Colorado Restaurant Closed Because of E. coli Outbreak
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/colorado-restaurant-closed-because-of-e-coli-outbreak/
By Linda Larsen (June 12, 2016)
A restaurant in Aurora, Colorado, Pho 75, was closed on Friday, June 10, 2016 because an E. coli O157 outbreak has been reported to public officials. Several media area reporting that at least four people have been sickened after eating at the restaurant, located at 2050 South Havana Street in Aurora.
One of the four patients, a 14-year-old boy who ate at Pho 75 on May 24, has been hospitalized with serious illness. He has been in the intensive care unit with a severe case of pancreatitis since June 1, according to Fox31 Denver. The boy has improved, but is still hospitalized and may be for weeks, according to his father, Marc Thompson.
According to health inspection records posted at the Tri-County Health Department covering Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas Counties in Colorado, an inspection at the restaurant on March 24, 2016 uncovered eighteen violations, four of them critical violations that present a foodborne illness risk. The restaurant was inspected again on March 31, 2016 and no violations were found. Inspections in 2013, 2014, and 2015 also uncovered violations, including broken and dirty equipment and raw foods held without refrigeration.
The four critical, food borne illness risk violations included: “A bag of raw sausage was stored above ready-to-eat lettuce and ready-to-eat cucumbers in the preparation area, double-door, reach-in refrigerator. Corrected on-site. An employee in the ware washing area was observed touching dirty dishes and proceeded to touch clean dishes without washing their hands in between.
“An employee on the cook line repeatedly failed to wash her hands before donning new pairs of gloves.An employee on the cook line failed to use their single-use gloves appropriately, as they repeatedly wore them for multiple tasks. An employee was observed touching his face with gloved hands and proceeded to touch ready-to-eat lettuce on the cook line. Cut lettuce was 48°F in a plastic container on top of the cook line, chest freezer. Cooked beef balls were 56°F in the basin of the preparation sink.”
Other violations included thawing frozen, cooked chicken thawing on top of the wait station, chest, reach-in freezer. Freezing raw meats at room temperature can let bacteria grow. The preparation sink was not firmly attached to the wall. Edges of cutting boards are cracked, and the interiors of all of the establishment’s chest freezers had an excessive amount of ice build-up. Storage shelves were heavily soiled.
The health department is asking that anyone who has eaten at that restaurant and has developed the symptoms of an E. coli infection should see their doctor as soon as possible. The Colorado Department of Public health and Environment does believe that more people are sick.
Those symptoms include severe abdominal cramps, diarrhea that may be bloody and/or watery, a mild fever, and vomiting. Most people get better within a week, but some, especially young children, can develop hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) as a the result of this type of infection.
The symptoms of HUS include little to no urine output, lethargy, jaundice, easy bruising, bleeding from the nose and mouth, and a skin rash. Anyone experiencing these symptoms needs to see a doctor immediately.
“Nanobombs” Protect Consumers from Foodborne Microorganisms
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/junejuly2016/e2809cnanobombse2809d-protect-consumers-from-foodborne-microorganisms/
By Joel M. Cohen, Sci.D.
Foodborne disease currently poses a significant global public health burden. In the U.S. alone, approximately 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases on a yearly basis. Recent evidence suggests contaminated fresh produce is often the cause of such foodborne disease. Between 1990 and 2005, 13 percent of all reported foodborne outbreaks and 21 percent of reported illnesses were attributed to contaminated fresh produce.[1,2] Such effects are not limited to the U.S. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reports that from 2007 to 2011, 10 percent of pathogenic outbreaks, 26 percent of the cases, 35 percent of the hospitalizations and 46 percent of the deaths were associated with foods of nonanimal origin, including fresh produce.
Along with public health impacts come significant economic consequences. According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. economy more than $15.6 billion in 2014. This figure accounts for costs associated with inpatient medical care, outpatient expenses, estimates of healthcare costs required to improve a patient’s medical condition, lost wages and costs associated with continued evaluation of foodborne infections. For example, treatment costs for the common foodborne pathogen Salmonella totaled $3.6 billion, and costs for Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli totaled $2.6 billion and $271 million, respectively.
Contamination of fresh produce can occur at several stages across the production chain, including harvesting from the field or orchard, transporting, processing, distribution or marketing at the grocery store. Further opportunities for contamination arise during food preparation in foodservice establishments or in the home (i.e., “farm to fork”). Possible contamination sources range from irrigation water, animals, insects, soil and manure, to infected food handlers or improperly sanitized food contact surfaces.
How to Handle the Problem?
Currently, fresh produce and food preparation surfaces are typically disinfected with chlorine (in elemental form or as a hypochlorite) or chlorine dioxide. While chlorine is permitted for use as a disinfectant on organic produce, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set a limit of residual chlorine equal to the drinking water limit of 4 mg/L. Achieving such low residual levels requires dilute chlorine solutions that are not nearly as effective at properly sanitizing food or food contact surfaces. Other commonly used disinfectants include peracetic acid, hydrogen peroxide, quaternary ammonium compounds or ozone (in either gaseous or liquid form). However, these chemical intervention methods (including chlorine) can leave behind residues that ruin the food’s taste or pose a skin-irritation hazard for food handlers. Other food suppliers may use ultraviolet radiation. However, this method can slow down ripening and induce visible damage on the produce if improperly applied. Furthermore, most of these methods lack the versatility to be used across the food’s production and distribution cycle. Such interventions are often only used at Critical Control Points, such as postharvest or during food packaging, leaving many opportunities for cross-contamination across fresh produce stocks. Despite these limitations, there is currently a great need for effective and versatile antimicrobial interventions that can be applied from farm to fork.
Thinking “Small” for Big Solutions
Recent advances in nanotechnology may provide a unique alternative intervention method to address the problem of foodborne diseases. For the past decade, researchers and the media have been hyping “nano,” or substances smaller than 100 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in one dimension, as a transformative technology with applications across a wide variety of sectors. Recent advancements have improved researchers’ and industry’s ability to engineer and characterize these extremely small particles, and nanotechnology has become a major economic force in the 21st century.
The promise of nanotechnology is predicated on the fact that nanoscale materials often exhibit properties distinct from their micron-size counterparts. For example, nanoscale iron oxide loses its magnetism, and nanogold turns red in color. For the purposes of eliminating foodborne pathogens, many nanoparticles exhibit antimicrobial properties. Photocatalytic nanoparticles made of zinc oxide and titanium oxide help degrade harmful volatile organic compounds and kill microorganisms when incorporated into food packaging materials, thereby keeping food fresher and extending shelf life. Similarly, silver nanoparticles are used in food packaging for their antimicrobial properties. Studies suggest that nanoscale silver particles are capable of killing 650 disease-causing pathogens in food and may also be less susceptible than traditional antimicrobials to the development of bacterial resistance. Nanosilver is also readily incorporated into various materials and matrices, such as textiles and plastics. Several food storage and food contact products currently available on the market already contain nanosilver and claim benefits including extended shelf lives for fruits, vegetables, breads, meats and other food items.
However, such approaches may not be applicable across the entire production and distribution cycle, and concerns remain regarding potential hazards to human health and the environment. The mechanisms that allow nanoparticles to kill bacteria may also pose a risk to the very people they are intended to protect. Due to their small size, nanoparticles may penetrate biological barriers and trigger severe adverse health effects. For instance, inhaled nanoparticles have the capacity to evade typical clearance mechanisms, translocate across the alveolar epithelium of the lung and migrate to other sensitive organs including the kidneys, liver and brain. Similar concerns over ingested nanoparticles are not well understood and are currently a hot topic for toxicological research. For industry and researchers, the question remains how to help nanotechnology reach its full potential while still preserving public safety.
Safe-by-Design Nano Water Droplets
Safe-by-design nanotechnology requires engineering advanced materials and technologies that maintain desirable functionality and antimicrobial properties while also reducing hazards and risks to human health and the environment. Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health are currently investigating possible “safe-by-design” approaches to food safety. Associate professor of aerosol physics and director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology Philip Demokritou and his research team are working with “engineered water nanostructures” (EWNSs). Demokritou and his group propose these nanosize water droplets may offer a safe, cost-effective way to kill foodborne pathogens.
EWNSs are generated by harnessing water vapor present in ambient air using a process called electrospraying. The electrospray system consists of a gold-plated electrode that is chilled by a cooling element to condense water from the atmosphere on its microsize tip, and a second concentric electrode hovering 5 millimeters below. When activated with high voltage, the condensed water is electrically charged and drawn toward the circular electrode. Surface tension, however, grips the water droplets to the gold-plated electrode until the strain becomes too much. Under this immense strain, the condensed water drop eventually explodes into a spray of droplets, each just 25 nanometers in size, which is 2,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair.
In addition to their small size, EWNSs possess unique properties with implications for food safety. Georgios Pyrgiotakis, a postdoctoral fellow in Demokritou’s group and lead author on several recent publications on this new technology, reports that EWNSs contain massive payloads of reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROSs are known to attack cellular membranes, damage DNA, oxidize enzymes and degrade other proteins necessary for cellular or microbial survival. If a droplet happens to bounce into a microbial pathogen, EWNSs act like “nanobombs,” releasing ROSs that can do serious damage and effectively kill the pathogen. Pyrgiotakis also determined that the tiny water particles persisted in the air for hours instead of evaporating immediately as expected. Droplets this small would usually evaporate in a fraction of a second. However, because the condensed water is so pure, there are almost no other molecules with which they can react. Furthermore, optimizing the voltage applied to the needle in the electrospray system ensures the particles develop a strong enough surface charge (on average 10–40 electrons/particle) to significantly increase surface tension and reduce evaporation. These highly charged nanobombs can persist in the air for hours, increasing the likelihood they come into contact with unwanted microbes.
Effective Bug Killer
In a study published in Environmental Science & Technology, Pyrgiotakis investigated just how effective these EWNSs were at killing representative foodborne pathogens. To test this, researchers inoculated stainless steel food production surfaces with representative foodborne bacteria E. coli, Salmonella enterica and Listeria innocua. EWNSs were generated at an average aerosol concentration of 24,000 particles/cm3 and delivered to the bacteria-infected surfaces via diffusion for a 90-minute exposure period. On the stainless steel surfaces, they observed 0.6- to 1.8-log reductions in bacterial counts, depending on bacterial type.
The EWNS system was then optimized to produce higher concentrations of particles that were targeted to deposit directly on the surface of inoculated organic grape tomatoes. In this optimized system, average aerosol concentrations were achieved ranging up to 40,000 particles/cm3. Particles were directed toward contaminated tomatoes with an electrostatic precipitator exposure system. After a 45-minute exposure period with the optimized system, researchers saw 2.2-, 3.8- and 3.8-log reductions for S. enterica, L. innocua and E. coli, respectively. For comparison, typical chemical treatments such as chlorine or peroxyacetic acid washes can achieve 1- to 3-log inactivations of E. coli O157:H7, Listeria and Salmonella spp. within 3 minutes. These results with the optimized EWNS system suggest a promising future for the use of highly charged, nano-size water droplets as an alternative method for disinfecting food and food contact surfaces.
A Cleaner, Safer Alternative
In addition to effectively killing microbial pathogens, this novel, chemical-free and environmentally friendly intervention holds great potential as a “green” alternative to inactivation methods currently used in the food industry. Using an optimized electrospray system, nano-size droplets are formed from water vapor already present in the air. There are no residues to worry about, and after a few hours, everything evaporates back into water vapor.
To address concerns of potential human health effects associated with breathing in large quantities of the EWNSs, Demokritou’s group used an animal model to investigate lung toxicity following inhalation exposure. Mice were exposed to EWNSs for 4 hours at levels 50 percent higher than the concentration used for attacking microbial pathogens (60,000 particles/cm3). The mice exhibited no respiratory tract toxicity, no increase in lung inflammatory markers, no increase in cell death and no changes in breathing patterns. In fact, they appeared completely unaware of the EWNSs they were breathing. The researchers hypothesized the alveolar lining fluid in the mouse lungs neutralized the nanobombs before they could come into contact with living cells, although more research may be necessary to confirm this.
In light of these results, Demokritou believes electrospraying could be used as a cost-effective approach that can be easily deployed at various intervention points. EWNSs could be applied to produce from farm to fork, including postharvest, on a transport truck or even as an invisible mist in the grocery aisle. Research indicates EWNSs are capable of reducing common foodborne pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria, as well as yeasts and fungi that cause food to spoil. Such a versatile technology could help significantly decrease the microbial load on fresh produce and extend shelf life, as well as reduce the number of cases of foodborne illnesses from consumption.
Joel M. Cohen, Sci.D., is a toxicologist with Gradient Corporation, an environmental and risk sciences consulting firm.
1. Abadias, M et al. 2008. “Microbiological Quality of Fresh, Minimally Processed Fruit and Vegetables, and Sprouts from Retail Establishments.” Int J Food Microbiol 123:121−129.
3. Panel on Biological Hazards. 2013. EFSA – Scientific Opinion of the BIOHAZ Panel: “Risk Posed by Pathogens in Food of Non-Animal Origin: Part 1.” Eur Food Saf Author J 11:1−138.
5. Pyrgiotakis, G et al. 2015. “Inactivation of Foodborne Microorganisms Using Engineered Water Nanostructures (EWNS).” Environ Sci Technol 49:3737−3745.
6. Pyrgiotakis, G et al. 2016. “Optimization of a Nanotechnology-Based Antimicrobial Platform for Food Safety Applications Using Engineered Water Nanostructures (EWNS).” Sci Reports doi:10.1038/srep21073.
7. Neo, SY et al. 2013. “Efficacy of Chlorine and Peroxyacetic Acid on Reduction of Natural Microflora, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella spp. on Mung Bean Sprouts.” Food Microbiol 36:475–480.
8. Pyrgiotakis, G et al. 2014. “A Chemical-Free, Nanotechnology-Based Method for Airborne Bacterial Inactivation Using Engineered Water Nanostructures.” Environ Sci Nano 1:15−26
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Posted By Bill Marler on June 11, 2016
Source : http://www.foodpoisonjournal.com/foodborne-illness-outbreaks/flour-bag-tests-positive-for-e-coli-smoking-bag/#.V15KcU5pCUk
By Bill Marler (June 11, 2016)
The CDC reports that 38 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O121 have been reported from 20 states. Illnesses started on dates ranging from December 21, 2015 to May 3, 2016. Ten ill people have been hospitalized. In its investigation, CDC learned that some people who got sick had eaten or handled raw dough.
FDA’s traceback investigation determined that the raw dough eaten or handled by ill people or used in restaurant locations was made using General Mills flour that was produced in the same week in November 2015 at the General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri. Epidemiology and traceback evidence available at this time indicate that General Mills flour manufactured at this facility is the likely source of the outbreak.
On June 10, 2016, FDA whole genome sequencing on E. coli O121 isolates recovered from an open sample of General Mills flour belonging to one of the consumers who was sickened was found to be closely genetically related the clinical isolates from human illnesses. The flour came from a lot that General Mills has recalled.
On May 31, 2016, following a conference call among FDA, CDC and the firm, General Mills conducted a voluntary recall of flour products produced between November 14, 2015 and December 4, 2015. Recalled products are sold in stores nationwide or may be in consumers’ pantries and are sold under three brand names: Gold Medal flour, Signature Kitchens flour and Gold Medal Wondra flour. The varieties include unbleached, all-purpose, and self-rising flours.
General Mills also sells bulk flour to customers who use it to make other products. General Mills has contacted these customers directly to inform them of the recall. FDA is working with General Mills to ensure that the customers have been notified, and to evaluate the recall for effectiveness. Because of legal restrictions on commercial confidential information, FDA is not at this time authorized to release the names of these customers or the products they make with the flour.
Flour has a long shelf life, and bags of flour may be kept in peoples’ homes for a long time. Consumers unaware of the recall could continue to eat these recalled flours and potentially get sick. If consumers have any of these recalled flours in their homes, they should throw them away.
Recalled products are currently sold in stores or may be in consumers’ pantries and are sold under three brand names: Gold Medal Flour, Signature Kitchens Flour, and Gold Medal Wondra flour. The recalled products were sold nationwide and include unbleached, all-purpose, and self-rising flours varieties.
The specific products in the recall include:
Research: E. coli Still Survives After Ground Beef is Thoroughly Cooked
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/research-e-coli-still-survives-after-ground-beef-is-thoroughly-cooked/
By Staff (June 9, 2016)
Research: E. coli Still Survives After Ground Beef is Thoroughly Cooked
Health Canada has long advised consumers to cook ground beef to 71 °C (equal to 159.8 °F). Now, researchers say that even this standard temperature recommendation might not kill all bacteria.
Food scientists at the University of Alberta have discovered that cooking ground beef to 71 °C does not always eliminate all strains of Escherichia coli, a bacterium found in the gut of both humans and animals.
Not all strains of E. coli are harmful. However, some E. coli--particularly O157--can lead to kidney failure. It can also be fatal.
“We’ve been hammering consumers for years to cook chicken properly, to handle it properly, and to do the same with ground beef. But still we seem to have these outbreaks of E. coli [attributed to hamburgers],” says Lynn McMullen, a food microbiologist in university’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Nutritional Science.
According to McMullen, this might explain the persistence of E. coli outbreaks related to ground beef.
The tendency for E. coli to still survive after proper cooking has been applied was actually first discovered 8 years ago. It didn’t become a focus until McMullen assigned a student to exclusively research the problem in 2008. University of Alberta houses beef, which made it easy for the student to look for differences in thermal survival among organisms in a large collection of E. coli from beef.
Ultimately, this could change the guidelines that consumers follow for cooking meat because the current standards may no longer be sufficient.
Two Hospitalized in Salmonella Outbreak Linked to Ajuua’s in Odessa
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/two-hospitalized-in-salmonella-outbreak-linked-to-ajuuas-in-odessa/
By Carla Gillespie (June 9, 2016)
Two people have been hospitalized in a Salmonella outbreak linked to Ajuua’s Mexican restaurant in Odessa, Texas. As many as 20 others may have been sickened.
The Ector County Health Department began receiving reports of illness on Friday, June 3. The restaurant has been temporarily closed, but may reopen as soon as tomorrow.
One of the people who was hospitalized told NewsWest9 that she was taken to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa after losing consciousness in the shower. She told the station that she and her friends suspected salsa as the source of illness. Health officials have not yet released information about the potential source of contamination.
The restaurant has been temporarily closed, but may reopen as soon as tomorrow. the owner told NewsWest9.
Symptoms of a Salmonella infection include nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and blood in the stool. They usually appear within six to 72 hours of exposure and last about a week. However, some people can become so ill they must be hospitalized.
Long term complications of a Salmonella infection can be serious, including reactive arthritis, along with high blood pressure and irritable bowel syndrome.
U.N. officials say food safety is entwined with food security
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/06/u-n-officials-say-food-safety-is-entwined-with-food-security/#.V14VxE5pCUk
By Coral Beach (June 9, 2016)
Few threats addressed by the United Nations are as undiscriminating as foodborne pathogens, which don’t honor international borders or differentiate between first- and third-world status.
Similarly few threats addressed by the international body are as easy to mitigate as food safety, at least in theory.
“Food safety is not really complicated or expensive,” said Ajay Markanday, director of the North American Liaison Office for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. “As an economist I know (businesses) have to look at the cost of not dealing with food safety. … Food safety can be regarded in terms of sustained economic growth.”
Markanday, who is just completing his first year as director of the liaison office in Washington D.C., said one of his goals in the position is to bring food safety discussions more prominently into the FAO’s work on food security.
Today, Markanday is scheduled to address a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs. It’s the first time in the history of the FAO that the organization has made such an appearance. The scheduled topic — “The Stunning Global Impact of Nutrition and Supplements During the First 1,000 Days” — will mainly involve food and nutrition security for young children, but Markanday said it’s nearly impossible to separate food safety and food security.
“Food safety is a strand in our endeavor to ensure food security,” Markanday said during a recent interview with Food Safety News. “We need to get policy and opinion makers to see the synergies between food safety and food security.”
Science may well be the best way to illustrate the benefits of both food safety and food security, Markanday said. “As consumers we want to have the luxury of taking our food safety for granted,” Lipp said. “But consumers have the right and responsibility to ask questions.”
One question consumers should consider, Lipp said, is “Does it make sense that this food is so cheap?” He said the expression “if it’s too good to be true, it’s probably not” especially applies to food safety.
“We (consumers) must demonstrate that we care about food safety,” Lipp said. “Call the 800 number on the package and ask questions. Ask local and federal authorities. Find out about what you are eating before you eat it.”
Lipp sees food safety as a shared responsibility involving consumers, regulators, lawmakers and the food industry.
“In the end, food safety is intimately connected to trust,” he said. “We depend on trusting the government, industry, farmers, legislators and everyone from farm to fork. … No single institution or country can do it all.”
From a global perspective, Lipp said, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is pretty effective in terms of being part of the solution. For example, the information sharing issues of law enforcement agencies that were brought to light earlier this year after the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels are not generally a problem in the food safety arena, he said.
“There is a lot of data sharing among food safety agencies with their international (counterparts),” Lipp said. “FDA does a good job.”
Some U.S. policies, such as the zero tolerance stand on foodborne pathogens, can muddy the waters, though, Lipp said. Part of the problem with the zero tolerance approach is that it gives a false sense of security when tests come up negative.
“Zero tolerance is a little bit like playing lotto,” Lipp said. “The uncomfortable reality in food is that nothing is 100 percent.”
Traceability requirements can also give the public a false sense of food safety security. While such codes can be helpful during a recall, Lipp said food safety is best achieved and maintained earlier in the production process. He said risk management is the best tool.
“If a system is designed to be safe, it probably will be,” Lipp said.
Markus Lipp, a senior food safety officer for the FAO who is based in Rome, agrees that science is key, saying one goal is to get to the nexus of food safety and food security. But he also said the safety of the 28 billion meals needed daily to feed the world can’t be achieved through science alone.
Auditors slam FDA for dragging its feet on food recalls
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/06/127380/#.V14VZk5pCUk
By Coral Beach (June 9, 2016)
The Food and Drug Administration is under fire from the Office of Inspector General for inefficient and ineffective food recall procedures that left the public at risk for as much as six months after the agency knew there was a problem.
The Office of Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health and Human Services is continuing to review FDA’s recall activities, but an “early alert” issued Wednesday left little room for doubt that changes are needed.
“Specifically, FDA did not have policies and procedures to ensure that firms or responsible parties initiated voluntary food recalls promptly. This issue is a significant matter and requires FDA’s immediate attention,” according to OIG’s early alert.
“We suggest that FDA update its policies and procedures to instruct its recall staff to establish set timeframes for: 1. FDA to request that firms voluntarily recall their products and 2. firms to initiate voluntary food recalls.”
The OIG staff looked at 30 domestic and imported food recalls from October 2012 through May 2015. Two recalls related to Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes outbreaks in 2013-14 involving nut butter and cheese products, respectively, are specifically cited in the OIG report.
In the nut butter case, the responsible firm did not issue a recall until 165 days — almost six months — after FDA identified the potentially adulterated product. At least 14 people were sickened in the related Salmonella outbreak.
For the Listeria outbreak linked to cheese products, the responsible company did not issue a recall until 81 days — almost three months — after FDA became aware of the problem, according to OIG. At least nine people were sickened and one infant died in that outbreak, and two fetal losses were also linked to the tainted cheese products.
FDA responds with blog post
FDA officials responded to the OIG concerns in a “Voice Blog” entry posted today by Stephen Ostroff, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, and Howard Sklamberg, FDA’s deputy commissioner for global regulatory operations and policy.
“… the agency is now expediting changes already underway to strengthen its compliance and enforcement strategies, including voluntary and mandatory recalls. This includes, in individual situations, specifying timeframes for voluntary action by the firm and, if necessary, enforcement action by the agency,” according to the blog post by Ostroff and Sklamberg.
The concept of timeframes for “individual situations” is one of the problems identified by the Inspector General’s early alert. The report suggests that FDA should be more aggressive in all recall situations, not just certain individual situations.
“… we found that FDA’s policies and procedures did not instruct its recall staff to prescribe to the firms a time and a manner in which to initiate the voluntary recall. We also found that FDA did not have policies and procedures to ensure that firms initiated voluntary food recalls promptly,” according to the OIG alert.
“For all 30 voluntary recalls in our sample, after FDA first became aware that an adulterated or misbranded product could be in the food supply chain, it did not prescribe a timeline for each firm to initiate a recall.”
FDA should also be more willing to use its power to force companies to recall products, according to OIG. That power has been in place since the Food Safety Modernization Act was signed into law in 2011.
In the time since being given mandatory recall authority, FDA has only used it twice — once for pet food and once for dietary supplements.
In their blog post, the FDA’s administrators said the recall process is complex and must be tailored to each situation, rather than having set procedures and timelines.
“The alert focuses in particular on two recalls in which the companies did not initiate recalls of all affected products for months despite the fact that FDA notified them as soon as the agency had evidence of a contamination,” according to the FDA administrators’ blog post today.
“This finding is unacceptable — no question about that. It bears noting, however, that in those three years, the FDA worked with companies to successfully bring about thousands of recalls to keep unsafe food out of the market and homes of consumers with an average recall initiation time of less than a week.
“We fully agree with the OIG that we must move as expeditiously as possible. We also agree that timeframes should be set, but they must be done on an individual basis rather than by setting arbitrary deadlines. The complexities surrounding recall events make it difficult for the FDA to establish a single timeline applicable to all situations.”
The audit of FDA’s recall policies and procedures is ongoing, according to the OIG alert. The auditors will issue another report at the conclusion of the review, but the alert did not indicate when that would be.
Possible illnesses reported in connection with sunflower seeds
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/06/possible-illnesses-reported-in-connection-with-sunflower-seeds/#.V14VDE5pCUl
By Coral Beach (June 8, 2016)
As more snacks and granola products are being recalled every day because of possible Listeria contamination of sunflower kernels, one recalling company reports two illnesses are being investigated in relation to its products.
First Source of Tonawanda, NY, which packages and distributes candy and specialty foods nationwide for national brands such as Ghirardelli, Godiva and Jelly Belly and store brands for Tops, Wegmans, Bed Bath and Beyond, 7-Eleven and other retailers, expanded its May 23 recall in recent days to include 16 more products because they include sunflower kernels supplied by SunOpta Inc.
sunflower-seeds-with-recall-button“Currently, there are two possible illnesses being investigated in connection with this recall,” according to the June 3 expanded recall notice posted on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website.
“The potential for contamination was noted after we received notification from our sunflower kernel supplier SunOpta pertaining to positive Listeria monocytogenes results.”
A spokeswoman with FDA said Monday that First Source had been notified by its customers of the two illnesses and subsequently notified SunOpta officials.
First Source officials did not respond to requests for comment.
“At this time, I would reiterate what we announced last week — no illnesses related to the consumption of these products have been have been confirmed,” SunOpta spokesman Rob Litt said Monday.
Exactly who is investigating the illnesses referenced in the First Source recall notice is unclear, but a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the federal agency is not involved. Generally, the CDC does not get involved in outbreak investigations unless there are victims in more than one state.
A woman answering the phone Monday at the New York State Health Department said the state’s Department of Agriculture & Markets is investigating the illnesses possibly linked to the First Source products. However, a spokeswoman for the ag department said it does not investigate foodborne illnesses.
Officials with the New York State Health Department said they would check into the situation, but had not provided any additional information as of 11 p.m. EDT Tuesday.
More than three dozen companies, including retailers such as HyVee and snack giant Hershey’s, are currently in effect because of the sunflower kernels from SunOpta. Recalls posted with the FDA can be found here.
Some companies have not posted the recalls with the Food and Drug Administration, instead using online news release services such as PRNewsWire.com, BusinessWire.com or their own corporate websites.
USDA raises food safety awareness to seniors
Source : http://www.kagstv.com/news/local/usda-raises-food-safety-awareness-to-seniors/237335055
By Khyati Patel, KAGS (June 8, 2016)
COLLEGE STATION, Texas --- The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Undersecretary for Food Safety are traveling across the country on a ground roots tour to give tools to the elderly on how to prevent food borne illnesses.
Many Americans fail to take simple food safety steps and as a result are vulnerable to food borne diseases.
"Biggest things that we find that Americans don't practice when it comes to food safety is using a food thermometer," said Kristina Beaugh with the Public Affairs Specialist with the USDA.
Kristina Beaugh says it just takes four food safety steps: have clean hands and surfaces, separate your raw meat from poultry from ready to eat foods, cook your meat and poultry to a safe internal temperature and finally chill foods promptly.
"Only up to 30 percent of Americans report using a food thermometer when they cook at home. And a lot of them would be encouraged to use a food thermometer if they were given one for free, " Beaugh said.
Seniors who attended seminar walked away with free food thermometers and of course safer food practices.
USDA Funds Help Schools to Secure Fresher, Safer Food
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/news/usda-funds-help-schools-to-secure-fresher-safer-food/
By Staff (June 7, 2016)
The National School Lunch Program is turning 70 in 2016, and kitchens in many of the more than 95,000 schools that participate in the program are nearly as old. Aging infrastructure and equipment, much of it designed to heat or handle pre-packaged rather than fresh foods, pose significant barriers to school districts’ efforts to adapt to the preferences and dietary needs of today’s students. To address these challenges, Congress appropriated nearly $200 million over the past six years for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) kitchen equipment grants, which have helped thousands of schools purchase needed upgrades.
The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project—a joint initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—commissioned a series of case studies to explore the effects of this federal funding on students and meal programs.
Researchers interviewed food service directors, school administrators, and students from 19 schools in seven states during 2015, and visited the campuses to collect more information. This brief serves as a companion to the individual school case studies, providing background on the grant program and summarizing the findings of an analysis of trends across the schools studied.
The research found that equipment purchased with USDA grant funds has helped schools overcome many of the challenges that meal programs reported in the Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project’s 2012 national survey. That earlier study found that outdated and poorly equipped food service facilities hindered staff efforts to prepare and efficiently serve healthy and appetizing meals. The survey also found that fewer than half of programs have a budget for equipment upgrades, and so many make do with inefficient and expensive workarounds.
For example, schools without adequate refrigeration and storage may resort to piling fresh fruits and vegetables in milk crates and small coolers or taking more frequent and costly deliveries of perishable items. Similarly, kitchen space constraints force some schools to prepare meals in shifts, increasing labor costs and pushing lunch periods earlier or later in the school day. Cramped serving lines slow students’ pace through the cafeteria, leaving less time to eat and discouraging many from choosing a school meal.
Just one new appliance or serving station can have considerable benefits for meal programs and students. Overall, purchases made with USDA equipment grants have helped schools improve nutritional quality and variety, entice more students to eat school meals, and operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. Access to kitchen-upgrade funds such as these grants allows schools to better support children’s health and to run financially sound meal programs. For example:
•Hot holding cabinets keep foods at optimal serving temperatures without drying them out, allowing staff to prepare dishes in advance while maintaining the meals’ appeal.
•Blast chillers freeze or cool foods quickly and safely, preserving freshness and reducing spoilage.
•Combination (combi) ovens bake, roast, grill, steam, braise, blanch, and poach foods faster and maintain more vitamin and nutrient content compared with many traditional cooking methods.
•Mobile food carts enable schools to serve students in more places on campus, making it easier for children to get food and reducing congestion in cafeteria serving lines.
•Modern point-of-sale (POS) software systems help reduce the time students spend in line in the cafeteria and improve the accuracy of schools’ financial and inventory records.
The Kids’ Safe and Healthful Foods Project first studied six schools in California, Kentucky, Maine, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. Two additional batches of schools will be announced in the coming months.
Hawaii Restaurant Issued Cease and Desist Order
Source : https://foodpoisoningbulletin.com/2016/hawaii-restaurant-issued-cease-and-desist-order/
By Linda Larsen (June 7, 2016)
The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) Wastewater Branch has issued a Notice of Violation, Permit Suspension and Order to the Haleiwa Beach House Restaurant because its wastewater system is causing “an imminent threat to public health” by spilling wastewater onto a neighboring property used by children for educational purposes.
Stuart Yamada, Environmental Management Division administrator said in a statement, “to protect public health and the environment and prevent the contamination of neighboring properties caused by the overloading of the restaurant’s wastewater system, the department is ordering the Haleiwa Beach House to cease operation.” The restaurant expanded without state and county approvals, so their system can’t handle the expanded capacity of the restaurant.
The wastewater system of the restaurant can currently handle 114 people, but the restaurant has increased its seating capacity, without authorization, to serve up to 388 people. Building permit applications require review and approval of plans for wastewater systems by the DOH Wastewater Branch, to protect public health and the environment from wastewater spills.
The restaurant was inspected on May 3, 2016, when the city found the establishment was operating with a seat capacity that exceed their wastewater system capacity. The business was cited and asked to submit a plan of correction. During follow-up inspections on May 16 to the 19th, testing confirmed wastewater was spilling from the restaurant’s system into a neighboring property close to a fish pond, frequently visited by schoolchildren.
The DOH Wastewater Branch will keep working with the business to develop a plan of correction. The suspension of the restaurant’s food permit will remain in effect until the restaurant complies.
Food Product Recall Threat? Contamination Scare? Just Opportunities to Strengthen Your Brand
Source : http://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/enewsletter/food-product-recall-threat-contamination-scare-just-opportunities-to-strengthen-your-brand/
By Eden Gillott Bowe
“Do I have something in my house that could cause me to get sick? How can I tell if what I bought was affected? What do I do if I bought something that’s been recalled?”
“Am I putting myself at risk eating there? When do I know if it’s safe again? Can I trust that I’ll be okay?”
These are only a few thoughts that run through consumers’ minds when they hear about a recall, food contamination issue or a breakdown in the supply chain. And these questions and others likely dominated the thoughts of patrons of restaurant chain Chipotle after last year’s Escherichia coli outbreaks and norovirus incident. Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded its investigation in February without determining a specific cause of the E. coli contamination, it’s clear that even foodservice providers with good food safety policies are not impervious to public relations crises from which a company could struggle for years to recover.
Foodservice facilities, restaurants and markets facing a public relations crisis must be proactive to protect their reputations and businesses. A crisis such as Chipotle’s translates into the loss of millions of dollars in business and corrective measures—not to mention damage to goodwill. It makes financial sense to add a layer of protection to your food safety plan by learning and following essential tools and tips to get the best results under intense media and government regulatory scrutiny.
How to Disclose Government Investigations
While the CDC may have cleared the chain, Chipotle is still facing investigations by both the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Office of Criminal Investigation. After receiving a subpoena in connection with a norovirus outbreak in August 2015 in Simi Valley, CA, Chipotle disclosed it in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which requires public companies to “announce major events that shareholders should know about” in their Form 8-K.
In an interview with National Public Radio’s Jim Zarroli, Chipotle said it “doesn’t comment on ongoing legal matters…” but “will fully cooperate with the investigation.” Chipotle’s response is typical, because legal protocols determine what you can say while an investigation is underway. But that doesn’t mean you should throw your hands up and do nothing.
For private companies, “[t]here is no practical black and white standard for whether or when companies have to disclose investigations,” according to the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation.
Regardless of the legal requirements, protecting your brand and reputation often demands more aggressive action. Whether you’re a public or private company, you must reassure the public that protecting them is your foremost concern when faced with threats to safety. Johnson & Johnson set the gold standard for this in the 1980s with its massive and voluntary Tylenol recall. Ironically, it subsequently ignored its own benchmark and stumbled badly with more recent drug-related issues.
When and How Often to Inform the Public
Simple rule of thumb: Early and often.
When there’s an information void, rumors and speculation flourish. The single best thing you can do is keep your customers informed. This can come in many forms, but regardless of the method you ultimately choose, the message is the same: You’re working with the public and your customers to ease their concerns. This buys goodwill.
Similar to J&J’s recall of Tylenol, Hormel in late 2015 voluntarily recalled some of its Skippy peanut butter, explaining, “This recall is being initiated out of an abundance of caution.” That’s the optic you want to create: That you’re going the extra mile to protect consumers. By contrast, Blue Bell did the opposite by denying for two years that it had a contamination problem, until it was forced to recall its products.
For companies that have many different products from multiple sources, it’s often easiest to have a specific area on your website dedicated to keeping the public informed. Whole Foods does an excellent job of this with their product recall page.
It’s also important to keep the public informed about what you’re doing to cure the problem. Chipotle was wise to announce publicly that it’s revamping all its safety systems from field to fork. However, it failed the manage expectations. This let the public assume the situation would be fixed overnight, which it wasn’t.
Bottom line: Consumers only care about two things: Does this affect me? and Will this happen again?
Even if an outbreak or contamination occurs years later, people will remember the company’s past problems and wonder whether it really learned its lessons.
(Unfair) Burden of Proof
When accusations are made, you’re presumed guilty until proven innocent. It’s not fair, but you have to deal with it. Even if the allegations are eventually proven false, the perceived wrongdoing remains a stain on your reputation. The media is at least partly responsible because bad news is big news, while good news is buried or not reported at all. The public is also partly to blame because they usually stop listening or looking for the truth after the first page of search results.
If the accusations are false, you have multiple options. The least effective is a simple denial. The public expects that. A better solution is to launch an aggressive campaign to demonstrate your innocence. By doing this, you’ll begin to repair your reputation.
If the allegations are true, your options are limited. You’re stuck playing defense. You can’t make a flat denial. The truth always seems to find a way into the light. Your reputation will suffer death by a thousand cuts because the story drags on and on while the facts surface. The best option is to try to mitigate the damage by shifting the spotlight and changing the conversation.
Balancing Between Telling the Truth, Protecting the Brand and Being Genuine
The fastest way for a small issue to become a big problem is to step in front of the media or other stakeholders armed with half-truths and lies. You are guaranteed to lose credibility.
When your reputation is in question, your ability to save it depends on what other people believe. This doesn’t depend solely upon the facts, but upon your believability. Selective truth-telling works, but only if you’re credible. The public is often forgiving of human weakness, but only the most skillful and charismatic can recover from a lie.
People aren’t always forthcoming. Some hope if they don’t admit the truth even to themselves, it won’t become real. Others think if they don’t tell their lawyer or Crisis PR counsel the truth, it’s easier to sell a believable story to the media and the public. Remember: The truth has a way of finding its way into the light.
Why Working with the Media is Essential
Apprehensive about working with the media? It doesn’t help to stick your head in the sand and hope they’ll go away—because they won’t. Staying silent makes you look like you’re hiding something and is often seen as an admission of guilt. If you weren’t guilty, many believe, you’d be shouting your innocence from the rooftops. Similarly, don’t say, “No comment.” It’s the proverbial kiss of death.
Aren’t sure if the media is your friend or foe, or if you can trust them? The short answer is they’re neither, and you shouldn’t. They aren’t someone you want to share your darkest secrets with over lunch, nor are they usually on a mission to “get you.” It’s like the US Weekly feature “Stars—They’re just like us!” Reporters are simply people trying to do their jobs. This means they’ll chase down a juicy (often negative) story, and you just happen to get caught in their net. It’s nothing personal.
Having a media strategy in place before a crisis hits saves you precious time and reduces the risk of errors when you’re under fire. Use it to your advantage.
Tips for Working with Media and Public
You need to know what you want to achieve before you start talking. If you’re unsure of the answer, the absolute best thing you can say in response to a question is, “Let me check on that, and I’ll get back to you.” This gives you time to get your facts straight and refine your message.
Only share the most necessary information. End of story. Don’t add details that will increase their appetite for more or raise questions you don’t want to answer.
Be brief and stay focused. Stick to two or three key points. This goes for working with your employees, reporters, and the public. Otherwise, chances are you’ll lose your audience’s attention, or even worse, they’ll focus on exactly the points you don’t want. Same goes for rambling to fill the silence: Don’t do it.
Designating the Appropriate Spokesperson and Educating Your Employees
It’s always best to have a single spokesperson to whom all questions are referred and who is most familiar with the nuances of the organization’s message. On occasion, to distance the parent company from an issue, it may be beneficial to designate a subsidiary manager as spokesperson, but those comments must be carefully vetted and controlled. That manager mustn’t stray from the script.
The media will grab anyone they can for a statement. Make sure all your employees know who’s authorized to speak. No one else should. The danger is that people love to talk. Well-meaning employees who share what they “think” are facts may often give out erroneous information. When a microphone is put in front of them, a star is born.
Why it’s Critical to Have a Plan in Place before a Brand Damaging Crisis
The best time to do damage control is before you’ve let the situation take control of you.
According to the global law firm Norton Rose Fullbright, “A relatively small amount of time spent developing and reviewing a suitable and bespoke protocol for a business can prove invaluable in responding to government enquiries and investigations and mitigating the damage that can result.”
Many people say they know they should do it (but few do) only to look back in hindsight and wish they had trusted their gut instincts.
Eden Gillott Bowe, president of Santa Monica-based Gillott Communications and a former business professor, has resolved crisis and brand reputation issues both in and outside the media’s glare from Manhattan to Seoul to Los Angeles. Contact her at email@example.com.
Third-party auditor certification: Not the only tool in the toolkit
Source : http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2016/06/127208/#.V1YlNk7yWUk
By Dan Flynn (June 6, 2016)
Enough went into the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) to make the food industry queasy, but the new law’s limited reliance on third-party auditors is still enough to make consumer advocates feel about the same way — at least for a while.
The FSMA’s final rule on Accredited Third-Party Certification means the private auditors that the food industry has used for decades are now playing an official role in global food safety. To be sure their role is limited.
According to FDA, third-party certifications may be used by importers only to establish eligibility for participation in the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP), or when requested by FDA to prevent potentially harmful food from reaching U.S. consumers.
“An auditor is not an inspector and an audit is not an inspection,” explained Sandra Eskin, food safety director for the Pew Charitable Trusts. “FSMA does not direct FDA to outsource its inspection or enforcement authority to private entities.”
Eskin’s comments came during an FDA outreach session when the rule was still a draft. FSMA marks the first time, she noted, that FDA “has directed as part of its food import safety oversight to rely on the findings and determinations of an approved list of private or third-party auditors.”
Around the time Congress was passing the FSMA, private auditors gave rosy grades to a Georgia peanut processing plant and cantaloupe growers in Colorado. In short order both the processor and grower were involved in two of the deadliest outbreaks of foodborne disease so far in the 21st century.
Ami Gadhia, senior policy counsel for the Consumers Union, said those were “upsetting examples” to be building the new rule around.
Shortly before those tragic events, a study of the grading practices of eight auditing companies found the auditors being hired by the food industry rarely give a bad mark. On average, 93.5 percent gave scores between 90 and 100 percent. Only 1 out of 100 companies being audited, on average, failed to obtain certification.
“Perhaps based on a desire to be hired again, auditors are handling out A’s like candy on halloween,” food safety attorney Dave Babcock said.
Third-party auditors, however, gained a role in the FSMA because that’s what Congress wanted. “Congress has come up with a framework that applies in very limited circumstances where Congress has felt that a quality, reliable third-party audit should pay a part in the public assurance system for food safety,” said Mike Taylor, who ran the FSMA rule-making.
Taylor also said the third-party auditors will be far from being the “only tool in the toolkit.”
FDA’s rapidly expanding global regulatory role pretty much makes the days of relying on any one-thing a thing of the past. The agency is responsible for regulating food bound for the U.S. from 150 countries, from more than 250,000 facilities and 130,000 importers.
Americans purchase about 50 percent of their fruit, 20 percent of their fresh vegetables, and 80 percent of their seafood from production beyond U.S. borders.
“Border and port inspections are highly visible events that deliver a strong message that the American food supply is routinely being monitored, “ Patricia Buck, director of Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention, told the outreach session.
She noted FDA built new global regulations around the previous import rules for seafood and juice, which are subject to verification.
The final rule gives FDA authority to accredit a third-party auditor quickly under certain limited circumstances. It also includes conflict of interest safeguards and certain international standards.
FDA also might rely upon foreign governments or their food safety regulatory authorities or a private third party.
Marking the Beginning of a New Era in Food Safety
Source : http://blogs.fda.gov/fdavoice/index.php/2016/06/marking-the-beginning-of-a-new-era-in-food-safety/
By Stephen Ostroff, M.D, FDA Voice (June 6, 2016)
The promises embodied in the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) add up to this: The foods that we eat and serve our families must be as safe as we can make them.
These promises mandate that food be produced, packed and transported with an awareness of potential hazards and a commitment to taking whatever systematic steps are necessary to eliminate or greatly reduce any risks. They envision a world in which families can share foods produced halfway around the world, knowing that they are held to the same rigorous safety standards as those produced in the United States.
The past nine months have seen the finalization of the seven rules that make FSMA’s promises a reality – for both domestic and imported foods. The last of those rules, one that adds protections against intentional adulteration, became final on May 27. Together, and individually, these rules represent a paradigm shift from simply responding to outbreaks of foodborne illness to preventing them from happening in the first place.
There’s a lot of work to be done in the implementation phase. But even as we look forward, it’s important to recognize that getting to this point with rules that are final is a spectacular achievement, and that many deserve the credit.
Members of Congress joined together to pass FSMA in 2010 because of widespread concern over multistate outbreaks, and lawmakers like Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas and Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut have been unwavering in their support since then. Consumers, such as activists in STOP Foodborne Illness, who became sick themselves or who lost loved ones to contaminated food, put their sorrow aside and became champions for the greater good. Public policy organizations like the Pew Charitable Trusts have been steadfast partners throughout the rulemaking and budget processes.
The food industry mobilized to help FDA find the most effective, practical ways to implement these regulations. We worked with national associations that include the Grocery Manufacturers Association and groups with a more regional focus, such as the New England Farmers Union. Farmers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and many others whose livelihood is directly affected by these rules brought their concerns to the table and worked with us to make the rules as feasible as possible.
We found dedicated partners in other government agencies at the federal, state and international levels. Leanne Skelton of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been part of the FDA team. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture is playing an important role in helping FDA meet the challenges of implementing the produce safety rule. State agriculture leaders like Chuck Ross in Vermont, Katy Coba in Oregon and Steve Troxler in North Carolina became a bridge between FDA and the food producers in their states. Our regulatory counterparts in other nations, such as SENASICA and COFEPRIS in Mexico, have joined the fight to increase food protections worldwide.
The people of FDA, under the leadership of Michael R. Taylor, worked tirelessly to find the right intersection between science and policy; to develop innovative and practical solutions to complex challenges; and, to engage in open and meaningful discussions with the many communities within the diverse food supply system. I recently succeeded Mike as deputy commissioner, and I want to acknowledge the importance of his dedication to public health and food safety.
The FDA teams who drafted and revised the rules worked in tandem with teams laying the groundwork for eventual implementation. They have traveled the nation, and the world, to meet with food producers and government officials. They have worked 24/7 on these rules since FSMA became law.
The road ahead towards full implementation of FSMA is a long one. There are miles to go, but thanks to the commitment and hard work of all those who are making this journey, we will keep the promises of FSMA.
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