March 2012

BotulismToFu.jpgThe New York City Health Department is investigating one confirmed and one suspect case of botulism, a rare but serious foodborne illness caused by an extremely potent toxin. Both patients are Chinese-speaking Queens residents and had recently purchased unrefrigerated fresh bulk tofu from the same store in Flushing.

Botulism impairs the body’s nervous system. The symptoms include blurred or double vision, weakness or paralysis, poor reflexes, difficulty swallowing and speaking, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms of foodborne botulism usually occur 12-36 hours after ingestion, but may take several days.


CDC reports today:

• A total of 66 persons infected with outbreak strains of Salmonella Sandiego, Salmonella Pomona, and Salmonella Poona have been reported from 16 states.

• The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Arizona (2), California (8), Georgia (1), Indiana (1), Kentucky (1), Massachusetts (3), Maryland (6), Michigan (1), North Carolina (1), New Jersey (6), New Mexico (3), New York (21), Pennsylvania (7), Texas (3), Virginia (1), and Vermont (1)

• 11 ill persons have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

• 55% of ill persons are children 10 years of age or younger.

• Results of the epidemiologic and traceback investigations indicate exposure to turtles or their environments (e.g., water from a turtle habitat) is the cause of this outbreak.

• Turtles with a shell length of less than 4 inches in size should not be purchased or given as gifts.

blue-ocean-smokehouse (1).pngThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in a complaint filed by the Department of Justice, is seeking to stop the processing and distribution of fish products at Blue Ocean Smokehouse because of a risk of botulism and other food hazards.

If granted, the permanent injunction against Fujino Enterprises Inc., doing business as Blue Ocean Smokehouse, of Half Moon Bay, Calif., would stop the company from processing and distributing fish and fish products. Blue Ocean’s president Erika Fujino also is named in the government’s complaint.

Blue Ocean processes fresh and smoked fish and fish products including salmon, cod, halibut, Wild King Salmon Candy (a honey-glazed, cold-smoked salmon), hot-smoked tuna, sturgeon and hot-smoked fish cream cheese spreads. Blue Ocean receives fish for processing from outside California, including salmon from Washington state and sturgeon from Oregon.

The complaint alleges that the company’s fish and fish products are adulterated, because they are processed under conditions that do not comply with the agency’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) regulations. HACCP is a science-based system of preventive controls for food safety that is used by commercial seafood processors to identify potential food safety hazards and take steps to keep them from occurring.  The complaint also alleges that Blue Ocean’s fish are adulterated because the conditions under which they are prepared, packed, and held fail to conform to the Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements for food established to ensure that food is processed in a safe and sanitary manner. An FDA inspection in October 2011 found poor employee sanitation practices and showed that the company’s facility was not maintained in a manner that protected against food contamination.

Blue Ocean’s vacuum-packaged hot and cold smoked fish products may pose a risk for the development of Clostridium botulinum toxin that can cause botulism, a rare but serious illness that may result in paralysis, inhibited respiration, and death. This toxin cannot be removed by cooking or freezing.

Investigators also found Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) on food-contact and non-food-contact surfaces in the food processing areas of the company’s facility. Listeriosis, the illness caused by L. mono, can cause fatal infections in young children, the elderly, and individuals with weakened immune systems. Pregnant women may suffer miscarriages or stillbirths as a result of the infection.

In addition, Blue Ocean’s tuna products may pose a risk for the development of scombrotoxin (histamine), a toxin that also cannot be removed by cooking or freezing, and that can cause an illness known as scombrotoxin poisoning.

The company’s violations led to its voluntary destruction of almost 1,500 pounds of hot- and cold-smoked fish in October 2011, under the supervision of the FDA and the California Department of Public Health.

The complaint was filed on March 13, 2012, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

No illnesses have been reported to date associated with Blue Ocean’s products.  However, see FDA Warning Letter.

Ready for Easter our feed store is well stocked with chicks and ducklings for the Easter Bunny to deliver. They should come, however, with a warning. If you touch them, wash your hands.

duck and chicks salmonella.jpgRemember, that back in October 2011, a total of 68 individuals infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Altona were been reported from 20 states linked to contact with chicks, chickens, ducklings, ducks, geese, and turkeys. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Georgia (1), Illinois (1), Indiana (1), Kentucky (6), Maryland (5), Michigan (1), Minnesota (1), Mississippi (1), New Hampshire (1), New York (4), North Carolina (9), Ohio (12), Pennsylvania (6), South Carolina (1), Tennessee (3), Texas (2), Virginia (7), Vermont (1), Wisconsin (1), and West Virginia (4). Among the persons with reported dates available, illnesses began between February 25, 2011 and September 10, 2011. Infected individuals ranged in age from less than one year old to 92 years old, and 31% of ill persons were 5 years of age or younger. Fifty-one percent of patients were female. Among the 62 patients with available information, 19 (31%) were hospitalized.

The Alabama Department of Health yesterday alerted customers of McDonald’s, located at 2000 McFarland Blvd, Northport that they may have been exposed to hepatitis A virus through an infected employee. If you visited this McDonald’s any time on March 14, 2012, or during breakfast hours on March 16, 2012, please contact your health care provider as soon as possible to receive an Ig shot or Hepatitis A vaccine.

HepAmcdonalds.jpgI have heard this story before.

In March of 1998, the Skagit County Health Department (SCHD) received a number of reports that residents had been diagnosed with hepatitis A and began an investigation into what appeared to be a hepatitis A outbreak.  During its investigation into the outbreak’s source, SCHD determined that the outbreak had occurred among patrons of the McDonald’s restaurant located on Riverside Drive in Mt. Vernon, Washington, who had eaten at the restaurant in mid-February, 1998.  Through its investigation, SCHD learned that an assistant manager at the McDonald’s had worked while infected with hepatitis A and had contaminated food. 

In July and August of 2009, public health officials in the Quad-City region of Illinois identified at least 32 confirmed cases of hepatitis A among residents of Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, Warren, and Woodford Counties. People became ill after eating food purchased from the Milan McDonald’s restaurant and then developing a hepatitis A (HAV) infection, or after coming into contact with infected individuals and contracting a secondary infection.  The Rock Island County Public Health Department (RICPHD) identified at least eleven individuals who were hospitalized as a result of the severity of their hepatitis A symptoms.

Perhaps if McDonald’s provided vaccines to its employees, this would not be an issue?

In September of 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) linked a Listeria outbreak to cantaloupe produced in the Rocky Ford region of Colorado. On October 18, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released the findings of an investigation at Jensen Farms. The report details unsanitary conditions and improper practices at the farm’s cantaloupe packing facility. The outbreak has become the most deadly in recent U.S. history and sickened a total of 146 – killing at least 35.

Marler Clark is representing three dozen of the victims and their families, including the Stevens, the Palmers, the Jones and the Beaches. Just the medical bills alone for these four families were over $600,000.

2011 Jensen Farms Listeria Cantaloupe Outbreak from Marlerclark on Vimeo.

In POISONED, Jeff Benedict delivers a jarringly candid narrative of the fast-moving disaster drawing on access to key documents and exclusive interviews with the real-life characters at the center of the drama – the families whose children were infected, the Jack in the Box executives forced to answer for the tragedy, the physicians and scientists who identified E. coli as the culprit, and the legal teams on both sides of the historic lawsuits that ensued. This is the story of the permanent transformation of our food supply chain, and the young maverick lawyer, Bill Marler, who staked his career on bringing the victims justice without compromise. Fast Food Nation meets A Civil Action in this riveting account of how we learned the hard way to truly watch what we eat.

Jeff and I will be in Pullman next week for a series of lectures (Download Flyer).

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If you or a friend subscribe to Marler Blog over the next week, I will send you a copy of the book.  Just subscribe and send me your mailing address to

BlakeleyProud.jpgI was reading Greg Phillip’s piece in the Dothan Eagle about the “Peanut Proud” celebration in Blakely Georgia this weekend.  Peanut Proud even has a web page and a facebook page.  I tried to follow on twitter, but I could not find @peanutproud.  Perhaps they will have that next year.  Here is part of Greg’s story:

Three years ago, thinks didn’t look rosy here.

Peanut Corp. of America issued a massive recall of its food products in early 2009 after a salmonella outbreak from its Blakely plant, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration later finding the company knowingly distributed food tainted by salmonella.

Today, the peanut industry has recovered and Blakely has rallied.

This weekend’s celebration with entertainment, peanut royalty, etc., looks like a good time.  And, since I was in Blakely in 2009 (court ordered inspection of crime scene), shortly after the announcement of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) Salmonella Outbreak, I know that Blakely and the peanut industry needs a boost.

I wonder, however, if there is any mention this weekend of the 714 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium reported from 46 states in 2009 with nine who died?

According to the last update by the CDC, the number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows: Alabama (2), Arizona (14), Arkansas (6), California (81), Colorado (18), Connecticut (11), Florida (1), Georgia (6), Hawaii (6), Idaho (17), Illinois (12), Indiana (11), Iowa (3), Kansas (2), Kentucky (3), Louisiana (1), Maine (5), Maryland (11), Massachusetts (49), Michigan (38), Minnesota (44), Missouri (15), Mississippi (7), Montana (2), Nebraska (1), New Hampshire (14), New Jersey (24), New York (34), Nevada (7), North Carolina (6), North Dakota (17), Ohio (102), Oklahoma (4), Oregon (15), Pennsylvania (19), Rhode Island (5), South Dakota (4), Tennessee (14), Texas (10), Utah (8), Vermont (4), Virginia (24), Washington (25), West Virginia (2), Wisconsin (5), and Wyoming (2). Additionally, one ill person was reported from Canada.  Among the persons with confirmed, reported dates available, illnesses began between September 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009. Patients range in age from <1 to 98 years. The median age of patients is 16 years which means that half of ill persons are younger than 16 years. 21% are age <5 years, 17% are >59 years. 48% of patients are female. Among persons with available information, 24% reported being hospitalized. Infection may have contributed to nine deaths: Idaho (1), Minnesota (3), North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), and Virginia (2).

Parnellfifth.jpgMy guess not.  I doubt there will be a mention of the 714 – likely many more – who were sickened, or even nine seconds of silence for the nine who died from peanuts processed within a stone throws of this weekend’s celebration.

And, what about Stewart Parnell, the CEO of PCA?  In Blakely it is likely he is despised more for tainting the reputation of the town than for knowingly shipping tainted peanuts around the country and sickening several hundred and killing nine.

Three years since most of the 714 have recovered, and after nine have been buried, Stewart Parnell is still in Virginia and a free man.  To date, although families have been promised that a criminal investigation is ongoing, there has been no criminal prosecution of the man who “took the fifth” in front of one of the last Congressional Hearings on food safety. 

It is past time that those sickened and the families of those who died have justice.

So, Blakely be “peanut proud” this weekend.  But, join me in remembering the others impacted by Stewart Parnell and PCA. 

Sysco Seattle Inc., a Seattle, Wash. firm, is recalling approximately 16,800 pounds of ground beef patties imported from Canada because they may have been contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

 The following products are subject to recall:Screen Shot 2012-03-24 at 8.05.37 PM.png

  • 10 lb. boxes of PRIME RIB BEEF PATTIES 8 oz, with product code 55317, and production code 11 NO 22
  • 10 lb boxes of PRIME RIB BEEF PATTIES 71g, with product code 55391 and bearing a production code of 11 SE 01 or 12 JA 04

Since the issuance of the Public Health Alert, FSIS has learned that Sysco was contacted by the Canadian firm and began notifying their customers on March 20. FSIS was unaware of the firm’s actions and proceeded with the Public Health Alert out of an abundance of caution.

Imported products were produced by New Food Classics of Burlington, Ontario and were imported by Sysco Seattle Inc., for distribution to restaurants in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington.

RealRawMilkFacts.jpgThanks to the folks at Real Raw Milk Facts.  This line list was compiled through searches for government and dairy industry press releases, reports, and newsletters announcing dairy-related outbreaks and recalls. The data precedes official statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which typically has a ~2-year time lag before being available to the public.


• 24 raw dairy outbreaks with 309 illnesses, no deaths (22 fluid raw milk, 2 aged raw milk cheese)

• 2 pasteurized dairy outbreak with 39 illnesses, no deaths

• 1 pasteurized Mexican-style cheese sporadic illness, no deaths

• 2 queso fresco Mexican-style cheese outbreak with 67 illnesses, no deaths

• 3 sporadic illnesses and hospitalizations from illegal Mexican-style cheese, no deaths

Recalls (no illnesses reported)

• 14 raw dairy (7 fluid raw milk, 7 aged raw milk cheese) • 7 queso fresco Mexican-style cheese

• 8 pasteurized (non-queso fresco) cheese

• 4 dairy product recalls due to inadequate pasteurization

Download the PDF – Outbreaks, Illnesses and Recalls Linked to Raw (Unpasteurized) and Pasteurized Dairy Products, United States 2010 – present