalls; the RES also contained inaccurate data.

We recommended that FDA use its Strategic Coordinated Oversight of Recall Execution (SCORE) initiative to establish set timeframes, expedite decision-making and move recall cases forward, and improve electronic recall data. We also made other procedural recommendations, which are listed in the report.

FDA agreed with our conclusion that it needs to help ensure that recalls are initiated promptly in all circumstances and said that it will consider the results of our review as it “continues to operate the SCORE team.” FDA also described other actions it has taken in response to our early alert, issued June 8, 2016, and draft report including initiating a new quality system audit process and a plan to provide early notice to the public and more guidance to staff.

Download the complete report or the Report in Brief.