Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Yes, I should have written this before. But, better late than never. Here are my thoughts on how you can eat reasonably well and avoid food poisoning if a superstorm or hurricane like Sandy decides to arrive in your area.

First, to be prepared, assume that you will have power outages, and, may have no potable water. Secondly, assume that restaurants in your area may be closed, or, if they are operating, may not be the safest places to eat. So, it's up to you.

Here are some things you may want to buy: a cooler and ice packs, an appliance thermometer (to check the frig temperature) - and if you have electric cooking appliances - a good thermos and a small camp stove (you can get a one-burner stove for less than $20). Also make sure you have tin foil and a working can opener (if you don't usually eat out of cans), as well as matches for lighting the stove.

As for food, choose food and drink that does not have to be refrigerated - at least for a few days - and is quick to cook or can be eaten uncooked. For instance: lots of bottled water, single-pack/small tin juices, tinned milk, energy bars or fiber bars that appeal to you, fresh fruit such as apples, oranges, bananas, pineapple, lemons, avocados. Vegetables that keep well, and that you can eat raw, such as carrots, celery, cabbage, cauliflower. Canned chicken, tuna, sardines, meat, tinned cheese (if you can find it), beans and soups (if you can warm them up). And then there are also those good things such as nuts, raisins, dried figs and other fruit and...of course, chocolate (personally, I can't live without it. You may need something nice and comforting during that nasty storm, and they will also give you quick energy. And don't forget your pet's food.

If you know that the storm is a few hours away, you may want to quickly roast a chicken or cook some other dish that will keep a few hours to the next meal, freeze your ice packs, turn the refrigerator down to about 35 degrees so it gets extra cold and can stay that way longer after a power outage, fill the thermos with hot coffee, hot chocolate (or, whatever you like), and batten down the hatches.

And final advice - if food looks off, don't eat it (also read my previous post). It's better to go hungry.

To your good health,

Monday, October 29, 2012


I have always found hurricanes rather frightening. Superstorm Sandy (Hurricane, cum storm, with blizzards tagged on in some areas) is ravaging the East Coast of the United States as I write. It is going to affect a lot of people for a long time. One of the immediate effects is power outages for millions (8.1 million was the latest number I saw). This means no refrigeration and maybe no cooking for many. Unless you are careful, this also means more risk of eating bad food and getting food poisoning.

My son lives in Lower Manhattan (just outside the original top priority evacuation area) and he is presently without electricity. For how long, no-one knows. I tried to talk to him about being prepared, including for eating safely. But I am not sure he paid any attention. So what else is new? At least I can blog about it.

In this sort of situation, it is best to stock foods such as dates, raisins, nuts, carrots, cabbage, apples, oranges, pineapple, lemons, avocado, celery, cucumbers, bananas, and if they are on your diet - hard aged cheese, tinned light tuna (try it with chives or oregano and lemon juice instead of mayo), sardines, spam, beans and chick peas. Add a few crackers or some bread (while it lasts) and you can survive on this without refrigeration for a few days.

As for the refrigerator - the best idea is to stock it with only a few essentials and turn down the temperature a bit lower than usual while you still have electricity. Take out anything like bottled drinks and vegetables and fruit such as those above, as this will help you avoid opening the refrigerator door too often when power is off. That will give you a few extra hours with that roast chicken or whatever is in there.

But, forget the "best by" dates. Use your nose, eyes and common sense instead. Anything that is left for a few days in the non-operating refrigerator or has melted in the freezer is suspect, even if you haven't opened the door. If you are in doubt, toss it out. Having a case of food poisoning with roads and pharmacies closed and emergency rooms in overload, is not something you want. I just hope my son remembers that.

To your good health,

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Every once in a while I am tempted to cover pet food on this blog as well as human food. There is quite a bit of overlap. In fact, I have a half-finished book on safe dog food - a sort of follow up to The Safe Food Handbook, but for our pets. Whether I will ever finish it is another matter.

Anyway, one of the most common health risks for dog owners, and especially for children, is to get Salmonellosis (caused by pathogenic Salmonella bacteria) from handling contaminated dog treats. Washing hands well immediately afterwards would help, but how many of us do that all the time?

If you think I am exaggerating the whole thing, below is a summary of suspected Salmonella-contaminated dog food that has been recalled in less than two months in the U.S.(Note - most recalls involve treats). The source is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) - a thorougly reliable one.

08/31/2012 Milk replacer - Brands: Quality Feed, Inc., Dairy Princess, Peachey's or Yo-momma, made by Quality Feed, Inc.

09/11/2012 Natural Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Adult Dog Formula Breeder's Choice - Brands: Breeder's Choice, AvoDerm, made by Breeder's Choice Pet Food

09/21/2012 Pet treat - Brand: Boots & Barkley, made by Kasel Assoc. Industries.

09/24/2012 Dog food - Brand: Dogsbutter - Made by Sunland Inc.

10/02/2012 Chicken Jerky Dog Treats - Brand: Nature's Deli, made by
Kasel Associated Industries

10/04/2012 Flavored butters, spreads and more - Brands: American Choice, Archer Farms, Arrowhead Mills etc., made by Sunland Inc.

10/10/2012 Pet treat - Brand: Yoghund, made by TBD Brands, LLC

10/13/2012 Pet treat - Brand: Nature's Recipe, made by Del Monte Foods

10/17/2012 Pet treats - Brand: Boots & Barkley, made by Kasel Assoc. Industries

Food poisoning second hand, is just as bad as getting it directly from our own food! Take precautions.

To your good health,

Monday, October 22, 2012


The Safe Food Handbook calls ground beef the riskiest meat to eat. Yet it remains very popular in the American diet and is used in all kinds of dishes - not just everybody's favorite hamburgers. But yes, we have recalls of ground beef all the time. Usually it is because of E.coli bacteria being found in the product.

And two more recalls have just been announced today.

Higa Meat & Pork Market, of Honolulu, Hawaii, is recalling approximately 4,100 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. This beef was only sent to restaurants in the Oahu, Hawaii, so people elsewhere need not worry.

The other recall is by Main Street Quality Meats, of Salt Lake City, Utah. It is recalling approximately 2,310 pounds of ground beef bulk and ground beef patties that may also be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. They too were distributed to restaurants, this time in Utah.

Even though these are area-restricted recalls, far apart geographically, one does wonder if they are linked through a common restaurant supplier. I can guess..but don't want to commit myself yet. And, I wonder if more recalls will follow.

So back to the question: Is ground beef safe to eat? Yes. All you have to do is handle it carefully and cook it well. Therefore, if you eat it at home, you can be pretty safe. As for eating it out...well, don't forget those magic words if you order a hamburger: "well done please." And let's just hope that whoever handles the raw meat doesn't contaminate your lettuce leaf, or slice of onion or that tasteless tomato while they are at it.

To your good health,

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


This has not been a good six months for Dole Food Co: four bagged salad recalls! It hasn't been good for people who eat bagged salads either. That is, if they want to stay healthy.

In April, 2012, Dole issued a recall on 756 cases of bagged salad, because of possible contamination with Salmonella bacteria. The recall included bagged Seven Lettuces salads distributed in 15 states.

Soon after, in July, it had a bagged romaine lettuce recall. Some 2,600 cases of bagged Hearts of Romaine that had been distributed to several states had to be recalled because of possible Listeria contamination.

And then in August, Dole Italian Blend bagged salads had to be being recalled because testing turned up Listeria bacteria again. Some 1,039 cases of bagged salad had to be recalled.

I may have missed some. But, look, that's enough bacterial contamination in six months even for a big company with huge production. So much for safety! And by the way, there have been other Dole product recalls as well recently, such as for mangoes, because of Salmonella.

Now there is a fourth Dole bagged salad recall: it is recalling some of its bagged salads because of Listeria being found. This time it's Dole American Blend salad in 12 oz. bags, coded A275208A or B, with Use-by date of October 17 and UPC 7143000933.

Maybe Dole should take a look at its plants and processes. And maybe - as my book, The Safe Food Handbook argues, bagged fresh produce is not all that safe after all. Even triple washing doesn't always work. Somtimes it may even add contaminants. But how many of us make salads totally from scratch any more? Perhaps it is time we went back to "vintage salads." (You may also want to glance at my Feb. 2011 post on: "What's Really in Bagged Salads.")

To your good health,

Sunday, October 14, 2012


It was just a matter of time. The Sunland, Inc. recall in the U.S. has steadily grown from a small start in late September (with a recall of the Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Peanut Butter made by Sunland) to include multiple other peanut, nut and seed butters. Now it has expanded again: Sunland is recalling its peanuts as well.

The reason: tests have shown that the raw peanuts being used by Sunland are contaminated. The processing environment at the plant has turned up positive for Salmonella bacteria as well. But we are still waiting final test results which would show if these match the type of Salmonella that is causing the current outbreak. I have been wondering when this would happen. (Remember the hugs outbreaks caused by (different) Salmonella bacteria in peanuts in 2007 and 2008- 2009? Read about them in my book - The Safe Food Handbook which also explains why peanuts are often contaminated and outbreaks spread so fast).

Yesterday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the news that Sunland Inc.'s latest expansion of recalled products now extends to include raw and roasted peanuts, both in-shell and shelled, organic and non-organic, big bags and little bags. Anything processed in its Peanut Processing Plant located in Portales, New Mexico, and which are within their current shelf life or have no stated expiration date.

That adds some 70 additional products (if I counted correctly) that are sold in stores and the internet. Or, they may be sitting in your home. All are now considered unsafe for us to eat because there is a risk of their carrying Salmonella bredeney bacteria which so far has made at least 35 people in 19 states very ill indeed.(Multiply that by ten and you'll get a number closer to the real one).

For a complete list of both the peanut products, go to: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm323824.htm?source=govdelivery.

Sunland Inc. has stopped the production and distribution of anything it made at both its nut butter facility and its peanut processing facility. But, I checked. They are still being sold on the Internet - including on the Sunland site!

To your good health,

UPDATE: Since this post, there have been several more peanut recalls.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Today's trivia question: what do small turles, mangoes, cantaloupes, peanut butter, tuna, ground beef, dry dog food, live chickens, hedgehogs and raw scraped ground tuna have in common?

The answer- they have all been linked to outbreaks caused by different Salmonella bacteria just in the last 3 months in the United States. No, we can't only blame our food supply. It can also be our pets. And in fact, touching your pet turtle or hedgehog or chicken may prove to be just as dangerous as eating that bad cantaloupe or ground beef!

In case you don't believe me, here are the facts, summarized from information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC. Remember that these are not the final figures for many of these outbreaks as they are still ongoing:

Peanut Butter – 35 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 19 States, 8 hospitalizations, 0 deaths

Hedgehogs – 14 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 6 states, 3 hospitalizations, 0 deaths.

Mangoes – 121 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 15 states, 25 hospitalizations, 0 deaths.

Cantaloupes – 261 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 24 states, 94 hospitalizations, 3 deaths

Ground Beef - 46 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 9 states, 12 hospitalizations, 0 deaths

Live Poultry - 3 outbreaks in the past 3 months, involving 5 different kinds of Salmonella – total of 276 illnesses in 11, 22 and 26 states, with a total of 58 hospitalizations and 3 deaths.

Dry Dog Food - 49 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 20 states, with 10 hospitalizations, 0 deaths (caused by people touching the dog food - not eating it!).

Raw Scraped Ground Tuna Product - 425 Salmonella-caused illnesses, in 28 states, 55 hospitalizations, 0 deaths.

Small Turtles - 3 different Salmonella bacteria causing 196 illnesses in 31 states, 36 hospitalizations, 0 deaths.

To your good health,

Friday, October 5, 2012


Well, we have yet another expansion of the Sunland, Inc. Peanut Plant nationwide recall in the U.S.(which also includes other nut and seed butters). Can you believe it: from 101 products to 240 products, dating back to March 1, 2010. Doesn't our industrialized food system make your mind boggle?

Some of these recalled products have expired dates and others may still be sitting in you home storage, refrigerator or cupboard, opened or unopened. The products were distributed under the Company’s own label and under other brand names, including Trader Joe's, Archer Farms, American Choice, Kirkland, Natural Value, Arrowhead Mills, Cadia, Serious Food,Sun Harvest, Harry and David, Sunland, and more. They were sold by grocery and retail chains,such as Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Target, Fresh & Easy, and many other stores. They were also available for purchase on the internet (including amazon.com).

For products added read the FDA-published recall: http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm322747.htm?source=govdelivery.

For the old list try the Sunland website:http://www.sunlandinc.com/788/html/pdfs/SunlandRecall.pdf.

Look - let's just play it safe: until we find out the cause, avoid any nut or seed butters (including in processed products, such as crackers, cookies, ice- cream, chocolates, candies, prepared foods....)no matter what the brand. Who wants this nasty Salmonella bacteria?

To your good health,

UPDATE: Now that around 70 raw and roasted peanut products have also been recalled, the total number must be over 300! Will Sunland survive this?

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Whole Foods Market prides itself on its healthy food products and concern about its customers' health and wellbeing. Wonderful. But then, why doesn't it post ongoing product recalls on its website? Store notices are not enough.

I spent about 10 minutes looking for the current ones. All I found when I searched was recalls back in 2009 and earlier. Ancient history. That doesn't do me - or, all my friends who shop at Whole Foods Market - any good.

Here are four ongoing recalls I think it should publicize:

Cookie Recall: Whole Foods Market recall of 3oz peanut butter cookies and 3oz peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies sold in its self-serve pastry case, and mini peanut butter cookies sold in 12-pack paper bags. This is due to possible Salmonella contamination in the peanut butter used as an ingredient (from Sunland, Inc.).

Cheeses Recalled: Ricotta Salata, including "Mitica Ricotta Salada,” (that came from Forever Cheese Inc.) and sold in 21 states and Washington, D.C.. The cheese is being recalled because it may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. In WFM stores in two states another cheese has been found to have the same bacteria in it. Whole Foods Market just announced that it is also recalling “Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese KY BL” sold in its Louisville, KY store and “Blue Kentucky Rose Kenny’s” cheese sold in its Nashville, TN store. These cheeses came from Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese of Austin, Kentucky (also now recalling its products).

Prepared Food Recall: Chicken Spring Rolls and Peanut Sesame Noodles, sold in its prepared food department in the grab and go section and at the full service chef’s case (in Houston, Texas). They are being recalled due to possible Salmonella contamination.

Soup Recall: Recall of the Whole Foods Market Kitchens soup, labeled as Roasted Garlic and Eggplant Soup. It is being recalled because the soup is actually Lobster Bisque. The soup was sold in 24oz containers from Whole Foods Market stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, between September 29 and October 2, 2012. This mislabelling poses the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if consumed by customers with a shellfish or milk allergy.

To your good health,

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


We don't have popcorn recalls very frequently. The only one I can recall offhand was for rat poop. Now we have one in the U.S. caused by Listeria monocytogenes. That is the bacterium that pregnant women need to avoid at all costs. (See all my previous posts on the subject). Children and frail elderly people or anyone else with a weak immune system should be extra careful too.

Dale and Thomas Popcorn is voluntarily recalling a limited number of ready-to-eat bags of select flavors of Popcorn, Indiana-brand popcorn products because of possible contamination by Listeria monocytogenes.

There are an amazing array of different flavors being recalled: Aged White Cheddar, Almond Biscotti, American Cheese, Bacon Ranch, Apple Crisp, Black & White Drizzle (what's that?), Caramel, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cinnamon Sugar Drizzle, Dark Fudge Chocolate Chip Drizzle, Dark Fudge Chocolate Chip Drizzle, Kettlecorn, Salt & Pepper, Wasabi Reserve.

Frankly, I didn't know there were so many flavors of popcorn, since I never buy it. There is more information available on the FDA site.

To your good health,


Monday, October 1, 2012


It's only nine days since Trader Joe's recalled its Creamy Salted Valencia peanut Butter because of contamination with Salmonella bacteria. And it's only a week since Sunland, Inc., the manufacturer, then recalled many other products (including ones made with seeds as well as other nuts), because the same equipment had been used.

This is now a large multi-state recall in the U.S. Other brand names involved in this inter-linked recall include Archer Farms, Earth Balance, Fresh & Easy, Late July, Heinen's, Joseph's, Natural Value, Naturally More, Open Nature, Peanut Power Butter, Serious Food, Snaclite Power, Sprouts Farmers Market, Sprout's, Sunland, Dogsbutter and many more small and larger companies which used these products to make cakes, candies, chocolates, ice-cream, sandwiches, and more.

Reportedly the outbreak of illnesses have only been linked to the Trader Joe's peanut butter product - not to these others. Illness onset dates range from June 11, 2012 to September 11, 2012. So far, a total of 30 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Bredeney have been confirmed in 19 states, according to the CDC. Ill persons range in age from less than 1 year to 77 years, with a median age of 7 years. Most of those illnesses have been among children under age 10. Oddly, about two thirds of those who became ill were male (do male children eat more peanut butter?). In all, four of the ill people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Let's hope there won't be any.

Although it looks as though the illnesses have wound down, you may want to follow the CDC advice until the ongoing investigation tells us more. Here it is, quoting:

Consumers who recently purchased recalled peanut butter or other products containing nuts and seeds are advised not to eat them and dispose of any remaining jars of these products or return the jars to the place of purchase.

Be a smart consumer - check your supplies today, including any you may have bought through the internet.

To your good health,