• Posted: July 24th, 2010 - 9:52am by Sol Erdozain

    Sol Erdozain

    Last night the Associated Press reported three separate recalls due to Listeria contamination.

    Distribution of these products ranges from the West Coast to the Midwest to the East Coast, so make sure to check your “Raquel’s” food items, Specialty Farms, LLC sprouts salad, and Pasco Processing, LLC peppers.

    More information regarding the recalled products:


    “Quong Hop & Co. of South San Francisco, California is voluntarily recalling all "Raquel's" hummus, salads, wraps, sandwiches, and other food items, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes”



     “Specialty-Farms, LLC is recalling its Specialty Farms brand of Organic Alfalfa Sprouts Blend and its Organic Sprout Salad. The voluntary recall of the four-ounce containers with sell-by dates of 7/26/2010 is because they may have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria Monocytogenes.”


    “Pasco Processing, LLC, of Pasco Wash., is recalling 2087 cases of 20 lb. bulk packaged Corn and Poblano peppers, because of the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.”


    No illnesses have been reported, yet.


    Your rating: None (4 votes)
    Listeria  |  Comments
  • Posted: July 22nd, 2010 - 12:16pm by Doug Powell

    Academic publishing is like the Tina Fey flick, Mean Girls. Reviewers are catty, bitchy, and snarly, all because the nerds are in power and can hide behind the cloak of anonymity.

    For some reason, I usually get called in to review lousy papers, probably because I have no hesitation saying, ‘this work sucks; I could write a better paper with my butt cheeks’ or something like that.

    There are so many bad papers out there.

    Some geniuses at Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency decided that after 23 people died of listeria in Maple Leaf cold colds in 2008, rather than write a paper about all the mistakes that were made, they would write a paper entitled, Changing Regulation: Canada’s New Thinking on Listeria.

    I have a problem with anyone who says they speak on behalf of all Canadian women, or Canadians, or other groups. Industry, don’t pay attention to this – go above and beyond because you’re going to lose money when the outbreak happens, not the bureaucrats.

    The Health Canada and CFIA types proudly proclaim they’d never heard of listeria in Sara Lee hot dogs in 1998, or any other outbreak, until it happened in Canada. Now the government types have introduced what they call enhanced testing requirements.

    The authors find it necessary to say that,

    “Consumers also have an important role to play in the farm-to-fork continuum. That role calls for Canadians to learn and adopt safe food handling, avoidance of certain high-risk foods, and preparation practices. To this effect, Health Canada has and will continue to undertake the development of science-based consumer education material which will help create an understanding of food safety issues within the context of the public’s right to know about the potential dangers in food, and industry’s responsibility for producing a safe food. A combination of all these approaches are currently being adopted and/or developed to improve the control of L. monocytogenes in RTE foods sold in Canada.”

    Wow. Guess it was the consumers’ fault that 23 died from eating crappy Maple Leaf deli meat. Or the dieticians at the aged home facilities who though it would be a bright idea to serve unheated cold-cuts to immunocomprimised old people.

    This is Health Canada, the agency that still recommends whole poultry be cooked to 180F, while the U.S. recommends 165F. Are the laws of physics somehow different north of the 49th parallel? We’ve asked, and no one at Health Canada will explain, So why should they be believed on anything else?

    And instead of writing crappy papers about collaborations devoid of fact, why isn’t Health Canada and the food safety types at CFIA cracking down on the BS emanating from Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Kids, which says that cold-cuts are fine for expectant moms despite a treasure-trove of scientific evidence to the contrary.

    The paper concludes,

    “We feel that we have learned valuable lessons from the Maple Leaf listeriosis outbreak, which occurred in 2008. We have used these lessons to help us develop CFIA Directives for federally registered meat and poultry plants. We are also learning from industry and we will use their “Best Practices” document to further develop our policies on Listeria control. By all parties working together in a non-competitive and trusting manner, we feel that we can make great strides in Listeria control and continue along a path to reducing the burden of foodborne listeriosis in Canada.”

    OMG This made it into a scientific paper? I feel lots of things, but I don’t ’write them in journal articles. Here’s some tips. None of which were discussed in the so-called scientific paper:

    • put warning labels on cold-cuts and other high-risk foods for expectant moms
    • make listeria testing results public
    • make food safety training mandatory (and then we’ll work on making it better).

    And the paper is below, with the catty comments from reviewers.

    I could write a better paper with my butt cheeks.
    sites/default/files/Farber et al 2010_listeria.pdf

    Your rating: None (2 votes)
    Listeria  |  Comments
  • Posted: July 14th, 2010 - 10:16am by Doug Powell

    Twice as many people in Denmark contracted listeriosis in 2009 compared with the previous year – and noone seems to know why.

    The Copenhagen Post reports the latest figures from the National Food Institute at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) show that Denmark has the highest number of cases of the rare and potentially lethal bacterial disease (presumably within the EU).

    Jens Kirk Andersen, an expert from the National Food Institute said that it is often difficult to identify the source of listeria infections because it may take anything from two days to two months before symptoms appear.

    Your rating: None (3 votes)
    Listeria  |  Comments
  • Posted: July 4th, 2010 - 10:17pm by Doug Powell

    There are morons dispensing advice at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Kids. I have no idea why they get paid to tell pregnant women, “it is no longer necessary for pregnant women to avoid foods like deli meats and soft cheeses soft-cooked eggs or sushi and sashimi.”

    I have no idea how this advice got approved and published. How is it that the authors, Carolyn Tam, a graduate student in clinical pharmacology at the University of Toronto, Aida Erebara MD, and Adrienne Einarson RN, assistant director of the Motherisk Program could come up with such terrible food safety advice from the 25-year-old Motherisk program which is designed “to ensure the well-being of mothers and babies, worldwide.”

    And they want donations.

    Jane Calvert, a formerly pregnant journalist in Melbourne, Australia, who recently gave birth to a healthy daughter, is much more incisive and intelligent than the tax-supported staff at Toronto’s Sick Kid’s.

    Calvert asks in The Age today, at what point did fine dining become more tolerant of gluten intolerants than it did of pregnant women? Go to any decent digs and you're sure to see dishes containing substances that affect celiacs clearly marked. But asking what meals could potentially kill your unborn child seems a much greater imposition.

    She suggests a Three Point Pregnancy Policy

    1. Label your pregnancy-safe dishes. Remember there are almost three months during which pregnant women may not be able to ask questions, for fear of revealing their status.

    2. Ensure your staff are educated, ready and able to answer questions about potential risks and can do it in a way that's not condescending.

    3. Provide a menu with choice. Try to make sure there are at least three safe pregnancy options that don't involve having to murder a meat dish that really should be served rare.

    All good points. The folks at Toronto Sick Kid’s hospital should either provide references for their recommendations or retract the article. Or just go away. It’s embarrassing.

    Your rating: None (4 votes)
    Listeria  |  Comments
  • Posted: June 30th, 2010 - 7:57am by Doug Powell

    A Toronto meat packing plant was caught changing the "best before" dates on packages of ham about a month before it had to recall peppercorn salami when samples tested positive for listeria.

    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Siena Foods warned the public against consuming its cooked ham and some dried meat products after samples tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes in March.

    The Toronto Star subsequently requested documents under the Access to Information Act and discovered the relabeling scheme. One inspector found the company was incorrectly extending the shelf life of Black Forest ham from 56 days to 78 days by putting the wrong date on "best before" labels on about 5,500 cartons.

    A corrective action report issued Oct. 30, 2009 noted someone at the plant told an inspector the product was stored at 1C, which they felt "can extend the shelf life."

    Why CFIA couldn’t inform the public about the shoddy practices remains unknown. I thought CFIA was there to ensure public health.

    Siena Foods Ltd. has since closed after filing for bankruptcy.

    Your rating: None (3 votes)
    Listeria  |  Comments
  • Posted: June 23rd, 2010 - 7:55pm by Doug Powell

    I made creamed spinach to accompany some beef, corn, potatoes and grilled vegetables for dinner tonight.

    It was work for not a lot of punch; but at least the cooking took care of any listeria that may have been present.

    Lancaster Foods LLC, of Jessup, Maryland, recalled 10-ounce packages of Krisp-Pak Ready to Eat Hydro-Cooled Fresh Spinach today after tests by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in product samples.

    The packages have the code: “Best Enjoyed By: 23 Jun 10, Product of USA, 10/158/09:17/1/05.”

    State inspectors collected the product from a Farm Fresh store in Elizabeth City.

    No illnesses associated with this product have been reported.

    Your rating: None (1 vote)
    Listeria  |  Comments
  • Posted: June 16th, 2010 - 6:41am by Doug Powell

    Mike Hughlett of the Star Tribune writes that Parkers Farm, a Coon Rapids food manufacturer, has been fined $1,900 for food safety lapses after an extensive recall of peanut butter, cheese and other products in January.

    The recall from such stores as Cub, Rainbow, Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Whole Foods and Hy-Vee was prompted by tests that found listeria bacteria in finished Parkers Farm's products. It led to a temporary shutdown of the company's plant.

    The Minnesota Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that Parkers Farm was cited for selling adulterated food.

    The state also found that the firm lost control of its manufacturing process and failed to adequately train and supervise workers, said Michael Schommer, a department spokesman.

    Parkers Farm also must reimburse the state $46,000 for lab testing connected to the recall.

    No illnesses were reported at the time of the recall, which involved 12 products.

    Your rating: None (1 vote)
    Listeria  |  Comments
  • Posted: June 14th, 2010 - 9:37am by Doug Powell

    Canada is so complacent that when a leading hospital provides terrible food safety advice, no one notices.

    Although Canada’s track record with ridiculous things said involving listeria is hard to match.

    There’s a recall of some pre-cooked meat products going on right now. No one is apparently sick, but this is how Canada’s version of state-sponsored jazz reported the event:

    CBC News says a Winnipeg food processor is recalling its pre-cooked meat products after an Alberta customer raised concerns about possible contamination with listeria bacteria.

    Smith's Quality Meats, which sells in provinces from British Columbia to Ontario, has voluntarily pulled a wide variety of its products from shelves.

    I’m not sure customer is the best word. Maybe the customer walked into the store with those magic I-can-see-listeria goggles.

    Smith's spokesman Andy Van Patter said,

    "The discovery was made on one product at one location in Alberta through testing performed by our customer. There [is] no indication that other products are affected."

    Oh, Smith’s supplied the meat to someone and they tested it and got a listeria positive. Got it.

    CTV News reported that people with weak immune systems, pregnant women and the elderly are most at risk from listeriosis.

    Unless you’re a medical professional at Toronto’s Sick Kids Hospital, where there is no risk of listeria to pregnant women or the elderly as long as food is bought from reputable sources. Their words, not mine.

    Your rating: None (3 votes)
    Listeria  |  Comments
  • Posted: June 11th, 2010 - 2:19pm by Doug Powell

    I spoke yesterday for a couple of hours with a bunch of would-be public health students on the Kansas State campus for an 8-week program.

    I told them it was a tough job.

    Foodborne illness, dog bites, pool patrol. And inspectors are sometimes at the whim of local politicians who may not like the salad bar shields and order a crackdown. Or say, leave my buddy the restaurant owner alone

    So it’s nice to see some recognition for public servants who go out in the world and do something.

    Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Director Francis E. Greene is being honored by the U.S.Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as part of its annual Civilian Honor Awards for his role in managing the environmental portion of a potential outbreak of Listeria in Connecticut and the Northeast in April 2009.

    Based on a sample of sprouts that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes,
    Greene was part of a collaborative effort among the FDA, his staff, the State Public Health Department and the Bridgeport, Connecticut producer to immediately recall 22 sprout products, notify all distributors, retailers, public health officials and consumers of the recall, remove products from store shelves, and identify the source of the Listeria contamination. At the time of the recall, the sprouts were being sold in small stores and three major grocery store chains across the Northeast.

    “Frank’s action and collaborative efforts clearly helped to minimize the risk of illness in any number of consumers who would have eaten those tainted sprouts,” Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell, Jr. said today. “We’re delighted that he has been chosen for this well-deserved national recognition.”

    Your rating: None (2 votes)
    Listeria  |  Comments
  • Posted: June 6th, 2010 - 11:44am by Doug Powell

    I don’t let cats or dogs or lizards on my food prep area, and I don’t let anyone plant their behind on my food prep area – who knows where that behind has been.

    That’s what I took away from Maple Leaf Foods latest attempt to woo wary customers back to their delicious deli flavor.

    Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain and some other food safety types from the company hosted a dine and lecture for bloggers on May 27 in the Toronto area, to update would-be social media leaders to go forth with the food safety crusade that has taken over Maple Leaf since the 2008 listeria outbreak which killed 22 people.

    A number of bloggers have written about this event. They talk about the sweet food, the sincerity of the Maple Leaf types and the super swag. No one raised any hard questions like:

    • why did Maple Leaf wait so long to issue a public recall of its killer products in 2008 when epidemiology clearly implicated the product;
    • why aren’t listeria test results in Maple Leaf plants made public;
    • why aren’t there warning labels on deli meats for at-risk populations, like pregnant women and all those old people that unnecessarily died; and,
    • why aren’t Maple Leaf’s food safety efforts marketed at retail so consumers can choose?

    Other companies that want to lead are already working in these areas, rather than wining and dining trendy bloggers.

    In the U.S., Beef Products Inc. is figuring out how to make all its E. coli tests public, and Cargill is expanding the use of video in its slaughterhouses to enhance animal welfare and food safety.

    The Publix supermarket chain in the southeast already labels its deli products to say,

    “The Publix Deli is committed to the highest quality fresh cold cuts & cheeses.
 Therefore we recommend all cold cuts are best if used within three days of purchase.
 And all cheese items are best if used within four days of purchase.”

    And not one of the bloggers mentioned, OMG, did you see that those nurses and doctors at Toronto Sick Kid’s hospital said pregnant women can eat all the cold-cuts and raw seafood they want, listeria’s not such a big deal after all.

    But all I take away from reading all the blogs is this pic: dude, get your butt off the food prep area.

    Your rating: None (4 votes)
    Listeria  |  Comments