Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Every time I get bored with blogging alfalfa and other sprout recalls, I remind myself of what happened in Europe a little more than a year ago. Remember that widespread sprout outbreak, originating in Hamburg, that left thousands seriously ill and scores dead?

What we usually have in the U.S. , is not contamination by E.coli bacteria, but by Salmonella - which is normally less deadly. I blogged the Leasa Industries alfalfa recall earlier this month. Now we have another one caused by this bacterium.

Banner Mountain Sprouts is recalling organic sprouts under the following names: 4oz. zesty greens, 5oz. sprout salad, 4oz. clover, 2lb. clover, 4oz. alfalfa/broccoli, 4oz. alfalfa sprouts, and 1lb. & 2lb. alfalfa sprouts because of a finding of Salmonella. The sprouts were distributed through retail stores and wholesalers in California in plastic, clamshell containers and 1lb. or 2lb. ziplock bags with a sell by date from 6/17/12 to 7/6/12.

Avoid them!

Monday, June 25, 2012


Yes, we have yet another recall of bagged fresh salads because of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

This time the recalling company is Dole Fresh Vegetables. The products were sold at Kroger and Walmart stores in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Here are the ones recalled at the present time (remember, these types of recalls often expand):
Kroger Fresh Selections Greener Supreme with Use-by date of June 19, Kroger Fresh Selections Leafy Romaine with Use-by date of June 19, and Wal Mart Marketside Leafy Romaine with Use-by date of June19.

As usual, whenever Listeria monocytogenes is the food contaminant, pregnant women, and anyone with a weak immune system take special note. Avoid these salads. In fact, for good measure, avoid all bagged salads, at least for a while, until we see whether more are recalled.

To your good health,

Saturday, June 23, 2012


There is food poisoning, and then there is food poisoning. One of the worst kind of food poisoning is botulism. The bacteria that cause it may be hiding in some wonderful California carrot juice right now (see previous post).

And what if you drank what could be Clostridium botulinum contaminated Liquid Gold Carrot Juice? Don't panic. There is always a chance that a failure in temperature control of the juice did not occur at the plant, but actually occurred in a store, or, even in homes. That is probably what happened in a similar incident in 2006, with carrot juice also originating in California (but a different company - Bolthouse Farms).

But if you are nervous, here are the kinds of symptoms you may want to watch out for: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision, trouble with speaking, breathing and swallowing. Sometimes you also get weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension and constipation. Yes, the symptoms are quite different from most other types of food poisoning.

By the way, keep your carrot juice below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. And don't leave it sitting around in a hot car while you do other shopping.

To your good health,


A potent neurotoxin in your healthy carrot juice is the last thing you want. But it happens. Why? Because carrot juice has to be properly refrigerated. If it isn't, you may get Clostridium botulinum bacteria growing in it. The result can be a case of botulism. And botulism can be fatal.

So Californians watch out since contaminated juice may be in your stores. Healthy Choice Island Blends, Inc. of Los Angeles, CA, is recalling all sizes of LIQUID GOLD CARROT JUICE, because it may be contain this deadly bacterium. The juice was sold in plastic see-through containers in gallon, half-gallon, and quart sizes.

By the way, this is not the first recall of California carrot juice because of this bacterium, and it well may not be the last.

If you have bought it, throw it out even if it smells and looks fine. If you or a family member has drunk it recently, watch carefully for symptoms (see next post) and get help immediately.

To your good health,

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Today's editorial by Jeff Leach in the New York Times - title: " Dirtying up Our Diets" - makes some useful points. Yes, the good bacteria in our gut play an important role in protecting us from the bad ones. Yes, antibiotics are overprescribed and tend to wipe them out.

But no, America does not have "the safest food supply in human history." I would argue that that honor goes to some European countries instead. And no, we cannot cure our autoimmune disease issues by eating Farmers Market food.

Really! Does Leach think that most of us never wash our Farmers Markets carrots, but eat them dirt and all? I would bet most of us triple washed them, and if we can't get that dirt off, then we scrub them. I mean, who wants to crunch on soil? If you have ever done it, you don't want to do it again.

And, if you want bacteria, you may well get a worse dose from those squaky clean, triple-washed, safe-to-eat, bagged greens and other produce. But of course, it will not be the kind of nice safe bacteria that your gut needs.

To your good health,


Of all the foods you should maybe give up, surely alfalfa sprouts (or other sprouted seeds) are one of the easiest. (I would have a much harder time giving up chocolate, for instance). Yes, when they are not contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, they may be nutritionally beneficial. But the trouble is, that the downside may well outweigh such benefits.

Here's yet another recall of alfalfa sprouts. Leasa Industries Co., Inc. of Miami, Florida, is recalling 433 cases of LEASA Living Alfalfa Sprouts with use by date 7/2/12, because Salmonella bacteria have been found. The affected product is in 6 oz. clear plastic containers. Winn Dixie is among the stores that sells them.

And in case you think Salmonella just means a few miserable days of diarrhea and vomiting, stomach cramps and such, let me quote from the recall notice (more details on this in The Safe Food Handbook):

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.... In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

To your good health,

Friday, June 15, 2012


Recently, there have been a number of recalls of popular commercial dog food because of contamination by Salmonella bacteria. The same thing happened in 2011, and occurs almost every year. Should this worry us?

I have to admit that on and off I have wondered about just how dangerous these bacteria in dog food are for our pets. After all, my dog, like most others, eats a variety of rather nasty and often contaminated or otherwise dangerous things - like socks, cell phones, oriental rugs, wild mushrooms (that could be poisonous), a variety of plants - and occasionally, poop. Luckily, it doesn't chew on gravel or rocks, as do a friend of mine's dogs. So what's a little contaminated food compared to all this? My guess is that risks would be much higher for indoor dogs who live protected existances and a more restricted exposure to bacteria on a daily basis.

What I do know is that pet owners, and particularly children, can become ill from Salmonella contaminated dog food. No, not eating it, but touching it and then, without washing their hands, touching their mouth or their own food. Pet treats are the riskiest in those terms. Remember this when feeding your pets.

To your good health,

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I am convinced that global economic problems are undermining quality in everything. I am finding more grammatical and spelling errors in The New York Times, including in the editorial column, and errors of fact - as well as grammar - on CNBC business news. And, then, there is the quality of our food.

As food processing companies struggle to maintain a profit margin they are likely to save on maintenance and buying new equipment and tempted to reduce quality control. One of the results is that there are more "foreign bodies" such as bits of plastic, metal, wood, glass, and who knows what else, turning up in our food. Such problems have caused fairly regular food recalls in the U.S. But they also occur in other countries.

A recent one in the UK - Chokablok ice cream, made by R&R Ice Cream Ltd containing bits of "lolly stick." That's British for what Americans refer to as "candy" - nothing to do with money! And, believe me, swallowing a sharp piece of wood can certainly harm you. "Billionaire's Dynamite" - as one of the ice cream products is called - could well turn into "Billionaire's Misery."

To your good health,

Monday, June 4, 2012


The Safe Food Handbook (now in its second edition) argues that it is best to avoid imported seafood, on which the U.S. and Canada are increasingly dependent.

The reason: it can be unsafe to eat. Sanitation controls in the countries from which most of this seafood now comes from are often weak, and the fish-growing environment is very polluted. Personally, I no longer eat imported shellfish products in any form. When eating out, I ask where the shellfish came from. If the restaurant can't or won't give me an answer, I pass.

Recent events in the U.S. have confirmed my concerns. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has had to remove all Korean certified shippers of molluscan shellfish from the Interstate Certified Shellfish Shippers List (ICSSL). That is, they are no longer allowed into the U.S. (That goes for fresh, frozen and processed products). Some companies, such as Crown Prince Seafood of South Korea, are conducting huge product recalls.

Why? Without going into the unpleasant details, let's just say that the shellfish has been found to come from areas that are heavily polluted by human waste. Among other things, norovirus has been found in the shellfish, and that is probably not the end of it. And I would bet that Korea is not the only country where this happens (see the book for more..) Is "oysters a la poop" really what you want to eat?

To your good health,