Tag Archives: outbreak

FDA

FDA Releases Report on Salmonella Outbreak in Packaged Leafy Greens

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

FDA has released a report on the multiagency investigation of a Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak associated with packaged salad greens grown in a controlled environment agriculture (CEA) operation. The outbreak, which occurred between June and August 2021, resulted in 31 reported illnesses and four hospitalizations. It is also believed to be the first of its kind associated with leafy greens grown in a CEA facility.

No “conclusive” root cause was found, but the FDA did pinpoint the outbreak strain of Salmonella to a stormwater retention basin located next to the CEA farm. The investigation did not, however, find that this was the definitive source of contamination of the leafy greens. The agency also identified certain conditions, factors and practices that could lead to contamination, including the pond water used, growth media storage methods, water management practices and overall sanitation practices.

In the report, the FDA listed eight requirements and recommendations that apply to hydroponic facilities using CEA, including implementing effective sanitation procedures and sampling plans, conducting pre- and post-harvest sampling and testing of food, water and the physical environment, implementing procedures that are effective in rapidly cooling and cold-holding harvested leafy greens after harvest, and ensuring all growing pond water is safe and of sanitary quality.

The eight-page Investigation Report: Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Packaged Leafy Greens Implicated in the Outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium During the Summer of 2021 is available on FDA’s website.

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.

Recall

FDA Continues Investigation of Listeria Outbreak in Packaged Salad

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

— UPDATE — January 12, 2022

Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc. has now issued a voluntary recall of Dole-branded and private label packaged salads processed at its Springfield, OH (product ID lot code “W” and “Best if Used By” date December 22, 2021–January 9, 2022) and Soledad, CA production facilities containing iceberg lettuce.

–END UPDATE —

The FDA and CDC are investigating a multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes illnesses linked to Fresh Express Packaged Salad and Dole Packaged Salad.

Last month Dole Fresh Vegetables issued a voluntary recall for salads processed at its facilities in Bessemer City, NC and Yuma, AZ due to the health risk. The company also temporarily suspended operations at both facilities. The brand names in which the salads were sold under include Dole, Kroger, Lidl, Little Salad Bar, Marketside, Naturally Better, Nature’s Promise and Simply Nature. The products have “Best if Used By” dates between November 30, 2021 and January 8, 2022.

The agencies’ investigation of Fresh Express Packaged Salad resulted in the company stopping production at its Streamwood, IL facility. It also initiated a recall of certain varieties of its branded and private-label salads that were produced at this facility.

The FDA’s investigation into the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to both Dole and Fresh Express is ongoing. Thus far, no deaths linked to the outbreak have been reported.

Recall

Onions Named as Source of Salmonella Outbreak, Distributors Agree to Recall

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

— UPDATE October 22, 2021 — Keeler Family Farms, based in Deming, New Mexico, also issued a voluntary recall for red, yellow and white onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and shipped from July 1 through August 25. Thus far no onions from Keeler Family Farms have tested positive for Salmonella.

— END UPDATE —

The source of the fast-growing Salmonella outbreak reported late last month has been identified: Fresh whole red, white and yellow onions imported from Chihuahua, Mexico and distributed by Illinois-based ProSource Inc.

Since late last month, the outbreak has grown from 29 to 37 states (However, the products were distributed nationwide), and from 280 to 652 reported illnesses. According to the CDC, the last of the onions were imported into the United States on August 27 (note, the import date ran from July 1 until August 27). However, businesses and consumers keep onions in storage for up to three months.

Illness subclusters have been linked to restaurants and food service locations. FDA is currently working to determine if these onions have also been distributed to customers via grocery stores. The agency is also continuing to traceback investigations to determine whether more products or suppliers have been affected by the contamination.

“ProSource Inc. has agreed to voluntarily recall red, yellow, and white onions imported from the State of Chihuahua, MX, with import dates from July 1, 2021 through August 27, 2021. Descriptions of these onion types include, but are not limited to, jumbo, colossal, medium, and sweet onions. Additional recall information will be made public as soon as it is available from ProSource Inc.,” according to recall information posted on FDA’s website.

Currently no deaths have been reported, but 129 people have been hospitalized. The last illness onset recorded was September 30.

Fast-Growing Salmonella Outbreak Spans 29 States, Origin Still Unknown

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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The CDC has been unable to determine the origin of a “fast-growing” Salmonella Oranienburg outbreak that has sickened nearly 280 people across 29 states. As of the agency’s latest update on September 24, state and local officials have been collecting food items from restaurants where sick people ate, however since several items were in takeout containers that were contaminated with the strain of Salmonella, the CDC has not been able to identify the source of the outbreak. Sampled items include takeout condiments that contain cilantro and lime.

The first illness was reported on August 3. The CDC also notes that recent illnesses may not yet be reported because it can take three to four weeks to determine whether a sick person is part of an outbreak. Thus far no deaths have been reported.

Food Safety Testing Market

Processed Meat and Poultry Applications Drive Food Safety Testing Industry

By Hrishikesh Kadam
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Food Safety Testing Market

The food safety testing industry is constantly experiencing new developments, technological advances and regulatory pressures as the burden of foodborne illness remains a prevalent concern. Growing consumer preference for convenience and processed foods is a pivotal trend augmenting the industry outlook.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that every year nearly $110 billion is lost across middle- and low-income countries due to unsafe food. From the health risk perspective, pathogens, pesticides or toxins cause more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancers. Since most foodborne illnesses are preventable, WHO and other public health organizations worldwide are taking necessary action to establish strong and resilient food safety systems and enhance consumer awareness.

Food products may become contaminated at any stage of production, supply or distribution. Testing food and beverage products for safety is a critical component of the food and beverages sector. In terms of annual valuation, the global food safety testing market size is anticipated to hit $29.5 billion by 2027.

Food Safety Testing Market
Food Safety Testing Market. Figure courtesy of Global Market Insights, Inc.

Pathogen Testing Demand Rises as E. coli, Salmonella Infections Persist

Pathogen testing is of utmost importance to the food & beverage industry, as there remains a large number of virus and bacteria causing pathogens and microbial agents responsible for foodborne illnesses. Numerous instances of pathogen contamination have come to light recently, augmenting the need for food pathogen testing, especially during a time when COVID-19 poses a significant threat.

For instance, in July, the CDC and the FDA announced that they are working with other public health agencies to investigate an outbreak of E. coli O121 infections across 11 states. Meanwhile in the European Union, several countries have started investigating Salmonella illnesses linked to imported tahini and halva. Since 2019, about 80 people are estimated to be affected in Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Pathogen testing demand will likely increase across North America and Europe with further spread of infections. These regions are among the major consumers of processed meat, seafood and poultry products, augmenting the need for reliable food safety testing solutions.

Meat, Poultry and Seafood Consumption Drive Foodborne Infection Risks

Globally more individuals are consuming processed poultry and meat products at home, in restaurants, fast food restaurants, and other locations. The worldwide meat consumption is estimated to reach 460 to 570 million tons by the year 2050, as per data from The World Counts.

It is essential to ensure optimum product quality during meat processing to minimize the perils of foodborne microorganisms. Meat quality testing standards are continuously evolving to ensure that food manufacturers bring the best-quality products to the market. In July this year Tyson Foods recalled more than 8.9 million pounds of ready-to-eat chicken products due to potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The significant recall quantity itself represents the scope of pathogen testing requirements in processed meat sector.

E. coli O157 is considered to increase the risk of toxins that lead to intestinal problems and can cause significant illness among geriatric people, pregnant women and other high-risk populations. Earlier this year, PerkinElmer introduced an E. coli O157 pathogen detection assay to be used for testing raw ground beef and beef trim. The solution is greatly suited for food and beverage sector customers that need to test high volumes of food samples regularly. The development indicates an incessant fight to offer effective food safety testing products to tackle the threat of pathogen-related illnesses.

USDA’s FSIS also recently revised guidelines for controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter infections in raw poultry. The updated guidelines provide poultry establishments with best practices that they may follow to reduce the risk of such infections in raw products.

Food Safety Testing Trends amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Food safety testing demand has experienced a notable uptick since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, as food security and sustainability have been recognized as key areas of focus.

Globally, a rise in online orders of groceries and restaurant meals has been observed. Major food regulators such as the FDA have released food safety protocols and guidelines for food companies, hotels and restaurants. These practices help ensure optimum food quality as well as the safety of employees, staff and consumers.

The FDA has been working with the USDA and FSIS as well as state authorities to investigate foodborne illnesses and outbreaks amid the pandemic. Many regions are also updating food safety policies to help overcome the challenges of the pandemic. While pathogen and toxin testing demand are growing in most regions, the inadequacy of food control infrastructure may limit food safety testing industry expansion in emerging economies.

Drawbacks of existing technologies and the need to reduce sample utilization, lead time and testing cost are driving new innovations in food safety testing. Ongoing developments are focused on providing accurate results in limited timespan.
The food safety testing market landscape will continue to evolve as new regulations are introduced, public awareness rises, and food consumption patterns change. The rapid testing technology segment, which includes PCR, immunoassay and convenience testing, is estimated to hold a major share of the overall industry owing to faster results provided, which benefits the organizations in terms of productivity and processing costs. In addition to previously discussed PerkinElmer, Eurofins Central Analytical Laboratories Inc, Bio-Rad Laboratories, Intertek Group PLC, Bureau Veritas SA, and SGS AG are some of the other notable names in the industry.

Bright Farms Salad Greens, Recall

FDA, CDC Investigate Multistate Outbreak of Salmonella Linked to BrightFarms Salad Greens

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Bright Farms Salad Greens, Recall
Bright Farms Salad Greens, Recall
A sample image of one of the recalled products. A full list is available on FDA’s website.

The FDA, CDC, and state and local agencies are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections that have been linked to BrightFarms packaged salad greens. Last week BrightFarms recalled packaged salad greens produced in its Rochelle, IL greenhouse farm over concern of Salmonella contamination. The products, which have “best by” dates through 7/29/2021, were sold in Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa and Indiana.

Thus far 9 illnesses and one hospitalization have been linked to the Salmonella outbreak.

The FDA is advising that consumers, restaurants, retailers and distributors throw away any of the affected products, and clean and sanitize any surfaces that may have come into contact with the product.

Attend the On-Demand Virtual Event:Food Safety Hazards Series: Salmonella Detection, Mitigation, Control and Regulation

Food safety experts will discuss challenges and tangible best practices in Salmonella detection, mitigation and control, along with critical issues that the food industry faces with regards to the pathogen. This includes the journey and progress of petition to USDA on reforming and modernizing poultry inspections to reduce the incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter; Salmonella detection, mitigation and control; and a case study on the pathogen involving crisis management.

FDA

FDA Publishes Report on Fall 2020 E. Coli Outbreak in Leafy Greens

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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FDA

Today the FDA released a report on its investigation into the E. coli O157:H7 outbreak involving leafy greens during the Fall 2020. The report also identified three reoccurring trends in the contamination of leafy greens grown in the Central Coast of California related to the outbreak strain, region and issues with activities on adjacent land.

In January, FDA released preliminary findings, which linked cattle feces to the outbreak strain—located uphill from where contaminated leafy greens were grown.

“In the investigation, the FDA recommends that growers of leafy greens in the California Central Coast Growing Region consider this reoccurring E. coli strain a reasonably foreseeable hazard, and specifically of concern in the South Monterey County area of the Salinas Valley,” stated Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response, in an agency news release. “It is important to note that farms covered by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule are required to implement science and risk-based preventive measures in the rule, which includes practices that prevent the introduction of known or reasonably foreseeable hazards into or onto produce.”

The 2021 Food Safety Consortium Virtual Conference Series kicks off on May 6 with a keynote address from Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner of food policy and response at FDA The FDA also recommends that the region’s agricultural community work to determine where the reoccurring strain of the pathogenic E. coli is persisting, along with the probable contamination route(s).

“Although the FDA is keenly focused on taking steps to help mitigate recurring leafy green contamination events, we alone cannot fix this issue. Industry leadership and collaboration among growers, processors, retailers, state partners and the broader agricultural community is critical to reducing foodborne illnesses,” Yiannas stated. “At the FDA, the safety of leafy greens remains a top priority, and we are committed to working with all stakeholders to address this significant public health issue and further protect consumers.”

The Report, “Factors Potentially Contributing to the Contamination of Leafy Greens Implicated in the Fall 2020 Outbreak of E. coli O157:H7”, can be downloaded from FDA’s website.

Recall

FDA and CDC Investigating Non-Viral Hepatitis Potentially Linked to ‘Real Water’ Brand Alkaline Water

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Recall

–UPDATE April 19, 2021 — The FDA continues to investigate reports of acute non-viral hepatitis in Nevada associate with consumption of “Real Water” brand alkaline water. “The FDA has become aware that “Real Water” brand alkaline water is still being offered for sale through online retailers. The agency is working to locate any remaining products to ensure they are no longer available to consumers,” FDA stated in an email update. “The FDA will continue to monitor this situation closely and follow up with retailers as we become aware of recalled products being offered for sale.”

–END UPDATE–

The FDA and CDC are investigating reports of acute non-viral hepatitis in consumers that has a common link to “Real Water” brand alkaline water. The agency is in the beginning stages of the investigation and notes that more products could be connected to the outbreak. The acute non-viral hepatitis cases affected infants and children, resulted in acute liver failure and occurred in November 2020, but FDA was alerted to the cases on March 13, 2021.

The manufacturer, Arizona-based Real Water, Inc., stated that the issue occurred in Las Vegas and is recalling the product. FDA pulled information from the company’s website stating that the five-gallon containers are delivered to homes in Honolulu; Orange County, Ventura and Santa Barbara, California; St. George, Utah; and Tucson, Arizona. The agency also states that Real Water is packaged and sold in various sizes including 1 gallon, 1 liter and 1.5 liter plastic bottles.

FDA is urging consumers, restaurants and retailers against drinking, cooking with, selling or serving the “Real Water” alkaline water until more information is revealed about the illnesses.

El Abuelito Cheese

Recall Alert: Listeria Outbreak Linked to Hispanic-Style Fresh and Soft Cheeses

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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El Abuelito Cheese

–UPDATE March 9, 2021 — Today the FDA confirmed that the recalled cheeses were also distributed to Rhode Island. “States with confirmed distribution now include: AL, CT, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, MD, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NY, NE, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, and WI.”

–UPDATE February 24, 2021 — FDA has expanded its warning related to El Abuelito Cheese to include all cheese branded by the company “until more information is known”.

—END UPDATE—

A multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes has been linked to Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses produced by El Abuelito Cheese, Inc. As a result, the company has recalled all Questo Fresco products with sell by dates through March 28 (032821).

Join Food Safety Tech on April 15 for the complimentary Food Safety Hazards Series: Listeria Detection, Mitigation, Control & Regulation“As the FDA stated, about this outbreak investigation, the Connecticut Department of Public Health collected product samples of El Abuelito-brand Hispanic-style fresh and soft cheeses from a store where a sick person bought cheeses. Sample analysis showed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in samples of El Abuelito Queso Fresco sold in 10 oz packages, marked as Lot A027 with an expiration date of 02/26/2021,” the company stated in an announcement posted on FDA’s website. “Samples are currently undergoing Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) analysis to determine if the Listeria monocytogenes found in these samples is a match to the outbreak strain. At this time, there is not enough evidence to determine if this outbreak is linked to El Abuelito Queso Fresco.”.

The recalled products were distributed to Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Thus far seven people, all of whom have been hospitalized, have fallen ill.

FDA recommends that consumers, restaurants and retailers do not consume, sell or serve any of the recalled cheeses. The agency also states that anyone who purchased of received the recalled products use “extra vigilance in cleaning and sanitizing any surfaces and containers that may have come in contact with these products to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.”