• Posted: January 4th, 2012 - 4:59am by Doug Powell

    Hockey goon and budding academic Kevin Allen of the University of British Columbia says there’s lots of listeria in ready-to-eat seafood in British Columbia (that’s in Canada).

    According to a new paper in Food Microbiology, Allen along with Lili Mesak and Javana Kovačevic found lots of anti-microbial resistant Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat salmon, but none in RTE deli meats. The paper offers a thorough microbiologial and genomic description of the listeria strains isolated but what this means for consumers is less clear.

    But Kevin, describing listeria-vulnerable populations as “the really young and the elderly?” What about the really, really young? Or the super-young. The uber-young?

    Abstract below.

    Occurrence and characterization of Listeria spp. in ready-to-eat retail foods from Vancouver, British Columbia
    Food Microbiology
    Jovana Kovačević, Lili R. Mesak, Kevin J. Allen
    The occurrence of Listeria spp. and L. monocytogenes in retail RTE meat and fish products in Vancouver, British Columbia (B.C.) was investigated. To assess potential consumer health risk, recovered L. monocytogenes isolates were subjected to genotypic and phenotypic characterization. Conventional methods were used to recover Listeria spp. from deli meat (n=40) and fish (n=40) samples collected from 17 stores. Listeria spp. were recovered only from fish samples (20 %); 5 % harboured L. innocua, 5 % had L. monocytogenes and 10 % contained L. welshimeri. Listeria monocytogenes isolates serotyped as 1/2a and 1/2b, possessed dissimilar PFGE patterns, and had full-length InlA. Three 1/2a clonal isolates encoded the 50 kb genomic island, LGI1. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) profiling showed all Listeria spp. possessed resistance to cefoxitin and nalidixic acid. Listeria monocytogenes were resistant to clindamycin, two were resistant to streptomycin, and one to amikacin. Reduced susceptibility to ciprofloxacin was seen in all L. monocytogenes, L. innocua and three L. welshimeri isolates. Reduced susceptibility to amikacin and chloramphenicol was also observed in one L. monocytogenes and three L. welshimeri isolates, respectively. Recovery of L. monocytogenes in fish samples possessing AMR, full-length InlA, LGI1, and serotypes frequently associated with listeriosis suggest B.C. consumers are exposed to high-risk strains.
    ► Listeria spp. were frequently recovered from RTE salmon samples, but not deli meat. ► High risk strains of L. monocytogenes were present in BC retail RTE seafood. ► This is the first report of the LGI1 genomic island from retail RTE seafood. ► AMR was observed in all Listeria, and included clinically relevant antimicrobials

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  • Posted: January 1st, 2012 - 9:42pm by Doug Powell

    Fall 2008 was a crappy time in Canada. While the Maple Leaf listeria-in-deli-meats outbreak would kill 23 and sicken 56, a listeria-in-cheese outbreak plagued Quebec (that’s in Canada, according to some), sickening lots, especially expectant mothers.

    Amy was pregnant, heightening sensitivities.

    At the time, public attention and concern in Quebec was far more focused on the plight of cheesemongers than the sick and several dead. Regulators took some tough steps to limit the outbreak but in a culture that values tradition, the Quebec Minister of Agriculture was forced to capitulate and change his tune from, "The province is not there to compensate. We aren't an insurance company," to offering a three-year, $8.4-million aid package, along with $11.3-million in interest-free loans to Quebec's small cheese producers and retailers less than three weeks later.

    Government health-types in Quebec have now offered their version of events in the current issue of the Journal of Food Protection.

    Although numbers of sick people were all over the place at the time, the researchers conclude there were 38 confirmed sick with the same strain of Listeria monocytogenes (LM P93) across Quebec from June through Dec. 2008, including 14 pregnant women and two babies born to asymptomatic mothers. There were two elderly deaths and three neonatal deaths.

    The traceback of many brands of cheese that tested positive for LM P93 collected from retailers identified two cheese plants contaminated by L. monocytogenes strains on 3 and 4 September. PFGE profiles became available for both plants on 8 September, and confirmed that a single plant was associated with the outbreak. Products from these two plants were distributed to more than 300 retailers in the province, leading to extensive cross-contamination of retail stock.

    So where is that local cheesemonger you know, trust and can look in the eye, getting their cheese from?

    The abstract is below:

    Widespread Listeriosis outbreak attributable to pasteurized cheese, which led to extensive cross-contamination affecting cheese retailers, Quebec, Canada, 2008
    Journal of Food Protection®, Volume 75, Number 1, January 2012 , pp. 71-78(8)
    Gaulin, Colette; Ramsay, Danielle; Bekal, Sadjia
    A major Listeria monocytogenes outbreak occurred in the province of Quebec, Canada, in 2008, involving a strain of L. monocytogenes (LM P93) characterized by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and associated with the consumption of pasteurized milk cheese. This report describes the results of the ensuing investigation. All individuals affected with LM P93 across the province were interviewed with a standardized questionnaire. Microbiological and environmental investigations were conducted by the Quebec's Food Inspection Branch of Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec among retailers and cheese plants involved in the outbreak. Between 8 June and 31 December 2008, 38 confirmed cases of LM P93 were reported to public health authorities, including 16 maternal-neonatal cases (14 pregnant women, and two babies born to asymptomatic mothers). The traceback of many brands of cheese that tested positive for LM P93 collected from retailers identified two cheese plants contaminated by L. monocytogenes strains on 3 and 4 September. PFGE profiles became available for both plants on 8 September, and confirmed that a single plant was associated with the outbreak. Products from these two plants were distributed to more than 300 retailers in the province, leading to extensive cross-contamination of retail stock. L. monocytogenes is ubiquitous, and contamination can occur subsequent to heat treatment, which usually precedes cheese production. Contaminated soft-textured cheese is particularly prone to bacterial growth. Ongoing regulatory and industry efforts are needed to decrease the presence of Listeria in foods, including pasteurized products. Retailers should be instructed about the risk of cross-contamination, even with soft pasteurized cheese and apply methods to avoid it.

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  • Posted: January 1st, 2012 - 3:53am by Doug Powell

    In what could be shaping up as another wow-you-won’t-believe-what inspectors-found-once-they-looked – as in Peanut Corp. of America, DeCoster eggs, Tiny Green sprouts, Bravo Farms cheese – the recall of “Let’s Grow Healthy Together!” Alfalfa Sprouts last week because of a positive salmonella sample has been expanded because a separate test has found listeria in product.

    Green Valley Food Corp. is recalling approximately 35,159 cases of a variety of products because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. Random samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

    The company is still yelling in ALL CAPS and writing in a dialect that would be foreign to a Texan: “Till this present day there has bee no related illnesses CONFIRMED because of this recall.”

    A table of sprout-related outbreaks is available at

    The items affected in the recall are as follows , which includes all items from the original press release from 12/23/2011:

    • Let's Grow Healthy Together!” Alfalfa Sprouts 5 oz. plastic 2 piece containers with the UPC number 714722228818
    • Let"s Grow Healthy Together!” Spicy Sprouts 5 oz. plastic 2 piece containers with the UPC number 714722229914
    • Alfalfa Sprouts 4oz. plastic security sealed clamshell UPC number 815098001088
    • Green Valley Food Corp.” Onion Sprouts” 4oz. plastic security sealed clamshell UPC number 815098002054
    • Let's Grow Healthy Together!” Sunflower Greens 5 oz. plastic 2 piece containers with the UPC number 714722206069
    • Let's Grow Healthy Together!” Clover Sprouts 5 oz. plastic 2 piece containers with the UPC number 714722225510
    • Let's Grow Healthy Together!” Onion Sprouts 2 oz. plastic 2 piece containers with the UPC number 714722227712
    • Let's Grow Healthy Together!” Zesty Sprouts 5 oz. plastic 2 piece containers with the UPC number 714722221116
    • Let's Grow Healthy Together!” Organic Wheat Grass 6oz. plastic 2 piece containers with the UPC number 714722608122
    • Let's Grow Healthy Together!” Mung Bean Sprouts 8oz. red polypropylene bag with the UPC number 815098001071
    • Let's Grow Healthy Together!” Mung Bean Sprouts 16 oz. clear polypropylene bag with a green label, the UPC number 714722208162
    • &Green Valley Food Corp. Spicy Sprouts 4 oz. plastic security sealed clamshell containers with the UPC number 815098002023
    • Green Valley Food Corp.” Snow Pea Shoots 3 oz. plastic security sealed clamshell containers with the UPC number 714722106062
    • “Green Valley Food Corp.” Organic Wheatgrass 4 oz. plastic security sealed clamshell containers with UPC number 714722608122
    • Green Valley Food Corp.” Daikon Sprouts 3 oz. plastic security sealed clamshell containers with UPC number 714722206076
    • Broccosprouts” Sandwich Blend 4 oz. plastic security sealed clamshell containers with UPC number 815098000289
    • Broccosprouts” Salad Blend 4 oz. plastic security sealed clamshell containers with UPC number 815098000265
    • Broccosprouts” Deli Blend 4 oz. plastic security sealed clamshell containers with the UPC number 815098000272
    • Broccosprouts” Broccoli Sprouts 4 oz. plastic security sealed clamshell containers with UPC number 815098000258

    The sprouts affected in this recall were distributed via truck deliveries to all customers in Texas. Our customers consist on grocery store distribution centers and food service customers.

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  • Posted: December 30th, 2011 - 5:19am by Doug Powell

    Anyone can clean up for a day. I’m proof.

    But the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service is warning meat and poultry processing plants to cut it out: how else will the government-types know what goes on – listeria-wise -- the rest of the year, or every four years?

    "By altering routine practices, establishments may make changes that are not consistent with their documented food-safety system and that impede FSIS’s ability to assess the safety of the product," FSIS said in a notice signed by Daniel Engeljohn, assistant administrator for the Office of Policy and Program Development.

    The notice warns processing plants to avoid making changes in their procedures in food manufacturing during testing and says that a Noncompliance Report (NR) could be issued to a plant that changes its practices without good reasons during LM testing. Permission to use the equipment involved in making the product could also be denied, the notice says.

    Every four years, FSIS conducts a Food Safety Assessment (FSA) and routine sampling for listeria (RLM) at any plant that produces ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, such a frankfurters or chicken nuggets. Intensified Verification Testing (IVT) is conducted anytime LM is found in the product or on a food contact surface, the notice said.

    "A recent analysis of data from FSIS LM verification programs showed that some establishments have altered routine production, sanitation, or food safety practices during RLM or IVT sampling," Engeljohn wrote. "These changes typically are temporary, in that they are applied only during FSIS RLM or IVT sampling, and normal production processes are resumed at the completion of the RLM or IVT sampling," he wrote.

    The changes have included increasing the use of sanitizer during testing; "drastically" reducing the length of the production shift, the lot size, or the number of employees handling the product; skipping production of product with a higher level of risk, such as sliced product; and failing to use equipment that had previously been shown to be contaminated.

    "Such practices can interfere with FSIS’s assessment of routine conditions or corrective actions at the establishment and may limit FSIS’s ability to determine whether post-lethality exposed RTE meat and poultry products are not adulterated as required by the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA)," Engeljohn wrote.

    If the plant cannot provide a "supportable rationale" for making changes in its processes during the scheduled testing period, the test should be rescheduled and FSIS enforcement personnel should inform their district offices, the notice said.

    Does zero tolerance promote such practices? 

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  • Posted: December 28th, 2011 - 2:17pm by Doug Powell

    Health types in Michigan are investigating two recent cases of human listeriosis that may have had exposure to Green Cedar Dairy products.

    So, Green Cedar Dairy of Dearborn, Michigan, announced the recall of All Natural Ackawi Cheese and All Natural Chives Cheese with a sell by date up to July 1, 2012.

    The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Laboratory identified Listeria monocytogenes in samples of All Natural Chives Cheese that were collected from Green Cedar Dairy.

    Green Cedar Dairy products were distributed to bakeries and retail stores in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

    The recalled items are all labeled as Green Cedar Dairy (Plant # 26941) products, All Natural Ackawi and All Natural Chives Cheese. The product is sold in approximately 12-14 oz. squares vacuum sealed in clear plastic packages with a sell by date up to July 1, 2012. The sell by date is marked on a label on the back of the product.


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  • Posted: December 25th, 2011 - 1:21pm by Doug Powell

    People with certain conditions, including leukemia, other cancers and pregnancy, are at the greatest risk of getting sick from the foodborne bacterium Listeria, French researchers report in a new study.

    Doctors and public health officials have known that these conditions make people more vulnerable to listeriosis, but this study is the first to rank the size of the risk for people with each condition.

    The results "will help focus risk communication for the medical community," said Ramon Guevara, an epidemiologist for the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health, who was not involved in the study.

    The study looked at nearly 2,000 cases of listeriosis in France -- affecting 39 out of every 10 million people -- from 2001 to 2008.

    Despite its rarity, listeriosis is still considered an important public health concern because it's relatively deadly compared to other food-borne illnesses, lead author Dr. Véronique Goulet at the Institut de Veille Sanitaire in Saint-Maurice wrote in an email to Reuters Health.

    More than 400 of the 2,000 people who developed listeriosis died.

    None of the cases involved an outbreak.

    About one in six of the listeriosis cases in France affected pregnant women.

    Incidence of Listeriosis and related mortality among groups at risk of acquiring Listeriosis
    Clinical Infectious Diseases
    Véronique Goulet, Marjolaine Hebert, Craig Hedberg, Edith Laurent, Véronique Vaillant, Henriette De Valk, and Jean-Claude Desenclos
    Background. Listeriosis is a foodborne disease of significant public health concern that primarily affects persons with recognized underlying conditions or diseases that impair cell-mediated immunity. The degree of risk posed by the different underlying conditions is crucial to prioritize prevention programs that target the highest risk populations.

    Methods. We reviewed cases of listeriosis reported in France from 2001 to 2008. Numbers of cases and deaths were tabulated by age and underlying condition. Measures of the impact of specific underlying conditions on the occurrence of listeriosis were calculated. For estimating the total number of persons living with specific diseases, we applied prevalence estimates of these diseases to the French population. Underlying conditions were ranked by the degree to which they increased the risk of listeriosis.

    Results. From 2001 to 2008, 1959 cases of listeriosis were reported in France (mean annual incidence 0.39 per 100 000 residents). Compared with persons <65 years with no underlying conditions, those with chronic lymphocytic leukemia had a >1000-fold increased risk of acquiring listeriosis, and those with liver cancer; myeoloproliferative disorder; multiple myeloma; acute leukemia; giant cell arteritis; dialysis; esophageal, stomach, pancreas, lung, and brain cancer; cirrhosis; organ transplantation; and pregnancy had a 100–1000-fold increased risk of listeriosis.

    Conclusions. To be effective and acceptable to physicians and patients, listeriosis prevention strategies should be targeted based on evidence of increased risk. Stringent dietary guidance, to avoid specific foods with a high risk for Listeria contamination, should be targeted to pregnant women and to others at highest risk of listeriosis.

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  • Posted: December 22nd, 2011 - 6:53pm by Doug Powell

    “The stars are in our corners” and “Food service beyond expectation since 1960,” are the slogans of catering firm, Triple A Services Inc.

    If listeria is a star and beyond expectation.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that a Chicago-area company has agreed to stop making its ready-to-eat sandwiches and produce after FDA investigators repeatedly found unsanitary conditions and bacterial contamination in the facility.

    The company, Triple A Services Inc., and its owners and operators, Thomas J. Whennen, Scott C. Whennen and David A. Frisco, have agreed to stop producing and distributing the sandwiches and produce as part of a consent decree filed in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Illinois.

    The terms of the decree would also require Triple A to hire a sanitation expert to help establish an effective sanitation program, to comply with FDA regulations and to eliminate Listeria contamination from company facilities.

    The government's complaint, filed by the U.S. Department of Justice on December 22, 2011, describes Triple A's history of operating under unsanitary conditions and Listeria monocytogenes contamination in the processing facility.

    It also outlines Triple A's failure to comply with Current Good Manufacturing Practice and seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point regulations.

    "FDA took these aggressive actions because Triple A Services continued to violate current good manufacturing practice regulations and allow for conditions that could affect the health of consumers," said Dara Corrigan, the FDA's associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.

    No illnesses have been reported to date from Triple A Services' products.

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  • Posted: December 21st, 2011 - 2:37pm by Doug Powell

    Three months after she was born, Kendall Paciorek is finally home, just in time for Christmas.

    The premature girl from Fishers, Ind., is one of the tiniest victims of last summer’s deadly listeria outbreak in cantaloupe, which sickened 146 people, including 30 who died.

    JoNel Aleccia of msnbc describes how Kendall (right, photo from msnbc) spent the first several weeks of her life in an incubator, fighting off an infection contracted when her mother ate tainted melon traced to Jensen Farms of Holly, Colo.

    She’s strong enough now to sleep in her own crib in the house where big sister Madison, 4, loves to color pictures of Santa.

    Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared the outbreak over this month, and the rest of the world seems poised to move on.

    But for Kendall and her family, the impact of the foodborne illness caused by a summer snack is just beginning.

    “Right now they don’t know what’s going to happen to her in the long term,” said Michelle Wakley-Paciorek, Kendall’s 41-year-old mother. “We were told she could have mental and or physical delays.”

    Kendall was one of three newborns diagnosed with listeria infections in the outbreak that largely affected the elderly, according to the CDC. Four pregnant women became ill; one had a miscarriage.

    For now, there’s no sign of serious trouble, other than the feeding tube that runs into Kendall’s stomach because the baby has had difficulty eating.

    With help, she’s gained weight, now topping 7 pounds, up from 3 pounds, 11 ounces when she arrived suddenly on Sept. 21.

    That was a week after the federal Food and Drug Administration announced a voluntary recall of the entire crop of fresh, whole cantaloupe from Jensen Farms.

    But for Kendall and her mom, it was already too late.

    “We’re thinking I ate cantaloupe sometime in the first three to four weeks of August,” Wakley recalled. “I ate it probably multiple times. You try to eat better because you’re pregnant.”

    Wakley never became violently ill. Instead, she suffered headaches, muscle aches, fever and chills for several weeks before she started having contractions during a pedicure.

    “I couldn’t even believe I was in labor,” said Wakley, who was rushed to an emergency department and given drugs to halt delivery.

    Despite the effort, Kendall was born hours later, but so small and sick that doctors feared for her life.

    Blood tests later revealed that both mother and baby were infected with listeria later traced to the tainted Colorado cantaloupe.

    The months since then have been a blur of hospital rooms, doctors’ visits and worried conversations about Kendall’s future.

    “You almost panic because they tell you about all kinds of learning disabilities and other problems,” she said. “It’s been like an emotional roller-coaster.”

    It’s not clear whether Wakley can continue working, or whether she’ll need to quit her job to care for Kendall and her sister full-time. Her husband, Dave Paciorek, 41, is a senior manager at Federal Express.

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  • Posted: December 15th, 2011 - 1:34pm by Doug Powell

    The sick person lede was buried, again, and I didn’t realize from a CFIA press release someone had gotten listerosis from eating Clic brand cheese and/or butter in Canada.

    That’s how government types roll.

    Worse, the expanded recall issued yesterday was a month after an initial limited recall, yet product was still sitting on shelves.

    Canadian Food Safety Inspection Agency (CFIA) recall specialist Garfield Balsom told, “During a review of the company’s voluntary recall it was discovered that several products had been missed. The manufacturer has ceased production at its facilities and the CFIA working with them to make sure other products manufactured by the company are safe to consume.”

    Did the one identified individual get sick from consuming Clic products that were previously recalled? In the original Nov. 11, 2011 recall notice, no one was sick.

    The following cheese products, bearing establishment number 1874, and any Best Before dates up to and including those listed below, are affected by this alert:

    Brand Product Size UPC Last Best Before date
    Clic Moujadalé 300 – 400 g None 11 MAR 2012
    Clic Riviera 300 – 400 g None 11 FEB 2012
    Clic Tressé 300 – 400 g None 11 NOV 2012
    Clic Vachekaval 300 – 400 g None 11 MAR 2012

    The following dairy products bear establishment number 1874. These products have a four digit lot code. If the last 2 digits of the lot code are 45 or lower, e.g. xx-45, xx-44, etc, they are affected by this alert:

    Brand Product Size UPC
    Clic Desi Butter Ghee 454 g (1 lbs) None
    Clic Desi Butter Ghee 907 g (2 lbs) None

    These products have been distributed in Quebec and Ontario. These products may also have been distributed to other provinces.

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  • Posted: December 9th, 2011 - 5:08am by Doug Powell

    For those counting – which seems like a bizarrely gruesome fetish – the final tally for the listeria-in-cantaloupe outbreak of 2011 is 146 persons sick from 28 states, including 30 dead and one miscarriage.

    Far more important is – will the cantaloupe industry in Colorado and elsewhere become overtly proactive, seeking the best research on the causes, prevention, and how to translate guidelines into actual actions in the field – where contamination starts.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control today issued its final report on the Multistate Outbreak of Listeriosis Linked to Whole Cantaloupes from Jensen Farms, Colorado—United States, 2011.

    (Sidenote: In the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to Romaine lettuce served at Schnucks, CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell told The Packer yesterday the agency leaves announcements regarding names of growers and distributors to the regulatory agencies – state health departments and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But it had no problem fingering Jensen Farms? Maybe because the Food and Drug Administration named Jensen Farms on Sept. 14 it was open season after that. Maybe CDC was trying to protect other cantaloupe growers. Maybe they’d like to protect other Romaine lettuce growers? Is there a written policy on when to finger a farm? Consistency in communications helps build trust.)

    From the CDC cantaloupe report:

    A total of 146 persons infected with any of the four outbreak-associated strains of Listeria monocytogenes were reported to CDC from 28 states.

    Among persons for whom information was available, reported illness onset ranged from July 31, 2011 through October 27, 2011. Ages ranged from <1 to 96 years, with a median age of 77 years. Most ill persons were over 60 years old. Fifty-eight percent of ill persons were female. Among the 144 ill persons with available information on whether they were hospitalized, 142 (99%) were hospitalized.

    Thirty deaths were reported: Colorado (8), Indiana (1), Kansas (3), Louisiana (2), Maryland (1), Missouri (3), Nebraska (1), New Mexico (5), New York (2), Oklahoma (1), Texas (2), and Wyoming (1). Among persons who died, ages ranged from 48 to 96 years, with a median age of 82.5 years. In addition, one woman pregnant at the time of illness had a miscarriage.

    Seven of the illnesses were related to a pregnancy; three were diagnosed in newborns and four were diagnosed in pregnant women. One miscarriage was reported.

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