• Posted: May 3rd, 2012 - 9:48pm by Doug Powell

    A popular brand of hummus has been recalled in New Zealand because it may contain listeria.

    Life Health Food (LHF) announced yesterday that they were recalling Lisa's Organic Hummus Roasted Garlic dip with an expiry date of May 11 2012, because it had tested positive for listeria during routine testing.

    About 300 tubs of the hummus have already been sold, virtually all in the South Island.

    There have been no reports of illness as of yet, but consumers who felt unwell after eating the product were advised to seek medical advice.


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  • Posted: April 19th, 2012 - 8:00pm by Doug Powell

    Discoveries of Clostridium botulinum and Listeria monocytogenes at two separate California fish processors has prompted the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to step in.

    Grub Street Los Angeles reports FDA is looking to close down Blue Ocean Smokehouse in Half Moon Bay and Yamaya in Torrance.

    While Yamaya is offering to temporarily halt production and destroy all its existing products after the discovery of Listeria monocytogenes, the FDA is apparently trying to completely shut down Blue Ocean Smokehouse, citing refusal to comply with government demands after an inspection in October uncovered the presence of Clostridium botulinum in the company's vacuum-packed hot and cold smoked products.

    Inspectors claim the Half Moon Bay plant practices poor sanitation, while one regulator notes, "The company has ignored warnings by the FDA and the California Department of Public Health by continuing to sell seafood that puts consumers' health at risk."

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  • Posted: April 14th, 2012 - 2:01pm by Doug Powell

    Maybe the meal-planner geniuses decided it would be OK to give sick old folks cold-cuts or deli meat to eat. That’s part of what happened in Canada in 2008 when 23 people – elderly with pre-existing medical conditions, many already in institutions -- died from listeria-laden Maple Leaf deli meats.

    Yesterday, an elderly patient died in an outbreak of listeria in two Northern Ireland hospitals.

    The pensioner was one of two patients in the Antrim Area Hospital that contracted the foodborne bacteria. Another acquired the bug in the Causeway Hospital on the region's north coast.

    The patient who died was already ill but listeria has been confirmed as a contributory cause of death.

    Both hospitals are managed by the Northern Trust, which has declared an outbreak.

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  • Posted: April 9th, 2012 - 4:49pm by Doug Powell

    A Washington state cheese processor and distributor has agreed to keep its products off the market until they are proven safe for consumption as part of a consent decree of permanent injunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

    Del Bueno, of Grandview, Wash., which processes a variety of cheeses and distributes them to specialty grocery stores and restaurants, and owner Jesus Rodriguez, agreed to terms of the consent decree entered by U.S. District Judge Lonny R. Suko of the Eastern District of Washington, on April 3.

    Under the consent decree, Del Bueno cannot process or distribute food until it demonstrates that it has developed a control program to eliminate Listeria monocytogenes from its production facility and products.

    Del Bueno must, among other actions, hire an independent laboratory to collect and analyze samples for the presence of Listeria, retain an independent sanitation expert, develop a program to control Listeria for all employees in both English and Spanish, and destroy all food items currently in the facility. Once the company is permitted to resume operations, the FDA may still require the company to recall products or cease production if future violations occur.

    “When a company continues to produce food that presents a risk for consumers, the FDA will take action,” said Dara A. Corrigan, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “We will not hesitate to protect the public’s health.”

    FDA and Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) inspections since 2009 have documented numerous deficiencies in Del Bueno’s processing facility. In addition, FDA laboratory testing since 2010 also found Listeria monocytogenes in Del Bueno’s finished cheese products and in the Del Bueno facility. Both the FDA and the WSDA repeatedly advised Del Bueno and its owner of the unsanitary conditions at the facility.

    In 2010, Del Bueno cheese was linked to a case of listeriosis in Washington state. Although no illnesses have been reported in 2012 from Del Bueno products, individuals who have eaten these products and experience any of the symptoms of listeriosis listed above should contact their health care professional.


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  • Posted: April 4th, 2012 - 12:09am by Doug Powell

    The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC, that’s in Canada) is warning the public not to consume Tomme d’Or cheese manufactured by Moonstruck Organic Cheese located on Saltspring Island. Other types of cheeses produced by Moonstruck Organic Cheese are not affected by this advisory.

    This health alert is the result of a routine sampling program by the BCCDC and further investigation by the manufacturer which revealed that samples of the finished products contained Listeria monocytogenes. Affected products include all lot numbers of Tomme d’Or cheese. In order to ensure the health and safety of consumers, a photo of the product is provided below so the public can easily identify the product. The manufacturer is fully cooperating and assisting with the investigation.

    This product was sold at various retailers throughout British Columbia, and anyone who may have purchased this recalled cheese should not consume it, and discard or return it to their place of purchase. The BCCDC is concerned that this cheese product may still be in the homes of consumers as these cheeses can be stored and consumed well beyond the product's best before date. Listeria, if present, will grow to high numbers even if the cheese has been stored in the refrigerator. Food contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes may not look or smell spoiled.

    Currently there are no illnesses linked to this product.


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  • Posted: March 15th, 2012 - 4:09pm by Ben Chapman

    Ben Chapman

    Listeria is scary stuff, especially for pregnant women. Pregnant women make up nearly one-third of all cases of listeriosis, due to natural hormonal changes of pregnancy that weaken the immune system. While the mother normally survives an infection during pregnancy, the perinatal/neonatal mortality rate is greater than 80%.

    According to an alert sent from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services to a couple of barfblog readers, El Ranchero del Sur, LLC of South River, NJ has a listeria problem in their cheese products. Consumption of their products have been linked to listeriosis in a pregnant woman and investigators have confirmed the presence of the pathogen. In queso fresco, again (here, here, etc).

    The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS) Food and Drug Safety Program (FDSP) is warning the public not to consume any cheese products produced by El Ranchero del Sur, LLC of South River, NJ. On March 2, 2012, a 38-week pregnant woman was diagnosed with Listeria monocytogenes infection at a New Brunswick hospital. Subsequent investigation by the Middlesex County Health Department and product analysis by NJDHSS Public Health Environmental and Agricultural Laboratories confirmed the presence of L. monocytogenes in a sample of Los Corrales Queso Fresco Fresh Cheese and Banana Leaf code dated 03/16/12.

    Listeria monocytogenes is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals 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.

    FDSP, with assistance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has obtained a voluntary closure by the firm’s owner while the products and facility are investigated for the presence of L. monocytogenes. All products and ingredients at the facility have been placed under embargo pending the outcome of laboratory testing for L. monocytogenes.

    El Ranchero del Sur, LLC has pledged to conduct a voluntary recall through the FDA and is contacting its customers to arrange for the retrieval of all of their cheese products. El Ranchero del Sur cheese products can be found primarily in Mexican and Latin American grocery stores, restaurants, and other hispanic food establishments under the name brands El Ranchero, Los Corrales, and Carnes Don Beto with the plant number 34-0013669 marked on the label. All products are 14 ounces in weight except for the Queso Hebra Oaxaca String Cheese ball in 10 pound packages.
    FDSP is requesting local health departments to investigate retail food establishments, in their respective jurisdictions, which are likely to sell or use these products in food service, and take actions to remove from sale or service all of the products described above, of all types and code dates.

    If you have any questions, please contact Alan Talarsky, Dairy Project Coordinator, FDSP at (609) 826-4935. Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

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  • Posted: March 15th, 2012 - 8:57am by Doug Powell

    "How long have you been pregnant,” I asked the thirty-something as we filled our plates during the catered lunch at a meeting in 2000 in Ottawa.

    “About six weeks.”

    The American media had been filled with coverage of listeria after the 1998-1999 Sara Lee Bil Mar hot dog outbreak in which 80 were sickened, 15 killed and at least six pregnant women had miscarriages. Risk assessments had been conducted, people were talking about warning labels, and especially, the risks to pregnant women. 

There was no such public discussion in Canada.

 So as I watched the pregnant PhD load up on smoked salmon, cold cuts and soft cheese for lunch, I wondered, do I say something?

    One of the biggest risks in pregnancy is protein deficiency. What if smoked salmon, cold cuts and soft cheeses were this woman’s biggest source of protein? (Turns out they were.)

 Another risk factor is stress. I didn’t want to freak her out. Besides, who the hell am I to say anything? 

We sat together during lunch and chatted about babies, her aspirations and how she was feeling. Eventually I introduced the subject of listeria by talking about a risk assessment that had recently been published by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and that maybe she would be interested in looking at the results. I felt sorta goofy.
    Professor Clare Collins of the University of Newcastle studied the eating habits of 7000 Australian women to see if they were missing out on important nutrients as a result of avoiding "risky" foods that potentially carried listeria.

    9News reports some pregnant women are being overly cautious about avoiding what are traditionally considered "no-no" foods, such as soft cheese, pate and sashimi, a researcher says. Oysters, smoked fish, delicatessen meats, salad bar salads and pre-cut fruit are also considered high risk for carrying the Listeria monocytogenes.

    Reporting her findings in the journal Public Health Nutrition, Prof Clare said her study found that women who ate the most listeria foods reported more frequent miscarriages, but had high levels of the nutrients needed to have a healthy baby.

    Conversely, those who ate moderate or low amounts of listeria foods had less miscarriages but also lower levels of nutrients like calcium, folate and Omega 3 acids.

    "In those with moderate and low exposure there was no excess risk of miscarriage but the problem was their nutrient intakes were then worse," Prof Clare said.

    "We're saying pregnant women need to be given more advice on how to eat healthy. If all they hear is risky foods, and they drop out all the potential listeria foods, their micro nutrient intake is going to be really bad.”

    She said the existing listeria guidelines for pregnant women were entirely legitimate but needed to be rewritten to provide more information about what could be eaten, as well as what should be avoided.

    There were 65 cases of listeriosis in Australia in 2008, 12 during pregnancy and one that was fatal.

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  • Posted: February 27th, 2012 - 2:08pm by Doug Powell

    Kevin Dr.-Dreamy Allen, (right, sortof as shown) found traces of listeria in ready-to-eat fish products sold in Metro Vancouver, according to this boring University of British Columbia press release.

    There’s so much Kevin Dr.-Hockey-Goon Allen material to work with, but UBC went with the boring and predictable.

    Allen tested a total of 40 ready-to-eat fish samples prior to their best before date. Purchased from seven large chain stores and 10 small retailers in Metro Vancouver, these products included lox, smoked tuna, candied salmon and fish jerky.

    The findings – published in a recent issue of the journal Food Microbiology – show that listeria was present in 20 per cent of the ready-to-eat fish products. Of these, five per cent had the more virulent variety of Listeria monocytogenes.

    Allen says although the Listeria monocytogenes levels in the ready-to-eat fish products met federal guidelines, the bacteria can multiply during handling and storage – particularly toward the end of shelf life.

    “Additional handling of ready-to-eat foods in stores, such as slicing, weighing, and packaging, may increase the potential for cross-contamination,” says Allen. “While listeria bacteria can be killed by high heat, most people eat these fish products without further cooking. What this means for consumers is that pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system should be aware of the health risks.”

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  • Posted: February 24th, 2012 - 4:35am by Doug Powell


    Larry “Larry” Goodridge (right, exactly as shown) got it right when he said farmers bear primary responsibility for food safety and they shouldn’t rely on third-party audits, but should retroactively fail my risk analysis course for saying Colorado’s response to the listeria-in-cantaloupe outbreak that killed 36 people "was as close to perfect as we are going to see" and that "Our food supply is one of the safest in the world, if not the safest."

    Goodridge, an associate professor of food microbiology at Colorado State University, did follow up by telling the Governor's Forum on Colorado Agriculture yesterday, “But if you were to ask that question of family members who had someone die, they would tell you our food supply is not safe." Lots of people would say the food supply is not safe. Maybe about 48 million of them. Best to keep meaningless rankings out of the equation.

    He also said the state could improve by creating a team that activated within hours of an outbreak, and that the government should target spending on high-risk produce — in particular, by educating farmers who grow high-risk produce. More focus on food inspectors isn't likely to significantly improve the system. Larry urged farmers to focus on sanitary practices such as keeping equipment and storage areas clean. He also urged them to educate the public on ways to safely handle produce in the same manner as consumers are advised how to safely handle meat.

    As usual, no details were provided on how best to do this so-called education, for farmers or consumers.

    Farm Fresh Direct chief executive Jim Knutzon, said he expects the federal government will write more specific regulations for growing cantaloupe and other produce. Then third-party auditors — hired by farms to inspect their operations — will have to check for specific standards called for by the Food and Drug Administration.

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  • Posted: February 3rd, 2012 - 5:34am by Doug Powell

    A recall involving more than 150,000 pounds of eggs sold in pails for institutional use in 34 states, has caused at least two supermarket chains to issue their own recalls of prepared foods.

    Late Wednesday, Minnetonka, Minn.-based Michael Foods announced an egg recall covering 24 production lot dates, up from three announced last week. The recall involves Michael Foods’ 10- and 25-pound pails of eggs in brine — 15,000 pails all together – because of potentional contamination with listeria.

    There have been no confirmed reports of illness in connection with the recall by Michael Foods, the nation’s seventh-largest egg producer as ranked by the publication Egg Industry.

    The recalled eggs could be carrying Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems. It can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths. Healthy individuals can suffer high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

    The same listeria strain struck Michael Foods three years ago and also prompted a recall. Listeria monocytogenes was found in bags of hash browns, a discovery that cost the company $2 million.

    The Michael recall was initiated after lab tests by a third party revealed that some eggs may have been contaminated. The recall was expanded after the company determined that a specific repair project in a packaging room was the likely source of the potential contamination. Michael Foods said it has corrected the problem.

    Doug Powell, a food safety expert at Kansas State University, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune listeria is a relatively common bug, and is tested for “zero tolerance. So you get a lot of recalls without illnesses.”

    But when listeriosis strikes, it can be a particularly fatal foodbourne illnesses with a “kill rate” of 20 percent to 30 percent in the people who contract it, Powell said. Last year, a cantaloupe-related listeria outbreak centered on a Colorado farm killed 30 people, one of the deadliest food-related outbreaks in recent years.

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