Tag Archives: USDA

USDA Logo

FSIS Revises Guidelines for Controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in Raw Poultry

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
USDA Logo

Register to attend Food Safety Hazards: Salmonella Detection, Mitigation, Control & Regulation | Thursday, July 15, 11:45 am ETFSIS has announced revised guidelines to help poultry facilities control Salmonella and Campylobacter in raw poultry. The changes are a result of new scientific and technical information, public comments, and FSIS’s decision to separate the guidelines into one on controlling Salmonella and one on controlling Campylobacter. The guidelines, “Availability of Revised Compliance Guidelines for Controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in Raw Poultry”, also provide best practices for poultry establishments.

“FSIS has updated the guideline contents to reflect the most recent best practices, supported by current peer-reviewed literature and analyses of FSIS data,” the agency stated in a news release. “Updates include information on using neutralizing agents in sampling to prevent carryover of antimicrobial substances and a current list of antimicrobials for establishment use. Also included are improvements in the information on pre-harvest practices, with a comprehensive revision of the litter/bedding section.”

A copy of the docket is available on the Federal Register.

Tyson Foods, Chicken Recall, Listeria

Tyson Foods Recalls More Than 8 Million Pounds of RTE Chicken Due to Potential Listeria Contamination

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
Tyson Foods, Chicken Recall, Listeria
Tyson Foods, Chicken Recall, Listeria
One of the recalled RTE chicken products from Tyson Foods. Labels of recalled products are available on the FSIS website.

Tyson Foods, Inc. is recalling 8,492,832 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) chicken products over concerns that the product may be adulterated with Listeria monocytogenes. The Class I recall affects frozen, fully cooked chicken products that were produced between December 26, 2020 and April 13, 2021, and shipped nationwide to retailers and facilities that include hospitals, nursing homes, restaurants, schools and Department of Defense locations. The recalled products bear establishment number “EST. P-7089” on the product bag or inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Thus far three people have been sickened with Listeriosis, and one death has been reported, according to the CDC investigation.

The FSIS website lists all products affected by the recall—which includes diced chicken, frozen, fully cooked chicken strips, diced chicken, chicken used for fajitas chicken wing sections, and pizza with fully cooked chicken.

The CDC is advising that businesses do not serve or sell recalled products, and that any refrigerators, containers or surfaces that may have touched the recalled products be thoroughly cleaned.

USDA Logo

FSIS Changes Mask, Social Distancing Requirements Effective Immediately

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
USDA Logo

Following CDC’s latest guidance announcing that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or social distancing, FSIS issued new guidance for agency personnel in plants, laboratories and in-commerce.

Effective immediately, personnel fully vaccinate (at least two weeks past the final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine) are not required to wear a face mask, face shield or practice physical distancing in federal establishments, facilities that request voluntary inspection, labs or where in-commerce work is conducted. However, fully vaccinated personnel can continue to wear face masks or shields if they so desire.

Personnel that is not fully vaccinate must continue to wear a face mask or shield and maintain social distancing requirements as mandated by the agency.

Recall

JBS Recalls Nearly 5000 Pounds of Imported Australian Boneless Beef Due to Potential E. Coli Contamination

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
Recall
JBS Boneless Beef product
Label of recalled JBS Australia beef product. (Image from FSIS)

JBS USA Food Company is recalling about 4,860 pounds of imported raw and frozen boneless beef products over concern of contamination with E. coli O157:H7. The products were imported on or around November 10, 2020 and shipped to distributors and processors in New York and Pennsylvania.

The issue was uncovered during routine product sampling collected by FSIS, which confirmed positive for the presence of E. coli O157:H7, according to an FSIS announcement. “FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen and in cold storage at distributor or further processor locations,” the announcement stated. “Distributors and further processors who received these products are urged not to utilize them.”

No illnesses or adverse reactions have been reported.

USDA Logo

USDA Names Sandra Eskin Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
USDA Logo

USDA has announced its new Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, Sandra Eskin, who previously served as the Project Director for Food Safety at The Pew Charitable Trust. Eskin has experience in strategic public policy issues related to consumer protection, food safety, dietary supplement safety, and food and drug labeling and advertising. She has also served as a federal government staff attorney and legislative representative for the Consumer Federation of America as well as the deputy director of the Produce Safety Project.

“Sandra’s deep experience in food safety will strengthen USDA’s dedication to ensuring a safe, secure food supply for consumers and help to protect the safety of federal meat inspectors and workers throughout the food chain,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a USDA press release.

“Eskin will go to the USDA at a particularly challenging time for the agency. The COVID-19 pandemic has widened inequities and worsened nearly every problem with our food supply, and employees at meat processing facilities are some of the hardest hit workers of any industry. Even setting the pandemic aside, the USDA has much more it could be doing to protect Americans from foodborne pathogens, such as the more dangerous strains of Salmonella that contaminate poultry. Eskin, who knows that sound science is key to sound food safety policies, can help steer the ship in the right direction.”  – Peter Lurie, M.D., president of Center for Science in the Public Interest

Mitzi Baum, Stop Foodborne Illness
Food Safety Culture Club

Our Petition to USDA: The Time for Change Is Now

By Mitzi Baum
1 Comment
Mitzi Baum, Stop Foodborne Illness

On January 25, 2021 Stop Foodborne Illness (STOP), in collaboration with Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Reports, Consumer Federation of America and five STOP constituent advocates filed a petition with USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) to reform and modernize poultry inspections. The goal of these reforms is to reduce the incidence of Salmonella and Campylobacter contamination in raw poultry thus drastically decreasing foodborne illnesses due to these pathogens.

According to the CDC, in 2019, these two pathogens combined were responsible for more than 70% of foodborne illnesses in the United States. As Mike Taylor, former FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, shares in his
Op-Ed, the time for change is now as the current regulatory framework is inadequate and has not delivered the desired results of reducing Salmonella and Campylobacter outbreaks.

Today, the USDA’s mark of inspection is stamped on poultry, although birds may exceed the performance standards; there are no clear consequences for establishments that do not meet the current guidelines. Without science-based standards or penalties for non-compliance, the burden of this problem falls upon consumers.

At STOP, we share the voices of consumers whose lives have been altered due to preventable problems such as this. Our constituent advocates share their journeys through severe foodborne illness to share the WHY of food safety. Real people, real lives are impacted when we do not demand action. STOP board member, Amanda Craten, shares her son Noah’s story:

“My toddler suddenly came down with a fever and diarrhea, but it wasn’t until weeks later that I learned that his symptoms, which nearly killed him, were caused by a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella.

After being admitted to the hospital, his doctors found abscesses in the front of his brain caused by infection and they were creating pressure on his brain. He underwent surgery and weeks of antibiotic treatments.

My 18-month son was seriously injured and permanently disabled as a result of Salmonella-contaminated chicken.” – Amanda Craten.

Unfortunately, Noah’s story is not rare, which is why Amanda supports this petition for change and has provided a powerful video about Noah’s foodborne disease journey and his life now.

Because there are too many stories like Noah’s, STOP and its partner consumer advocacy organizations want to work with FSIS and industry to:

  1. Develop real benchmarks that focus on reduction of known, harmful pathogens in poultry
  2. Modernize standards to reflect current science
  3. Implement on-farm control measures
  4. Re-envision the standards to focus on the risk to public health

As a new administration begins, capitalizing on this opportunity to modernize poultry inspection that can benefit consumers and the food industry makes sense. STOP and its partners are hopeful that leadership at USDA/FSIS will take this opportunity to create consequential and relevant change. Ultimately, this transformation will reduce the incidence of foodborne illness due to contamination of poultry and increase consumer confidence in the USDA’s mark of inspection. Please comment on this petition.

Have you been impacted by foodborne illness? Tell STOP Foodborne Illness about it.

Nestle Pepperoni Hot Pockets

Nestlé Recalls More than 762,000 Pounds of Pepperoni Hot Pockets Due to Contamination with Glass and Hard Plastic

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
Nestle Pepperoni Hot Pockets
Nestle Pepperoni Hot Pockets
An image of the recalled Pepperoni Hot Pockets, as provided on the USDA website.

Nestlé Prepared Foods has recalled about 762,615 pounds of not-ready-to-eat pepperoni hot pockets over concerns of foreign matter contamination. The products, which were produced between November 13 and November 16, 2020 and have a shelf life of 14 months, could be contaminated with glass and hard plastic. Thus far the company has received four consumer complaints of extraneous material in the pepperoni hot pockets, one of which has been associated with a minor oral injury.

The recall involves the following product: 54-oz carton packages containing 12 “Nestlé Hot Pockets Brand Sandwiches: Premium Pepperoni Made with Pork, Chicken & Beef Pizza Garlic Buttery Crust. According to a USDA announcement, the recalled product has a best before February 2022 date with lot codes 0318544624, 0319544614, 0320544614, and 0321544614. It was shipped nationwide and bears the establishment number “EST. 7721A” inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Karen Everstine, Decernis
Food Fraud Quick Bites

Food Authenticity: 2020 in Review

By Karen Everstine, Ph.D.
No Comments
Karen Everstine, Decernis

It is fair to say that 2020 was a challenging year with wide-ranging effects, including significant effects on our ongoing efforts to ensure food integrity and prevent fraud in the food system. COVID-19 caused major supply chain disruptions for foods and many other consumer products. It also highlighted challenges in effective tracking and standardization of food fraud-related data.

Let’s take a look at some of the notable food fraud occurrences in 2020:

  • Organic Products. The Spanish Guardia Civil investigated an organized crime group that sold pistachios with pesticide residues that were fraudulently labeled as organic, reportedly yielding €6 million in profit. USDA reported fraudulent organic certificates for products including winter squash, leafy greens, collagen peptides powder, blackberries, and avocados. Counterfeit wines with fraudulent DOG, PGI, and organic labels were discovered in Italy.
  • Herbs and Spices. Quite a few reports came out of India and Pakistan about adulteration and fraud in the local spice market. One of the most egregious involved the use of animal dung along with various other substances in the production of fraudulent chili powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, and garam masala spice mix. Greece issued a notification for a turmeric recall following the detection of lead, chromium, and mercury in a sample of the product. Belgium recalled chili pepper for containing an “unauthorized coloring agent.” Reports of research conducted at Queen’s University Belfast also indicated that 25% of sage samples purchased from e-commerce or independent channels in the U.K. were adulterated with other leafy material.
  • Dairy Products. India and Pakistan have also reported quite a few incidents of fraud in local markets involving dairy products. These have included reports of counterfeit ghee and fraudulent ghee manufactured with animal fats as well as milk adulterated with a variety of fraudulent substances. The Czech Republic issued a report about Edam cheese that contained vegetable fat instead of milk fat.
  • Honey. Greece issued multiple alerts for honey containing sugar syrups and, in one case, caramel colors. Turkey reported a surveillance test that identified foreign sugars in honeycomb.
  • Meat and Fish. This European report concluded that the vulnerability to fraud in animal production networks was particularly high during to the COVID-19 pandemic due to the “most widely spread effects in terms of production, logistics, and demand.” Thousands of pounds of seafood were destroyed in Cambodia because they contained a gelatin-like substance. Fraudulent USDA marks of inspection were discovered on chicken imported to the United States from China. Soy protein far exceeding levels that could be expected from cross contamination were identified in sausage in the Czech Republic. In Colombia, a supplier of food for school children was accused of selling donkey and horse meat as beef. Decades of fraud involving halal beef was recently reported in in Malaysia.
  • Alcoholic Beverages. To date, our system has captured more than 30 separate incidents of fraud involving wine or other alcoholic beverages in 2020. Many of these involved illegally produced products, some of which contained toxic substances such as methanol. There were also multiple reports of counterfeit wines and whisky. Wines were also adulterated with sugar, flavors, colors and water.

We have currently captured about 70% of the number of incidents for 2020 as compared to 2019, although there are always lags in reporting and data capture, so we expect that number to rise over the coming weeks. These numbers do not appear to bear out predictions about the higher risk of food fraud cited by many groups resulting from the effects of COVID-19. This is likely due in part to reduced surveillance and reporting due to the effects of COVID lockdowns on regulatory and auditing programs. However, as noted in a recent article, we should take seriously food fraud reports that occur against this “backdrop of reduced regulatory oversight during the COVID-19 pandemic.” If public reports are just the tip of the iceburg, 2020 numbers that are close to those reported in 2019 may indeed indicate that the iceburg is actually larger.

Unfortunately, tracking food fraud reports and inferring trends is a difficult task. There is currently no globally standardized system for collection and reporting information on food fraud occurrences, or even standardized definitions for food fraud and the ways in which it happens. Media reports of fraud are challenging to verify and there can be many media reports related to one individual incident, which complicates tracking (especially by automated systems). Reports from official sources are not without their own challenges. Government agencies have varying priorities for their surveillance and testing programs, and these priorities have a direct effect on the data that is reported. Therefore, increases in reports for a particular commodity do not necessarily indicate a trend, they may just reflect an ongoing regulatory priority a particular country. Official sources are also not standardized with respect to how they report food safety or fraud incidents. Two RASFF notifications in 2008 following the discovery of melamine adulteration in milk illustrate this point (see Figure 1). In the first notification for a “milk drink” product, the hazard category was listed as “adulteration/fraud.” However, in the second notification for “chocolate and strawberry flavor body pen sets,” the hazard category was listed as “industrial contaminants,” even though the analytical result was higher.1

RASFF

RASFF, melamine detection
Figure 1. RASFF notifications for the detection of melamine in two products.1

What does all of this mean for ensuring food authenticity into 2021? We need to continue efforts to align terminology, track food fraud risk data, and ensure transparency and evaluation of the data that is reported. Alignment and standardization of food fraud reporting would go a long way to improving our understanding of how much food fraud occurs and where. Renewed efforts by global authorities to strengthen food authenticity protections are important. Finally, consumers and industry must continue to demand and ensure authenticity in our food supply. While most food fraud may not have immediate health consequences for consumers, reduced controls can lead to systemic problems and have devastating effects.

Reference

  1. Everstine, K., Popping, B., and Gendel, S.M. (2021). Food fraud mitigation: strategic approaches and tools. In R.S. Hellberg, K. Everstine, & S. Sklare (Eds.) Food Fraud – A Global Threat With Public Health and Economic Consequences (pp. 23-44). Elsevier. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-817242-1.00015-4
Recall

Q3 Food and Beverage FDA Recalls Up 34% Over Q2, USDA Recalls at Record Low

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
Recall

It is being speculated that the short-term decline in the number of food and beverage recalls this year is due to less regulatory oversight as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. During Q3, FDA food recall activity was up 34% compared to last quarter, but this increase is actually a sign of things returning to normal on the side of regulatory oversight activities, according to the latest Q3 Recall Index from Stericycle.

FDA Food Recalls: Notable Numbers (Q3 2020)

  • Undeclared allergens: 56 recalls, accounting for nearly 53% of all recalls; the top cause of an FDA food recalls for the 13th consecutive quarter
  • Bacterial contamination: Accounting for 62% of recalled units, this was the top cause of recalled units with Salmonella being the most common contaminant (the pathogen was responsible for 17 out of 24 recalls)
  • Foreign materials, quality and mislabeling were the other reasons for recalls

USDA Recalls: Notable Numbers (Q3 2020)

  • Undeclared allergens: Top cause of recalls; 6 recalls accounted of nearly 70% of all recalled pounds
    • A single meat and poultry recall affected more than 242,000 pounds (63%) of all recalled pounds
  • The average recall affected 38,000 pounds
  • Over the last three quarters, recalls have been at record low levels
    • Quarterly recall activity is averaging 8.3 recalls a quarter versus an average quarterly volume of more than 30 recalls over the last five years
Tucson Tamale

USDA Issues Public Health Alert for Tamales Due to Potential Foreign Matter Contamination

By Food Safety Tech Staff
No Comments
Tucson Tamale

Yesterday USDA’s FSIS issued a public health alert for ready-to-eat chicken and pork tamales because they contain recalled diced tomatoes in puree that have been recalled by the producer due to foreign matter contamination. The puree product is FDA regulated. The RTE tamales were produced by Tucson Tamale Wholesale Co., LLC between October 22 and November 9, 2020, and have the establishment number “EST. 45860” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products were sold online and shipped for retail and restaurant distribution nationwide.

Tucson Tamale
Tucson Tamale recalled the above-pictured ready-to-eat tamales due to potential contamination with hard plastic.

Tucson Tamale uncovered the issue upon identifying pieces of hard plastic in the cans of diced tomatoes that they received from their ingredients supplier. FSIS is urging consumers who purchased the product to throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.