Because of COVID, we are banned from Canada, but our food products are not.

Cyclospora:  As of July 8, 2020, there are 37 confirmed cases of Cyclospora illness linked to this outbreak in three provinces: Ontario (26), Quebec (10) and Newfoundland and Labrador (1).

Individuals became sick between mid-May and mid-June 2020. One individual has been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 21 and 70 years of age. The majority of cases (76%) are female.

Some of the individuals who became sick reported having eaten certain Fresh Express brand salad products containing iceberg lettuce, red cabbage and carrots before their illnesses occurred. The source of illness for the remaining individuals continues to be under investigation.

Salmonella As of August 7, 2020, there have been 239 confirmed cases of Salmonella Newport illness linked to this outbreak in the following provinces: British Columbia (67), Alberta (149), Saskatchewan (5), Manitoba (13), Ontario (3), Quebec (1) and Prince Edward Island (1).

Individuals became sick between mid-June and late July 2020. Twenty-nine individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 0 and 100 years of age. The majority of cases (54%) are female.

Individuals who became ill reported eating red onions at home, in menu items ordered at restaurants and in residential care settings.

55,836 new COVID-19 cases today and 1,249 deaths.

According to various news outlets, officials inside and outside South Dakota are expressing concern about the potential spread of the coronavirus during an annual motorcycle rally that opens Friday in the Black Hills and typically attracts hundreds of thousands of bikers.

But officials in Sturgis, the town of 7,000 residents that has hosted the rally for 80 years, are not quite as worried.

Here is the money quote:

“I don’t know if we’re concerned about an outbreak,” said Sturgis spokeswoman Christina Steele. “It’s mostly asymptomatic people that could spread this.”

Yes, that is the point of wearing masks, staying apart and not being in large groups – especially in bars.

Officials in neighboring states, however, don’t share that attitude, which some have called cavalier and others have attributed to South Dakota’s libertarian streak.

“We are concerned with any large gathering sustained contact of that nature,” Jan Malcolm, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health, said at a news conference earlier this week. “South Dakota has seen its spikes, as well. It’s not like they’re going into an environment that has no risk.”

The 250,000 come from all over the world and once at Sturgis will return to their families and communities – many will carry a deadly passenger COVID-19.

What say you Darwin – survival of the fittest?

(Bakersfield, California) Today, Marler Clark filed a Salmonella Lawsuit on behalf of a Canadian citizen in United States Federal Court in California for her illness linked to Salmonella Newport – tainted onions from Thomson International.  Marler Clark is working with Craig Murphy of Murphy & Murphy on behalf of Kendra Cooper of Edmonton, Alberta, who became sick on July 6 with Salmonella Newport after consuming Thomson red onions contained on a Super Bacon Thickburger from Carl’s Jr. Complaint.Conformed

“This is the second U.S. produced food product that has sickened Canadians as well as U.S. citizens in the last 30 days – first, the Fresh Express Cyclospora outbreak sickened 641 in the U.S. and 37 in Canada – now it is Salmonella sickening at least 516 in the U|.S. and Canada,” said, food safety lawyer, William Marler.  “U.S. producers and regulators need to step up their game or borders will close not only to U.S. citizens due to COVID, but also to food produced in the U.S.,” added Marler.

According to Canadian health authorities, as of August 2, 2020, there have been 120 confirmed cases of Salmonella Newport illness linked to this outbreak in the following provinces: British Columbia (43), Alberta (56), Saskatchewan (4), Manitoba (13), Ontario (2), Quebec (1) and Prince Edward Island (1). Seventeen individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 3 and 100 years of age. The majority of cases (56%) are female.

Whole genome sequencing analysis shows that an outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections in Canada is related genetically to this outbreak in the United States. This means that people in both of these outbreaks are likely to share a common source of infection.

According to the United States CDC and FDA, as of July 29, 2020, a total of 396 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport have been reported from 34 states. Alaska (6), Arizona (14), California (49), Colorado (10), Florida (3), Idaho (5), Illinois (10), Indiana (2), Iowa (15), Kansas (1), Kentucky (1), Maine (4), Maryland (1), Michigan (23), Minnesota (10), Missouri (6), Montana (33), Nebraska (5), Nevada (5), New York (4), North Carolina (3), North Dakota (5), Ohio (7), Oregon (71), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (1), South Dakota (11), Tennessee (5), Texas (1), Utah (61), Virginia (4), Washington (2), Wisconsin (5) and Wyoming (11). Fifty-nine hospitalizations have been reported.

Many ill people were identified as part of illness clusters. An illness cluster is defined as two or more people who do not live in the same household who report eating at the same restaurant location, attending a common event, or shopping at the same location of a grocery store in the week before becoming ill.

Twenty-two illness clusters have been identified in seven states. Information from these clusters shows that many ill people ate red onions. The traceback information collected from these illness clusters identified Thomson International, Inc., of Bakersfield, Calif., as a likely source of red onions. Due to the way onions are grown and harvested, other onion types, such as, white, yellow or sweet yellow, may also be contaminated. Additional traceback is ongoing to determine if other onions are linked to the outbreak.

On August 1, 2020, Thomson International, Inc., voluntarily recalled red, yellow, white, and sweet yellow onions because they may be contaminated with Salmonella. Consumers, restaurants, and retailers should not eat, serve, or sell recalled onions from Thomson International, Inc., of Bakersfield, Calif.

Additional Resources:

(San Diego) Today, Marler Clark filed the first Salmonella Lawsuit linked to Salmonella Newport – tainted Onions from Thomson International of Bakersfield in San Diego State Court.  Marler Clark is working with Craig Murphy of Murphy & Murphy on behalf of Keith Robert Willis of San Diego who became sick on July 1 with Salmonella Newport after consuming Thomson red onions.  Mr. Willis continues to be ill. Keith Robert Willis – Complaint FINAL

Investigators in the U.S. and Canada have been collaborating to identify the source of this outbreak. On July 30, 2020, Canadian health officials announced that they had determined red onions from the U.S. to be the potential source of the Canadian outbreak. The Canadian investigation has also prompted a recall warning by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Building on this information, and on epidemiologic information on the U.S. outbreak from CDC, the FDA’s traceback investigation was able to identify Thomson International, Inc. as a likely source of contaminated red onions in the U.S. There have, to date, been 396 reported cases in the United States and 114 in Canada.

United States:

Total Illnesses: 396

Hospitalizations: 59

Illness Onset Date Range: July 12, 2020

States with Cases: AK (6), AZ (14), CA (49), CO (10), FL (3), ID (5), IL (10), IN (2), IA (15), KS (1), KY (1), ME (4), MD (1), MI (23), MN (10), MO (6), MT (33), NE (5), NV (5), NY (4), NC (3), ND (5), OH (7), OR (71), PA (2), SC (1), SD (11), TN (5), TX (1), UT (61), VA (4), WA (2), WI (5), and WY (11).

Canada:

Total Illnesses: 114

Hospitalizations: 16

Illness Onset Date Range: Mid-June and mid-July 2020.

Provinces with Cases: British Columbia (43), Alberta (55), Manitoba (13), Ontario (2), and Prince Edward Island (1).

Thomson International, Inc. of Bakersfield, California is recalling Red, Yellow, White, and Sweet Yellow Onions shipped from May 1, 2020 through the present. The onions are being recalled because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Salmonella is an organism that 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.

Additional Resources:

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $750 million for clients.  Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation.  Our Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants.  The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a new protocol for the development and registration of antimicrobial treatments for preharvest agricultural water, such as the water used in farm irrigation systems. The protocol was developed through a collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Companies can now use data developed under this protocol to support the EPA registration of products that can treat agricultural water against foodborne bacteria, which could provide farmers with a useful tool to help protect the safety of produce intended for consumers, like romaine lettuce and other leafy greens.

The announcement was made during a webinar on the FDA’s 2020 Leafy Green STEC Action Plan.

“This new protocol is a huge milestone for produce safety and for the Leafy Green Action Plan released by the FDA earlier this year. Working together, the FDA and EPA have supported the development of this protocol that may ultimately help farmers address contamination issues in their water sources and protect consumers from foodborne illness,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas. “We must all work together to help ensure the safety of produce to consumers across the country. We will continue to work with our partners in industry, government and academia on this and other longer-term studies on the ecology of human pathogens in specific growing regions, and new efforts as part of the New Era of Smarter Food Safety Initiative.”

“Thanks to the strong partnership between EPA and the FDA, we can now unleash the innovation needed to develop treatment products for the agricultural water used to irrigate our nation’s leafy greens,” said Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “We look forward to working with pesticide product manufacturers, innovators, and farmers on this important development that will help protect public health and our environment.”

EPA’s approval of this protocol allows for companies to develop data on the effectiveness of their products in inactivating foodborne bacteria, such as E. coli or Salmonella, in preharvest agricultural water. Companies may use the data developed to support registration of new treatment products, or amendments to current products’ labels, for use against microbial contamination in preharvest agricultural water.

Recent outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with the consumption of romaine lettuce and other leafy greens have highlighted the need for a viable option for treating agricultural water against foodborne pathogens. While farmers are not required to treat their agricultural water, these treatments could be a valuable tool to help farmers protect the safety of their produce. There currently are no registered antimicrobial treatment products that are authorized for use on agricultural fields, or for treatment of irrigation water systems or ponds. This protocol is an important step toward addressing this lack of available treatments for preharvest agricultural water.

Teams of FDA experts have been working collaboratively with partners in the public and private sectors to help protect agricultural water from the many ways it can be contaminated in the environment or from unsanitary practices on a farm. This effort has included hundreds of farm visits over the past few years. In addition, the FDA intends to release a proposed rule in late 2020, to revise certain agricultural water requirements in the Produce Safety Rule and to address practical implementation challenges while protecting public health. The development and approval of this treatment protocol is one of several steps the agency has taken or intends to take to help improve produce safety, such as through the Leafy Green Action Plan and through the New Era of Smarter Food Safety initiative.

Frank, we have work to do.

According to Canada, as of July 30, 2020, there have been 114 confirmed cases of Salmonella Newport illness linked to this outbreak in the following provinces: British Columbia (43), Alberta (55), Manitoba (13), Ontario (2), and Prince Edward Island (1). The individual from Prince Edward Island reported traveling to Alberta before becoming ill. Saskatchewan has not reported any confirmed illnesses related to this outbreak, but provincial public health authorities are investigating some Salmonella Newport illnesses in the province.

Individuals became sick between mid-June and mid-July 2020. Information is available for 102 illnesses. Out of 102 people, 16 individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 3 and 100 years of age. The majority of cases (56%) are female.

Individuals who became ill reported eating red onions at home, in menu items ordered at restaurants and in residential care settings. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is conducting a food safety investigation. If contaminated food products are identified, CFIA will take the necessary steps to protect the public, including recalling the product as required.

According to Canada, the U.S. CDC is also investigating an outbreak of Salmonella Newport illnesses that have a similar genetic fingerprint to illnesses reported in this outbreak. Investigators in Canada and the U.S. continue to collaborate to exchange information and identify commonalities in the outbreak information that may identify additional sources of illness or help to identify the cause of contamination in the red onions.

The United States has been silent since July 24, 2020.  As of July 23, 2020, a total of 212 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport have been reported from 23 states.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from June 19, 2020, to July 11, 2020, Ill people range in age from 0 to 92 years, with a median age of 40. Fifty-four percent of ill people are female. Of 117 ill people with information available, 31 hospitalizations have been reported. No deaths have been reported.

Whole genome sequencing analysis of 48 isolates from ill people did not predict any antibiotic resistance. Standard antibiotic susceptibility testing by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory is currently underway.

On July 10, 2020, CDC PulseNet identified an outbreak of 13 Salmonella Newport infections in three states. Since being identified, the outbreak has rapidly grown to a total of 212 infections in 23 states.

State and local public health officials are interviewing ill people to determine what they ate and other exposures in the week before their illness started. CDC encourages people experiencing symptoms of a Salmonella infection to report their illness to their local health department and participate in these interviews. This information is vital for public health officials to identify the source of this outbreak and to take steps to prevent additional illnesses.

At this time, the investigation has not identified a specific food, grocery store, or restaurant as the source of this outbreak. CDC will provide more information as it becomes available.

According to the CDC, a total of 212 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport have been reported from 23 states. 31 hospitalizations have been reported. No deaths have been reported. Ill people range in age from 0 to 92 years, with a median age of 40. Fifty-four percent of ill people are female. Of 117 ill people with information available, 31 hospitalizations have been reported. No deaths have been reported.

According to Canadian Health officials, as of July 24, 2020, there have been 59 confirmed cases of Salmonella Newport illness linked to this outbreak in the following provinces: British Columbia (23), Alberta (31), Manitoba (3), Ontario (1), and Prince Edward Island (1). Individuals became sick between mid-June and mid-July 2020. Information is available for 28 illnesses. Out of 28 people, six individuals have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals who became ill are between 11 and 77 years of age. The majority of cases (54%) are female.

A specific food, grocery store, or restaurant chain has not been identified as the source of this outbreak.

CDC is not advising that consumers avoid eating any specific foods, or that retailers stop selling any specific foods.

Investigators in Canada and the U.S. are collaborating to exchange information to identify the source of the outbreak.

Symptoms of a Salmonella infection, called salmonellosis, typically start 6 to 72 hours after exposure to Salmonella bacteria from an infected animal, person or contaminated product. Symptoms include:

  • chills
  • fever
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal cramps
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting

These symptoms usually last for 4 to 7 days. In healthy people, salmonellosis often clears up without treatment, but sometimes antibiotics may be required. In some cases, severe illness may occur, and hospitalization may be required.

After a few months of not commuting by ferry from Bainbridge Island to downtown Seattle, and not spending days on that ferry or an airplane flying around the world, I decided to land back on Bainbridge Island with my law office – or at least the island version of the Seattle version. Over the next weeks check out the transformation of the building. We will be painting inside and out, and fixing up the landscaping and parking spaces and adding a sign above the awning. A new 25 foot flag pole is coming (the base is presently hidden by weeds) We plan on putting up a hand sanitizer and mask dispenser station outside for all to use. There are 10 parking spaces – we intend to rent 8 for $200 per month (email me at bmarler@marlerclark.com) and donate the other 2 for people in medical or financial need (might need some help finding the right fit – ideas welcome). It takes me 21 minutes to walk from my home to the office.  Please stop in, but wear a mask.

The COVID-19 & Food Safety Global Summit, organized by the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) and sponsored by Marler Clark LLP PS, is a two-hour virtual international event taking place on Wednesday, July 29, 2020.

The Summit is bringing together scientific experts, regulatory officials, academics, and industry executives worldwide to better understand the threat and challenges the virus poses to food and food handlers. The current list of panelists includes LeeAnne Jackson, Co-Chair of FDA’s Food and Agriculture Sector’s Government Coordinating Council, Gudrun Gallhoff, Minister Counsellor for Health & Food in the Delegation of the European Union in Beijing, Chen Junshi, China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment’s Chief Scientific Advisor, John Donaghy, Nestle’s Head of Food Safety, and Markus Lipp, Head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations’ Food Safety and Quality Unit, as well as Marler Clark’s very own managing partner, William “Bill” Marler, among others.

The event’s agenda lists numerous relevant topics of discussion, including:

  • COVID-19, food safety and security – a global perspective
  • How can regulators support food safety and food security in times of a pandemic?
  • How can we best translate new knowledge to create best practices and promote risk reduction?
  • International Issues in Food Production
  • An overall risk-based approach for COVID-19 management includes appropriately directed hygiene protocols, training and verification.
  • Considerations for developing and implementing an optimal hygiene program
  • Best practices for implementing physical distancing
  • Suppliers and food chain dynamics

A report on the summit highlights will be published by Food Safety News and Journal of Food Protection, the official media partners.

Register for this event at: http://www.chinafoodsafety.com/covidsummit/regform_e.htm.

I wrote this just a year ago – I have had no takers.

In 2000, I wrote this:

In light of the recent, large-scale Hepatitis A exposure in the San Francisco Bay Area, food safety attorneys of the Seattle-based law firm of Marler Clark, are asking restaurants and food manufacturers to voluntarily vaccinate all workers against Hepatitis A. “In the last six months Hepatitis A exposures have been linked to two Seattle-area Subways, a Carl’s Jr. in Spokane, WA, Hoggsbreath, a Minnesota restaurant, and three restaurants in Northwest Arkansas, IHOP, U.S. Pizza, and Belvedeers. Now more than seven- hundred children are being vaccinated against this potentially deadly virus in California after possible consumption of contaminated strawberries. Furthermore, this isn’t the first time that strawberries have been implicated in the outbreak of a foodborne disease.” Marler continued, “Restaurants and food manufacturers must take action and voluntarily vaccinate all of their employees.”

Sound familiar?

Hardly a week goes by that there is not yet another announcement of a hepatitis A positive employee putting co-workers, customers and the restaurant brand at risk.  There have been illnesses, deaths, thousands of customers have had to stand in long lines to get preventative vaccines, some restaurants have shuttered and there certainly have been lawsuits.

All preventable by a hepatitis A vaccination – the only foodborne illness that is vaccine preventable.

So, here is my offer – to the first restaurant chain with more that 250 locations (corporate and/or franchise) that will offer hepatitis A vaccinations to all present and future employees and I will agree to consult with that restaurant chain for $1.00 and conflict Marler Clark from being on the opposite side of the courtroom.

This seems like an “offer you can’t refuse.”

Whether or not you take me up on my offer, consider offering to vaccinate your employees anyway – be a food safety leader.  In addition to being the right thing to do during a nation-wide outbreak of hepatitis A, it is good for your employees, your customers, your brand – and, for taking money out of my pocket.