Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I thought I should blog turkey food safety, in honor of U.S. Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, and the nation's favorite dinner.

Actually, we don't have that many publicized incidents of contaminated whole turkey - fresh or frozen. There are more recalls of deli turkey and ground turkey, some of these quite large (like that Cargill turkey one in 2011). But that doesn't mean that raw whole turkey can't carry bacteria. In fact, tests conducted on turkeys show anywhere between 28% to 98% of turkey to carry Campylobacter bacteria ( a common cause of food poisoning). Salmonella bacteria have been found as well by several tests, as well as other dangerous bugs.

But remember - the actual numbers of bacteria may be too small to make you seriously ill, and, even if they are more numerous, proper cooking and handling will keep you and your family and guests safe.

There is no point my repeating these safety precautions, since I already did so in my post of 11/23/11 - "Have a Safe Thanksgiving Day." While you are looking this up, you may also want to check the next post on 11/24/11 -
Safe Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers."

To your good health,

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I always wonder what happens to contaminated food products that have been recalled and are not allowed to be sold. The law in the U.S. requires that such food be destroyed. But yes, there have been all kinds of other stories. Reports exist of some being recycled into dog and cat or other pet food. Some also find their way back into the human food supply system, occasionally in error and sometimes on purpose. I remember blogging one instance where recalled contaminated peanuts were repackaged and relabelled - under a particularly healthy-sounding name - and out they went to the stores again. But I do not recall any like the current tahini one.

What happened is that Tony’s Imports and Exports of Clovis CA, was told by the FDA to recall and not sell any more of its imported (from Lebanon) AL-RABIH Tahineh (Sesame Paste). Tests had turned up Salmonella bacteria. The product came in big 40lb white plastic pails (probably most of it going to food processors and food distributors).

This was back in June, 2012. The importing company was supposed to hold the product until the FDA turned up to supervise destruction. When the FDA finally got around to doing so - yes, only recently - the 141 pails could not be found. The company claimed they had been stolen. Frankly, I have a hard time believing this. Yes, sesame paste is expensive (I buy it myself in much smaller containers to make tahini). But can you see a thief lugging out 141 heavy pails of the stuff? I suspect an "inside job" - stolen or not.

But the FDA seems to have swallowed the story. Perhaps we should get Inspector Poirot on the case to help the Clovis Police Department.

I was feeling lazy, so I bought some ready-made (Trader Joe's) tahini a few days ago instead of making my own. Now I am wondering whether I should throw it out. Did the food processor that manufactured this for Trader Joe's use this contaminated "stolen" product? Oh..oh. So many decisions...

To your good health,


Saturday, November 10, 2012


I haven't done much blogging this week because I have been overwhelmed with work. But I did notice, among other recalls ( of foods such as beef tongues and NESQUIX chocolate mix ), another one for bagged spinach.

So a lot of people reading this blog have been pulling up my old posts, especially the one for April 7, 2011 entitled "Another Recall of Bagged Spinach Because of Salmonella." And, the title - as well as the discussion, work just as well for this week's one. Fresh Express again, bagged fresh produce again, Salmonella bacteria again...And, the recall alert came out on November 7 - the day the product's "Best By" date expired - in other words, after most people had eaten it. Nothing new.

If you are wondering whether washing it would help make you safer - read my last year's post.

Nestle's recall of NESQUIX Chocolate Powder (November 9) because of a possible Salmonella-contaminated ingredient (calcium carbonate) being used in making it, is more interesting and unusual. Yes, this bacteria can survive for months in dry conditions. Remember, Salmonella occasionally turns up in spices as well.

To your good health,

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Spinach Mix and Carrot Chips Recalled

What sounds healthy isn't always healthy. Let's face it - you are not going to feel so great if you get a dose of nasty bacteria such as the worst kind of E.coli or Salmonella - yes, even if it is from spinach or carrots.

A couple of current recalls in the U.S. highlight the point. Both are bagged, ready-to-eat products which The Safe Food Handbook warns against. One involves Organic Spinach and Spring Mix Blend. Yes, organic. It was sold to Wegman's supermarket chain by State Garden, Inc. of Chelsea, Massachusetts. This product has been linked to 16 reported illnesses from E.coli O157 H:7 in New York State. Unless you keep these products way past their best-by dates, if you bought it, you would have eaten it by now. But remember - it could take as long as 10 days after eating for you to become ill.

Poor New York. In addition to being hit by that Superstorm Sandy, it has been hit by this particularly dangerous E.coli. Special caution for children and the elderly. This could send you to intensive care in the hospital with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). By the way, I wonder who else State Garden sold it to.

And then there is a recall involving Bolthouse Farms carrots - another bagged raw veggie. Bolthouse is recalling some of its Bolthouse Farms® 16-ounce Carrot Chips because routine sampling by a North Carolina health official turned up Salmonella bacteria. The product is labelled as Bolthouse Farms Carrot Chips, Safeway Farms Carrot Chips, or Farm Stand Carrot Chips. No reports of linked illnesses yet.

To your good health,