Friday, December 30, 2011

The Imported Canadian Cheese Recall Spreads in the U.S.

Now we have an expanding cheese recall in Massachussetts, U.S.A. It is linked to the earlier Cedar Market (located in Norwood, MA)recall. This market imported Canadian cheese and on-sold it to Bahnan’s located in Worcester, MA. Since this cheese has turned out to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, Bahnan's is also having to issue a recall. As a result a much wider range of cheese products with the brand name "Fromagerie Marie Kade” are being considered dangerous and should not be eaten. All have the establishment number 1874, but different "best by" dates.

Akawi Cheese Best Before 08 MAR 2012
Baladi Cheese Best Before 08 FEB 2012.
Shinglish Cheese Best Before 07 NOV 2012
Tresse Cheese Best Before 10 NOV 2012
Vachekaval Cheese Best Before 10 MAR 2012
Halloom Best Before 01 MAY 2012
Moujadale Best Before 04 MAY 2012

Our food certainly travels around these days. And so do the contaminants.

Stay tuned..

To your good health,

TSF

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

ANOTHER "CEDAR" CHEESE RECALL

Green Cedar Dairy of Dearborn, Michigan, has now announced the recall of their All Natural Ackawi Cheese and All Natural Chives Cheese with a sell by date up to July 1, 2012. The reason: they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria and at least two illnesses have been linked to eating these cheeses.

The products were distributed to bakeries and retail stores in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties of Michigan. In other words, a relatively small geographic area.

What puzzles me is that both this cheese and the Canadian cheese recall I blogged yesterday (see previous post) do not only have Listeriosis risk in common - which is nothing unusual - but also something else. They both have "cedar" in the name and a green cedar tree on the label. The trees look somewhat different (the Canadian cheese package has a more artistic cedar tree) but there they are. What an odd coincidence.

Ah - the mysteries of our food supply.

To your good health,

TSF

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Canadian Cheese Recalled in the U.S.

Just a little over a year ago, my post of 12/22/10 was titled "Is Cheese our most Dangerous Food?" Compared to 2010, and particularly the last six months of that year, 2011 has not been such a bad one for cheese recalls in the U.S. But all the same, we have had quite a few. Most of them, as usual, were due to Listeria monocytogenes bacteria turning up in the cheese. And, as usual, raw cheeses proved to be the riskiest.


Over the holiday period we had another cheese recall. Kradjian Imp Co, Glendale, CA is recalling 231 Cases, 22Lb / Cs of Cedar brand Tresse Cheese, 16 oz and Cedar brand Shinglish cheese, 16 oz because of Listeria monocytogenes.

These two cheeses were imported by Kradjian from Canada from a supplier named Fromagerie Marie Kade of Quebec. The cheeses were made with pasteurized milk - not raw milk this time.

Check your cheeses especially if you live in Southern California and tend to shop at Mediterranean speciality markets. Both cheeses are vacuum packed and bear the picture of a green cedar tree (see illustration).

Again - a special caution for pregnant women and anyone else with a seriously weakened immune system. This bacteria has a high fatality rate.

To your good health,

TSF

update 1/22/12: This outbreak is still very much ongoing and expanding. The geographic area has also expanded to include: Southern California, Northern California, Washington State, Minnesota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee,Arizona and Michigan.

UPDATE ON ENFAMIL BABY FORMULA

Mead Johnson Nutrition Co., which manufactures Enfamil Premium Newborn infant formula, is publicly stressing that the company's laboratory testing has found no trace of Cronobacter sakazakii - the bacteria that caused the death of a baby in Missouri, USA, and tanked the company's stock price last week.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Missouri Department of Health are doing their own testing of formula samples. Federal officials said that these test results won't be available until later this week. Either the government testing is more thorough than that of Mead Johnson (although the company says it has used the same methology), probably meaning they are giving the bacteria plenty of time to grow in artificial media, or, it could simply mean that staff went on holiday leave and simply weren't available to push this urgent testing through.
In the meantime, National retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Walgreen Co., Kroger Co. and Safeway Inc. have pulled the powdered infant formula from their shelves. Consumers would be wise to avoid this product until testing is complete. Newborns are too vulnerable to take any risks.

To your good health,

TSF

Sunday, December 25, 2011

E.coli 0157 Found in Fresh Spinach


Avon Heights Fresh is recalling certain packages of fresh packaged spinach. The brands include Krisp Pak 10oz bags, Better Brand 10oz.bags, and Avon Heights 4-2.51b bags. Yes, here we go with another bagged fresh produce recall.

What happened is that during routine sampling for the commonly occurring bacteria in food, one package of Better Brand 10oz spinach tested positive for E.coli 0157 - a very dangerous bacteria.

The company has decided to be careful and recall all the packages of spinach that were produced at their plant on that particular day. This privately owned company prides itself on the safety of its products, but unfortunately, such problems can happen in spite of safety measures. Here's a quote from their website (www.avonheightsfresh.com):

We pride ourselves on keeping our facilities clean and efficient - food safety is one of the foremost cornerstones of the Avon Heights Fresh brand, and we work hard to make sure that our customers are taking only the healthiest, safest product possible into their kitchens.

All the packages have codes DP 340 and T691 and a "best if used by" date of December 16 - that is, over a week ago. What this means is that most of it has been already eaten. Nothing new there. Unfortunately, food recalls often come too late to do us poor consumers much good.

Don't panic if you think you ate some of the recalled product. It is very unlikely that every package would be contaminated. But if you do get food poisoning symptoms (incubation period is 3-9 days), or, already have them, be sure to tell your doctor about eating this product.

To your good health,

TSF

Saturday, December 24, 2011

MORE RECENT CASES OF SALMONELLA BACTERIA IN FOOD AND SUPPLEMENTS

In the last few days, Salmonella bacteria seem to be making up for lost time. Or else, food testing has just got lucky and caught more cases. I won't have time to blog them all, but here are some U.S. instances from the past few days, and one from the U.K.

These cases show the variety of situations in which Salmonella can crop up. The first two - peppers and alfalfa sprouts are quite common, and have occurred previously many times. The last two - in spice and in dietary supplements - are rarer but not unheard of either, as this bacterium is very good at surviving under dry conditions, and can do so for months. There have been several large spice recalls in the U.S. over the last few years, and of course, the very recent one in celery seeds (see earlier posts).


In peppers: Cal Fresco, LLC (“Cal Fresco”) of California is recalling some 18,500 pounds of fresh Jalapeño and Serrano chili peppers (imported from Mexico, by the way) because of contamination with Salmonella. They were shipped in cases under both the Cal Fresco (10 and 25 pound cases) and Grower Alliance (40 pound case) labels. This lot was distributed to retail stores within California, Oregon, Washington, Texas and Canada between December 3 and December 5, 2011 (I bought some, but luckily cooked them well).

In alfalfa sprouts: Green Valley Food Corp. of is recalling 650 cases of “Let’s Grow Healthy Together!” Alfalfa Sprouts 5 oz. containers, because the results showed to be contaminated with Salmonella. If you read this blog regularly you'll know that I view sprouted seeds as one of the riskiest foods you can eat (see previous posts).

In dietary supplements: Eclectic Institute, Sandy, Oregon is recalling specific lots of its freeze-dried capsules containing Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) and Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) capsules because of potential Salmonella contamination.

In dry spices: In the U.K. the Food Standards agency reports that Natco Foods Ltd. is recalling certain batches of its own ground cumin due to the presence of Salmonella bacteria.

To your good health,

TSF

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cargill is Back Producing Ground Turkey

This post may interest those consumers who want to know more about what happens after a large food product recall in the U.S.

If the inspectors find contamination in the processing plant, and large amounts of product have to be recalled, it can mean the end of a small company. Larger ones can usually weather the storm - and the expense and negative publicity involved. Part of that expense is cleanup of the plant, as required by government regulators. Production of the recalled product, and sometimes of others as well, will have to be stopped until food safety is improved.
Cargill (Cargill Meat Solutions Corp.) provides an example. In August and September of this year (end of the summer, 2011) this huge company had a large ground turkey recall because of Salmonella contamination. The turkey had been processed at their Springdale, Arkansas facility. Several brands were affected: including Honeysuckle White, Shady Brook Farms, Riverside, Aldi Fit & Active, Giant Eagle, HEB, Kroger and Safeway.

After discovery of Salmonella at the plant, ground turkey production was suspended (another one in Virginia kept making it). Over the next few months, the company undertook a thorough cleanup and set up new and better quality and testing standards, including:

Addition of more bacteria reduction steps, including before the turkey is ground.
• Improvement of the process control monitoring system
• Increase of the number and frequency of tests for Salmonella.
• Establishment of high pressure processing, to further reduce numbers of Salmonella.

Training of workers in the new procedures.

Cargill now says that their new safety measures at the Springdale plant are the best in the industry. Cargill food safety specialists and USDA inspectors are also reportedly present for each and every shift at the plant.

So why didn't they have these measures before the outbreak which would have avoided a lot of misery to consumers - and, to the company? You know the answer: they cost money.

Cargill expects their turkey to be back in the stores soon. And, my guess is that at least part of the cost of increased safety will be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

To your good health,

TSF

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Walmart Removes Enfamil Newborn Formula from Stores

I am glad I did not buy Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. (MJN) shares. They fell like a rock today - down 10%. The reason: Walmart removed this company's Enfamil Newborn formula from all Walmart shelves after it was found that an infant who died was given that brand. Reportedly, about half of all Walmart stores carry the formula, and thousands of stores and many times more cans are involved.

Several infants have become ill. The formula has not yet been proved to be the cause, but is suspected to be the culprit. Another unidentified formula is suspected as well, which suggests that they may have a common contaminated ingredient.

The bacteria involved is Cronobacter sakazakii. Never heard of it? You are not alone. There are huge numbers of bacteria present in our environment that the public never hears of. Some are harmless, others harmful. For a newborn, bacteria like these can cause serious illness or even death. Fatality rate is estimated at 40-80 percent, which is very high.

Yes, of course the infant formula was tested by the company before being released into the marketplace, and this lot tested negative. But contaminants are frequently missed for a variety of reasons.

If the link is proven, this is likely to be the start of a national recall. And of course, a lot of lawsuits.

Mothers beware! If you recently bought this formula, don't give it to your newborn.

To your good health,

TSF

IS EGYPT THE SOURCE OF THE RECALLED CELERY SEEDS?

I have been suspecting that the recalled celery seed (see previous 3 posts) is imported. But I guessed India. Now I have changed my mind. I think it all the recalled seeds had a common origin in Egypt.

Here's why: the latest recall is by Starwest Botanicals. Read the label:

If you check the company's website, you will also find that their celery seed in jars states that the source is Egypt (I didn't find a listing for the pouches). They are not likely to import this item from two different countries.

By the way, do you recall that this year's huge and deadly E.coli 0104:H4 outbreak was eventually - after many false turns - traced to fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt? Yes, Egypt is the source of a lot of imported herbs and spices all over the world, and clearly not all of them are sanitary.

To your good health,

TSF

UPDATE ON CELERY SEED RECALLS

Well,as I expected, there is yet another recall of celery seed. This time it is by Starwest Botanicals. This California company is recalling Starwest Organic Celery Seed (Whole) packaged in Mylar 1lb and 2 oz pouches (it also sells it in jars, and I am wondering why these are not included in the recall).

The cause is the same as in the case of the other recalls: discovery of contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.
We are seeing once more how interlinked our food system is. We may think we are buying some wonderful unique product, and instead, it is part of a huge production lot, masquerading under various names.

I hope you took my earlier advice and stopped eating all celery seed when the first recall came out. Let's wait until the FDA investigators find out the cause, and hopefully, fix it. And that could take a while - weeks, maybe even months.

Remember, in a small percentage of cases, Salmonella can be veru dangerous.

To your good health,
TSF

Sunday, December 18, 2011

SWANSON'S RECALL OF CELERY SEED

My post of earlier today focused on the celery seed recall issued by Safeway stores. Another one has been announced as well. It is linked to the Safeway stores recall through a common supplier - B&M Inc.

Swanson Health Products is recalling Swanson Organic Celery Seed (Whole) which is packaged in plastic bottles with a net weight of 1.4 oz. (40 grams) because it may be contaminated with Salmonella. Reportedly the product was sold in several ways - on line, through mail order, through the Swanson Health Products retail store in North Dakota, or, held for pickup at the company's headquarters.

I don't know B&M's supplier for the celery seeds, but a quick research shows that among the countries from which the U.S. imports this product are India, France - and, China. Could this be yet another contaminated Chinese import?

The ironic thing is, of course, that celery seed is considered to be a "health product." It is not well known in Western herbal medicine, but has been used for thousands of years in India. Today, it is mainly used as a diuretic. But these small seeds have also been linked (including by a few research studies) to improving conditions such as high blood pressure, arthritis, gout, kidney stones, muscle cramps, pain, anxiety, and even to prevention of cancer. My grandmother, who was a traditional herbalist, believed celery seeds would cure all these problems and more.

If you don't feel like coming down with a case of Salmonellosis for the holidays, I would suggest you avoid all celery seeds until we find out the source of this problems. That is, unless you cook them very well which would kill the bacteria (pouring hot water on them to make tea is not enough).

To your good health,
TSF

TSF

SAFEWAY STORES INVOLVED IN ORGANIC SEED RECALL

Seeds, as well as our food, can be contaminated with bacteria, even though they are dry. That also goes for organic seeds. Salmonella bacteria are the most common, in part because they can tolerate dry conditions very well.

So that is what we have turning up now in a Safeway recall. The product is organic celery seeds. The contaminant, Salmonella bacteria. Remember - although in most cases, getting a sufficient number of these bacteria in your food will only give you a few very miserable days of food poisoning, occasionally it can get into your bloodstream, and lead to more serious illness and long-term health problems.

Here are the basic facts: B&M, Inc. of Mount Vernon, Missouri is voluntarily recalling O Organics Organic Celery Seed sold at all Safeway-owned stores. That includes Safeway, Carrs, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Pak ‘N Save, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb and Vons. Presumably, this product was distributed nationwide in the U.S. as one or other of these stores is almost everywhere.

The seeds come in a 1.8oz (51g) glass bottle (see photo). It is marked with a UPC code of 0-7989341124-8 (if you have bought it, look for this code on the bottom of the bottle). The product was sold at stores from May 25, 2011, through December 16, 2011.

Be careful - "healthy" seeds are not healthy in this case.

To your good health,

TSF

Friday, December 16, 2011

AGAIN - E.COLI BACTERIA IN GROUND BEEF


We have another very common type of food contamination in the U.S. - E.coli bacteria in ground beef. This is one of several similar recalls in 2011, but hopefully, will be the last (after all, we only have a couple of weeks left in the year). But don't bet on it. And the recall could also grow in size, as often is the case.

Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., of Nebraska, is recalling some 40,948 pounds of fine-ground ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

The beef is known to have been shipped in big 10lb "chubs" to institutions and distributors in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. If it is sold in stores, it will have been repackaged under who knows what label.

And it wasn't the company which discovered it: the bacteria was found in the meat by routine government testing. Lucky it caught this one.

Cook your meat well, and be very careful handling it. I have taken to wearing disposable gloves, and of course, am very careful not to let the meat, or the wrap it came in, or any juices drip onto anything.

To your good health,

TSF

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A NEW SALMONELLA OUTBREAK IN CILANTRO


Now we are back to the usual outbreaks in food. Salmonella bacteria in fresh cilantro herbs is quite common. In the U.S. we usually have at least one such outbreak a year, often with spinoffs to prepared fresh foods (such as salza, salads) that have used the contaminated cilantro.

This year we had a cilantro recall in April because of Salmonella. The recall was by Satur Farms of Long Island, which produces specialty salad greens, edible flowers, and herbs for greeenmarket shoppers and up-scale restaurants.

The current recall is by Pacific International Marketing (“Pacific”) of Salinas, California. The cilantro was distributed by Pacific International Marketing in cartons of 60 bunches, 30 bunches and 20- 3 bunched sleeves to retailers in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Indiana, South Carolina, and Missouri. The product has “Pacific” printed on the twist tie and the UPC code, which is 33383 80104.

Consumers have been asked to return any cilantro they purchased between November 16th and December 10th. Well, let me tell you FDA, most of us consumers who bought fresh cilantro a few weeks ago have already eaten it - including me. Unfortunately, my dog ate the cilantro I am growing in the garden, so had to resort to commercial stuff. And, I fed the food I made with the fresh cilantro to a lot of other people...Ugh!

To your good health,
TSF

Thursday, December 8, 2011

FORGET THE CONTAMINATED CHEESE GIFT BOX!

I just finished ordering several gift boxes to be sent to people for the holidays. I did look at ones that had pears, cheese, crackers and foods like that, but in the end, decided to send chocolates to everyone. Just as well. I could have been sending a case of Listeriosis to my friends, my doctor and to my agent.

One of the latest instances of widespread food contamination in the United States involves a variety of cheeses. Fair Oaks Dairy Products, LLC, Fair Oaks, Indiana today issued a voluntary recall of quite a range of one half pound retail packaged cheeses and cheese gift boxes produced under the Fair Oaks Farms Fine Cheese label. The cheeses were sold at the Fair Oaks Dairy store in Northwest Indiana, to other stores directly, and through distributors primarily in Northern and Central Indiana and Northeast Illinois. Who knows where they went from there.

Here's the list of cheese types: Asiago, Butterkase, Gouda, Aged Gouda, Smoked Gouda, Havarti, Pepper Havarti, Habanero Havarti, Onion Havarti, Veggie Havarti, Havarti Dill, Sweet Swiss, Smoked Sweet Swiss, Emmentaler, Calico, Mozzarella, Farmers, Cheese Curds, Muenster, Provolone, Lacy Swiss, Cheddar, Cheddar Mild, 1 yr. Cheddar, 2 yr. Cheddar, 3 yr. Cheddar, 4 yr. Cheddar, and 5 yr. Cheddar. Each variety is identified on the label. There are no identifying dates or UPCs on the packages.
The photo shows the kind of packaging used, but remember, it varies with the type cheese. And check any gift boxes of food you receive.

If you go to Fair Oaks Dairy website to do an on-line order, you will find this sad message:

Due to issues beyond our control,
we will suspend all online sales
including gift boxes until after Jan. 1, 2012.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused to our valued customers.


To your good health,
TSF

Sunday, December 4, 2011

AN UNUSUAL CASE OF LISTERIA IN BUTTER

I was surprised today to find a recall of butter because of Listeria monocytogenes being found in it. Anyone who reads this blog, or has read The Safe Food Handbook, knows that these bacteria are quite common in processed foods, including in dairy products, and especially in cheeses. But offhand, I could not recall any instances of it being found in butter in the U.S.

Out of curiosity, I checked back on some of the recall data bases. As I suspected, there have been very few cases of butter being contaminated with anything in the U.S. I located three butter recalls in the last fifteen years - one in Illinois, one in California and one in Nevada. In two out of three of these instances it was the very common Norovirus which was involved. In one, it was Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (which usually gives you a much worse case of food poisoning than does Norovirus).

And in at least two of these cases, the contamination occurred in banquet or restaurant food, which would make you suspect food handlers or poor storage. In other words, they were localized outbreaks, probably not originating at the point where the butter was produced. However, I do know of a sizeable outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in butter in the UK in 2003.

So, back to the recent unusual instance in the U.S. Golden Glen Creamery of Bow, WA has had to recall butter produced on November 2, 2011 because it may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. And - here goes another recall for Whole Foods Market. It always seems to have at least one about this time of the year. But apparently, the 4 oz. packages of Herbes de Provence Butter were only sold at the Whole Foods Market in Redmond, WA. and 4 oz. packages of NW Mushroom Trio Butter were sold at Whole Foods Market in Redmond, WA, and at various Metropolitan Market locations in Washington. Products were distributed between 11/7/11 and 11/28/11.

So never say "never" in food safety. As soon as you do, it will happen. Beware pregnant women, and anyone else who has a poor immune system. This bacterium can be deadly.

To your good health,
TSF

Friday, December 2, 2011

2011 IS GRAPE TOMATO RECALL YEAR

Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention to the issue, but I don't remember another year when there have been so many grape tomato recalls in the U.S. And all because of Salmonella bacteria. What is it about grape tomatoes, rather than plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, globe (beefsteak) tomatoes, roma tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes...or strawberry tomatoes (a new one I found at Berkeley Bowl a couple of days ago) that makes them more risky? I would never make a good lawyer, as I am asking a question to which I don't know the answer. But I do have some theories.

There was a recall in early May of this year of grape tomatoes that originated in Florida, but were distributed all over the place (including to Canada). I did about 5 posts on that one. Then in September, there was a recall of organic grape tomatoes that were grown in Mexico, but distributed in the U.S. by a California-based company (I covered that one too).

Now, we have another recall of grape tomatoes, although hopefully, just a small one. This time they apparently originated in Texas. Front Row Produce of St. Louis MO is recalling its 10oz pint and 10lb bulk grape tomatoes supplied by Rio Queen Citrus, Mission TX. The recalled 10oz pint and 10lb bulk grape tomatoes were distributed throughout Missouri and Illinois to foodservice distributors and retail stores.

There were no lot numbers on the clear plastic packages sold in the stores (oh..oh). Yes, they were on the cardboard case they came in, but that doesn't help us consumers. Anyway, from now on this company's grape tomatoes will have green stickers on the bottom of the plastic package with a seven-digit lot number. That should make future recalls easier. Better late than never.

That reminds me, I bought some grape tomatoes yesterday in clear plastic packages to serve (along with other things) to the 40 or more people coming over on Sunday. Thank goodness I don't live in Illinois or Missouri, or I could just have collaborated in an outbreak of Salmonellosis. But I am concerned anyway. Where will the next grape tomato outbreak occur? Maybe I should have bought the strawberry tomatoes instead....

To your good health,
TSF

Thursday, December 1, 2011

WAS THE CHINESE CARCINOGENIC PORK EXPORTED?

My previous post (the one before last) discussed the case of pigs in China being fed with a carconigenic chemical to make the meat leaner, so they could fetch a better price. According to news reports, the production and marketing of the chemical concerned - clenbuterol hydrochloride - had been ongoing for about 4 years (2007-2011) before this frightening practice was discovered.

At least 36 pork producers in eight provinces were caught using it and charged. But there are food safety professionals in China who suggest that there were many more - maybe even the majority of pig farmers who were using it.

And it wasn't government inspectors or officials who blew the whistle. According to China Central Television (CCTV) the clenbuterol was detected by a subsidiary company of Shuanghui Group, China's largest meat processor. This company paid a heavy price for the discovery - losses of about 100 million yuan a day after the reports surfaced. In some regions of China the group's products were taken off the shelves and elsewhere, customers stopped buying them for a while.

But this company also exports frozen food all over the world - various pork products, other meats, and frozen fruit and vegetables (check its website). Because of the huge scale of its operations, it most likely sources its pork from several suppliers, not all of which may do such good testing. Also, the practice of the company prior to this scandal (now changed) was to only require inspection of pigs at random - not every single pig it accepted for processing. This means that many got through without being caught.

What we don't know then, is whether some of this "carcinogenic pork" has been exported during the last four years, and may, in fact, have landed on our table if we bought Shuanghui frozen pork products, though through no fault of the company itself. There was no way we ourselves could have known by looking at or smelling the products.

To your good health,

TSF

Monday, November 28, 2011

SMOKED SALMON, CANNED PUMPKIN, CRANBERRIES AND OTHER FOOD SAFETY MYSTERIES

There are so many other things I should be doing, but my mailbox keeps being overloaded with news about safety issues in the U.S. food supply. Some of them are quite straightforward such as the usual Listeria-contaminated ready-to-eat foods. Others are more unusual, and some are downright mysterious.

Some recent ones I haven't caught up on, while I have been looking at Chinese food production and processing (see the previous post and the next one) are problems with smoked salmon, dried cranberries and canned pumpkin. It sounds rather like the makings of a holiday dinner - which it well could be.
The smoked salmon one is Listeria monocytogenes bacteria found in 4 ounce Transocean Wild Alaska Sockeye Smoked Salmon. Lot numbers 1280W & 1293W are being recalled. Oh-oh, I just bought some, so I had better go and check it as soon as I finish this.

Ocean Spray is recalling certain lots of its Original Flavor Craisins Dried Cranberries product in 5-ounce, 10-ounce and 48-ounce packages as well as bulk sweetened dried cranberries in 10-pound packages. This time very small hair-like metal fragments have been discovered. Metal or bits of plastic in processed products is not that unusual either. In fact, I found bits of plastic in my peanut butter a few weeks ago, and they were also in my fresh Dungeness crab meat a couple of months earlier. These bits of machinery or whatever can cause injury.

The canned pumpkin is the real mystery. The day before Thanksgiving, Giant Eagle, Inc. (a chain of supermarkets) announced that it was withdrawing two brands of canned pumpkin, both from Topco Associates, LLC ( a 75-year old company). It advised customers not to eat or use any Valu Time canned pumpkin purchased on or after August 30, 2011 or any Food Club canned pumpkin purchased on or after October 28, 2011. No reason was given except that these products did not "meet quality standards" which is all very vague. Apparently the investigation is ongoing.

And look at the dates - no doubt a lot of this pumpkin went into Thanksgiving dinners before people heard of the recall. I have been waiting for more news on this one, but haven't found anything yet to explain what really is involved. But I have a nasty feeling that when the news does come out, it won't be good. Tainted pumpkin pie? I suddenly feel ill...

To your good health,
TSF

CHINA DEATH PENALTY FOR TAINTING PORK

Researching and writing The Safe Food Handbook, changed the way I myself eat. One of the main changes: I stopped eating food imported from China. The more I delved into food production and processing in China - a country which is an increasingly important source of food to the U.S., Canada and other nations - the more I became concerned about whether it was safe to eat.

Overall, I became increasingly convinced that there just isn't enough value placed on the safety of consumers at all levels - food producers, processors, and even at the level of government officials such as safety inspectors. It's not only a matter of short-cuts being used in food production and processing, which result in contaminated food. There are also too many instances of conscious introduction of often life-threatening contaminants into food to make a quick profit. The Safe Food Handbook calls this practice "food terrorism." Both these reasons are why I now avoid Chinese imports when I shop.

However, intermittently a few of these food tainting scandals in China are exposed and publicized. When this happens, and those involved are brought to trial, the penalties are very stiff. Remember the melamine-tainted milk scandal in 2006-2007, which affected both human and pet food in the U.S. as well as other countries? The two men who were most responsible were sentenced to death. And Sanlu, the company involved, went bankrupt.
A more recent case concerns tainted pork - which did not become such an international issue. In March, it was discovered that a number of pig farmers in eight provinces in China were adding clenbuterol hydrochloride - also known as "lean meat chemical" to pig feed to produce leaner pork. This chemical is carcinogenic to humans.

It turned out that a business had been set up to produce the chemical in 2007 for just that purpose. The owners of the company were making huge profits. This means that dangerous pork had been on the market in China for quite some time before it was discovered. One of the reasons it took so long is reportedly because there was collusion of certain government animal health inspectors and food safety officials.

In the end, news reports say that 113 people were sentenced, with one of the producers of the chemical given the death penalty, the other a life sentence. I was surprised that the 36 pig farmers charged, got off so lightly, most just with probation or less than a year in jail. But I would guess that it was realized that they were just the tip of the iceberg: many more had probably used this chemical.

All these stiff sentences do not seem to deter others from trying similar get-rich quick schemes at the expense of the consumer. Checking of imported goods at the U.S. end by budget-strapped agencies is not enough to always catch tainted foods. I don't want to be one of those consumers paying the price.

To your good health,

TSF

Thursday, November 24, 2011

SAFE THANKSGIVING TURKEY LEFTOVERS


My whole neighborhood smelt like a roast turkey today. It seems that everyone who is cooking Thanksgiving lunch/dinner in this part of California, is cooking one of these huge birds. That will mean a lot of leftovers. What can you safely do with all this turkey and stuffing?

If you think you will be likely to want to eat the turkey in the next few days, separate the stuffing from the turkey, slice up the turkey and put it in sealed containers in the meat tray in your refrigerator.

But if you ate so much turkey that you feel you don't want to see it ever again, put it in the freezer. You may change your mind after a few weeks. And if you freeze it properly in freezer wrap or freezer bags or containers, it will keep for at least a month. By then you may feel like eating it again. The safest way to defrost it then is in the refrigerator.

Actually, I should confess at this point that this is all theory. Personally, I have never had turkey leftovers in my life. The size of that bird totally intimidates me. The few times I have tried to cook it, the meal has been a disaster. Leftovers? Who would want them? I cook duck or goose instead. Much easier. And there usually aren't any leftovers.

To your good health,
TSF

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

HAVE A SAFE "TURKEY DAY"

Tomorrow - November 24, is officially Thanksgiving Day, sometimes known as "Turkey Day" in the U.S. I heard a TV commentator (on a business program) say today that this celebration dates back to 1942. Not quite true. That was the year that a joint resolution by both houses of the U.S. Congress in 1941 designated as the beginning of an annual Thanksgiving holiday to be held on the last Thursday of November. But the holiday itself dated back much further. And so does the turkey part of the celebration.

George Washington actually proclaimed the first Thanksgiving Day in 1789. After that, he and various subsequent Presidents renewed the tradition, although the date kept shifting a bit, and it wasn't celebrated every year. But the whole idea of such a day really dates back much earlier to the colonial settlers of the "New World."

Turkey seems to have usually been part of the feast. However, don't picture a big fat turkey such as we eat these days. What was eaten centuries ago was a scrawny wild turkey, like that bird that seems to always turn up in our neighborhood about this time of the year, and wander down the road. No one quite knows why it has never been run over - or, roasted.

So yes, these days we eat huge turkeys thanks to genetic improvements, better feed formulation and modern management practices. No, hormones are not allowed to be used in turkey production in the United States. We usually eat these turkeys between the ages of four and nine months (older ones are too tough).

Enough of the background: let's turn to the safety aspects. Raw turkeys quite often carry bacteria which can make you ill -and there are plenty of cases of "stomach flu" (really food poisoning) every year around this time, due to undercooked or poorly stored turkey. So remember some simple rules.

First, think of safety when basting, stuffing or otherwise handling the raw turkey. Wear disposable gloves, or thoroughly wash your hands afterwards, and don't let the raw turkey contaminate any surface (for instance, don't put it down on a counter - use a tray, foil sheet, or something that can be washed or discarded).

When roasting the turkey, you need to make sure that you roast it to an internal temperature of 165ºF or higher. Check by inserting a food thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh or the thickest part of the breast, and recheck in the other breast or thigh, in case it has cooked unevenly. It's quite OK to cook the turkey at a very low oven temperature (such as 325ºF) for a longer period of time, rather than at a higher temperature, as long as you do this internal temperature check.

And what if you start to carve, and when you get closer to the bone, you find that in spite of your focus on safe temperature, some of the meat is pink instead of white? Don't panic. It's safe, as long as you have cooked all parts of it to 165ºF and the juices run clear. What happens is that when you roast, smoke or grill very young turkeys, with immature and porous bones, the hemoglobin inside can leach out into the turkey meat, turning it pink.

Enjoy! And even though it has been a pretty rough year everywhere in the world, let's be thankful for what we have - including that turkey.

To your good health,
TSF

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NOW IT'S SALMONELLA IN PEANUT BUTTER

Remember those huge peanut product recalls in 2007 and 2008-2009 in the U.S.? The one in 2007 sickened at least 600 people in 47 states, with four deaths confirmed. The outbreak in 2008-9 made at least 714 people ill in 46 states with 9 deaths confirmed. Both were linked to different Salmonella bacteria.

After these very frightening and costly outbreaks the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new guidance to the peanut industry on how to make sure there products were safe. But remember - nothing in food safety works 100%. Now we have another instance of Salmonella turning up in peanut butter, with Smucker's products involved this time. At present, the recall is quite limited, but as we have found out time and time again, these things tend to expand.


The product - Smucker’s® Natural Peanut Butter Chunky - was distributed in: Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. It comes in 16 oz. jars. Here are more details:

o UPC: 5150001701 (located on the side of the jar's label below the bar code)
o Production Codes: 1307004 and 1308004
o Best-If-Used-By dates: August 3, 2012 and August 4, 2012
o Chunky product only (not creamy)
o Impacted product would have been purchased between November 8 - 17, 20

Americans are reported to consume about six pounds of peanuts and three and a half pounds of peanut butter per person per year. The average American child will eat more than 1500 peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches before he or she graduates from high school. So do check any Smucker's products you have in your home. And remember, don't even give them to your dog. Several illness have been recorded among pets who were given contaminated peanut butter during previous outbreaks.

To your good health,

TSF

E.COLI TURNS UP AGAIN IN BAGGED SALADS

It's bad news again for bagged salad eaters in the U.S. Ready Pac Foods, Inc. located in Irwindale, California, which prides itself on its safety record, has issued a recall for 5,379 cases of bagged salad products containing Romaine lettuce, because they may be contaminated with E. coli (E.coli O157.H7). This is the most common of the worst kind of E.coli bacteria.

The Use-by Date on these ready-to-eat salad products is November 18, 2011. The salads have been sold in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, Texas, and Washington. Here's the full list, so that you can check your refrigerator. No other Ready Pac Foods, Inc. products are included in the recall.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION UPC # BEST IF USED BY
10oz. Ready Pac Caesar Romaine 0-77745-00202-6 NOV 18
9.25oz Ready Pac Santa Fe Caesar Complete Salad 0-77745-21404-7 NOV 18
10oz. Ready Pac Classic Caesar Complete Salad 0-77745-20566-3 NOV 18
10oz. Ready Pac Bella Romaine 0-77745-21407-8 NOV 18
10oz. Dining In Classic Caesar Salad Kit 0-11225-02530-3 NOV 18
10oz. Raley’s Caesar Romaine 0-46567-71642-8 NOV 18
10oz. Trader Joe’s Romaine Salad 0013-2145 NOV 18
16oz. Trader Joe’s Very American Salad 0020-7225 NOV 18
10oz. Safeway Farms Caesar Romaine 0-21130-98350-6 NOV 18
9oz. Safeway Farms Hearts of Romaine 0-21130-98358-2 NOV 18
10oz. Safeway Farms Complete Caesar Supreme 0-21130-33677-7 NOV 18
10.25oz Safeway Farms Complete
Southwestern Ranch 0-21130-33679-1 NOV 18

You will see from the above list that poor Safeway (as well as several other stores) has yet another recall (see earlier posts).

If you find any of these products in your home, throw it out or take it back to the store for a refund. You can also call Ready Pac Foods during office hours at at (800) 800-7822. They seem to be bending over backwards -a good thing - to track the products and help consumers. If you or anyone else in your family have eaten it, remember that not every package is contaminated, so don't panic. But do watch out for the usual symptoms of food poisoning.

To your good health,

TSF

Monday, November 14, 2011

CALIFORNIANS - BEWARE OF BEAN TORTILLAS!

Yes, would you believe it: yet another processed food is being recalled in the U.S. because it could cause botulism, which can be deadly. This time it's tortillas sold at certain California stores.


United Natural Foods, Inc. is recalling selected types of Gentes Foods Gordita Black Bean Tortillas, because they could be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum bacteria. And, some - not all - Safeway and Pak N Save Stores ended up with this deadly production lot. As I keep saying, ready-to-eat foods may be dangerous.

The date code is on a white sticker applied to the packaging reads “12 7 11.” Here are the places these tortillas were sold. This date code sold at other retail outlets has not been affected.

--California Safeway stores in Salinas (on Main St.) and Watsonville (Freedom Blvd.).
--California Pak N Save Stores in Emeryville (on San Pablo) and S. San Francisco (on Gellert Blvd.)

I think I'll take a trip down to that Emeryville Pak N Save this morning, to see if they have pulled the products off their shelves. You would be surprised at how often stores are lax in doing it, even when informed by their head office.

And..I am also going to check further on where Gentes Foods got their beans. My guess is that there is are connections between some of the recent recalls (see my next post). So far, the food companies involved haven't responded. But I'll persist.

To your good health,
TSF

Thursday, November 10, 2011

ANOTHER PINE NUTS RECALL

No wonder our food is so expensive - and getting more so. Under an industrialized food system, food products often get re-distributed, re-packaged and re-labelled. Everyone has to take a cut. And, what's more, every step increases safety risks and makes food recalls slower and more complicated.
Take the case of pine nuts. Sunrise Commodities of Englewood Cliffs, N.J. imported some Salmonella bacteria-contaminated ones to the United States. All the news reports claim they were imported from Turkey, but I still suspect that, although they may have been grown in Turkey, they actually came from China, where they had been sent for processing (see my post of October 28).

Sunrise issued a recall several days ago. Now, it turns out that another food company, Badia Spices, Inc, located in Miami, Florida, is recalling almost 4,000 lbs. of Pinenuts which they apparently got from Sunrise and repackaged.

Baida Spices sold their pine nuts in retail stores in Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey - between June 2011 and October 2011. Hmm..In other words, probably all have been eaten. And they are just now issueing a recall - about two weeks after Sunrise issued theirs. In the meantime, we have been eating these delightful pine nuts and getting Salmonellosis.

Don't eat:

1 oz Pine nuts in small plastic bags Lot # 84666

2 oz Pine nuts in pet bottles Lot # 83184, 85442

Maybe we should skip the pine nuts altogether for a while..

To your good health,

TSF

MORE BOTULISM RISK: SAFEWAY SHOPPERS BEWARE!


I don't know why we are suddenly having so many food products contaminated with Clostridium botulism bacteria in the U.S. This bacterium causes botulism, a potentially fatal kind of food poisoning. Of course, the reason is poor temperature control, but in theory, modern advances in food processing have made this very unlikely. Almost all cases of botulism in the U.S. and other similar industrialized countries are caused by home canning. Commercially canned foods are considered safe these days. So much for that idea.

Now United Natural Foods, Inc. is recalling selected types of FoodMatch, Inc. Divina Stuffed Olives and Tabatchnick Yankee Bean Soup, primarily sold at Safeway stores, because of botulism risk.

The suspect Tabatchnick Yankee Bean Soup was distributed to the Safeway store in Corte Madera, CA.( UPC 07126229491).

Recalled Divina Olives Stuffed with Feta Cheese (UPC UPC 63172352780) were distributed to Safeway stores in Spearfish, Colorado Springs, Bolder, Falcon, Lander, Conifer and Longmont in the states of South Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming.

Divina Olives Stuffed with Blue Cheese (UPC 63172352790) were distributed to not just Safeway, but also Carrs, Pavilion and Vons retail stores in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, South Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming.

Remember, the product may seem fine with no difference in the way it looks or smells. If in doubt throw it out! You definitely don't want this bacterium.

Usual symptoms of botulism: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Also possible symptoms: difficulty in breathing, muscle weakness, abdominal distension and constipation.

To your good health,

TSF

UPDATE: Safeway's recall of Diva olives has now been expanded to include stores in South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Virgina, D.C., and Maryland.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

MAYBE YOU SHOULD PASS ON THE CHICKEN LIVERS

Personally, I never trust the so-called "ready-to-eat" products of all kinds that are so popular in the food supply of industrialized nations like the U.S. If I do buy them, which I don't very often, I end up cooking them anyway. It's safer. Sometimes, ready-to-eat is not ready-to-eat.

Take the present recall of ready-to-eat broiled chicken liver products. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA/FSIS) announced today that Schreiber Processing Corporation, of Maspeth, New York, is recalling an undetermined amount of broiled chicken liver products. Apparently they have been linked to a cluster of at least 169 Salmonellosis illnesses, mainly in New Jersey and New York. These livers were meant to be fully cooked. But, oops, they turned out not to be fully cooked after all. Salmonella Heidelburg - one of the worst Samonella bacteria - was found lurking in them.

The products were distributed to retail stores and institutional users in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. They were distributed in large 10lb bags, and apparently had a Meal Mart label, but who knows what label they were finally sold under, or what institutional purchasers did with them. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at: www.fsis.usda.gov/FSIS_Recalls
/Open_Federal_Cases/index.asp.

By the way, my research suggests that this company also supplies airline meals. I looked at their airline menu, and it sounds a lot better than anything I eat on a plane these days. But I think I'll just pack a home-made sandwich for my next trip.

And maybe it's better just to pass on the chopped chicken livers or anything else to do with chicken livers for a while till they find and destroy all these products (that is, when they haven't already been eaten).

To your good health,

TSF

Monday, November 7, 2011

FROZEN OYSTERS WITH NOROVIRUS FROM KOREA

Norovirus is believed to be the most common cause of food poisoning, although we can also get it from other sources. It's rarely in the news - except when there is a large outbreak on a cruise ship or plane (see posts for Feb. 25 and 26).

Symptoms of Norovirus illness (diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and occasionally other flu symptoms) are usually over quickly (1-2 days). We often refer to it as "stomach flu" and don't even consider that it might have come from something we ate. Unfortunately, though, this virus is very contagious.

Now the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned consumers not to eat certain ASSI Brand frozen oysters (shucked, not in shells). There's been an outbreak of norovirus-caused illness in Washington state and they've traced it to these oysters. The oysters were imported from Korea, and processed there - yes, another problem with processed imported food.

By the way, the oysters come in 3-lb bags . Each bag identifies Central Fisheries Co. Ltd., as the packer and Korean Farms of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., as the distributor. Korean Farms distributes a variety of Asian food products. "Assi" is their flagship brand. Incidentally, the word Assi comes from the traditional Korean title for an upper class, young, married woman. Ooops..We used to have a dog called that.

The “Better if Used By” date on the bags of oysters is “2013.02.232.” Although the recall notice does not specifically state it, most likely the oysters went to restaurants, since few of us buy 3lbs of shucked oysters at a time. Certainly, the illnesses that triggered this recall were the result of three people eating the oysters at a Washington State restaurant.

This product was shipped to the states of Washington, California, Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, and Utah. If you live in one of those seven states, you may want to pass on the oyster dish on the restaurant menu, or, any dish containing oysters, in case they have been undercooked. Thorough cooking does kill this virus.

To your good health,
TSF

Saturday, November 5, 2011

CONTAMINATED SMOKED FISH FROM THE PHILIPPINES

I don't know what has caused the sudden increase in that dangerous Clostridium botulinum in imported foods in the United States. I just blogged the Italian almond-stuffed olive recall. Now there's another one: smoked seafood products.

Foremost Foods, International, Inc. of Pomona, CA, has been forced to issue a recall of certain Pangasinan brand smoked seafood products: PANGASINAN Roundscad Smoked Galunggong and PANGASINAN Mackerel Smoked Hasa Hasa, both sold in 6 0z. packages.

These products were imported into the U.S. by Foremost Foods from the Philippines where they were manufactured by FITRITE Incorporated. They may also have been imported by other countries, but probably sold under a different brand name.

In the U.S. they were distributed in the states of California, Nevada, and Washington through Seafood City and Manila Seafood retail stores, and sold between the dates of March, 2010 and October, 2011. Probably most,if not all of these products have already been eaten. So much for the recall! Late, as usual.

To your good health,
TSF

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

DEADLY ITALIAN OLIVES

Globalization of our food supply certainly changes things, including its safety. For one thing, everything becomes more complicated. A couple of days ago, I blogged the Turkish pine nut recall, arguing that they probably were imported from China, not Turkey, having been sent there for processing. Now we have another example of how globalization affects safety issues.

This time we have a recall of jars and cans (all sizes) of Bio Gaudiano Organic (yes, organic again) Olives Stuffed with Almonds. The U.S. importer and distributor is Pure Italian, LLC, located in Watertown, MA. But the olives come from Bio Gaudiano, which is a manufacturer and packer located in Italy. The reason for the recall is the very deadly Clostridium botulinum bacterium.

Just to round out the global picture, the U.S. alert about this problem was triggered by two people being diagnosed with botulism after eating these olives. No, not in the U.S. In Finland.

Botulism bacteria can cause life-threatening illness or death. It used to be a common threat in canned or jarred foods years ago before the process was improved and better controls were established.

Symptoms of botulism are: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Other symptoms can be difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal swelling and constipation. In other words, it is not like a typical case of food poisoning.

If you have bought these olives (as I have in the past), be sure to check. The Lot no. is H2510X and the expiration 09/2012.

To your good health,
TSF

Monday, October 31, 2011

DON'T EAT THESE RITE AID CONTAMINATED COOKIES!

We don't get many cookie recalls because of bacterial contamination. Nor do we hear about that many incidents of Bacillus cereus. But we do have a case now in the U.S.

It's Rich Fields brand butter cookies, sold by Rite Aid. (Rite Aid has 47,000 stores in 31 states in the U.S.) The recalled cookies come in beautiful holiday tins with Christmas design, which hopefully means that if you bought them, you haven't eaten them yet. Don't. They can give you a nasty case of food poisoning, though not as dangerous as some other bacteria such as E.coli 0157 or Listeria monocytogenes. And whatever you do, don't let your children anywhere near them.

Here's the rest of the data I have about them: the tins are 12 ounce size. The UPC codes 01249596519 and 88411804619 are located directly beneath the bar code on the bottom of each tin.

Rite Aid is very busy calling its card-customers who bought them and trying to track 85,000 tins of these cookies.

To your good health,
TSF

Friday, October 28, 2011

CONTAMINATED TURKISH PINE NUTS MAY HAVE COME FROM CHINA

I just blogged the ongoing recall of Turkish Pine Nuts in the U.S. by Wegman's (a large chain of grocery stores). They got them from the importer - Sunrise Commodities.

Many of the news sites are naturally saying the nuts were imported from Turkey. In fact, I was on the point of saying the same thing myself when I decided to check the importer's website - www.sunrisenuts.com
Here's what I saw (cut and paste):

Pine Nuts
Product Category:
Imported Nuts
Origin:Chinese, Spanish


From what I have been able to find out, it seems that most pine nuts come from either the Chinese-Russian border or from Turkey. However, two other factors are important: the borders in this area can be very porous, and, even more significant, these days pine-nuts are often processed in China. Chinese processing of food tends to be cheaper and even much of the fish that is wild-caught in U.S. waters is sent to China for processing for that reason.

So where did the contaminants get in? Possibly, the nuts were grown in Turkey, but it is quite likely that the Salmonella entered during their processing in China, not in Turkey. It is well known that food processing in China is not as sanitary as we would like, and the attitude towards, and practice of food safety is not the same as in many other countries.

So - bottom line - I would bet that these nuts were probably imported from China, not Turkey (as on the importer's website). That's globalization for you.

By the way, I have also found out that several major store chains in the U.S. have stopped selling pine nuts imported from China because of the poor quality and safety concerns. Wegman's - you may want to consider this!

To your good health,

TSF

SALMONELLA IN NUTS AND SPICES

Yes, it's true: bacteria, like most living organisms, prefer to grow where's there some moisture. But some, like the well-known Salmonella, manages to survive for months in very dry situations, including in dry foods. That's why it crops up fairly often in unexpected places such as nuts and spices.
For instance, presently in the U.S. there is a recall of 5,000 pounds of imported Turkish Pine Nuts because Salmonella Enteritidis bacteria have been found in them. Sad news for us pine nut lovers. Nor is this the first time that Salmonella has turned up in pine nuts, as well as in other nuts.

The recall is being made by Wegmans Food Markets. They were sold in the Bulk Foods department of most of Wegmans 79 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland between July 1 and October 18, 2011. So far there have been at least 42 confirmed illnesses due to eating these nuts. Most of the cases have been in New York State.

Wegman's got their nuts from Sunrise Commodities of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., which imported them. One would assume they came from Turkey, but I am going to check this further as their web site only lists China and Spain as sources for their pine nuts (Chinese Turkish pine nuts? ).

Unfortunately, this is a particularly vicious strain of Salmonella . Symptoms usually occur 12-72 hours after eating a heavily contaminated food. Most people would just get the usual diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal cramps. But in the case of an unlucky few, the bacteria can end up in the bloodstream and lead to more serious and long-lasting illnesses such as arthritis, arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms) and endocarditis.

Avoid it! You may also want to avoid prepared foods that contain pine nuts for a while. Wegman's also used the nuts in some of theirs (e.g. Caprese salads), and the supplier may also have sold them to others.

To your good health,
TSF

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A BAD WEEKS FOR EGGS


Yesterday I blogged the organic egg recall. Now, believe it or not, there's a recall of frozen egg product. This is much more unusual, since egg product is pasteurized, which is likely to kill bacteria. But there can be slipups - even in pasteurization.

What managed to get through was our old enemy, Salmonella. American Egg Products of Blackshear, Georgia, is recalling cartons of frozen egg product, Lot #272-1, because they may be contaminated with this bacteria.

This is not a recall that the consumer needs to worry about since this egg product went in large, five pound cartons to Georgia and Florida and sold to three distributors and/or further food manufacturersfood producers. So, we don't have any way of avoiding it.

Let's save our worrying for all the other contaminated foods that are currently out there in the American food supply.

To your good health,
TSF

THIRD BAGGED SPINACH RECALL OF 2011


Unless I have missed some, we now have the third bagged spinach recall this year in the United States, due to the usual problem - bacteria which can give you food poisoning, and even be deadly. That makes two for Salmonella, and one for Listeria monocytogenes - the latest. (See posts for October 21 and April 7 for the other two Salmonella ones.)

Once again we see that "fresh and easy" is often also risky, as stressed in The Safe Food Handbook (the book, and also, in this blog). Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Inc., is voluntarily recalling fresh bagged Washed Spinach 12oz, with the Enjoy by date of OCT 16 sold under the f&e™ label.

By the way, Fresh & Easy is a British grocery chain that just recently entered Northern California's Bay Area, and has been in Southern California for some time (it prides itself on its wholesome food).

The recall was announced October 21, but the FDA didn't pass it on until today. And, as you can see by the "Enjoy by" date, it would be very unlikely that it hadn't all been eaten by now. Not unusual. But every day's delay is risky, particularly when bacteria such as L.monocytogenes is involved, and particularly for pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system.

And, of course, this makes another hit for Listeria monocytogenes, which seems to be winning in the food terrorist sweepstakes this summer. I will do a count one of these days when I get a chance.

To your good health,
TSF

Monday, October 24, 2011

NATIONWIDE RECALL OF LISTERIA-LACED NIKE SANDWICHES-EXPANDED

It's rather unpleasant to think that the sandwiches sold in our stores could have come from the other end of the United States. No wonder ready-to-eat foods are so dangerous, and best avoided in general. Listeria monocytogenes bacteria are more likely to hide in these than elsewhere in our food supply.

So here we have the latest: you may have thought the Nike brand was all about shoes, but it turns out that it is also a brand name for something we eat: Nike All-American sandwiches. They are made by Landshire of St. Louis, MO, but are distributed nationwide at retail supermarkets.

And, as you might expect, that "All-American" sandwich is made with unhealthy white bread. What else it has in it, apart from Listeria-bacteria(not on the ingredient list!) I don't know - but am trying to find out. The lot number of 11 237 6 is printed in black ink. Some 1,751 cases of them are being recalled (the ones that haven't been eaten yet). And, the recall could expand.

Make your own sandwiches. It's easy. Look at it as a creative endeavour and let your imagination run wild. And, its cheaper as well as healthier.

To your good health,
TSF

UPDATE: Landshire is now having to expand the recall of the Nike Sandwiches to include the addition of the Nike Super Poor Boy Sandwich as well as increasing production dates of the Nike All-American Sandwich because of Listeria Monocytogenes.

SALMONELLA IN ORGANIC EGGS AGAIN

No, Salmonella has not disappeared from our eggs yet, much as everyone is trying and hoping (see all those posts I wrote during that huge Wright Farms egg recall in August, 2010).

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture are investigating Larry Schulz Organic Farm of Owatonna and the eggs it produces. It seems that the eggs were only distributed to restaurants, grocery stores, food wholesalers and foodservice companies in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan - not elsewhere.

Oh yes, the eggs are organic. I hope my very nice doctor at UCSF Medical Center is reading this (certified organic egg production keeps hens in free-range conditions: we had a related discussion last week when I saw her).

What we know so far is that the illness of at least six people (both children and adults) in Minnesota seem to be connected to eating this farm's eggs, and, that lab tests have turned up Salmonella Enteritidis in samples taken from the farm's environment with the same genetic footprint. Sounds suspicious.

And of course, as usual, and just to add to the confusion, our industrialized food supply means that they have been sold under several brand names: Lunds & Byerly’s Organic, Kowalski’s Organic, and Larry Schultz Organic Farm. The eggs are packed in bulk and varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons). If you want a full product descriptions and a list of stores where the suspect eggs were sold, go to www.mda.state.mn.us.

Well, that brings us to an important point again that I keep repeating: forget about sunny-side up eggs or other forms of undercooked eggs or foods that contain them (see The Safe Food Handbook for a long list - there is a whole chapter on Salmonella in eggs). Yes, they may taste great. But think of it this way: you'll taste them for say, 5 minutes, but if you get sick from Salmonella, you'll feel totally miserable for days.

To your good health,
TSF

Friday, October 21, 2011

STILL ANOTHER BAGGED SPINACH RECALL

All these incidents of bacteria in the U.S. food supply are wearing me out, trying to keep up. You may notice that most of them are in produce - which we tend to eat raw. That is, no cooking "kill step" for bacteria. And yes, today we have another one.
At least it's a change from Listeria. Church Brothers, of Salinas, California is recalling 560 bags of clipped spinach after one bag tested positive for Salmonella bacteria during a random USDA testing. The recalled product was processed on October 6, 2011 and shipped in 2.5 pound bags to Super King Markets in Los Angeles, California. The “best if used by” date is 10/23/11, but it's been for sale for a couple of weeks.

By the way, this is the second bagged spinach recall this year due to Salmonella - check my post for April 7. It was Fresh Express that time.

And wait...That name "Church Brothers" rang a bell with me. Ah yes, they were involved in the bagged lettuce recall(Listeria that time) just a couple of weeks ago. Church Bros. is part owner of True Leaf Farms by the way, which name may be more familiar to you in connection with that lettuce recall (see earlier posts). It seems that True Leaf Farms is their processing arm (I thought it was the other way around). And, in spite of sending food out with two different kinds of bacteria in the last few weeks, they pride themselves on their safety precautions.

Here's a quote from their website:
"Church Brothers and True Leaf Farms pride themselves with having the highest integrity when it comes to Food Safety Standards and we adhere to the Leafy Green Marketing Agreement standards."

Maybe they should double check. Obviously something is wrong.And I would bet we are going to hear more about Church Brothers' plant and their bagged greens.

To your good health,
TSF

Thursday, October 20, 2011

NOW IT'S LISTERIA IN BLUE CHEESE!

Those deadly Listeria monocytogenes bacteria seem to be taking over the U.S. food supply. I can't say I am really surprised, given how many food service workers carry it and this bug's survival abilities. But it is really annoying. I am seriously thinking of going on a chocolate diet.

The latest is blue cheese. Fair Oaks Dairy Products, based in Northwest Indiana, today issued a recall of all its blue cheese produced under the Fair Oaks Royal Blue Cheese label. The recall applies to any cheese purchased on or after September 25, 2011. Thank goodness, the actual quantity of the cheese is only 20 pounds (but, maybe could expand). The cheese was distributed to retailers in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

This time it is the company itself which turned up the bacteria, or rather, an independent laboratory it hired did so during testing of the cheese (often it is the FDA's laboratories which find the contaminant). But why it took so long, I don't know. This is almost a month later, and there is a good chance much of the cheese has been eaten. But overall, the company seems to have acted responsibly, immediately contacting the FDA once it got the bad news.

If you live in these areas, and ate this cheese (it's in royal blue foil) watch for any symptoms. , Remember that symptoms of Listeriosis,which are a bit like the flu, can take anywhere from 3 days to 70 days, or occasionally, even 90 days to appear. Usually it's around 12 days to 3 weeks.

Oh, and by the way, Listeria monocytogenes in cheese - particularly unpasteurized cheese, is not at all uncommon.

To your good health,
TSF

THE CAUSE OF THE CANTALOUPE OUTBREAK?


Well, it seems that a tentative cause has been found for the Listeria bacteria contamination of cantaloupes all over the U.S.. This really bad outbreak has now killed around 25 people, made at least 123 people ill, and probably affected many, who didn't become ill, but may become carriers of the bacteria.

Investigators have zeroed in on the packing shed at Jensen Farms in Ohio. The Listeria monocytogenes bacteria has been isolated in samples taken from the cantaloupe conveyor belts, a melon drying area, and a floor drain. Now the question is: how did it get there? A packing shed on a farm is like a transit area, with a whole lot going on. So there are many possibilities.

It could have been in the soil covering the cantaloupes when they came there . Or, it could have been in the washing water (it wouldn't be the first time that washing water actually made produce less safe, rather than more safe). Or, it could have been that recently purchased equipment from another farm which had previously been used to wash potatoes. Or, possibly, it could have come from workers in the sheds who were carriers (a lot of people are). Or, even from a truck, parked too close to the packing shed, which could have brought Listeria from another farm or road or field. We may never find out.

The farm didn't do too well during recent government inspection in terms of other conditions as well. Among the things that government inspectors noticed were pools of water on the floor (which could be recent, after the farm closed operations), cloths used to cover the melons, inadequate cooling of cantaloupes, and rather worn out and hard-to-clean equipment.
And guess what, this farm had passed a recent inspection by a privates safety contractor with flying colors (the packing plant scored 96 out of 100).

So what else is new. This has happened before many times (for example, with that huge peanut outbreak that originated in Georgia). Why? The procedure is for the farm or plant to hire and pay the company that inspects. So, hum ha, you might say they were a little biased towards giving a good report. These procedures have to be changed, and inspectors everywhere have to be trained better (I go on about this in the book).

Of course, the Jensen brothers have gone out of business and are battling numerous law suits. I feel sorry for them. This can happen so easily.

To your good health,
TSF

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ANOTHER TUNA FISH RECALL: AVOID THE TUNA SUSHI

Tuna can be a delicious fish, but also a dangerous one. I just came from the fish store. Tuna was on sale, but I decided to pass on it. It just didn't look perfectly fresh.

And that's the point: it's not just mercury. It's histamine. When tuna becomes spoiled - usually as a result of poor storage or handling - it can produce high levels of histamine protein which can lead to scromboid poisoning in people who are sensitive. (It can also happen with some other fish - see post of February 5 - "Tuna Steak Recall" for more details on these fish and on symptoms).

We currently have yet another recall of tuna for this reason. This time it is frozen ground tuna. Osamu Corporation of Gardena, California has recalled up to 1,800 cases, of frozen ground tuna because the FDA found decomposition in several samples of this fish. It also found high histamine levels in samples of the product taken from one retail location. I am assuming this fish was imported, as much of U.S. fish is these days, probably from Japan, but I have not been able to confirm this.

Apparently most of this product was distributed to companies that make sushi, especially for grocery markets, one of them mainly in California, the other with franchises in nearly every state in the U.S. Oh..Oh..

Watch out. One good thing - you don't need to worry for weeks wondering if you ate bad tuna and will get sick. You'll know pretty quickly - in under two hours, when the symptoms start (again - see the Feb. 5 post). The other good news is that usually it's not deadly, although it is very frightening. And people with liver problems, beware.

If you buy tuna, always make sure it is fresh, and don't let it spoil, or let the package defrost improperly if it is frozen. And if you are in a high risk group, and live in the U.S., avoid tuna sushi for a while, just in case contaminated products are still out there.

To your good health,
TSF

Saturday, October 15, 2011

CONTAMINATED LETTUCE RECALL EXPANDS


This had not been a good couple of weeks for lettuce lovers in the U.S. And that just about covers everyone except me (I prefer arugula). What is more, the lettuce safety issue is becoming downright confusing. And, I am sure we haven't seen the end of it yet.

On October 1, I blogged the finding of Listeria monocytogenes in chopped romaine lettuce, produced by True Leaf Farms of Salinas, California, which issued a recall of its suspect products. Now there is another ready-to-use lettuce recall announced by Giant Eagle Farmer's Market, which is the largest supermarket in Western Pennsylvania. Giant Eagle is recalling eight ounce packages of Shredded Iceberg Lettuce as well as a number of deli products which used lettuce from the same lot, all with a use by date of October 14,2011.

Of course, they didn't grow the lettuce themselves. It came from a Salinas, California processor called River Ranch Fresh Foods, which, by the way, prides itself on its safety. The reason is the same as in the earlier (True Leaf Farms) recall - Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in the lettuce. But it's a different kind of lettuce. This company has not issued a recall of its lettuce, although it says it is co-operating with investigators.*

Now let's get to the broader issue. It seems that the problem is centered on lettuce from the Salinas area of California, with different kinds of lettuce involved. The question is: was the lettuce contaminated on the farm, or, at the processor's? It could be either. If Listeria got in at the farm level, that means it is probably in the growing environment, and could also affect other farms nearby. If it got in during washing, shredding or cutting at River Ranch, it could mean that this company has a contamination problem, and this could also affect lettuce from other farms that it is processing with the same contaminated equipment.

Either way, it is a bad situation. Listeria monocytogenes bacteria which can be deadly, especially to vulnerable people (such as pregnant women, newborns, those with weakened immune systems). And, remember that it can take as long as two months, and occasionally, even longer, for symptoms to appear.

So what are we to do? On my part, I have decided to avoid all California-grown leafy greens for a while until we find out more about where the contamination occured. And that applies to both ready-to-eat and whole (most would come from the Salinas area). I'll give up arugula too for good measure. Listeriosis is not something I want.

To your good health,
TSF

UPDATE: River Ranch has finally had to issue a recall of its Farmers Market and Hy-Vee brand iceberg, romaine and blended lettuce products. These salad products were distributed in Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and sold in retail supermarkets.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

CAN'T WE EVEN PASTEURIZE MILK?


Our milk has been a lot safer from dangerous bacteria since we started to pasteurize it. Tests have shown that 2-25% of raw milk carries bugs like Campylobacter, Listeria monocytogenes, E.coli, Salmonella, Yersinia, Brucella, Mycobacterium bovis and Coxiella burnetti.

Some studies argue that these bacteria have become even more numerous in recent years as many dairy farmers in countries such as the U.S. give their cattle hormones to increase their milk production. This practice tends to result in more mastitis (inflammation of the udders). This is not just unpleasant for the poor cow, but results in more bacteria in their milk.

Thank goodness we have pasteurization. Sorry, for these reasons, I am not a fan of raw dairy, although I have known several people who are. (I also knew one person who died from eating raw dairy - cheese in her case). Pasteurization is a good aspect of our modern food supply. It is relatively easy to do, with heat treatment using one of several standarized methods (e.g. holding the milk at a temperature of 162 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds).

So how could things possibly go wrong? Apparently they can. Farmers All Natural Creamery in Wellman, Iowa, in the United States, has recalled nearly 1,000 gallons of whole milk because tests suggest that it hadn't been properly pasteurized.

The milk was sold to four distributors — UNFI in Aurora, Colo. and Lancaster, Texas, Calma Optimal in Franklin Park, Ill. and Natural Brands in Wood Dale, Ill. Who knows where it went from there.

To your good health,

TSF

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

CALIFORNIA GROUND BEEF RECALLED


Let's hope you haven't been eating undercooked hamburgers or chili or meat tacos at a California or Nevada restaurant lately. The restaurant just may have received some E. coli O157:H7-contaminated ground beef products from Commercial Meat Company of Los Angeles, California.

The USDA/FSIS announced today that their testing had turned up this dangerous bacteria in the eat. Nearly 400,000 of ground beef products are being recalled by the company. They were supposed to hold the beef until the test results came in, and now they are paying the price for rushing. Just about all of it went in bulk cases to California and Nevada restaurants - as far as we know, that is.

By the way, the recalled burger meat, taco filling and chili products subject were produced between Sept. 7, 2011 and Oct. 6, 2011, which means..yes, that probably most of it has already been eaten. Notifications are being sent out anyway.

If the meat was cooked to 160° F that should have killed any of the harmful bacteria. But I really wonder how many restaurants use food thermometers to measure the internal temperature of your burger or taco filling.

Eating home is safer.

To your good health,
TSF