Tag Archives: E. coli

Lettuce

FDA Announces New Efforts to Enhance the Safety of Leafy Greens

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Lettuce

In light of the recent E. coli outbreak that has been linked to romaine lettuce, the FDA announced that it will begin targeted sampling of leafy greens grown on farms and ranches during the fall 2022 harvest season in the Salinas Valley region of California. In addition, the agency is releasing results from a 2021 sampling assignment and providing an update on other work happening under the Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan (LGAP).

The LGAP sampling efforts seek to detect and prevent contaminated product from reaching consumers and help leafy greens growers and processors identify practices or conditions that may present microbial risks so they can strengthen the microbiological safety of their operations.

During the fall 2022 harvest season the FDA plans to collect about 240 lettuce samples at farms/ranches in the Salinas Valley that were identified by traceback investigations in recent years as being potentially associated with a foodborne illness outbreak in which lettuce or leafy greens were the likely or suspect food vehicle.

The FDA notes that it also may collect environmental samples such as water, soil and scat, as appropriate, based on observations made at the time of sampling and a farm/ranch’s past inspection history. All samples will be tested for Salmonella spp. and E. coli O157:H7. The sampling will begin in mid-September 2022 and run through October 2022.

In 2021, the FDA conducted a leafy greens sampling assignment and has released a summary report of the results. As part of this assignment, the agency collected lettuce from commercial coolers in the Salinas Valley growing area and tested samples for E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. between May and November 2021. The agency detected Salmonella enterica in one green leaf sample and STEC in two other samples. The potentially contaminated products were destroyed and follow-up inspections were conducted.

As a result of continued outbreaks and ongoing concerns about leafy green contamination, multi-disciplinary food safety experts from across the FDA also will be visiting with leafy greens producers in California over the next two months to learn more about leafy greens operations. The FDA shared that recent outbreaks have raised concerns about the sanitary design of harvest equipment and how field production and processing practices may be contributing to contamination events, which spurred the creation of this working group.

Romaine Lettuce

Wendy’s Pulls Romaine Lettuce Over E. Coli Concerns

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Romaine Lettuce

A multi-state outbreak of E. coli led Wendy’s to take the precautionary measure of removing romaine lettuce being used in sandwiches from restaurants in the region of the outbreak.

The CDC reports that as of August 18, 2022, a total of 37 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The illnesses started on dates ranging from July 26, 2022, to August 8, 2022.

A specific food has not yet been confirmed as the source of this outbreak, but among 26 people who have been interviewed, 22 (86%) reported eating sandwiches with romaine lettuce at Wendy’s restaurants in Michigan, Ohio or Pennsylvania in the week before their illness started. Based on this information, Wendy’s removed the romaine lettuce being used in sandwiches from restaurants in those regions.

A spokesperson for Wendy’s released the following statement: “We are fully cooperating with public health authorities on their ongoing investigation of the regional E. coli outbreak reported in certain midwestern states. While the CDC has not yet confirmed a specific food as the source of that outbreak, we have taken the precaution of discarding and replacing the sandwich lettuce at some restaurants in that region. The lettuce that we use in our salads is different, and is not affected by this action. As a company, we are committed to upholding our high standards of food safety and quality.”

The CDC emphasized that it is not advising that people avoid eating at Wendy’s restaurants or that people stop eating romaine lettuce.

The CDC, public health and regulatory officials in several states, the FDA and the USDA-FSIS are collecting and analyzing data at the ingredient level to identify the food source of the outbreak, confirm whether romaine lettuce is the source and determine if there are any other possible foods that could be the source of the outbreak.

 

Kroger Ground Beef

FSIS Issues Public Health Alert About Possible E. Coli O26 Contamination in Ground Beef Products

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Kroger Ground Beef

USDA’s FSIS has issued a public health alert regarding ground beef products that may be adulterated with E. coli O26. Since the products were produced on December 16 and 17, 2021, the products are no longer available for purchase—and thus the agency is not requesting a recall. However, since people frequently freeze ground beef, FSIS is concerned that these products could still in consumers’ freezers. The agency is urging consumers to check their ground beef products and not consumer the products listed in the public health alert.

The products were distributed to warehouses in Oregon and Washington and sold at retail locations, including Kroger. FSIS has provided images of the labels of the affected products.

The issue was uncovered after a consumer submitted one of the affected ground beef products to a third-party laboratory for microbiological analysis. Results confirmed the sample was positive for E. coli O26.

Across the country in New Jersey, Lakeside Refrigerated Services recently recalled more than 120,000 pounds of ground beef products due to concerns of E. coli O103 contamination.

Recall

E. Coli Found in Ground Beef, More than 120,000 Pounds Recalled

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

New Jersey-based Lakeside Refrigerated Services is recalling about 120,872 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103. The issue was uncovered during routine FSIS testing of imported products.

The recall affects ground beef products that were produced between February 1, 2022 and April 8, 2022, and have the establishment number EST. 46841” inside the USDA mark of inspection (FSIS has provided a full list of products and product codes as well as product labels). The products were distributed to retail locations nationwide.

Thus far there are no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions related to products affected by this recall. “Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) such as O103 because it is harder to identify than STEC O157:H7. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism,” FSIS stated in an announcement. The agency has advised that consumers throw out or return the recalled products to the place of purchase.

CDC, FDA, USDA logos

NARMS Publishes 2019 Report on Antimicrobial Resistance Trends in Pathogens

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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CDC, FDA, USDA logos

The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) has published its 2019 Integrated Report Summary, which reviews antimicrobial resistance trends in Salmonella, Campylobacter, generic E. coli, and Enterococcus. The report also discusses genomic information for Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli in retail meat and food producing animals.

NARMS is a partnership between FDA, CDC, USDA’s FSIS, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Agricultural Research Service, and other state and local public health departments and federal agencies. The national surveillance in the report helps all public health partners identify new types and patterns of resistance and changes over time.

“FSIS and the CDC use NARMS information on a case-by-case basis to investigate foodborne illnesses and outbreaks. FDA routinely uses NARMS data in its regulatory review and approval of new animal antimicrobial drugs, and to develop and update policies on the judicious use of antimicrobial in animals. NARMS findings help public health partners continually assess the nature and magnitude of bacterial antibiotic resistance at different points along the farm-to-fork continuum.” – USDA

The report includes a new way to calculate multidrug resistance (MDR), which means a resistance to three or more antimicrobial drug classes. The method is supposed to provide more consistency to the NARMS year-to-year MDR trend analysis and comparisons.

The Integrated Report Summary is available on FDA’s website.

FDA

FDA and USDA Investigate Seasonal Factors Contributing to E. Coli Outbreaks Linked to Romaine Lettuce

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

CFSAN and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are conducting research to better understand the factors, including seasonal effects, that could be contributing to E. Coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to bagged romaine lettuce. FDA and USDA scientists presented findings in the BMC Environmental Microbiome, which revealed that E. Coli O157:H7 survived “significantly better in cold-stored packaged romaine harvested in the fall than on the same varieties harvested in late spring.” In addition, the researchers showed that the microbiome present on bagged lettuce changes based on the season, level of deterioration of the lettuce and whether survival of the pathogen on the lettuce was high or low. They also found that the pathogen survived better in lettuce that was harvested in the fall versus lettuce harvested in the spring during cold storage. “This is a significant step toward closing the knowledge gaps identified in the FDA’s Leafy Greens STEC Action Plan and helping the agency and its partners to reduce foodborne illness linked to the consumption of leafy greens,” CFSAN stated in an agency update.

The study, “Seasonality, shelf life and storage atmosphere are main drivers of the microbiome and E. coli O157:H7 colonization of post-harvest lettuce cultivated in a major production area in California”, has been published on the Environmental Microbiome’s website.

FDA

Highlights of FDA’s 2021 Achievements in Food

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

At the end of his reflection on FDA’s 2021 accomplishments in the food realm, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response Frank Yiannas stated that he believes collaboration will enable industry to “bend the curve of foodborne illnesses in this decade”. It would be a significant milestone, and in his latest FDA Voices blog, Yiannas reviewed a host of FDA achievements that bring his statement much closer to a reality:

FDA Acting Commissioner Janet Woodcock gives of full report on the agency’s work in the “FDA 2021 Year in Review: Working For You”.

Compare this year’s review with that of 2020, where Yiannas reflected on the agency’s Food Program achievements during the first year of the pandemic and the 10-year anniversary of FSMA.

ASI Food Safety
FST Soapbox

The Costs Of Food Safety: Correction vs. Prevention

By Matt Regusci
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ASI Food Safety

Every company that grows, produces, packs, processes, distributes and serves food has a food safety culture. In the food industry, when looking at food safety culture there are essentially two groups: The correction and the prevention groups. Basically, the prevention group is constantly improving their food safety practices to minimize foodborne illness while the correction group waits until there is an outbreak to make changes.

The correction group isn’t proactive and has a number of excuses that keep them from implementing a food safety program. Oftentimes owners or managers think, “The chances of my company being involved in a food safety outbreak are so rare, I just won’t worry about it.” Or they think, “The cost of having a food safety program is so prohibitive that I’d rather handle the consequences of an outbreak if it were to arise.” Also, sometimes there’s a lack of knowledge and some producers don’t even know about food safety programs and don’t have or want to take the time to learn about them.

If your food company is in the corrective group, you are not alone. Three years ago a private study was done to see how many food facilities could pass a basic Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) and/or Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) audit. It was discovered that less than 20% of these companies would be able to pass the most basic food safety audit. This number is staggering and unfortunately the correction group is much larger than anyone thinks—it equals a majority of the facilities at around 80% of the food industry. This statistic is frightening and needs to be addressed to help reduce outbreaks.

What does the preventative group look like? Well it is more of an investment up front, but in the end helps reduce risk and costs. Companies that take on this responsibility go through an audit and implement procedures that prevent outbreaks. That is level one. The next level of protection involves applying and gaining a certification. All of these procedures help to give your organization a barrier against costs such as crisis management with a PR firm, a recall that leads to lost product and sales, and a thorough clean-up process.

Food safety prevention is an ongoing journey of understanding your many risks and implementing procedures and processes to minimize these risks. Prevention is not a one person job, but rather the whole company needs to join the common cause of protecting the brand and more importantly customers lives.

The cost though is always a huge consideration and can become a deterrent to implementation. Oftentimes owners or managers of facilities will say, “The cost of food safety prevention is so prohibitive that we can’t implement a program.” Yes, there is a cost to building, implementing, and maintaining a preventative food safety program. However, this cost pales in comparison to a corrective program.

Overall Cost of Correction: FDA – Lives – Individual Companies (Restaurants and Farms)

Just recently CDC posted that the economic impact of pathogenic food safety outbreaks is $17.6 billion which is $2 billion higher than 2013. The CDC calculates this based on medical expenses, productive decreases in wages, and ultimately loss of American lives. This large number and massive increase in economic cost has made headlines recently as a huge problem, but few in the media understand this number is small compared to the true cost of foodborne illness.

So what is the true cost annually of the collective in the corrective group to the food industry and America as a whole? To come up with that number we need to look at all the costs of an outbreak: Legal costs, fines, bankruptcies, decrease of overall commodity market share, decrease in public trust, and jail time. And let’s not forget, the real cost is that lives were lost due to lack of prevention.

To understand the cost, let’s look at a few examples, starting with Chipotle. Last year the company agreed to pay the largest fine in history of $25 million for its part in multiple outbreaks from 2015–1018 sickening more than 1,000 people. This fine is tiny in comparison to the stock market loss. In 2015 the stock went from $740 a share to a low of $250, and in fact Chipotle’s stock did not get back to $740 until July of 2019. That is billions of market opportunities lost.

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health did a study and concluded that foodborne illness costs the American food service industry $55.5 billion annually. On average each food safety outbreak costs the establishment between $6,330 to $2.1 million, depending on size of the operation and how widespread the outbreak is. Chipotle has a lot of resources to manage and recover from a crisis; many small and/or over-extended companies go bankrupt and are forced to close down.

There are plenty of examples on the supply chain side. The first example is the Salmonella outbreak of Peanut Corporation of America. The largest part of this tragedy is that 714 people got sick, about half of whom were kids, and nine people lost their lives. Due to this, three executives went to jail, not for a few months for decades. The economic cost is astounding; Peanut Corp of America had an annual revenue of around $25 million, but the cost of the outbreak was over $1 billion. This may seem like a very large number, but don’t forget peanuts are an ingredient in many other products. Kellogg’s estimates they lost $65–70 million in products they needed to recall from this one outbreak, and Kellogg’s is just one of many Peanut Corp of America customers.

Another example is the Jensen Farms Listeria outbreak that sickened 147 people and of those 33 died. The brothers, of this multiple generation farm, Eric and Ryan Jenson, went bankrupt and were sentenced to five years probation and six months of home detention; each had to pay a $150,000 fine. Again, this small family’s operations outbreak had massive ramifications for the cantaloupe industry, which suffered significant damage as a result. Walmart reached a settlement for an undisclosed amount in 23 lawsuits involving the Listeria outbreak linked to the cantaloupes

Overall Cost of Prevention: Internal Programs, Supplier Programs, Testing and Audits

The FDA has conducted a few studies on the industry cost of the many leafy greens outbreaks. One study showed the spinach industry alone lost more than $200 million just in retail sales and many more millions in opportunity sales from the 2006 E. coli outbreak. And a recent leafy green outbreak in 2018 cost the industry an estimated $350 million. With staggering numbers like these, the LGMA was created in 2007 to help raise the bar for food safety prevention in this high-risk product. The LGMA study found that their members, which are large leafy green marketers, including Dole, Taylor Farms and Ready Pack, increased their spending three times for true prevention measures.

What does it look like to go from the corrective group to the preventative group? First you have to make the decision of implementation and get buy-in from your entire team. If you are starting from zero, asking your clients and competitors what standards they are utilizing and being audited to, or should be audited to, is a good starting point. This will help in developing a plan of action.

Once you have the checklist, audit human resources. Do you have a Food Safety and/or QA person or team? Are they capable of guiding the executives on this journey? If not, hire a consultant to help you get started.

Once they are on the journey of prevention, people see their entire operation in a different way. They see risks where they never previously saw them—risks with people, equipment, products, building, and the surrounding area. This can get super overwhelming, but if they don’t panic they will be excited about the future. The paradigm will change and they can build, implement and maintain practices to minimize risks one by one, starting with the biggest risks.

In accounting for the physical costs of prevention, the largest will come from the human resources component. Hiring people to build, implement and manage your food safety program will be your largest expense. Another human resources cost is the continued training for the entire staff on food safety expectations. After that cost drops significantly, annual audits and microbiological testing come into play, and the cost will vary on the size of your operation and the risk of your products. For instance the LGMA study showed on average the cost of their members went from $200,000 to about $600,000 annually for prevention, but these are very large multiregional organizations with a very high risk product.

The most important things in life come with hard work and at a price. Every person who has climbed Mount Everest did so one step at a time. Food safety prevention is no different. Is there a cost in money, time, and stress? Yes. Is that cost less than sitting on the beach with your head in the sand of the correction camp? No doubt. But the choice of leaving the majority that are wrong to the minority that are right is yours. Hopefully, you make the right decision.

Kroger Ground Beef, recall

14 Tons of Ground Beef Recalled Due to Possible E. Coli Contamination

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Kroger Ground Beef, recall

Following third-party lab testing that revealed a positive E. coli O157:H7 sample, Oregon-based Interstate Meat Dist, Inc. is recalling 28,356 pounds of ground beef products. The products were shipped to retail locations in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, according to a USDA FSIS announcement, and have bear establishment number “EST. 965” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

“The issue was reported to FSIS after a retail package of ground beef was purchased and submitted to a third-party laboratory for microbiological analysis and the sample tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. FSIS conducted an assessment of the third-party laboratory’s accreditation and methodologies and determined the results were actionable.” – FSIS, USDA

The USDA posted images of labels and product details related to the Class I recall, which have been distributed to Wal-Mart, WinCo, Kroger and Albertsons.

FDA

FDA Releases Results of Sampling Assignment of Romaine Lettuce from Yuma, Arizona

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

As part of its efforts to prioritize the safety of leafy greens, the FDA released the results of a sampling assignment involving testing romaine lettuce from commercial coolers in Yuma County, Arizona. Earlier this year the agency announced that it would be collecting samples of romaine lettuce as part of ongoing surveillance following the spring 2018 multistate outbreak of E.coli O157:H7.

The lettuce was tested for Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), specifically enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), and Salmonella spp. The FDA collected 504 romaine samples, and an independent lab conducted the testing.

E.coli O130:H11 was found in one sample, and as a result, the FDA conducted an investigation at the farm to find potential sources and routes of contamination—samples of soil, water, sediment and animal fecal material were taken, and the agency also looked at farm equipment and other surfaces. Out of 24 samples, just one came back positive for STEC, and this sample was taken from the outer leaves of the lettuce. It was determined that the strain was low risk to human health, and FDA did not find that this strain was linked to any past known foodborne illness outbreaks.

“The agency’s goal in conducting this assignment was to determine whether the target pathogens and specific strains may be present in romaine lettuce from the Yuma agricultural region, to help prevent foodborne illness when possible,” FDA stated in a constituent update. “If product that tested positive for EHEC or Salmonella was found, the Agency planned to work with industry and state regulatory partners to identify the cause (e.g., farm follow-up investigation) to inform future regulatory and/or research efforts and to develop strategies that could help preventive additional outbreaks.”