News in Food Safety

Brazil vows to contest EU’s punitive poultry ban with WTO

Food Safety news - April 25, 2018 - 9:12pm

The European Union is punishing Brazil for alleged deficiencies in the country’s control system by banning imports from 12 BRF S.A. poultry plants.

Brazil is the world’s second-largest poultry producer, and its Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi promises to take the EU to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Dispute Settlement Body. He says the EU is lying when the organization says its ban on Brazilian poultry is based on health or sanitation issues.

The WTO, with 164 member countries, is an intergovernmental organization that regulates international trade.

BRF S.A. is a Brazilian company. BRF is one of the biggest food companies in the world, with over 30 brands in its portfolio, among them Sadia, Perdigão, Qualy, Paty, Dánica, and Bocatti.

Maggi says if Brazil pays a tariff, its poultry imports to the EU are rated as fresh meat, and sanitary requirements are reduced from 2,600 kinds of bacteria down to two.

About 7.3 percent of the chicken consumed in EU countries originates in Brazil. The South American nation accounted for about 30 to 35 percent of the poultry imported recently by the EU.

Brazil says the EU ban on the country’s poultry is unfounded as protection over public health risks and disproportioned under the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement.

The EU ban on imports from the BRF S.A. plants coincides with the resignation of J.A. Drummond Jr., as the company’s chief executive officer. He also resigned from the BRF Board of Directors. CFO Lorival Nogueira Luz Jr. took over as the BRF’s interim CEO.

BRF S.A. is a poultry and meat processor. Along the multinational JBS S.A., its been caught up in the investigation by Brazil’s Federal Police into bribery of meat inspectors and other government officials.

Brazil’s WTO complaint has not yet been filed with the Geneva-based organization, and it is not on the agenda for tomorrow’s meeting of the Dispute Settlement Body. WTO’s purpose is “to ensure that trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely as possible.”

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Tiger Brands tells shareholders it found Listeria outbreak strain

Food Safety news - April 25, 2018 - 9:01pm

Tiger Brands told shareholders Wednesday that its testing confirms the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) findings that the outbreak strain Listeria monocytogenes ST6 was present in its processed meat plant. That is the strain responsible for the largest listeriosis outbreak ever recorded with 1,119 confirmed cases and 199 deaths to date.

“To Tiger Brands’ credit, it has been transparent with its test results,” food safety attorney Bill Marler wrote in his personal blog. “Its transparency support of the NICD findings is hopeful for its customers that suffered as a result of the Listeria-tainted product. Tiger Brands should be commended for its willingness to provide the results in a public forum.”

Marler, who is also the publisher of Food Safety News, is consulting with the South African legal team suing Tiger Brand on behalf the victims.

Here is the Tiger Brands’ announcement in full:

Results of Independent Tests carried out in respect of the presence of Listeria monocytogenes ST6 type (“LST6”) Shareholders are referred to the SENS announcement issued by the Company on 5 March 2018, relating to an order issued by the National Consumer Commission for the Company to conduct a recall of certain identified Enterprise products. In that announcement, it was stated that in a batch of one of its products tested by the Company on 14 February 2018, the presence of the ST6 strain could not be confirmed and that the relevant samples had been sent to an external laboratory for the identification of the strain. The test results were received on 15 March 2018, but these had proved inconclusive and, as a result, the samples were sent for further re-testing.

The purpose of this announcement is to update shareholders on the results of the independent laboratory re-testing which was carried out in respect of the presence of LST6 in the above samples which were manufactured at the Enterprise Polokwane processing facility. On 24 April 2018, Tiger Brands received confirmation of the presence of LST6 in these samples. As reported previously, we have been actively engaging with the Department of Health and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases on our findings and will continue to collaborate with them on the actions taken to date to actively address our findings.

The Enterprise facilities in Polokwane, Pretoria, and Germiston still remain closed while remedial work continues. An arrangement has been concluded between Pork Packers (which is based in Clayville) and our pig suppliers to contract slaughter on their behalf with effect from 2 May 2018.

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Greenbelt Greenhouse recalls microgreens Listeria risk

Food Safety news - April 25, 2018 - 9:00pm

To view photos of all of the varieties of recalled Greenbelt Greenhouse microgreens, please click on the image.

Greenbelt Greenhouse Ltd. of Ottawa, Canada, is recalling certain Greenbelt brand microgreens because of the risk of Listeria contamination, according to an April 24 recall notice posted on The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) website.

The recalled microgreens are labeled with various expiration dates ranging from April through May of 2018, so there is concern retailers and consumers may still have the recalled product on hand.

“The CFIA is verifying that industry is removing recalled product from the marketplace,” according to the recall. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation which may lead to the recall of other products.

The recall notice did not provide any details about how the potential contamination was discovered, reporting only that “this recall was triggered by the company.”

The Greenbelt Microgreens were distributed throughout Alberta and British Columbia. Consumers can look for the following details to determine whether they have any of the recalled product on hand:

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC Greenbelt Microgreens Arugula Microgreens 75 g Best Before:
26/04/18
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00012 4 Greenbelt Microgreens Arugula Microgreens 140 g Best Before:
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00013 1 Greenbelt Microgreens Broccoli Microgreens 75 g Best Before:
26/04/18
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00016 2 Greenbelt Microgreens Broccoli Microgreens 140 g Best Before:
30/04/18 8 90082 00017 9 Greenbelt Microgreens Fresh Microgreen Mix 75 g Best Before:
26/04/18
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00041 4 Greenbelt Microgreens Fresh Microgreen Mix 140 g Best Before:
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00080 3 Greenbelt Microgreens Sweet & Crunchy Microgreen Mix 75 g Best Before:
26/04/18
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00006 3 Greenbelt Microgreens Sweet & Crunchy Microgreen Mix 140 g Best Before:
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00007 0 Greenbelt Microgreens Spicy Microgreen Mix 75 g Best Before:
26/04/18
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00000 1 Greenbelt Microgreens Spicy Microgreen Mix 140 g Best Before:
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00001 8 Greenbelt Microgreens Pea Shoots Microgreens 100 g Best Before:
26/04/18
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00023 0 Greenbelt Microgreens Pea Shoots Microgreens 140 g Best Before:
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00024 7 Greenbelt Microgreens Sunflower Microgreens 100 g Best Before:
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00030 8 Greenbelt Microgreens Sunflower Microgreens 200 g Best Before:
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00031 5 Greenbelt Microgreens Wheatgrass 114 g Best Before:
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00032 2 Greenbelt Microgreens Wheatgrass 228 g Best Before:
04/05/18 8 90082 00035 3 Greenbelt Microgreens Wheatgrass 454 g Best Before:
30/04/18 8 90082 00036 0 Greenbelt Microgreens Spring Pea Microgreen Mix 75 g Best Before:
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00002 5 Greenbelt Microgreens Spring Pea Microgreen Mix 140 g Best Before:
30/04/18
04/05/18 8 90082 00003 9

No illnesses had been reported in relation to the recalled microgreens as of the posting of the recall notice.

“Check to see if you have recalled products in your home. Recalled products should be thrown out or returned to the store where they were purchased,” according to the recall notice.

Consumers with questions can contact Greenbelt Greenhouse Ltd. at 519-647-1112.

Advice to consumers
Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled microgreens and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen.

Also, because it can take up to 70 days after exposure for symptoms to develop, people who have eaten the recalled microgreens should monitor themselves for symptoms in the coming weeks.

Although healthy adults may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Other high-risk groups for serious infections that are sometimes fatal include young children, older people and anyone with a suppressed immune system.

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Romaine source(s) remain elusive as E. coli outbreak grows

Food Safety news - April 25, 2018 - 9:00pm

The number of victims in an E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce jumped almost 60 percent in the past week as public health officials struggled to determine the source or sources of the implicated produce.

Three more states have laboratory-confirmed victims, federal officials reported Wednesday. The 19 states now involved in the outbreak have a total of 84 people with E. coli O157:H7 infections, according to an update from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up from the 53 victims the agency reported in its April 18 update. 

Both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration reiterated their warnings urging consumers, retailers, restaurants and other foodservice operations to not eat or sell romaine in any form if it is from the Yuma AZ, area. If the origin of romaine lettuce is unknown or cannot be confirmed, it should be thrown away. 

The warnings include chopped romaine and any products containing chopped romaine, such as bagged salads and packaged salad bowl style products. Whole heads and romaine hearts are also covered by the warnings. 

Additional outbreak victims will likely be identified. The most recent illness onset date is April 12. But, the CDC update on Wednesday said people who became sick after April 5 may not yet be included in the case count. It takes an average of two to three weeks from the time people become sick and their illnesses are confirmed by states and reported to the CDC.

The outbreak strain of the bacteria is proving particularly dangerous, with 42 of the infected people having been admitted to hospitals. Nine of the victims have developed a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. That’s up from four with kidney failure as of April 18. No deaths have been confirmed in relation to the outbreak.

Connecting the dots
Epidemiologists report 64 of the 67 victims interviewed thus far said they ate romaine lettuce during the week before they became ill. That’s a 96 percent connection rate between the sick people and romaine. Many of the people said they ate romaine in restaurants. Romaine lettuce was the only common ingredient identified among the salads.

The victim reports are not, however, the final step in the outbreak investigation. 

Tracking down specific growers, packers and distributors of fresh produce commodities is difficult. There is limited use of labeling codes on many of the fresh fruits and vegetables that are available to consumers through retailers or restaurants, partly because of a lack of packaging.

Without traceability codes on packaging to provide transparency, the Food and Drug Administration’s staff is left in a dense fog as the agency tries to navigate the supply chain. The investigators are also slowed down by some businesses’ incomplete and missing shipping and receiving records. 

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Deadly E. coli outbreak traced to meat shop; pork recalled

Food Safety news - April 25, 2018 - 9:00pm

Alberta Health Services says an E. coli outbreak has been traced to a meat shop south of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

One person has died and 11 others were sent to hospital in the outbreak that so far has sickened 36 people.

The Canadian Food Inspection agency issued a Class I recall Tuesday for certain pork products sold between Feb. 19 and April 24, citing E. coli O157:H7 as the cause of the illnesses stemming from pork products sold at The Meat Shop at Pine Haven in Westaskiwin County.

Pine Haven manager Tim Hofer told the Edmonton Journal he was informed April 18 of a potential connection to the E. coli outbreak. He said the company’s Alberta Hutterite colony shop has been shut down, and all surfaces have been deep cleaned.

“This is our businesses, it’s our livelihood, the food safety of our products to consumers is the highest priority,” he said. “It’s a very difficult time for us but we are doing the best we absolutely can to identify the problem and once we have found it to mitigate the risks.”

Hofer told the Journal that the business supplies meat products to dozens of customers in the area, including Mama Nita’s Binalot Filipino restaurant, where the current was identified among the restaurant’s patrons.

Both AHS and the CFIA are encouraging consumers to check if they haven of the  recalled products in their home. Businesses should also verify whether they have any recalled products.

AHS advises that recalled pork should be thrown out or returned to the store where it was purchased. Food contaminated with E. coli may not look or smell spoiled but can still make a person sick.

The following products are included in the recall.

Recalled products

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC Pine Haven Pork Feet and Hocks (Lacombe cut, hind) Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Ground (lean) Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Heads and Bones Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Blood, Intestine and Liver Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Ribs (back, side) Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Backfat and Bellies (skinless, skin-on, trim) Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Butt (bone-in, skin-on, boneless) Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Leg (bone-in, skin-on, boneless, denuded) Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Loin (tenderloin, bone-in, prime rib, boneless, peeled, skin-on) Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Shoulder (bone-in, picnic boneless) Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Middle and Sides, Block Ready Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Shoulder Cappicola Cut Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Sausages (hot Italian, sweet Italian, farmer, breakfast, bacon breakfast) Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Pork Roasts and Chops (fresh and smoked) Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Bacon Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Wieners Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable Pine Haven Salami (house, Holsteiner, Kulen, Bergsteiger) Variable All products sold or distributed from February 19 to April 24, 2018, inclusively Variable

 

The outbreak at Mama Nita’s dates back to March. Anyone who ate there on or before March 15 should monitor themselves for symptoms, including possibly bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramps and vomiting.

Symptoms usually start one to 10 days after eating food contaminated with E. coli bacteria. If you are concerned or start to develop symptoms, visit a health care clinic or your family physician as soon as possible and be sure to tell him or her about your possible exposure to E. coli O157:H7.

E. coli infections are generally caused when a person eats food or drinks a beverage that is contaminated with human or animal feces. The infection can also be spread through direct contact with a person who is infected or by animals that carry the bacteria.

Children, elderly people and those whose immune systems are compromised, such as cancer patients, are at greater risk of complications from E. coli O157:H7.

The Alberta Health Service offers these hygiene and food-handling tips.

  • Wash your hands with hot, soapy water often, including after you go to the washroom before you prepare food and after you touch raw meat or change diapers.
  • Avoid preparing food for others when ill with diarrhea.
  • Cook beef and pork to at least 71 °C (160 °F).
  • Thoroughly wash vegetables and fruits before eating.
  • Thoroughly wash all kitchen tools and surfaces that have touched raw meat.
  • Use only pasteurized milk, dairy and juice products.

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Greenbelt Greenhouse Ltd Recalls Greenbelt Microgreens Brand Microgreens Because of Possible Health Risk

CDC Food Safety news - April 25, 2018 - 6:14pm
Greenbelt Greenhouse LTD of British Columbia, Canada is recalling all Greenbelt Microgreen products with the best before dates from 4/24/18 and 4/31/18 because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.
Categories: News in Food Safety

Outbreak investigation hampered by lack of business records

Food Safety news - April 24, 2018 - 10:00pm

Public health officials continue to be frustrated by a lack of traceability information from romaine lettuce growers and their customers as the investigation into an ongoing E. coli outbreak continues.

For three weeks state and federal investigators have been trying to identify the source of the implicated romaine, which has sickened dozens across 16 states. The best the government agencies can do is to stand by an April 13 warning against consuming romaine from the Yuma, AZ, growing region.

Produce industry groups have said the Yuma season is over, with virtually all romaine coming out of California at this point. But the public warning continues as government officials struggle with intertwined distribution networks, incomplete or unavailable shipping and receiving records, and virtually no product labeling or coding to lead them back to a specific source.

“The one thing we can confirm is that all the romaine lettuce that made people ill was shipped by distributors from Yuma. That’s why we are advising people to ask their grocer or restaurateur where their romaine lettuce came from and avoid it if it’s from Yuma or if they don’t know the source,” a spokesperson for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday evening. 

“At this point, we don’t have concrete evidence to any one grower or farm. Once we do, we will name them.”

Part of the problem in identifying the source of the romaine is the lack of traceability coding on the leafy green. Federal law requires entities in the food chain to maintain records one step forward and one step back from their own operations. That leaves epidemiologists and other outbreak investigators stuck in a quagmire of stair steps leading from one entity to the next in the supply chain. 

Traceability labeling and coding, such as that developed by the Produce Traceability Initiative, would mean finished product sent to retailers and foodservice operations could be traced back through the supply chain virtually immediately. Many fresh produce companies have not adopted the voluntary  traceability labeling.

“We are continuing to work on the traceback for this investigation, which is important not to oversimplify. When we are executing a full traceback investigation, as we are currently, we are working to identify multiple distribution channels that can explain the entire nationwide outbreak,” the FDA’s spokesperson said.

“We are tracing back from multiple groupings of people reported ill that are located in diverse geographic areas. The reason for this is to avoid redundant distribution channels, and find unique distribution channels that converge on a single source or grower. One distribution channel does not necessarily explain the entire outbreak…”

To view a larger version of the map, please click on the image.

Outbreak numbers, timeline
In its most recent case count update, posted April 18, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 53 people in 16 states had been confirmed with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. No deaths have been recorded, but an unusually high percentage of victims have required hospitalization. Of the confirmed victims, 31 have been admitted to hospitals and five have developed kidney failure.

New Jersey officials were the first to go public with any information about the outbreak. They warned the state’s residents on April 4 about illnesses thought to be linked to an unnamed restaurant chain. The restaurant chain implicated in New Jersey is Panera Bread, according to court documents in a civil case filed by one of the victims.

Panera corporate officials identified the romaine supplier as Freshway Foods Inc. of Sidney, OH. Freshway is owned by US Foods, the second largest broadline foodservice provider in the country. On Tuesday a spokeswoman for Freshway Foods declined to comment on who had provided the company with the implicated romaine.

Once New Jersey reported its investigation, outbreak detectives from other states public health agencies and epidemiologists from the FDA and CDC quickly joined in efforts to find the cause of the E. coli infections. 

On April 10 the CDC posted an outbreak announcement, but reported it had not yet identified a link to a specific food. At that point, 17 people from seven states were confirmed sick.

By April 13 both the CDC and FDA had enough epidemiological evidence to warn the public against eating chopped romaine lettuce grown in the Yuma, AZ, region. Neither agency named any brands or specific growers, repackers or distributors. They also did not name retailers, restaurants or institutional foodservice operators that had received romaine from the Yuma area.

The federal agencies had enough evidence by April 20 to expand their initial warnings about chopped romaine to include all romaine from the Yuma area, including whole heads and hearts.

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Better tests, stronger laws, more foods add up to more recalls

Food Safety news - April 24, 2018 - 9:01pm

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS) is out with a report on what might be called the “recalls gone wild” era.

To view a larger version of the graph, please click on the image. Source: ERS

In a 31-page report “Trends in Food Recalls, 2004-13” the researchers parse data from the Food and Drug Administration and USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The facts showed an increase of almost 125 percent in the average number of food recalls when comparing data from 2004-2013. The annual average number of food recalls from 2004-2008 was 304. From 2009 to 2013 the average annual number was 676.

“While an increase in the volume of food sold in the United States during this decade partially explains this statistically significant increase, other factors are also likely at play,” writes report author Elina Tselepidakis Page.

“For example, pathogen and risk detection technology substantially improved, regulatory oversight and enforcement increased, and Congress passed two major food policy laws, the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act (FALCPA) and the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).”

A total of 4,900 recalls occurred during the decade with 86.8 percent being FDA recalls and 13.2 percent falling under FSIS jurisdiction.

The ERS report says three outlier events during 2009 and 2010 also caused spikes in the data. The most significant involved 400 separate recalls connected to the nationwide Salmonella outbreak associated with the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America.

Also in 2009 there were more than 100 separate recalls of Salmonella-tainted pistachio products.

And finally a year later, there were about 80 recalls of spice blends, soups, sauces, gravies, and dressings stemming from Salmonella contaminated hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HPV).

In order from highest t0 lowest, the top 10 food categories in terms of the number of recalls from 2004-2013 were:

  • prepared foods and meals, excluding soups;
  • nuts, seeds, and nut products;
  • baked goods;
  • grains and grain products;
  • candy products;
  • sauces, condiments, and dressings;
  • fish and fish products;
  • beverages;
  • dairy-based desserts; and
  • fruit and fruit products, excluding juice.

To view a larger version of the graph, please click on the image. Source: ERS

But numbers are not enough when it comes to food safety. “Fresh produce and meat/poultry/seafood recalls are of particular interest as these foods represent the greatest potential health risk in terms of food safety,” according to the report. “In fact, produce and meat-poultry commodities accounted for the majority of foodborne illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths between 1998 and 2008.

“The total number of fresh produce recalls increased steadily throughout the decade, spiking in 2012 following two major Salmonella outbreaks linked to domestic cantaloupes and imported mangoes, before dramatically decreasing in 2013.”

The top five reasons for recalls were: undeclared allergens at 27.41 percent; Salmonella at 26.69 percent; Listeria monocytogenes at 10.24 percent; undeclared substances at 9.80 percent; and Extraneous material 5.22 percent.

Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli was responsible for 149 recalls or 3.04 percent during the 10 year period, and other pathogens for 60 additional recalls or 1.22 percent,

“Food product recall events increased by an average of 20 events a year from 2004 through 2013,” the report concludes. “However, this upward trend should not be interpreted to mean that foods are becoming riskier. Rather, an increasingly complex food supply system, technology improvements in health risk detection, increased regulatory oversight and enforcement, and the passing of two major food policy laws (FALCPA and FSMA) may have contributed to the significant rise in food recalls.”

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Categories: News in Food Safety

South Africa sees listeriosis cases drop; ramps up prevention

Food Safety news - April 24, 2018 - 9:00pm

When the world’s worst rampage of listeriosis was at its peak, more than 30 confirmed cases were added to the outbreak weekly. After South Africa’s health officials identified the source and recalled the product from the market, the number of new confirmed cases was cut in half. And during the first week of April, it was cut in half again with only eight new cases.

A new report by South Africa’s National Listeria Incident Managment Team (IMT), formed by the National Department of Health (NDoH), says those eight new cases include one report from October 2017 that is being “retrospectively reported.” The IMT’s purpose is to “strengthen coordination of outbreak response and strengthen health systems to prevent further outbreaks.”

The world’s worst listeriosis outbreak now includes 1,019 laboratory-confirmed cases including 199 deaths. The recall increased by 50 cases since March 4-5 when authorities recognized the source of the epidemic as ready-to-eat processed meats products manufactured at Enterprise Foods’ Polokwane production facility and recalls were ordered.

South African health officials expected it would take several weeks to extinguish the listeriosis outbreak. Ending it requires removal of all contaminated product from both homes and the supply chain. Also, the incubation period for Listeria runs as long as 70 days. That is the time between when exposure occurs and when symptoms begin to appear.

Before 2017, South Africa experienced 60 to 80 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases each year. In July 2017, it reported a spike in cases to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, SA’s Minister of Health, declared the outbreak last December.

Through the IMT, identification, and inspection of food-processing plants and strengthening the health system is the focus of South Africa’s emergency management.

Along with the NICD and the World Health Organization (WHO), a two-day meeting of provincial and national stakeholders gets underway today. It follows a WHO Listeriosis Technical Meeting held last week in Johannesburg to help other African countries prepare contingency plans to respond and control listeriosis.

South Africa’s health authorities have reached out to 145 key groups of people in the country’s nine provinces about the listeriosis challenges. These include food handlers, community leaders and institutions like schools and hospitals.

Environmental health officers and risk communication specialists are targets for a “top up” skills training. Risk training for food processing plants is also being rolled out.

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Categories: News in Food Safety

White Castle worker latest to expose Louisville to hepatitis A

Food Safety news - April 24, 2018 - 9:00pm

Louisville, KY, residents are getting another in what’s been a series of public warnings about hepatitis A.

This time, anyone who dined at a local White Castle restaurant between April 6 and April 20 is advised they might have been exposed to the virus and should get vaccinated. That’s because a White Castle employee who was diagnosed with hepatitis A was working during those dates in the restaurant at 3701 Seventh Street Rd. in Louisville.

Since Jan. 1, 2017, the Kentucky Department of Public Health (KDPH) has identified 311 confirmed cases of acute hepatitis A., a liver disease caused by the hepatitis A virus. Of those, 218 people have required hospitalization, and one died.

Since April 1, the outbreak has grown by 41 additional confirmed cases, mostly in the Louisville area. The Kentucky cases are associated with ongoing hepatitis A outbreaks in Utah, California, Michigan and Nevada.

Public health authorities in Louisville are recommending vaccination as the best way for people to protect themselves against the virus. More than 14,000 people have been vaccinated in Louisville since the start of the outbreak.

Anyone who ate or drank foods or beverages at the White Castle location during the recent dates is urged to ask their doctor about the post-exposure vaccination. If the vaccine is not given within 14 days of exposure it is not effective.

White Castle is providing vaccines to all its employees.

The Department of Public Health and Wellness and the University of Louisville Global Health Center are offering discounted vaccines for food service employees at $25 each instead of the usual $65 charge. Hospitality businesses with more than 20 employees can schedule a public health nurse to visit their locations and provide the vaccinations.

Symptoms of hepatitis A typically take 15 to 50 days after exposure to surface. They usually include fatigue, decreased appetite, stomach pain, nausea, darkened urine, pale stools, and yellowing of the skin or eyes.

Anyone experiencing such symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. hepatitis A is transmitted by the “oral-fecal” route, meaning contaminated by feces spread by food or water. Microscopic amounts of the virus can infect many people, especially if people who handle, prepare, serve or consume food fail to properly wash their hands.

Kentucky is among several states advising visitors to get a hepatitis A vaccine.

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Labrada Nutrition Issues Allergy Alert on Undeclared Egg in "Leanpro8" Protein Powder

CDC Food Safety news - April 24, 2018 - 4:08pm
Labrada Nutrition of Houston, TX, is recalling specific lots of its "LeanPro8" Protein Powder because they may contain undeclared egg protein. People who have allergies to egg protein run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.
Categories: News in Food Safety

Scientists say better traceability for beef could enhance safety

Food Safety news - April 23, 2018 - 9:17pm

Inadequate traceability measures and protections for confidential corporate information complicated and delayed the investigation of a 2016-17 Salmonella outbreak linked to ground beef, making it virtually impossible for government to warn the public or suggest a recall.

However, analysis of the deadly outbreak also showed the importance of high-tech laboratory advances such as DNA fingerprinting of pathogens, according to a research report on the 21-state Salmonella Newport outbreak recently posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This investigation emphasizes the utility of (whole genome sequencing) WGS during outbreak investigations and identifies the need for improvements in traceability from the consumer to the farm,” the 22-person research team reported. 

“… tracing back cows at slaughter/processing establishments to the farm from which they originated was problematic because cows were not systematically tracked from farm to slaughter/processing establishments.”

For their analysis, the scientists reviewed data from the Salmonella Newport outbreak, which sickened at least 106 people, with 42 hospitalizations and one death. The outbreak illnesses began in October 2016 and continued through July 2017. 

During the outbreak, epidemiologists and other public health investigators found several indicators that pointed to contaminated beef from slaughtered dairy cattle. Laboratory tests confirmed the outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport in a sample of ground beef from an outbreak victim’s home, as well as in four New Mexico dairy cows. 

The outbreak strain was also confirmed in a sample of fecal matter from a New Mexico dairy cow that investigators collected at a Texas slaughterhouse. Federal officials determined the specific New Mexico dairy farm that sold the animal for slaughter.

However, officials from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service could not name that farm or report to the public whether the other three infected dairy cows had come from it.

“Because of confidentiality practices, officials were not able to identify the farm or farms of origin for the dairy cows associated with the other three samples or whether the four dairy cows were associated with a single farm,” according to the research report. “… This investigation identified the outbreak strain only in samples from dairy cattle from New Mexico.”

The outbreak investigation included traceback from 11 victims’ shopper loyalty cards and grocery store receipts. Those records showed about 20 ground beef suppliers belonging to at least 10 corporations. The victims’ purchase records showed the ground beef had come from at least a dozen slaughterhouses operated by three companies.

A complex and less than transparent supply chain for beef, particularly ground beef, contributes to the possibility for outbreaks and difficulties for those who investigate them, the researchers concluded.

“Foodborne outbreak investigations could be enhanced by improvements in the traceability of cows from their originating farms or sale barns, through slaughter and processing establishments, to ground beef sold to consumers,” according to the report.

The inclusion of dairy cows in the beef supply is also problematic, the scientists reported.

While most ground beef in the United States is produced from beef cattle, 18 percent is produced from dairy cows. Dairies sell their cows for beef production through sale barns and directly to slaughterhouses when the cows grow old or if their milk production is insufficient. 

Differences in dairy operations and beef operations likely increase the chance of contamination of beef products in general and specifically during in the 2016-17 outbreak, according to the food safety researchers.

“One possible explanation is that dairy cows carrying a high Salmonella load that overwhelmed antimicrobial interventions could have gone to multiple slaughter/processing establishments, resulting in contamination of multiple brands and lots of ground beef,” according to the research report. 

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Actionable information is foundation of Food Safety Summit

Food Safety news - April 23, 2018 - 9:03pm

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of articles leading up to the 20th annual Food Safety Summit. The event, from May 7-10 at the Donald Stephens Convention Center in suburban Chicago, includes certification courses; a trade show with exhibitors from industry, academia and government; an extensive list of seminars and panel discussions; and a Town Hall meeting with top officials from the FDA, USDA and CDC. Visit www.foodsafetysummit.com for more details and to register.

In 1998 a small group of food safety industry professionals gathered to discuss, educate, and share ideas, products and services. This meeting was so beneficial and helpful that it was clear that this needed to become an annual conference, and thus, the Food Safety Summit was born.

In the last 20 years, thousands of food safety professionals and solution providers have gathered at the Summit to share actionable information about processes, procedures and products that can be used to minimize food safety risks and protect their consumers, customers and brands. 

The 2oth anniversary Food Safety Summit will kick off May 8 with a focus on the supply chain. A dynamic panel will present the opening session on “Food Safety Case Studies Impact on the Supply Chain: Lessons Learned.” The afternoon will feature four workshops: 

  • How to Get and Maintain Cooperation Between Departments;
  • The Future of Traceability in the Global Supply Chain;
  • How A Company Can Effectively Manage Food Safety Across Its Supply Chain; and
  • Global Regulatory System in the Supply Chain.

Carletta Ooton

Carletta Ooton, vice president for health, safety, sustainability, security and compliance, for Amazon will present “Amazon’s Approach to Innovation and What It Means for Food Safety” on May 9 at 9:15 am. Ooton will discuss Amazon’s unique business model and how they think about innovation first on behalf of their customers. Hear how Amazon is envisioning food safety through data and technology and how they are revolutionizing the future. For those who cannot attend in person, the keynote presentation will be broadcast live from the Summit to those who wish to view it virtually as well as available for viewing on the Food Safety Summit website following the event.

On May 10 at 9:15 a.m., the Summit will offer its 7th annual Town Hall meeting where attendees will have a chance to interact with the leaders of food safety from the FDA, USDA, CDC and AFDO. Panelists include Dr. Stephen Ostroff, Acting Commissioner of Food and Drugs for the FDA; Paul Kiecker, Acting Administrator for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), USDA; Steve Mandernach, Iowa Department Inspections and Appeals, formerly with AFDO and Dr. Robert Tauxe, Director, Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, CDC. The Town Hall will be moderated by Gary Ades, president of G&L Consulting Group and Chair of the Food Safety Summit Educational Advisory Board.

The Summit will close with a general session on May 10 at 4:15 p.m. with respected leaders in the industry who will present “High-Profile Foodborne Illness Lawsuits: A View from the Inside.” The panelists will include Shawn K. Stevens of Food Industry Counsel LLC and Drew Falkenstein of counsel at Marler Clark LLP.  The session will be moderated by Craig Wilson, vice president and GMM for Costco Wholesale Corp.

The Summit is also offering six certification courses beginning on May 7, including Preventive Controls for Human Foods, FSPCA Foreign Supplier Verification Program Training, HACCP, Seafood HACCP, Professional Food Safety Auditor Training, and new for 2018 Certified in Comprehensive Food Safety (CCFS).  

The exhibit hall will feature more than 175 vendors showcasing products and services for food safety professionals and attendees can interact through the Flash Back Game.  There will also be two Solutions Stages where dozens of vendors will present informative and educational session. New this year to the show floor are The Community Cafes, which are designed around the four segments of the food supply chain and each segment will have subject matter experts from the Summit speaker faculty to facilitate discussions and answer questions.

Registration is live at www.foodsafetysummit.com.

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Categories: News in Food Safety

3,000 cases of fruit-flavored ice pops recalled for Listeria risk

Food Safety news - April 23, 2018 - 9:01pm

The Ziegenfelder Co. of Wheeling, WV, is recalling about 3,000 cases of ice pops and has temporarily closed a production plant after state inspectors found Listeria monocytogenes in the company’s Denver facility.

According to the recall notice posted on the Food and Drug Administration’s website, Ziegenfelder distributed the Popsicle-style frozen treats to retail grocers and distributors in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. The recalled product was delivered during the 15-day period from April 5 through 19.

“The voluntary recall was the result of a routine state inspection of the company’s Denver production facility which found Listeria monocytogenes in environmental samples collected by the inspector,” according to the recall notice.

“The Ziegenfelder Co. has ceased the production and distribution at the plant as the state of Colorado and the company continue their investigation as to what caused the problem.”

Because of the relatively long shelf life of the ice pops, there is concern that consumers may still have them in their home freezers. Consumers can identify the recalled products by looking for the following label information:

  • Budget $aver brand “Cherry Pineapple Monster Pops”, UPC code “0-74534-84200-9”, lot codes “D09418A” through “D10018B”
  • Budget $saver brand “Sugar Free Twin Pops”, UPC code “0-74534-75642-9”, lot codes “D09318A” through “D10018B”

No illnesses or adverse health effects have been reported to date in connection with the recalled product

“Consumers who have purchased the affected ice pops are urged to return them to the place of purchase for a full refund,” according to the recall.

Consumers with questions can contact the company at 1-888-683-0379.

Advice to consumers
Although healthy adults may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women. Other high-risk groups for serious infections that are sometimes fatal include young children, older people and anyone with a suppressed immune system.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled ice pops and developed symptoms of Listeria infection should seek medical attention and tell their doctors about the possible exposure to the pathogen.

Also, because it can take up to 70 days after exposure for symptoms to develop, people who have eaten the recalled ice pops should monitor themselves for symptoms in the coming weeks.

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Categories: News in Food Safety

‘Lettuce’ count the ways the feds have failed at food safety

Food Safety news - April 23, 2018 - 9:01pm

Editor’s note: This opinion column by Richard Raymond was originally published by feedstuffs.com and is reprinted here with permission.

Yes, let us count the ways the federal government has failed to keep us safe from a foodborne illness.

First is the current, growing E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to precut romaine lettuce. As of April 19, 53 persons have been reported ill from this bug, involving 16 states, with 31 hospitalized.

That is a 60 percent hospitalization rate, almost twice the normal, so this bacterium is an especially virulent strain. Maybe it could be called a super bug?

And what have the Food and Drug Administration and Center for Disease Control and Prevention to assure our safety? They have advised throwing out any romaine lettuce grown in Arizona.

That is a pretty big safety net. Why not name the brand and the stores it was sold in?

Oh, right, proprietary, confidential corporate information (CCI). Protect the companies, not the public.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture started naming retail outlets for meat and poultry products contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and other pathogens in 2008. Industry was not happy, but it was the right thing to do to protect the public’s health. Ten years later FDA still refuses to inform us if we are at risk or not.

FDA’s top leafy greens scientist says this is no problem, as the Arizona growing season is coming to an end and the shelf-life of precut lettuce is very short. He is even quoted as saying the leaves will start turning brown after one week of being precut, so most of it will be discarded very shortly.

Boy howdy, that makes me feel really good about that romaine lettuce in my crisper right now.

And on the same day, April 19, I get an email from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) announcing a new report criticizing USDA for not doing enough to keep our meat and poultry free from bacterial contamination. Included in the report is a picture of an open refrigerator door. It shows ground beef on a shelf directly above fresh red peppers and a turkey breast next to the peppers.

Whatever happened to the recommendation that raw meat and poultry are kept in a separate compartment, below all other items, to keep any juices containing Salmonella or E. coli from dripping on to fresh vegetables that were not meant to be cooked?

Talk about a misleading public information visual.

Among the GAO recommendations to USDA was that it should have established standards for Salmonella levels on pork chops.

Readers, please help me out here. I have only been involved in the food safety arena for 20 years, so will someone with a longer history please advise me of when the last foodborne illness outbreak linked to Salmonella and pork chops occurred?

I mean, seriously, this is not like ground beef, with products from multiple sources blended together, or poultry with Salmonella migrating inward into muscle following a feather’s follicle, or even a blade or needle tenderized steak.

This is an intact cut of meat, sterilized by simply cooking it.

Another recommendation was for the administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to provide information about on-farm practices to reduce pathogen contamination by “controlling Salmonella in hogs.”

Seriously, I cannot make something like this up.

FSIS has no control over on-farm practices. Maybe APHIS does, but not FSIS.

And, FSIS has not had an appointed administrator since President Donald Trump was inaugurated.

Hey, GAO the number one source of Salmonella foodborne illnesses is green leafy vegetables, not hogs.

Why not write recommendations as to how FDA, in conjunction with the much ballyhooed Food Safety Modernization Act, could reduce the contamination rates for green leafy vegetables that are not meant to have cooking as a final kill step?

Maybe GAO could write a report for FDA, urging for a clarification of the sources and retail outlets of green leafy vegetables when they are linked to a very serious and growing outbreak and leave the pig farmers alone.

If we want to reduce salmonellosis as a foodborne illness, the government needs to use its resources to attack the number one source, green leafy vegetables, and not some meat product, pork chops, that are basically one of the safest that we have.

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Union’s allies in House again come out against new swine rule

Food Safety news - April 23, 2018 - 9:00pm

About one-third of the U.S. House Democratic caucus has signed a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue demanding that USDA drop the Swine Slaughter Inspection Modernization Rule.

Led by long-time food safety advocate Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, D-CT, 63 of the 193 members of the House Democratic Caucus came down on the union side of one of USDA’s longest-running disputes.

USDA has promulgated a rule to allow more swine slaughter facilities to enlist in the HACCP-based Inspection Models Project, otherwise known as HIMP. On Feb. 1, USDA announced that in addition to requiring increased pathogen sampling in all swine slaughter establishments, it would allow more facilities into HIMP through the “New Swine Slaughter Inspection System” or NSIS.

Opposition from the union-allied Democrats likely does not surprise anyone at USDA. Unions have opposed HIMP since it was first proposed as a pilot in 1997. Federal courts gave unions a partial victory in 2001 cases that required USDA to produce more studies before moving forward.

The rhetoric has not changed much over the years. The letter to Perdue says “the rule will privatize the food safety inspection system in hog slaughter plants.” Food safety experts like Richard Raymond, who was Under Secretary for Food Safety during the second Bush administration, has long argued that the current system has FSIS inspection personnel sorting defective carcasses for producers when they should be focused on other food safety activities.

Two years ago, many of the same congressional Democrats, who mostly hail from urban areas, were successful in getting the Obama Administration to back off swine modernization. Obama’s Under Secretary for Food Safety, Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, strongly favored modernization.

Since the Jack-in-the-Box hamburger outbreak of E. coli O157: H7 some 25 years ago, HACCP practices have become almost uniform in the food industry. Unions and their allies in Congress oppose swine modernization because of concerns about staffing, line speeds, and injury risks.

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Ziegenfelder Company Recalls Certain Ice Pops For Possible Health Risk

CDC Food Safety news - April 23, 2018 - 11:53am
As a precaution, the Ziegenfelder Company of Wheeling, WV is voluntarily recalling approximately 3,000 cases of Budget $aver Cherry Pineapple Monster Pops and Sugar Free Twin Pops because the products have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Listeria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as fever, headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, but Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
Categories: News in Food Safety

A2LA Issues First Accreditation to Newly Published ISO/IEC 17025:2017

Quality Assurance Mag - April 23, 2018 - 6:07am
A2LA has issued its first accreditation to the newly published ISO/IEC 17025:2017 standard. Following publication of the new standard in November 2017, A2LA rolled out a transition plan for current and new customers to implement it within the ILAC mandated three-year transition period.

This milestone accreditation was completed by Fischer Custom Communications, A2LA certificate number 2393.01. Fischer Custom Communications is accredited to perform electrical – R/F microwave calibrations and has been accredited by A2LA, previously under the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 standard, for over 10 years.

“After spending almost three years on ISO CASCO Working Group 44 writing the new ISO/IEC 17025 standard it is very rewarding to actually see it fully implemented,” said A2LA Senior Director Accreditation Services Trace McInturff. “Having two A2LA staff on the working group, it was imperative for us to prepare our organization and initiate accreditation processes for the new version as soon as the final document was published.”

A2LA began regularly assessing to the new ISO/IEC 17025 standard on April 1, 2018, with the intent of enveloping currently accredited ISO/IEC 17025 laboratories to the new standard during its regularly scheduled renewal assessments. A2LA offers ISO/IEC 17025:2017 public training courses across the United States. For more information, visit www.A2LA.org.        

A2LA is a non-profit, non-governmental, third-party accreditation body, offering internationally-recognized accreditation services and training to testing and calibration laboratories, inspection bodies, proficiency testing providers, reference material producers and product certifiers.

 

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Not it: Grocery stores, school say they don’t have the romaine

Food Safety news - April 22, 2018 - 10:57pm

Officials from two regional grocery chains in Wisconsin and a state university in Connecticut are distancing their operations from a nationwide E. coli outbreak linked to romaine lettuce.

Federal officials have traced the ongoing E. coli O157:H7 outbreak to romaine from the Yuma, AZ, area. The outbreak has sickened at least 53 people in 16 states, with 31 people having been hospitalized. Five of the victims have developed kidney failure.

Fox Piggly Wiggly, Roundy’s grocery stores
This weekend, as federal officials were expanding warnings against romaine lettuce to include whole heads and hearts in addition to chopped romaine, officials with two grocery chains in the Milwaukee, WI, area were telling local media their customers could rest easy.

Representatives of Roundy’s Supermarkets and Fox Brothers Piggly Wiggly told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper that the romaine lettuce in their stores was not from the Yuma, AZ, growing region. As of Friday, only romaine from the Yuma area has been named by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in connection to the ongoing outbreak.

“Roundy’s is not affected by this outbreak,” chain vice president for investor relations James Hyland told the Journal Sentinel.

“Our bulk romaine lettuce and hearts sold at green racks are supplied from growers in California. Our packaged chopped lettuce for Fresh Express and Organic Girl are also not supplied from the Yuma region, and our mixed salads from the salad bar and service deli are not affected.”

Similarly, Pat Fox, president of Fox Piggly Wiggly, told the newspaper he had been assured the romaine in her stores was not from Yuma. “Our supplier, Piggly Wiggly Midwest, has told us that the product they source is not from Yuma,” according to the report from the Journal Sentinel.

Until late March, almost all of the romaine being harvested in the United States was coming from the Yuma area, according to fresh produce industry groups as well as the FDA and CDC. The harvest has mostly moved to California, but some romaine is still being shipped from the Yuma area.

Western Connecticut State University
Although a specific illness has not been named, Western Connecticut State University is closed today because of an outbreak of gastrointestinal illnesses that had hit about 100 of the school’s 5,600 students as of Sunday. The WCSU public relations director told local media romaine lettuce could not be the cause.

Paul Steinmetz told WFSB-TV Channel 3 that university officials are “confident it is not E. Coli because we haven’t been serving romaine lettuce in the cafeteria for at least a week and there are no other local cases of e-coli.”

John B. Clark, president of the university in Danbury, CT, posted an update Sunday after 10 p.m., saying the school is working with the Connecticut Department of Health, the Danbury Department of Health, and Danbury Hospital on the outbreak investigation and containment. On Thursday about 40 students had reported illnesses. By Sunday that number had increased to 100.

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Categories: News in Food Safety

Voluntary Recall Notice of Happy Harvest Canned Spinach Due to Potential Undeclared Peanut Allergen from Product Mislabeling

CDC Food Safety news - April 21, 2018 - 11:28am
McCall Farms, Inc. is voluntarily recalling a limited amount of cases of Happy Harvest Spinach in 13.5 oz cans as a precautionary measure due to the potential presence of peanuts resulting from product mislabeling. This product may cause an allergic reaction in customers who have a peanut allergy.
Categories: News in Food Safety

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