The FDA today published its “Investigation Summary: Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Romaine Lettuce Implicated in the Fall 2018 Multi-State Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7.”

First, a hat tip to the FDA investigators for getting at the report critically fast and during the governmental shutdown.  It is prompt, science based, investigations that will identify the “root cause” of an outbreak that will then be used to stop or at least minimize future foodborne illness clusters of outbreaks. Despite the good work, however, except for the one named farm the rest of the traceback work is shrouded in mystery.  The FDA and the leafy green industry knows way more than it is telling the public, and that is wrong for too many reasons.

Some interesting, and alarming findings the outbreak and the initial investigation impressions:

  • There were 62 reported illnesses in 16 states and the District of Columbia, resulting in 25 hospitalizations and two cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). There were no deaths. However, the FDA and the CDC just gives the public numbers, not some of the brutal realities of the long-term impacts like the 70-year-old New York woman who will remain on dialysis for the rest of her life or the 3-year-old Canadian boy who suffered severe brain damage and will require a life time of ongoing care.
  • All E. coli O157:H7 isolates in Fall of 2018 from ill consumers had a rare genetic fingerprint, as determined by whole genome sequencing, that was closely related to one previously seen in ill consumers in the U.S. and Canada in the Fall of 2016 and the Fall of 2017. This is significant as it indicates, not only has there been multiple, significant E. coli outbreaks, but they are likely linked to the same growing region and probably the same farm.
  • The romaine lettuce that made people sick was likely harvested between late September and mid-November 2018, a conclusion based on: known production practices; the anticipated shelf-life of romaine lettuce; and the fact that reported illness- onset dates occurred from October 7 through December 4, 2018.

Through its investigation the FDA has identified the following factors and findings as those that most likely contributed to the contamination of romaine lettuce from one farm (Adams Brothers Farm) in Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County, California, that was linked to some illnesses during this outbreak.

  • The outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 was found in the sediment of an on-farm water reservoir in Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County, California.
  • The outbreak strain was not found anywhere else in sampling done during the investigation in various California leafy greens growing areas and counties.
  • FDA has concluded that the water from the on-farm water reservoir where the outbreak strain was found most likely led to contamination of some romaine lettuce consumed during this outbreak.
  • Traceback investigation analysis indicated that other ranches owned by the same farm as well as other farms may have introduced into commerce contaminated romaine lettuce or other produce items. These other farms did not use water from the water reservoir where the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 was found and FDA was unable to identify a potential source of contamination.
  • FDA has concluded that the water from the on-farm water reservoir where the outbreak strain was found was most likely not effectively treated with a sanitizer and this may have led to contaminated water directly contacting romaine lettuce after harvest or by the washing/rinsing harvest equipment food contact surfaces.
  • There are several ways in which water from the on-farm water reservoir may have come into contact with the implicated romaine lettuce, including direct harvest/postharvest application to the crop and/or use of reservoir agricultural water on harvest equipment food contact surfaces.
  • Foodborne illness outbreaks caused by this specific strain of E. coli O157:H7 occurred in 2016, 2017, and 2018, indicating that the outbreak strain may have either persisted in the environment or may been repeatedly introduced into the environment from an unknown source. Public health officials in the U.S. and Canada were unable to definitively confirm the food vehicle and ultimate source(s) of the 2016 and 2017 illnesses.

Despite finding that E. coli outbreaks spanning years likely came from the same are or farm and was most likely caused by the same factors enumerated above, the FDA only sets forth “recommendations” that growers of leafy greens assess their growing operations for compliance with applicable requirements of the FSMA Produce Safety Rule and GAPs, including (see my snide comments in bold):

  • Assure that all agricultural water (water that directly contacts the harvestable portion of the crop and/or food contact surfaces and harvest equipment) used by growers is safe and of adequate sanitary quality for its intended use. This may (not must) include the development and use of validated and verified treatment of agricultural water, when growers choose to use agricultural water treatment as a preventive measure (any agricultural water treatment must also adhere to any other Federal, State, Local, or other regulations on implementation);
  • Assess and mitigate risks related to wild animal intrusion that may contaminate agricultural water (without a requirement to do so);
  • Assess and mitigate risks related to land uses near or adjacent to agricultural water sources that may contaminate agricultural water (without a requirement to do so); and
  • Perform a root cause analysis when a foodborne pathogen is identified in the growing environment, in agricultural inputs (e.g., agricultural water or soil amendments), in raw agricultural commodities or in fresh-cut ready-to-eat produce. The goal of a root cause analysis is to determine the likely source of the contamination, if prevention measures have failed, and whether additional measures are needed to prevent a reoccurrence (without a requirement to do so).

Other FDA recommendations have a broader target audience.

  • FDA urges (at least it is not begging) other government and non-government entities, produce growers and trade associations both domestically and internationally to develop real time procedures to quickly explore the possible scope, source(s) and route(s) of contamination when human pathogens of public health significance are detected by routine pre-harvest or finished product verification testing. Local in-depth knowledge and actions are critical in helping determine likely potential routes of contamination of leafy greens in the regions in which they are grown. This information is critical to developing and implementing appropriate science and risk based preventive measures to reduce the potential for another outbreak associated with leafy greens or other fresh produce commodities. Widespread sharing of such findings among the leafy greens and produce industry would also be helpful to increase awareness of potential routes of contamination and preventive measures (without a requirement to do so).
  • FDA continues to recommend (suggest, plead, beg, whine) that leafy green growers, buyer/shippers, and retailers be able to trace product back to the specific source in real time and make information about the source, such as harvest date and standardized growing regions, readily available for consumers on either packaging, point of sale signs, or by other means. In response to this outbreak FDA requested, and the leafy greens industry agreed to provide, voluntary labeling of romaine lettuce products to provide consumers with information on where their romaine lettuce is grown and the date on which it was harvested. The purpose of this new voluntary (why voluntary?) labeling was to help consumers discern, in the event of an outbreak, whether romaine lettuce products available for purchase at retail stores or restaurants were harvested after the outbreak or not grown in an implicated growing region. The voluntary labeling also provides for improved romaine lettuce traceability and, if need be, provides FDA with the ability to focus future public health communications about the safety of romaine lettuce from a particular growing region or harvest date.
  • FDA strongly encourages (emphasis on “strongly”) the entire leafy greens supply chain to adopt traceability best practices and state-of-the-art technology to assure quick, accurate and easy access to key data elements from farm to fork when leafy greens are involved in a potential recall or outbreak. Fresh produce, including leafy greens, are a highly perishable commodity, and traceability information should facilitate the rapid tracking of implicated product throughout the entire supply chain to expedite its removal from commerce, prevent additional consumer exposures, and properly focus any recall actions. A key element that would assist tracing efforts during an outbreak is the ability to identify specific farms or ranches and dates of harvest for product that contribute to production lots if product has been commingled. While it is important to understand where the product was grown and not simply the location of the business entity that shipped or processed it, it is equally important to be able to determine which farm(s) and growing region(s) are responsible for supplying the contaminated product, and the time frame when product was supplied.
  • This information is crucial to the development of accurate public health messages to protect the public and empower retail establishments and consumers to take appropriate actions to prevent exposure. Without the ability to identify the growing region or specific suppliers of suspected shipments, public messaging by FDA and other public health partners during outbreaks or recalls will continue to be broad out of necessity, likely including farms and growing regions that are not responsible for the contamination. If supplier data are maintained when the product is co-mingled and consumers can differentiate where and when product was harvested, it is easier to narrow the number of suspected shipments and suppliers of the contaminated product once it is processed – after so many outbreaks the co-mingling and lack of transparency may well be the point – keep things confused and perhaps no one will be singled out?

My takeaway?  FDA has the skill to help industry combat these outbreaks by getting to the likely “root cause” of an outbreak.  However, the FDA is hampered by lack of public transparency with its traceback findings.  This lack of transparency leaves the public in a fog as to how to be smart consumers of a food product that has an unfortunate history that is likely to be its future as well.  Furthermore, it is past time for pleas and voluntary requirements.  The FDA and the leafy green growers know what needs to be done to minimize illnesses and loss of life.  It’s past time for please!

I take a ferry to work guarded at times by now unpaid members of the Coast Guard.  Next week with increasing trepidation, I will go through TSA Security with more unpaid professionals on the job monitoring security to then board a plane to be routed to NYC by unpaid Air Traffic Controllers.  I am not sure I could focus on my job while wondering how bills were to be paid.

The shutdown hit close to home this morning when I opened my laptop at 5:30 A.M. to see a flood of hundreds of “Out of Office” notifications responding to emails generated from last night blog posts on Salmonella in flour and spinach.

Here are just a few:

“Thank you for your message. I am not in the office at this time. I am on furlough without access to email, due to the lapse in federal government funding. I will return your message as soon as possible once funding has been restored. For information about available government services, visit USA.gov.”

“Due to the absence of either an FY 2019 appropriation or Continuing Resolution for FDA, I am out of the office on furlough status and I am not able to read or respond to your message.”

“I am currently out of the office.” 

Odd way to run a government.

R. L. Zeigler Co., Inc., a Selma, Ala. establishment, is recalling approximately 11,664 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) poultry and meat sausage products that may be contaminated with extraneous materials, specifically metal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

The RTE Red Hot chicken and pork sausage items were produced on Nov. 29, 2018. The following products are subject to recall: [View Labels (PDF only)]

  • 24-oz. plastic packages containing approximately 9 links of “ZEIGLER A TRADITION OF GREAT TASTE RED HOTS” with a “Use By Jan 24 19” date.
  • 24-oz. plastic packages containing approximately 9 links of “EXTRA HOT ZEIGLER A TRADITION OF GREAT TASTE RED HOTS” with a “Use By Jan 24 19” date.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. P-9156S” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to retail locations nationwide.

The problem was discovered after the firm received consumer complaints on Dec. 13 and 27, 2018. The firm investigated to determine the nature of the complaints and notified FSIS on Dec. 29, 2018.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ refrigerators or frozen and in consumers’ freezers. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them.

Wash produce!

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released two reports today on its sampling of whole fresh avocados and hot peppers to determine how frequently harmful bacteria are found in each commodity. These sampling studies are part of an ongoing effort by the FDA to help ensure food safety and prevent contaminated products from reaching consumers.

In 2014, the FDA adopted a new, proactive sampling program to learn more about how frequently common environmental pathogens like Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli (E. coli) are in selected foods, and to help the agency identify patterns that may help reduce microbial contamination in those foods. Additional information about this program is described in an “FDA Voices” blog by Susan Mayne, the director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), and William Correll, the director of CFSAN’s Office of Compliance.

For the hot pepper sampling assignment, the FDA collected, tested and analyzed domestic and imported hot pepper samples for Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, and other types of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC). Of the 1,615 hot pepper samples tested, 46 (2.85%) were positive for Salmonella and one was positive for STEC, but further testing revealed that the STEC strain could not cause severe illness.

For the whole fresh avocado sampling assignment, the FDA collected, tested and analyzed 1,615 domestic and imported avocado samples for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes. Of the 1,615 samples, 12 (0.74%) tested positive for Salmonella. As to the Listeria monocytogenes testing, the agency primarily tested the pulp of the avocado samples (as the pulp is the part of the fruit people eat), and some samples of the fruit’s skin. Of the 1,254 avocado pulp samples, 3 (far less than one percent) were positive for Listeria monocytogenes. Of the 361 avocado skin samples, 64 (17.73%) were positive for Listeria monocytogenes. FoodSafety.gov advises consumers to wash all produce before cutting into it or eating.

When the FDA found positive samples of hot peppers or avocados in domestic product, the agency worked with the responsible firms to conduct recalls as indicated, and followed up with inspections of growers and packinghouses to ascertain their adherence to recommended good agricultural and manufacturing practices. When the FDA found positive samples of hot peppers or avocados in imported product, the agency refused entry to all product in lots associated with the positive(s), and placed the firms on import alert to stop additional product from entering the U.S.

For additional information on the FDA’s sampling program, and to read the whole fresh avocado and hot pepper reports, visit “Microbiological Surveillance Sampling.”

In addition to the hot pepper and avocado sampling reports, the FDA also posted a quarterly update on its ongoing sampling assignments on fresh herbs, guacamole and processed avocado.

As of October 1, 2018, the FDA has tested 683 fresh herb samples (407 domestic, 276 import) and 474 processed avocado or guacamole samples (386 domestic, 88 import) as part of its ongoing monitoring of potential pathogens associated with these products. Of the fresh herb samples, nine tested positive for Salmonella (4 domestic, 5 import); six tested positive for STEC (2 domestic, 4 import), with further characterization determining that the STEC were incapable of causing severe illness; and four tested positive for Cyclospora cayetanensis (2 domestic, 2 import). The FDA did not detect 0157 in any of the fresh herb samples it tested. Of the processed avocado or guacamole samples, 11 tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes (9 domestic, 2 import). The FDA did not detect Salmonella in any of the samples of processed avocado or guacamole.

The below from Dr. Scott Gottlieb just dropped into my inbox.  We all will miss Dr. Stephen Ostroff.  He has been a great champion for food safety for many years and will be missed.  I wish him well.  However, pulling Frank Yiannas from Walmart to the FDA is a brilliant move.  I have known and respected Frank for years.  His commitment to changing the culture of food safety – specifically through transparency – will be welcome at the FDA.

Dear Colleagues,

I’d like to share with you some important changes to our FDA food safety leadership team – changes that build on the program’s outstanding strength, but are also, for me, bittersweet.

Dr. Stephen Ostroff will be retiring from the agency on January 5th, after a distinguished and dedicated career in public service, including over five years of exceptional service to FDA.

Since joining the FDA in 2013, Dr. Ostroff has epitomized our commitment to the public health and science-based decision making, through his work across all of our product areas, and especially his work on modernizing the FDA’s – and the nation’s — food safety activities.

During his time at the FDA, Dr. Ostroff has served as a dedicated leader, first at the Chief Medical Officer in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and then as the agency’s Chief Scientist.  Most recently, Steve has been instrumental in his role as Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine.

Notably, Dr. Ostroff served twice for a total of 15 months as the FDA’s Acting Commissioner, guiding the Agency through periods of transition, advancing its mission, and ensuring we upheld the FDA’s public health mission during times of change. Throughout my time as Commissioner, I’ve relied on Dr. Ostroff’s deep experience, thoughtful perspective, and strong leadership during many complicated and pivotal policy discussions, food outbreaks, and recall events.

Irrespective of his role at the Agency, Dr. Ostroff’s work advanced the FDA’s public health prerogatives and upheld its vital consumer mission. I’m immensely grateful for his many contributions. I know he’ll continue to have an important influence on the public health.

I’m delighted to announce that we’ll be welcoming Frank Yiannas to the FDA leadership team as Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response. In this role, Mr. Yiannas will report directly to me, and he’ll head the Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine.  Dr. Ostroff was instrumental in recruiting Mr. Yiannas to the Agency. Dr. Ostroff will remain at the FDA until January as a senior advisor to me, and will help Mr. Yiannas transition into his new role.

Mr. Yiannas is a globally renowned food safety and supply chain expert and thought leader.  Throughout his private sector career – most recently as Vice President of Food Safety and Health for Walmart, he’s been a food safety champion and instrumental in forging public-private collaborations to advance public health.

He’s been recognized for his role in elevating food safety standards and building effective food safety management systems based on modern science and risk-based prevention principles. Mr. Yiannas is a globally acknowledged pioneer in using blockchain technology to strengthen food traceability capabilities and enable greater food system transparency.

In addition to his food safety leadership roles at Walmart and Disney, Mr. Yiannas previously served as the president of the International Association for Food Protection. He’s an Adjunct Professor in the Food Safety Program at Michigan State University, and the author of many scholarly papers on food safety and books on food safety culture and behavior.

As Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response, Mr. Yiannas will assume a critical set of charges related to food safety, first and foremost, leading the continued implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. In this role, he’ll work in close collaboration with the leadership of Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the Center for Veterinary Medicine, and the food components of the Office of Regulatory Affairs. Mr. Yiannas’s deep knowledge and diverse experience will support our continued efforts to advance the FDA’s strategies for continuing to reduce food safety risks and achieving high rates of compliance with our modernization standards.

Mr. Yiannas also will serve as a senior scientific advisor to the Commissioner on various food safety and supply chain matters, including FSMA implementation. Additionally, he’ll help lead and coordinate certain cross-cutting policy activities and associated external engagement activities related to food safety and animal health. We’ll also leverage his experience and leadership across the Agency, and all product areas, on the issues of supply chain security and the use of new tracking technology, recall effectiveness, and traceback investigation processes.

We look forward to his contributions to our food safety mission and our efforts to keep families safe. Please join me in wishing Dr. Ostroff well and welcoming Mr. Yiannas to FDA.

Sincerely,

Dr. Scott Gottlieb
Commissioner of Food and Drugs

From Food Safety News:

By Dan Flynn on September 24, 2018

A new edition of “Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. Coli Outbreak That Changed the Way Americans Eat” by Jeff Benedict has been shipped to distributors by book publishers Thomson-Shore.

In the new edition, Benedict catches up with America’s best-known food safety lawyer in South Africa where the world’s largest ever listeriosis outbreak was underway with eerie parallels to America’s 1993 E. coli outbreak, which “Poisoned”explores in detail.

Twenty-five years after that game-changing E. coli O157: H7 outbreak, Benedict finds food safety lawyer Bill Marler older and grayer, but still going from one food safety crisis to another. And South Africa’s listeriosis outbreak is the worst of its kind ever, according to the World Health Organization.

The new edition of “Poisoned” is the first since the original hardback came out in 2011, followed by the paperback in 2014. Its release comes as Benedict, one of America’s top nonfiction writers, finds his book, “Tiger Woods,” riding atop the New York Times Best Seller list.

In the new second edition of “Poisoned,” he reports on Marler teaming up with South African human rights lawyer Richard Spoor to seek justice for more than 1,000 Listeria victims, including the more than 200 that died. “Nearly half of the victims were newborns that had been infected during gestation,” Benedict reports.

Benedict took some time out of one of his increasingly busy days to answer a few questions from Food Safety News (FSN). Here’s what we learned:

FSN: Jeff, we did not know just how busy you’ve been. Congratulations sir, on your new book, “Tiger Woods.” It’s a No. 1 New York Times bestseller with stunning reviews. How does that feel?

JB: “It was a privilege to write the biography of the world’s greatest golfer. Tiger is a Shakespearian figure whose popularity transcends sport. The great thing is that his comeback is a triumphant tale that has captured the attention of the world.”

FSN: About half of your books involve the world of sports. In addition to golf, you’ve authored serious works about college and pro football, the NBA, Indian gaming, and domestic violence involving athletes. How do you follow so many sports and still get anything done?

JB: “It’s not so much about following so many sports. When I write a book, I do full immersion into the subject matter, whether it’s a biography about a famous athlete or an exposé on a phony Indian tribe that built the world’s largest casino. Once I’m into a book, I pretty much block out everything else.”

FSN: You also made famous action on the Supreme Court with “Little Pink House,” the takings case out of New London, CT. Your book was made into a movie that was in theaters earlier this year. What was your role in that?

JB: “I was an executive producer on the film, which starred Catherine Keener and Jeanne Tripplehorn. One of my responsibilities was to persuade David Crosby to compose an original theme song, which turned out to be one of my favorite aspects of working on the film.”

FSN: In returning to “Poisoned” to write for the new edition, were you surprised to find so many instances of foodborne illness still occurring 25 years after the events your first wrote about?

JB: “Not really. What’s interesting is the diversity of foods that are now responsible for E. coli outbreaks. When the Jack in the Box outbreak, which is the subject of “Poisoned,” happened 25 years ago, E. coli poisoning was traced to contaminated ground beef. That used to be the norm. Now E. coli is found in leafy greens and other foods. It shows, in part, how complex our food system has become.”

FSN: Poisoned is a must read for anyone in the food safety community and many will likely want to read the updated version. Beyond this professional community, do you know who makes up the audience for a book like “Poisoned” with it’s behind the scenes look at food safety?

JB “I chose a narrative style that I thought would appeal to parents, especially mothers. I also tried to write the story in a cinematic way. It’s a very visual story. And I remain hopeful that one day it will find its way to the screen.

FSN: Jeff, you’ve been highly productive as an author and producer during the past decade and longer. What’s next for you?

JB:   “The biography of LeBron James.”

Editor’s notes: Jeff Benedict is licensed to practice law in Connecticut. He’s a distinguished professor of writing and mass media at Southern Virginia University. He is represented by Richard Pine at InkWell Management in New York City.

Poisoned FOREWARD 6-29-18

I have been a frequent advocate for more transparency at the FDA when it comes to outbreaks and recalls – especially of Class I Recalls – and a frequent critic of its failure to disclose retailers – where the recalled product was sold – and its failure to disclose manufacturers – where the product was produced.  Commissioner Gottlieb seems to be taking a major leap forward in allowing consumers more information on at lease where tainted product has been sold.

I had just finished by speech at the South American IAFP Conference, when the FDA Alert fell into my in box – Statement from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., on new FDA commitment to disclose retailer information for certain food recalls to improve consumer safety.

So, here is Commissioner Gottlieb’s press statement in part.

A bit of History –The agency has not traditionally released lists of specific retailers where recalled foods may have been purchased. This is because certain supply chain information is confidential between the supplier and retailer…. But there are some cases where additional information about the retailers selling potentially harmful product may be key to protecting consumers such as when the food is not easily identified as being subject to a recall from its retail packaging and the food is likely to be available for consumption. It is particularly important in situations where the product has already been linked to foodborne illness.

Retail Disclosure –… That’s why today the FDA issued new draft guidance that describes situations when disclosing retail information for products undergoing recalls is appropriate. The draft guidance outlines the circumstances when the FDA intends to make public the retail locations that may have sold or distributed a recalled human or animal food. These circumstances will particularly apply in situations associated with the most serious recalls, where consumption of the food has a reasonable probability of causing serious adverse health consequences or death to humans or animals.

Retail Disclosure continued –… Based on this new policy, moving forward the FDA intends to publicize retail consignee lists for food recalls when the food is not easily identified as being subject to a recall from its retail packaging, or lack thereof, and if the food is likely to be available for consumption…. The new draft guidance also states that the FDA may disclose retail consignee lists in certain recall situations, including when a recalled food is related to a foodborne illness outbreak and where the information is most useful to consumers….

Perhaps, this says it all? –… I remain committed to investing in the FDA’s food program, building on our successes, and to applying the FDA’s food safety expertise to protect American families and keep our Nation safe.

Cargill Ground Beef 2018 – 17 Ill, 1 Death – E. coli O26

On Aug. 16, 2018, FSIS was notified of an investigation of E. coli O26 illnesses. FSIS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state public health and agriculture partners determined that raw ground beef was the probable source of the reported illnesses. The epidemiological investigation identified 17 illnesses and one death with illness onset dates ranging from July 5 to July 25, 2018.  On August 30thPublix Super Markets Inc., a Lakeland, Fla., retail grocery store chain recalled an undetermined amount of ground beef products made from chuck that may be contaminated with Escherichia coli O26.  On September 19th, Cargill Meat Solutions, a Fort Morgan, Colorado establishment, recalled approximately 132,606 pounds of ground beef products made from the chuck portion of the carcass that may be contaminated with Escherichia coli O26,

A bit of History:

Cargill Ground Beef 2012 – 40 Ill – Salmonella

On July 22, 2012 Cargill Meat Solutions announced a recall of 29,339 pounds of fresh ground beef products due to possible contamination with Salmonella Enteritidis. Using epidemiologic and traceback data public health investigators in 8 states (MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VA, VT, and WV) and the CDC linked 40 patients diagnosed with S. Enteritidis to consumption of Cargill ground beef sold at Hannaford grocery stores in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Among 40 persons for whom information is available, illness onset dates ranged from June 6, 2012 to July 9, 2012. Eleven patients were hospitalized. The Vermont Department of Health isolated the outbreak strain in leftover product.

Cargill Meat Solutions Ground Turkey 2011 – 181 Ill – Salmonella

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service(FSIS) issued a public health alert, on July 29, due to concerns about illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg that associated with the use and the consumption of ground turkey. The alert was initiated after continuous medical reports, ongoing investigations and testing conducted by various departments of health across the nation determined an association between consumption of ground turkey products and illness. On August 3, Cargill Meat Solutions issued a recall of ground turkey products. The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “P-963” inside the USDA mark of inspection. On August 4, the Centers for Disease Control published their first outbreak summary. The Salmonella Heidelberg was multi-drug resistant, resistant to ampicillin, streptomycin, tetracycline, and gentamycin. The CDC began their investigation on May 23, after recognizing an “unusual clustering” of Salmonella Heidelberg cases. About the same time, routine surveillance by a federal food monitoring system found the same strain of Salmonella Heidelberg in ground turkey in stores. On July 29, the initial outbreak strain and a second, closely related, strain of Salmonella Heidelberg was isolated from a sample of leftover unlabeled frozen ground turkey from the home of an outbreak case in Ohio. Since February 27, 2011, a total of 23 ill persons were reported to Pulse Net with this second, closely related, strain. Eighty-four ill persons were infected with the initial strain. The consumer product sample originated from the Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation establishment in Springdale, Arkansas. On September 11, Cargill Meat Solutions recalled an additional, approximately 185,000 pounds, of ground turkey contaminated with an identical strain of Salmonella Heidelberg that had led to the earlier recall on August 3. As of September 27, no illnesses had been linked to the additionally recalled, ground turkey products.

Cargill Meat Solutions/BJ’s Wholesale Club Ground Beef 2010 – 3 Ill – E. coli O26

A recall of ground beef was issued on August 28 when three people developed illnesses caused by rare strain of E. coli O26 after they had eaten the product. The ground beef produced by Cargill Meat Solutions, of Pennsylvania and was distributed to BJ’s Wholesale Clubs in New York, Maine, Connecticut, Virginia, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maryland.

Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef 2009 – 2 Ill – Salmonella

In December, Beef Packers, Inc., owned by Cargill, recalled over 20,000 pounds of ground beef contaminated with a drug-resistant strain of Salmonella Newport. The company issued an earlier recall in August 2009, due to contamination of ground beef with the same strain of Salmonella Newport. This contaminated ground beef was produced in September and was distributed to Safeway grocery stores in Arizona and New Mexico. The Arizona Department of Health linked two illnesses to the ground beef.

Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef 2009 – 68 Ill – Salmonella

A Beef Packers, Inc. plant in California owned by Cargill, distributed approximately 830,000 pounds of ground beef that was likely contaminated with Salmonella Newport. The beef was shipped to distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Utah where it was repackaged into consumer-sized packages and sold under different retail brand names. The contaminated beef contained a strain of Salmonella resistant to several commonly used antibiotics (called MDR-AmpC resistance). Sixty-eight outbreak associated cases were reported by 15 states. Most of the ill in Colorado had purchased the ground beef at Safeway grocery stores.

Cargill Ground Beef Sold at Sam’s Club Stores 2007 – 46 Ill – E. coli O157:H7

A multistate outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 began in August and led to the eventual recall of 845,000 pounds of Cargill ground beef. Forty-six cases were reported by 15 states. Interviews with the case-patients found a common exposure of Cargill hamburger.

Emmpak/Cargill Ground Beef 2002 – 57 Ill – E. coli O157:H7

Wisconsin epidemiologists noted a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 cases. The health department interviewed case-patients and found a common exposure. All victims had eaten ground beef from Emmpak, a meat producer. The same strain of E.coli O157:H7 was isolated from the ground beef. The case investigation resulted in a 2.8-million-pound recall of Emmpak meat and resulted in related illnesses in at least six states. The responsible Emmpak plant was closed for inadequate sampling and testing procedures.

Cargill Deli Turkey 2000  – 29 Ill – Listeria

A case-control study implicated sliced, processed, turkey deli meat in a multistate (11 state) outbreak. A traceback investigation identified a single processing plant in Texas as the likely source of the outbreak. The company recalled 16 million pounds of processed meat. The same plant had been implicated in a Listeria contamination involving the same strain of Listeria more than a decade previously.

As some of the readers might know, in my spare time I am the managing partner at Marler Clark in Seattle.  Our long-time Epidemiologist, Patti Waller, has moved into semi-retirement and is running www.outbreakdatabase.com for us.  Katrina Deardorff, who has been with us for a nearly two years, has decided to take a job back in the public sector, and we wish her well.

So, I am working here on a Saturday (not that uncommon), thinking about how to replace the irreplaceable, but knowing how important this job is to the quality of work we do at Marler Clark.

Minimum requirements are a Masters in Public Health or Epidemiology and some experience in foodborne disease investigations and willingness to live in Seattle.

Please send your resume and salary requirements to me at bmarler@marlerclark.com.  Also, take a chance to see the below.  I think it helps understand the job and its importance.