Friday, March 30, 2012


I just blogged the jalapeno pepper recall by Castellini Company in Kentucky. Now another recall of these hot peppers has been announced by South Florida Produce, LLC, located in Florida. This company sent these peppers by truck to distributors in Oxford, NC, Lake Worth, FL, Washington, DC, Pompano Beach, FL, Fair Lawn, NJ, Toronto, and Ontario, Canada between March 5 and March 7, 2012.

Are the two recalls related? Both are caused by Salmonella bacteria. Of course, there are many kinds of Salmonella, and they may not involve the same strain. As far as we know at the moment, neither company distributed to the other one. But if the same Salmonella is involved, as it may be, did both companies get the peppers from a single source? No one seems to be saying where they came from - yet.

My guess would be that both companies imported the peppers from a supplier in Mexico. Several of the U.S.jalapeno pepper recalls in the past - including the one in December 2011, and the one in July 2008 (see my earlier posts) involved imported Mexican jalapeno peppers.

And, as you have probably noticed, these peppers have gone to distributors, which means they will be distributed further from there. Who knows where.

We are likely to hear much more about contaminated jalapeno peppers in the next few days and weeks. If you live anywhere in the U.S. or in Canada - avoid eating fresh jalapenos for the next few weeks. If you cook them, that would kill the bacteria.

To your good health,



We presently have an ongoing recall of ready-to-eat salsa and also a recall of jalapeno peppers in the U.S. What the news releases by the FDA have not said is that these two recalls are most likely connected. In other words, the cause of the recent salsa contamination by Salmonella bacteria is probably the jalapeno peppers that were used to make it. That would not be unusual since about half the time or more, it is one of the fresh ingredients in salsa that causes the dish to be contaminated.

So here are the facts released by the FDA. Club Chef, a processor of fresh cut products based in Covington, Kentucky has had to issue a wide, multi-state recall of its salsa products because of contamination by Salmonella bacteria (see previous post).

Now we also have a recall of certain jalapeno peppers by Castellini Company LLC from its Wilder, Kentucky facility because they also have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella. These products were sold in full case, 1/2 case, 20lb, 10lb, 5lb, 2lb, and 1lb package sizes and distributed during the period March 8, 2012 through March 20 2012 (that is, probably just before this batch of salsa products were made), to military commissaries, retailers and foodservice distributors within ten states: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

What the recall notice has not said (I had to look up the company website) is that Club Chef, is the Castellini Group fresh cut processing division, operating out of 200,000 sq ft state-of-the-art facility in Kentucky. It provides over 600 fresh cut items to foodservice and retail customers - one of which is various kinds of salsa, packaged under several labels.

This could well be leading to one of those serial recalls. For instance, what other product originating at the Castellini Group facility in Kentucky contained the same batch of jalapeno peppers? Its Guacamole kit? The Fajita mix? Something else? Hopefully none of the equipment used for slicing and cutting became contaminated so that other raw products (such as tomatoes, onions, peppers and so on were also affected. But then then there is the question of what other ready-to-eat foods have been made by client companies which received those Salmonella-contaminated jalapeno peppers.

Bottom line: I don't think this is the end of the jalapeno-related food product recalls. Right now you may want to avoid any ready-to-eat foods containing jalapeno peppers, and avoid eating any (restaurant or home-made) fresh salsa or guacamole made with jalapenos, even if you live elsewhere. Let's wait and see if the recall expands.

To your good health,


Thursday, March 29, 2012


Salsa is probably one of the most dangerous dishes you can eat, especially if you eat it in a restaurant. But ready-to-eat salsa bought in a store can be risky too.

The reason: salsa has a high chance of containing bacteria that can make you ill - ones like Salmonella. They can be there in the raw ingredients (such as hot hot peppers, cilantro and tomatoes) to begin with. Of course, there is no cooking step to kill them. In some 30% of cases a major problem is that the salsa is not stored properly, helping small numbers of bacteria to multiply. And in an estimated 20% of cases, the equipment used or food workers are the source of contamination.

That is why the current recall by Club Chef LLC of its Hot Salsa, Mild Salsa and Pico de Gallo products has come as no great surprise. Believe me, this is no small salsa maker. The product was distributed to retailers and foodservice distributors within eleven states in the U.S.: Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Indiana and Illinois.

In stores, these salsa products are sold in 12 oz. (Private Selection brand name) and 16 oz. (Heinen’s brand name) clear plastic packages marked with Use by Date of 3/27/2012 (see photo). And by the way, the use-by date is 12 or 13 days after the shipping date. So much for the "fresh" salsa!

If you are pregnant or have a weakened immune system, you would be wise to pass on ready-to-eat or restaurant salsa.

To your good health,


Monday, March 26, 2012


Here's yet another fresh cheese recall, because of the usual problem - Listeria monocytogenes bacteria has been found in the cheese. Special alert for pregnant women!

El Ranchero Del Sur, LLC. of South River, New Jersey, USA, is recalling Queso Fresco El Ranchero Del Sur 14 oz. (Fresh Cheese), Queso Fresco en Hoja De Platano Los Corrales 14 oz. (Fresh Cheese In Banana Leaf), Queso Hebra Queso Oaxaca El Ranchero Del Sur 14 oz. and 10 lb. (String Cheese. These cheeses were distributed from 2/23/12 through 3/14/12 through direct delivery to retail stores, supermarkets and restaurants located in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Fresh cheeses should be on the "don't eat" list for pregnant women and people with weak immune systems everywhere in the world - not just in the U.S. The risks of getting Listeriosis are too great.

To your good health,


Sunday, March 25, 2012


Let's face it. In spite of all the precautions taken these days in slaughterhouses and in processing of meat, it can still contain bacteria when it reaches us consumers. That is particularly the case with ground meat, or ground meat products such as meat patties. But it can happen with any kind of meat or poultry. Some of these bacteria are harmless, but others can be dangerous. The E.coli 0157:H7 bacteria that turned up recently in the U.S. beef patties imported from Canada (see previous post) is an example.

So what can we do to avoid them? First, simply assume that all raw meat and poultry has bacteria in it, and treat it that way.

• Refrigerate raw meat within two hours of purchase, or, within one hour if the temperature is above 90° F. Make sure it is away from other foods and that the juices do not leak.
• Unwrap the meat carefully from any wrapping paper or packaging, trying not to touch the meat itself, or touch the inside of the wrap, and discard the packaging immediately.
• If you can't use utensils and have to use your hands, then either wear disposable gloves (washing the outside first) or be careful to wash your hands vigorously afterwards (to dislodge tiny pieces or smears of fat or meat), using warm or hot water and soap.
• Make sure the meat does not touch or drip on any surface. If it does, clean up right away.
• Prepare the meat on a non-porous cutting board or dish (not a wood cutting board).
• Wash cutting boards, dishes and any utensils that you used with hot, soapy water as soon as you finish with them.
• Keep any raw meat or poultry and their juices away from any other foods that will be eaten raw (such as salads) while preparing food.
• Thoroughly cook meat such as ground beef to an internal temperature of 160° F, as measured with a food thermometer.
• Refrigerate cooked meat and poultry within two hours after cooking.

To your good health,


Saturday, March 24, 2012


Yes, the temporary lull in U.S. food recalls seems to be over. Now we have another recall of beef due to deadly bacteria being found in the products.

Sysco Seattle Inc., a Seattle, Wash. firm, is recalling approximately 16,800 pounds of ground beef patties imported from Canada because they may have been contaminated with E.coli O157:H7. The products were produced by New Food Classics of Burlington, Ontario and were imported by Sysco Seattle Inc., for distribution to restaurants in Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Washington.

This is a rare instance of a company taking quick action. Sysco was already recalling the products (on March 20) even before the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the alert. It appears that the Canadian firm involved acted responsibly and immediately notified Sysco when the problem was discovered. Nice change. Delays can cost lives.

By the way, in case you have forgotten, since E.coli O157 has been out of the news for a while, this is a potentially deadly bacterium, especially to the very young, and seniors or other people with weak immune systems. It can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure.

Be careful how you handle and cook raw meat, and especially ground meat products (see the next post).

To your good health,


Thursday, March 22, 2012


Things have been quiet for the last few weeks on the U.S. food recall front. I've noticed only a few recalls because of undeclared allergens or mislabeling. Nothing much has happened with bacteria or other food-poisoning related threats. But now we have another one of those scares with ready-to-eat foods because of Listeria bacteria being discovered.

It's sausage this time. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced that Southside Market & BBQ, of Elgin, Texas, is recalling approx. 2,373 pounds of ready-to-eat "Original Beef Sausage" and "Hot Recipe Beef Sausage" products.

FSIS turned up this dangerous Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in the sausage products during routine testing. The sausage has been distributed to retail warehouses in Texas, as well as through internet sales to California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas. And, from there, probably already into the marketplace.

Watch out pregnant women and anyone else who has a weak immune system. You are at most risk. The usual symptoms of Listeriosis are: high fever, severe headache, neck stiffness and nausea. Don't confuse it with the 'flu.

To your good health,



Well, it has happened. Campbell's has finally caved in to pressure from the public and the Company's shareholders. Soon - although we don't know quite how soon - there will be no more of that toxic BPA (bisphenol A) in the cans used to package soups and other food products made by Campbell's.

Severals health-focused organizations deserve credit: the Breast Cancer Fund which released reports on finding BPA in several Campbell's products, including ones marketed to children such as Cambell's Disney Princes and Toy Story soups. The Healthy Child Healthy World Organization also did its part. It sent 20,000 of the 70,000 letters to Cambell's by supporters of the Cans not Cancer campaign. Other groups and organizations have also been involved over the years.

As Gretchen Lee Salter, policy manager at the Breast Cancer Fund said: "Campbell's decision to move away from BPA is a victory for consumers..."

And, about time. Who wants a chemical in the epoxy-lining of their food cans that has been linked by research to breast and prostate cancer, infertility, type-2 diabetes, early puberty in girls, attention deficit disorder - and more.

Eleven states in the U.S. have now restricted BPA in infant food containers. There is also legislation before Congress which could ban the use of BPA in all food - and also beverage containers. Get a move on Campbell's and implement the change!

To your good health,


Friday, March 16, 2012


If you live in a country that celebrates St. Patrick's Day, you are likely to be eating more green food on March 17 than on any other day of the year. And I am not referring to those healthy green vegetables. No, I was thinking of all those violently-green iced pastries and those cookies with green sprinkles on them - like the ones I bought this morning for our Irish neighbors.

In the U.S. it is estimated that over half the population will celebrate the occasion, spending several billions of dollars to do so - a good of it on green food. But is food that is loaded with that rather unnatural green coloring really unsafe to eat? Apparently not. At least in countries such as the U.S., all food coloring (including color additives used in beverages and in and animal food) is strictly regulated these days, and has to be tested before it is released into the marketplace. That includes FD&C Green No.3 which the FDA website lists as being approved.

Things weren't always that way. Food coloring has a long history. Naturally occurring substances such as paprika, turmeric and saffron color were used to color food and drink as far back as 300 BC. Synthetic dyes began to be used about 1896. By 1900, many foods, drugs, and cosmetics available in the U.S. (as well as elsewhere in the world) were artificially colored. Several of the dyes in food and drink later turned out to be very unhealthy substances - some even carcinogenic. When the U.S. federal government, through Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took over responsibility for color additives, it began to progressively tighten the regulations and safety improved.

That is not to say that we still don't have some unpleasant surprises when coloring that is believed to be safe suddenly turns out not to be so. Sometimes the FDA also has to take action when imported or even U.S.- made processed foods slip in banned synthetic dyes or don't declare the ones that are there. Such events can lead to recalls, or warning letters, detentions, issuance of import alerts, or even seizures of food products.

To my knowledge there has never been a recall of St. Patrick's Day cookies, McDonald's green Shamrock Shakes, Burger King's (special occasion) green dipping sauce for fries, Heinz's green St. Paddy's Sauce, Brueger's green bagels, green-iced doughnuts from Dunkin'Donuts, or any other special St.Paddy's day food or drink. That doesn't mean there won't be. In the meantime, some experts do say that getting a lot of this green dye could give you an upset stomach and maybe even diarrhea. That goes double for young children. So watch out!

To your good health,


Saturday, March 10, 2012


March 11, 2012 is the anniversary of last year's Japanese earthquake, Tsunami and nuclear disaster. Japan and the world are remembering this horrible tragedy - the lives lost ( an estimated 15,848 dead and 3,305 missing), numerous families, businesses and farms destroyed, and a nightmare which still haunts millions of people.

This awful event has also left many people in Japan still worried about how their health and the health of their children has been affected by the high levels of radiation leaked from the TEPCO operated Daichii-Fukushima nuclear power plant, not just through environmental exposure, but indirectly, through radiation-contaminated food and water. Many feel they were not adequately protected or informed - and still aren't.

I started blogging the issue already on March 15 - before there was any mention of food contamination. Today, in memory of the event, I glanced back at my 30 or so posts on radiation in food in Japan and in food exported from Japan. Sadly, my predictions seem to have been borne out.

The problem is not over. Some of the radionuclides continue to exist in soil, air, and water even hundreds of Km from Daichii. Japanese consumers continue to be concerned. People in other countries are also worried, particularly those living close to nuclear power plants.

But remember - eating a meal or even a few meals with high levels of radionuclides is not likely to cause lasting damage to your health. So when should you worry? I can't provide hard data. What I can do is pass on what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says will determine if this will be an an issue for you:

the percentage of radiation contaminated foods in a your diet
• how much of the food you usually eat
• the length of time that you are eating such contaminated food (days, weeks or months)
• how vulnerable you are (for instance, infants and children and pregnant women are at special risk).

To your good health,


Tuesday, March 6, 2012


The safety of our salt is one of the things we tend not to question. But, that salt you so liberally sprinkle on everything from eggs to meat to potatoes to your vegetables, could be undermining your health in more ways than one. Especially if you live in Poland.

The media has been reporting that a six-month long investigation in Poland has uncovered a horrible scandal: salt that was only meant to be used for de-icing of roads or for use in the chemical industry, is now everywhere in the food supply. Apparently it has been secretly repackaged and sold as edible salt to food processors, bakeries and food wholesalers.

And believe me, you don't want to eat this kind of salt. It originated as a waste product from one of the largest fertilizer producers in Poland - Anwil S.A. The salt contains dangerous carcinogenic chemicals, including ones that could become carcinogenic dioxins in the human body.

People in Poland are afraid that this carcinogenic salt is likely to be present in everything they eat. After all, it wasn't just a bag of the stuff that was sold. Reports estimate that three Polish businesses have been buying some 1000 metric tons of "road" salt a month over a period of 10 years and selling it as edible salt.

Could this happen elsewhere in the world? Of course it could. Times are tough and there are plenty of people anxious to make "a fast buck" no matter what the cost to others.

To your good health,