Tag Archives: outbreak

Roslyn Stone

The Changing Landscape of a Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response

By Roslyn Stone, MPH
No Comments
Roslyn Stone

Recent high-profile foodborne illness outbreaks appear to have an enduring impact for the entire industry – from when and how health departments respond to alleged illness to how a single tweet wreaks havoc. The bar for when a comprehensive response is required is lower and the extent and nature of the required response has changed.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

Health departments are receiving more complaints from consumers. Although much of this is believed to be related to the high-profile outbreaks, some are a result of health department websites making it easier to report illness. A few years ago, guest illness reporting required calling the health department during business hours, working your way through complex voicemail options until you reached a recorded line to leave a message about your illness. Today, most health departments in large cities and many in smaller counties, have simple on line reporting systems available 24/7. So when someone isn’t feeling well at midnight, and is sure it’s from the last thing they ate, they go online and report the illness.

Health departments are now more often following up on single reports of illness and reports of illness that are inconsistent with most foodborne illness incubation periods. This is creating a large burden for already short-staffed departments, but in response to what the public now expects. In the past, they might have replied to the ill guest and explained that they’d received no other reports, that most foodborne illness has a longer incubation period and refer the illness to personal physicians if a follow up is clinically appropriate. But today, we’re finding many health departments dispatching inspectors for even a single complaint that doesn’t appear consistent with incubation periods for that meal.

There’s increasing pressure on health departments to go public with illness events – even if the illness is no longer ongoing or creating a public health risk. The foodborne illness legal community has made it clear that they believe the public has the right to know about any and every foodborne illness. And some health departments are responding to that pressure – without their being an on-going public health risk; which would have been the trigger in the past.

Guest complaints about illness are occurring more frequently. Every single one of our clients is reporting an on-going uptick in guest reports of illness. We’re not clear if it’s that consumers are more aware of illness, more concerned or more likely to associate it with a restaurant or food service provider. But the entire industry is seeing an increase in guest reports of illness. And every guest assumes it was the last meal they ate.

How you handle any guest complaint about illness is even more critical than it was a few months ago. Here’s why: if you don’t’ respond to the guest quickly and listen with authentic empathy, that guest is far more likely than ever before to tweet about you, write a bad review, post on social media or contact the media. You need to act quickly and it doesn’t matter if it’s a weekend or holiday. Waiting until Monday morning is not an option.

Noro season is year-round now… it’s no longer the winter vomiting disease like it is called in some places. Noro virus outbreaks continued in California (and elsewhere) until after the school year ended. We need to be alert to Noro all of the time.

Fourth of July
Fourth of July was an unusually quiet day in the restaurant, quieter than anticipated (meaning more prep done than needed). The next day, two employees called out sick. A day later, two guests (small parties) called the restaurant reporting illness and later that day, two more larger parties emailed their reports of illness through the corporate website. It took another 24 hours to match these multiple illness reports through three different channels. It didn’t trigger a full-blown response and implementation of the noro sanitizing protocol.
THE FINAL TALLY: 40+ guests reporting sickness and nearly half of the staff.
THE LESSON: Coordination of reporting mechanisms so that you see a potential problem and respond at the earliest point when you can have the greatest impact in minimizing risk.

Employees continue to work sick. There are so many reasons that employees work sick and it has little or nothing to do with paid sick time. They work sick because they’re not very sick, they don’t understand that any gastrointestinal upset may be a sign of foodborne illness, they don’t want to disappoint their manager or they don’t want to let their team down. They’re working sick for altruistic reasons without understanding the potential ramifications. We have a long way to go in educating managers and employees about what “sick” looks like, what can happen from working sick and why we need to work together long term to change this set of behaviors.

Employee Exclusion Policies need to be revisited. Someone is shedding the Noro virus for twenty-four hours prior to become symptomatic and then at very high levels for three days after symptoms end. Sick employees need to be excluded for much longer than they currently are in most restaurants and food service establishments to control Noro outbreaks.

Employee Illness on Days Off are as critical to crisis prevention and response as illness on work days. You need to know if an employee was sick on a scheduled work day or on a day off. As we discussed previously, they were shedding the Noro virus before they got sick and for days after. Your illness response plan needs to include a very robust tool for employee illness reporting – one that is as easy to use seven days a week and raises an alert to management when there are two or more sick employees.

It’s time to redraft and recommunicate the definition of a potential crisis in your organization. In the past, we previously used the following definitions of what defined a potential crisis for a restaurant or foodservice group:

  • Two or more employee illness reports (for same time period and symptoms)
  • Two or more guest complaints (from different parties for same time period)
  • One confirmed employee illness (with a communicable disease)

Your new definition must be broader and reflect the lower trigger points for action. It may include one guest complaint from a large party, illness in a neighboring school, social media buzz about illness from your location and / or a health inspection in response to a guest complaint of alleged illness.

The takeaway: the lessons learned continue to evolve and new ones emerge with each new outbreak. Making sure we identify and share these lessons across the industry and your organization is critical for being prepared to first identify and then quickly respond to the next threat that comes your way.

Papaya recall, Salmonella

One Death, Grande Produce Issues Voluntary Recall of Caribeña Papayas

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
Papaya recall, Salmonella
Papaya recall, Salmonella
Grande Produce has recalled papayas with the brand name Caribeña labeled on cartons.

One person has died (New York City), 12 people have been hospitalized and a total of 47 people have been infected with a strain of Salmonella Kiambu, according to the CDC. Epidemiological and lab evidence points to yellow Maradol papayas as the “likely” culprit of this multistate outbreak.

Thus far, one brand has been linked to the outbreak, Grande Produce, which has recalled its Caribeña brand Maradol papayas distributed between July 10 and July 19, 2017. The CDC will announce other brands once more information is available. During its investigation, an illness cluster was identified in Maryland.

Grande Produce, a distribution center located in Maryland, has stopped importing papayas from its grower and “is taking all precautionary measures to ensure the safety of its imported produce”, according to a company announcement on FDA’s website. According to Grande Produce, environmental microbial testing of its facilities has, to date, tested negative for Salmonella. “Specific sources of what health officials now believe may be two separate Salmonella outbreaks have not yet been determined,” the announcement states.

I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter, recall

Latest Count: 16 Ill, 8 Hospitalized in E. Coli Outbreak Linked to SoyNut Butter

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter, recall

According to the latest numbers from the CDC, 16 people have been infected with E. coli O157:H7 after reportedly consuming I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter. 14 of the 16 people infected in the multi-state outbreak are younger than 18 years old; 8 people have been hospitalized, five of which developed hemolytic uremic syndrome; and no deaths have been reported.

Yesterday The SoyNut Butter Co. expanded its recall to all varieties I.M Healthy Soynut Butters and Healthy Granola products.

“Epidemiologic evidence indicates that I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter is a likely source of this outbreak. I.M. Healthy brand SoyNut Butter may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and could make people sick.” – CDC

Illnesses began on January 4, 2017 and continued to February 21, 2017. The CDC notes that it can take two to three weeks for a person to become ill, thus any illnesses that occurred after February 13 may not be reported yet. The center is advising consumers to throw out all of the recalled products and that childcare centers, schools and institutions refrain from serving these products.

Hank Lambert, Pure Bioscience

Tech Spotlight: How Chipotle Fights Norovirus

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
Hank Lambert, Pure Bioscience

Watch another video: Antimicrobial Technology Mitigates Pathogen Risk Throughout the Supply ChainChipotle was plagued with several foodborne illness outbreaks in 2015. Norovirus was one of them. As part of the company’s commitment to addressing its food safety issues, it enlisted the help of technology from Pure Bioscience. In the following video, Hank Lambert, CEO of Pure Bioscience, explains how and where Chipotle is using the Pure Hard Surface technology in its establishments to mitigate the risk of norovirus.

STOP Foodborne Illness

STOP Shines Spotlight on Commitment to Fight for Safe Food

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
STOP Foodborne Illness

Last night STOP Foodborne Illness recognized food safety heroes for their dedication to food safety. The fundraiser was held during the 2016 Food Safety Consortium.

Jeff Almer, STOP Foodborne Illness
Jeff Almer received the Food Safety Hero award for his work in bringing attention to the Salmonella outbreak involving Peanut Corporation of America. The illness took the life of Almer’s mother. Almer received the award from Gina Kramer, executive director of Savour Food Safety International.
LGMA, STOP Foodborne Illness
Dan Sutton (left) and Scott Horsfall (right) accepted the Food Safety Training Award on behalf of California Leafy Green Marketing Association from Deirdre Schlunegger (middle), CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness.
Tauxe, STOP Foodborne Illness
Robert Tauxe, M.D., MPH, deputy director of the CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases received the Advancing Science for Food Safety Award.
Recall

E. Coli Outbreak Investigation of Flour Ends, More Illnesses to Come

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
Recall

Last week the CDC announced the end of its investigation involving Shiga toxin-producing E. coli  (STEC) in General Mills flour and flour products. However, many consumers may still have these products in their homes, and thus the agency is warning that it expects to see more illnesses. As of September 26, 2016, the CDC recorded 63 infections with strains of STEC O121 or STEC O26 in 24 states, 17 of which resulted in hospitalizations, and no deaths. The agency continues to urge consumers to refrain from eating (this includes a simple “taste”) raw dough or batter. It is also advising against giving playdough made with raw flour to children.

CDC worked with FDA and used PulseNet to identify illnesses that were part of the outbreak. This investigation led General Mills to initiate several recalls of its branded flours (May 31, 2016, July 1, 2016 and July 25, 2016), affecting more than 10 million pounds of product.

“In an epidemiologic investigation, investigators compared the responses of ill people in this outbreak to those of people of similar age and gender reported to state health departments with other gastrointestinal illnesses. Results from this investigation indicated an association between getting sick with STEC and someone in the household using Gold Medal brand flour.

Federal, state, and local regulatory officials performed traceback investigations using package information collected from ill people’s homes and records collected from restaurants where ill people were exposed to raw dough. These initial investigations indicated that the flour used by ill people or used in the restaurants was produced during the same week in November 2015 at the General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri, where Gold Medal brand flour is produced,” according to the CDC’s outbreak summary.

Massive Flour Recall Expanded, Again

More E. Coli Illnesses, General Mills Expands Flour Recall

 

Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness
Food Safety Culture Club

Motivating the Culture Shift

By Deirdre Schlunegger
No Comments
Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness

At the 2016 Food Safety Consortium, STOP Foodborne Illness will have a fundraiser to honor heroes in food safety. |December  6, 2016, 7–9 pm | LEARN MOREIn 2012 STOP Foodborne Illness established a relationship, which evolved into a partnership, with the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement (LGMA) organization. On my first visit to LGMA, I met key staff members and observed a mock audit. We had good initial conversations. Scott Horsfall, CEO of LGMA, and I continued to talk and a second visit ensued, this time with individuals who had been ill with E-Coli from Leafy Greens. Everyone was a bit nervous, but it was a productive and even healing experience. We visited farms and processing plants, heard from farmers and shared a lovely meal outdoors with the farmers. On the last day, we sat in a room with tables configured in a large square and each person took turns introducing themselves, talking about why they were at the table, what roles they had in the leafy green business, and the visitors shared personal heart wrenching stories of illness and death from foodborne illness.  There was not a dry eye in the room during and after this encounter. Every farmer vowed to do everything possible to prevent pathogens from making their way into the market place. This was a profound experience for everyone involved.

The following year, Scott proposed that STOP Foodborne Illness and LGMA jointly create a video for training purposes. That project came to life in the summer of 2014. It is a video and a project that LGMA and STOP Foodborne Illness professionals are deeply proud of and love to share with others (the video comes in several versions and is available in Spanish). Scott and I continue to speak about the partnership and look for additional ways to collaborate.

Food safety is about collaboration and finding solutions and preventing illness and death from foodborne pathogens. This week I spoke with a mother whose daughter died a year ago from foodborne illness (not from produce). I told her that I so badly wish that we could have prevented her beautiful daughter’s death and vowed to continue this important work. We are not there yet: Each of us must be completely committed to getting to a place where we don’t hear these stories.  And we will get there by keeping the “why” at the forefront and continuing to develop critical strategies that reduce and work to eliminate the problem. Thank you to all who are dedicated to creating and sustaining a safe food supply and a special thanks to LGMA. You can see the LGMA video, “Video: The Why Behind Food Safety”, on our homepage.

Recall

More E. Coli Illnesses, General Mills Expands Flour Recall

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
Recall

Consumers should check their pantry. As a result of newly reported illnesses connected to raw dough or batter consumption, General Mills has expanded its recall of Gold Medal flour, Wondra flour and Signature Kitchens flour to include products made last fall. The FDA and CDC have warned consumers against eating any raw products made with flour.

According to the CDC, the multi-state outbreak of Shiga toxin-producing E. Coli O121 has sickened at least 42 consumers (with 11 hospitalizations) across 21 states. No deaths have been reported. The bacteria was isolated from samples of General Mills flour that was collected from the homes of those sickened in Arizona, Colorado and Oklahoma.

General Mills has already conducted a voluntary recall of 10 million pounds of flour (unbleached, all purpose and self rising). A full list of the products included in the recall are available on FDA’s website.

Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness
Food Safety Culture Club

Spreading the Message

By Deirdre Schlunegger
No Comments
Deirdre Schlunegger, CEO of STOP Foodborne Illness

STOP Foodborne Illness receives many requests to speak at conferences, trainings and meetings.  I recently spoke at the Harris County Food Safety Summit  in Houston, along with David, one of our Texas volunteers. David became ill from Salmonella after eating at a hospital. The event’s audience consisted of health inspectors, and restaurant owners and managers. It was a great crowd.

At this year’s Food Safety Consortium, STOP Foodborne Illness is holding a fundraiser and honoring heroes in food safety. LEARN MOREAt the United Fresh meeting, I participated on a panel with Rylee, a STOP Nevada volunteer, who spoke about her experiences as a victim of a foodborne illness.  Also include on the panel were folks from The California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement to talk about our collaborative training video project. STOP Board Member Jorge Hernandez, also the Chief Food Safety Officer for Wholesome International, moderated the discussion. The video was played (available on STOP’s website). I was asked what I thought about competitive marketing advantage as it relates to food safety. To be honest, I don’t really think about that: STOP Foodborne Illness has an obligation to do what we can to prevent illness and death that stems from foodborne illness. We know that sharing personal stories makes a difference in training.

Now that I’m back in the office, our team has three requests, one for speaking and two requests from media to talk about food safety. We hear a lot about food safety culture these days, but actually taking the steps to facilitate, implement and monitor that change can be more of a challenge. We are reading about so many new technologies and practices related to food safety, which is great, but they must be accompanied by a company’s knowledge and commitment in order to be successful.

We will continue to contribute to the conversation. We are most interested in prevention and in solutions and like you, want to make a difference. We want to have fewer and fewer conversations with devastated family members about their experience with foodborne illness.  Thanks again for all you do to create a strong food safety culture. How is your organization instilling a strong culture? Let us know how we can help.

Gina Kramer, Savour Food Safety International

Industry’s Responsibility to Protect Consumers from Listeria

By Maria Fontanazza
1 Comment
Gina Kramer, Savour Food Safety International

The ubiquitous nature of Listeria has made it a difficult pathogen to detect, control, and find its root cause. Led by Gina Kramer, executive director of Savour Food Safety International, attendees of last week’s Listeria Detection & Control Workshop learned everything from the cost of Listeria ($1.4 million per case and $2.3–$22 billion in the United States annually) to the challenges of breaking down biofilms to the steps a company should be taking to do sanitation right and get rid of resident Listeria in their facility. Here’s a snapshot of what experts said as they addressed industry’s obligation to ensure that their facilities are constantly monitored for contamination to ensure that safe product comes out of their plants.

People equate local and organic with safer, safer, safer. That’s not true, because pathogens are agnostic. ­– Gina Kramer, executive director, Savour Food Safety International Gina Kramer, Savour Food Safety International
John Besser, CDC Whole genome-based outbreak detection allows us to detect more quickly, with greater precision in identifying source — John Besser, Ph.D., Deputy Chief, Enteric Diseases Laboratory Branch, CDC
 What’s happening in your plants? What are you taking into your processing plant? What time of year is it coming in? What is your environment—is it more urban or rural? The presence of Listeria isn’t any greater in an urban or rural environment. You might find it in different places, but there isn’t a difference in incidence.  – Janet Buffer, corporate food safety manager, The Kroger Co.  Janet Buffer, Kroeger Company
Dominique Blackman, Realzyme  Biofilm erupts like a volcano. But once it has erupted, your volcano goes dormant. And for how long? Nobody knows. That’s the problem. The biofilm can release two days later, a week, or a month later.  – Dominique Blackman, general manager, Realzyme
 Listeria testing is the ugly duckling in preventive controls. Companies need to ask themselves whether the method they use is able to detect potential positives in the environment. – Ted Andrews, senior director, product marketing, Roka Bioscience  Ted Andrews, Roka Bioscience
 Jeff Mitchell, Chemstar Sanitation is not one size fits all. You need to have specific controls in place that look at controlling Listeria not just for equipment but periodic infrastructure and equipment and routines. Validate that they work. Train employees so they properly execute.  – Jeff Mitchell, vice president of food safety, Chemstar
 You’ve identified Listeria in your facility.  Now what? Review touch points: This includes the air, surfaces, transportation and packaging areas. – Troy Smith, CEO, Radiant Industrial Solutions, LLC  Troy Smith, Radiant
 11_FSTListeria_DougMarshall If you get everything mostly right, what are the odds that you’ll find a pathogen in end product testing? Getting the proper data point is a big deal. – Douglas Marshall, Ph.D., chief scientific officer, Eurofins