Dollar Tree Distribution Inc. is recalling certain products purchased from Family Dollar because of potential exposure to rodents.

This recall comes after last month’s FDA warning to consumers to throw out products from Family Dollar stores in a number of categories, including human food, because of a severe rodent infestation in a distribution facility in Arkansas.

“More than 1,100 dead rodents were recovered from the facility following a fumigation at the facility in January 2022. Additionally, a review of the company’s internal records also indicated the collection of more than 2,300 rodents between March 29 and Sept. 17, 2021, demonstrating a history of infestation,” according to the FDA’s public warning.

The products were distributed to Dollar Tree stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

The recall includes food products, cosmetic products, dietary supplements and pet food and treats purchased from Family Dollar retail stores.

A full list of recall products can be found below:

# Product Description Recall Number Classification Code Information Product Quantity Reason for Recall
1

Food products purchased from Family Dollar retail stores located in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee

F-0810-2022

Class II

All food products purchased from Family Dollar retail stores located in AL, AR, LA, MS, MO, and TN from January 1, 2021 to present

Unknown

Potential exposure to rodents and rodent activity in the distribution center.

2

Cosmetic products purchased from Family Dollar retail stores located in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, including but not limited to skin and eye care products, baby oil, lipstick, shampoo, baby wipes

F-0811-2022

Class II

All cosmetic products purchased from Family Dollar retail stores located in AL, AR, LA, MS, MO, and TN from January 1, 2021 to present

Unknown

Potential exposure to rodents and rodent activity in the distribution center.

3

Dietary supplements purchased from Family Dollar retail stores located in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, including but not limited to vitamins, herbal and mineral supplements

F-0812-2022

Class II

All dietary supplements purchased from Family Dollar retail stores located in AL, AR, LA, MS, MO, and TN from January 1, 2021 to present

Unknown

Potential exposure to rodents and rodent activity in the distribution center.

# Product Description Recall Number Classification Code Information Product Quantity Reason for Recall
1

Pet food and treats purchased from Family Dollar retail stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee that are packaged in material other than glass or metal can

Not Yet Classified

All food products purchased from Family Dollar retail stores located in AL, AR, LA, MS, MO, and TN from January 1, 2021 to present

Unknown

Potential exposure to rodents and rodent activity in the distribution center.

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The FDA is warning consumers in several states to throw out products in a number of categories, including human food, because of a severe rodent infestation in a distribution facility in Arkansas.

The implicated states are Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. No recalls have been initiated for the products, but the Food and Drug Administration is working with the company to initiate a recall of the affected products.

“More than 1,100 dead rodents were recovered from the facility following a fumigation at the facility in January 2022. Additionally, a review of the company’s internal records also indicated the collection of more than 2,300 rodents between March 29 and Sept. 17, 2021, demonstrating a history of infestation,” according to the FDA’s public warning.

This alert covers FDA-regulated products purchased from Family Dollar stores in those six states from Jan. 1, 2021, through the present. Some examples of these products include human foods, including dietary supplements, vitamin, herbal and mineral supplements; cosmetics skincare products, baby oils, lipsticks, shampoos, baby wipes; animal foods such as pet food, pet treats, wild bird seed; medical devices including feminine hygiene products, surgical masks, contact lens cleaning solutions, bandages, nasal care products; and over-the-counter (OTC) medications including pain medications, eye drops, dental products, antacids and other medications for both adults and children.

Impacted products originated from the company’s distribution facility in West Memphis, AR.

Following a consumer complaint, the FDA began an investigation of the Family Dollar distribution facility in West Memphis, AR, according to the FDA warning. In January 2022. Family Dollar ceased distribution of products within days of the FDA inspection team’s arrival on-site and the inspection that concluded on Feb. 11.

Conditions observed during the inspection included live rodents, dead rodents in various states of decay, rodent feces and urine, evidence of gnawing, nesting and rodent odors throughout the facility, dead birds and bird droppings, and products stored in conditions that did not protect against contamination.

The FDA’s Associate Commissioner for Regulatory Affairs Judith McMeekin, Pharm.D., said: “No one should be subjected to products stored in the kind of unacceptable conditions that we found in this Family Dollar distribution facility. These conditions appear to be violations of federal law that could put families’ health at risk. We will continue to work to protect consumers.”

Consumers are advised not to use impacted products. The agency is also advising that all drugs, medical devices, cosmetics and dietary supplements, regardless of packaging, be discarded. Food in non-permeable packaging, such as undamaged glass or cans that are all metal, may be suitable for use if thoroughly cleaned and sanitized. Consumers should wash their hands immediately after handling any products from the affected Family Dollar stores.

Consumers who recently purchased affected products should contact a health care professional immediately if they have health concerns after using or handling impacted products. Rodent contamination may cause Salmonella infections and other infectious diseases, which may pose the greatest risk to infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly and immunocompromised people.

Following a consumer complaint, the FDA began an investigation of the Family Dollar distribution facility in West Memphis, Arkansas, in January 2022. Family Dollar ceased distribution of products within days of the FDA inspection team’s arrival on-site and the inspection concluded on Feb. 11. 

Conditions observed during the inspection included live rodents, dead rodents in various states of decay, rodent feces and urine, evidence of gnawing, nesting and rodent odors throughout the facility, dead birds and bird droppings, and products stored in conditions that did not protect against contamination. 

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The Dollar General Corporation’s “dollar stores” are sometimes used by researchers as a poverty indicator and this year a corner of those  more than 18,000 locations in the continental United States were called out for rodents and other sanitation problems.  And a federal grand jury has joined these investigations.

Dollar Stores with problems were connected with the Family Dollar distribution center in West Memphis, AR. This includes Dollar Tree stores in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. This is the area where Dollar Tree Distribution Inc. recalled all food and certain other products because of potential exposure to rodents.

In response to the recent  inspections, the Eastern District of Arkansas has reportedly issued a federal grand jury subpoena for more information from Dollar. The grand jury is seeking information on the pest and sanitation issues that led to last month’s recall of drugs, cosmetics, human food and animal foods from 404 stores in six U.S. states.

Dollar has confirmed it has received the subpoena and said it  it incurred a $34.1 million loss because of the recall.

The February recall came after January’s ’s FDA warning to consumers to throw out products from “Family Dollar” stores in a number of categories, including human food, because of a severe rodent infestation in the West Memphis distribution facility.

“More than 1,100 dead rodents were recovered from the facility following a fumigation at the facility in January 2022. Additionally, a review of the company’s internal records also indicated the collection of more than 2,300 rodents between March 29 and Sept. 17, 2021, demonstrating a history of infestation,” according to the FDA’s public warning.

The inspection reports from the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that are the basis for the public health warning and product recall are now public documents.

Those documents describe the West Memphis facility as a multiple food storage warehouse and distribution center, used since 1994. Dollar Tree  bought the warehouse and distribution center about 4 years ago. Family Dollar Distribution is based in Matters, NC.

Before the current rodent infestations, the West Memphis facility was last inspected by FDA in 2017. No “significantly objectiveable conditions” were found at that time. Pest control  records review found “no abnorml pest activity” during the previous year.

Reports from 2022 inspections are much more concerning. Some of the findings include:

  • The company did not exclude pests from its food plant to protect against contamination of food.
  • Specifically, during this inspection we observed rodent evidence, including live rodents, dead rodents of various states of decay, rodent excreta pellets (REFs), gnawings, nesting and odors indicative of rodents throughout the entire facility, including areas where human food is routinely stored…
  • The inspection team observed a live rat possibility chasing live mouse from east to west across the aisle.
  • Significant gnawings and the strong odor of rodent urine on pallets of mix nuts were also documented.
  • There were numerous REPs on equipment and floors.
  • Grounds around the facility were not in a condition to protect against the contamination of  food.
  • Rubber seals around piping and wiring had holes.
  • Animal food was not property stored to protect against contamination.
  • Measures were not being taken to exclude pests from the facility.
  • Buildings were not in a clean and sanitary condition.

A half dozen FDA personnel helped conduct the inspection, which ran from Jan.11, 2022 to Feb. 11, 2022.

Dollar has been in the grocery business since 2003. It added the low-cost Asian market a year later when it opened a sourcing office in Hong Kong.

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An Ohio family infected with the dangerous E. coli O157:H7 bacteria did not consume all of a multi-pound chub of ground beef that was a possible source of their illnesses, and what was left of the beef was found in their freezer by Butler County Health Department investigators.

When the Ohio Department of Agriculture found that the meat tested positive for O157:H7, it set off Tuesday’s national recall of approximately 131,300 pounds of ground beef from Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. in Emporia, KS.

Four children from the Ohio family became ill between Sept. 8 and 11 after eating the ground beef, and one was hospitalized for about 10 days. Butler County Health Director Pat Burg said the child has since been released.

Meanwhile, the Health Department is setting up a hotline to field questions and to determine if there are any other victims of the recalled, contaminated beef.

Packaged and sold under the Kroger, Butcher’s Beef and generic brands, the recalled ground beef carried a “best before or freeze by” date of Sept. 12, 2011.  None of the beef remains in stores, but because it was sold in three and five pound chubs (chubs are packaged tubes of ground meat), the recalled ground beef could be in home freezers.

The recalled products include:

— Five pound chubs of Kroger-brand ground beef, 73 percent lean/ 27 percent fat, with a product code of D-0211 QW, shipped to distribution centers in Tennessee and Indiana.

-Three pound chubs of Butcher’s Beef brand ground beef, 73 percent lean/27 percent fat, ID code D-0211 LWIF, shipped to distribution centers in North and South Carolina for retail sale.

— Three pound chubs of generic label ground beef, 73 percent / 27percent fat, ID code D-0211 LWI, for distribution in Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin for retail sale.

There is an ink jetted number “245D” printed along the package seams.

The product was produced by Tyson on Aug. 23. Kroger has said it will have in-store signs notifying customers of the recall and will notify its loyalty card holders of the recall by email or telephone. Cashier receipts will also include the recall information.

The Butcher’s Beef brand meat went to Food Lion stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Virginia and West Virginia, and to Bottom Dollar Food stores in North Carolina, Food Lion said in a news release.

For the USDA’s retail distribution list check here.

Tyson’s recall is the second largest of 2011 for E. coli O157:H7 contamination. Earlier this year, eight other companies recalled a total of 312,268 pounds of meat. So far, the largest recall for E. coli contamination was 228,596 pounds of meat called back by Cincinnati’s Tri State Beef.

  

The USDA’s quarterly report of enforcement activities by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is topped off by the criminal conviction of Antillio Graniello.

The U.S. District Court for the Nothern District of Georgia convicted and sentenced Graniello to six months in prison on June 27. He was an official of Amigos Meat Distributors in Atlanta. Graniello previously was indicted and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts. One was for causing poultry products to become adulterated and misbranded, and the other for forging an official device and mark in violation of federal law.

The latest quarterly enforcement report is for the third federal fiscal period, covering the time from April 1 to June 30, 2019.

FSIS pursued an adjudicatory action against New Orleans-based Bridge Foods Inc. during the period. FSIS previously filed a complaint to refuse and withdraw USDA inspection services over repetitive violations, both statutory and regulatory. At issue were Sanitation Performance Standards (SPS), Hazard Analysis, and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and procedures to control Listeria monocytogenes (Lm).

But on April 30, an administrative law judge dismissed the FSIS action after Bridge Foods voluntarily ceased asking for inspections.

FSIS also filed a complaint to withdraw federal inspection services from Southeastern Provision LLC in Bean Station, TN, related to repetitive statutory and regulatory violations.

Owner James M. Brantley had pleaded guilty to federal charges of willful failure to collect or pay taxes, wire fraud, and the unlawful employment of unauthorized aliens. A judge later sent him to federal prison for six months.

On April 2 Southeastern Provision LLC entered into Consent Decree and Order with FSIS, outlining how inspection services may resume at the company. Before the inspections can resume, the order calls for the following to occur:

  • Revision of food safety plans,
  • Implementation of Escherichia coli Biotype 1, E. coli O157: H7 and STECs sampling and testing,
  • Address Specified Risk Materials,
  • Appoint a plant manager,
  • Appoint a food safety coordinator,
  • Complete a third-party audit,
  • Develop a compliance program, including ethics and business codes,
  • Provide ethics training,
  • Implement record keeping.

In a plea agreement for the criminal case, Brantley admitted to hiring illegal aliens as workers going back to the 1980s and paying them in cash at sharply reduced rates.

In another civil action in April, Houston’s Champion Food Service Inc. reached a Civil Penalty Stipulation Agreement with FSIS. It agreed to pay a stipulated civil penalty of $550 for violations of the Egg Products Inspection Act (EPIA).

In other civil actions, Suha Meas and Kay-Wo Zhang, owners of the Asian Market in Lancaster, PA, entered into a Stipulated Order with the U.S. Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania. Meas and Zhang agreed to pay $2,100 in civil fines and reimburse $800 in costs for breaching a previous Consent Decree. The U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania approved the deal.

Chien Hong Pham, owner, and Thomas Pham, manager, of the Kim Long Market LLC in Malden, MA, were permanently enjoined from committing violations of the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). The U.S. District Court for Massachusetts signed off on the Permanent Injunction. Previously, FSIS filed a complaint against the defendants for repeated FMIA violations.

FSIS filed a complaint on April 4 against Amos Miller and Miller’s Organic Farm in Bird-in-Hand, PA, for violations of the federal meat and poultry inspections acts. Miller is contesting the charges in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The dispute won’t end until late this year at the earliest.

The U.S.District Court for the Eastern District of California approved a Consent Decree between Transhumance Holding Co. and FSIS.

The two-year agreement covers humane handling, including hiring a hiring coordinator, and slaughter compliance, including training and audit procedures. The holding company does business as Ellensburg Lamb Co. and Superior Farms, both based in Dixon, CA.

FSIS inspectors performed 1.76 million verification procedures during the quarter, resulting in 26,299 instances of documented noncompliance for a 98.5 percent compliance rate.

During the period, the private establishments inspected by FSIS filed 249 appeals of noncompliance actions. By the end of the quarter, FSIS granted 86 requests; denied 73, and left 47 pending. Another 43 resulted in some form of modification.

FSIS inspected less imported meat and poultry products during the quarter, but the number of pounds refused was up. In both previous quarters, FSIS re-inspected more than 1 billion pounds of meat and poultry products during each period.

For the recent period, however, the total fell to 958.6 million pounds. But, 14.6 million pounds were refused, up from 6.7 and 10.7 million pounds in the two previous fiscal quarters.

Livestock slaughter continued at an even pace with 40.063 million carcasses inspected, up a tick from 40.025 million during the previous period. Poultry carcass inspections, however, reached more than 2.421 billion for the quarter, the highest level for FY 2019.

The Office of Investigation, Enforcement, and Audit (OIEA) report 66 detention actions during the period, resulting in 287,311 pounds of meat, poultry, and eggs detained in enforcement actions.

OIEA also sent warning notices to 257 businesses during the period.

Prohibited activity notices during the quarter went to two 7-Eleven outlets in Chicago, Casey’s General Store in Jamestown, ND, Family Dollar in Fountain, CO, HEB Headquarters in San Antonio, Safeway in San Francisco, Sopakco Inc. in Mullins, SC, and U.S. Cold Storage in McDonough, GA.

Prohibited activity notices also apparently went out to gas stations and “C-Stops” in the Charlotte, MI, area.

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UPDATED: A spokeswoman for SHOP ‘n SAVE told Food Safety News that none of its independently owned and operated stores serviced out of the Pittsburgh distribution facility, including stores in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Ohio, are affected by this recall.

The USDA has identified retailers, including Walmart, Kroger, and Target, that received part of more than 11 million pounds of recalled Tyson chicken strips. Eleven brands and several flavors are involved. Three people have reported injuries from metal pieces in the products.

Other well-known chains such as CVS, Family Dollar, Hy-Vee, Meijer, Piggly Wiggly, Publix and Wegmans are on the retailer list. To view all of the products included in the recall, please click here.

Click on the image to view other product labels submitted to the USDA.

“The problem was discovered when FSIS received two consumer complaints of extraneous material in the chicken strip products. FSIS is now aware of six complaints during this time frame involving similar pieces of metal with three alleging oral injury,”

Click on the image to see the product labels that were provided to the USDA.

according to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Government officials are concerned consumers, commercial kitchen operators, and military kitchen supervisors may unknowingly have the recalled Tyson chicken strips in their freezers because of their long shelf life. The products have “Use By Dates” of Oct. 1, 2019, through March 7, 2020.

“Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase,” according to an expanded recall notice posted May 4 by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The 11 million pound recall of chicken strips is separate from one posted June 7 by the FSIS for 190,000 pounds of Tyson frozen chicken “fritters.” The June 7 recall was initiated because of complaints about plastic pieces. At least three schools filed complaints about the chicken fritters, but no injuries have been reported.

The chicken strips retailer list, posted June 11 by the USDA, relates to a recall that was originally posted March 21 and expanded on May 4 to include 11 million pounds of products. The initial recall notice was for 69,000 pounds of chicken strips. In addition to nationwide distribution in the United States, Tyson also shipped the implicated chicken strips to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Bermuda, and St. Maarten.

The 32 retailers identified Tuesday as having received the Tyson chicken strips, and the dozens of states where they sold the products are:

  • Big Lots — DE, IL, IN, KY, MD, MI, MO, NJ, NY, OH, PA, VA, WI, WV
  • CVS — AR, CA, DC, FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, MO, MS, NE, NJ, NV, NY, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, VA, WV
  • Dollar General — AR, DE, IA, IL, IN, KY, MD, MI, MN, MO, NJ, NY, OH, PA, TN, WI, WV
  • Drug Mart — OH
  • Family Dollar — IL, IN, MI
  • Fareway — IA, MN, NE, SD
  • Food 4 Less — CA, IL, IN
  • Foodsco — CA
  • Fry’s Food and Drug — AZ
  • Fry’s Marketplace — AZ
  • HEB — TX
  • Homeland — KS, OK
  • Hy-Vee — IA, IL, KS, MN, MO, NE, SD, WI
  • Jay C — IN
  • Kroger — IL, IN, KY, MI, MO, OH, WV
  • Kroger Marketplace — IN, KY, MI, OH
  • Marcs — OH
  • Marianos — IL
  • Meijer — IL, IN, KY, MI, OH, WI
  • Pick n Save — WI
  • Piggly Wiggly — IL, WI
  • Publix — AL, GA, NC, SC, TN, VA
  • Ralph’s — CA
  • Ralph’s Fresh Fare — CA
  • Shop N Save — MD, NY, OH, PA, VA, WV
  • Shopper’s Food — MD, VA
  • Smith’s — AZ, ID, MT, NM, NV, UT, WY
  • Target — AZ, CA, HI, IA, IL, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, NV, SD, UT, WI, WY
  • Walgreens — IL, IN, MI, NY
  • Walmart — CT, DC, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MN, MO, MS, NC, ND, NE, NH, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, SD, VA, VT, WI, WV
  • Wegmans — MA, NY, PA
  • WinCo — AZ, CA, ID, MT, NV, OK, OR, TX, UT, WA

Anyone who believes they have suffered injuries because of the recalled Tyson-produced chicken products should seek medical attention.

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Good 'n' Fun dog treatsSalix Animal Health LLC of Deerfield, FL, has expanded its recall of “Good ‘n’ Fun – Beefhide Chicken Sticks” because the product may be contaminated with Salmonella. Sampling conducted by the Georgia Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of Salmonella in an additional lot of this product. In an abundance of caution, Salix Animal Health is expanding its original recall from Sept. 30 to include the tested lot and others made around the same time. This expanded recall affects Good ‘n’ Fun – Beefhide Chicken Sticks only. No other Salix product is affected by this announcement. The recalled Good ‘n’ Fun – Beefhide Chicken Sticks were distributed nationwide to Dollar General, Dollar Tree and Family Dollar retail stores. The recalled product is packaged in a 2.8-ounce bag stamped on the back side with an item code number of 82247 and with an expiration date ranging from 02/2018- 07/2018. The UPC code is 0 91093 82247 1 as shown in the table below.

Brand Size Description UPC Code Item No. Expiration
Good ‘n’ Fun 2.8 oz Beefhide Chicken Sticks 091093822471 82247 02/2018 03/2018 04/2018 05/2018 06/2018 07/2018

The company stated that it is taking steps to prevent the problem from happening again and is working with retailers to ensure that the recalled product is removed from inventory and no longer sold. Customers should look at the item number and expiration date on the product package to determine if it is subject to the voluntary recall. Customers who have purchased the product subject to this recall are urged to dispose of the product or return it for full refund. Anyone who has these products may contact Salix Animal Health’s consumer affairs team at 1-800-338-4896, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. (ET) for a refund. Customers with questions may call the consumer affairs team at the number listed above. Salmonella can affect animals who eat contaminated products and there is a potential risk to humans if they come in contact with Salmonella from handling contaminated products. Healthy people infected with Salmonella should monitor themselves for some, or all, of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramping and fever. Rarely, Salmonella can result in more serious ailments, including arterial infections, endocarditis, arthritis, muscle pain, eye irritation, and urinary tract symptoms. Consumers exhibiting these signs after having contact with this product should contact their healthcare providers. Pets with Salmonella infections may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. Some pets will have only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. Infected, but otherwise healthy, pets can be carriers of Salmonella and infect other animals or humans. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.

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In an attempt to help consumers understand the situation surrounding Rancho Feeding Corporation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has posted an update to the recall site. The page informs consumers that inspection personnel were on-site during normal operations, but due to the ongoing investigation by the USDA Office of the Inspector General, FSIS can’t give any further comment on “the company’s intermittent circumvention of inspection requirements that may have occurred over an extended period of time.” FSIS has received no reports of illness from consumption of these products. A year’s worth of meat – approximately 8.7 million pounds – was recalled by Petaluma, CA, processor Rancho Feeding Corporation in February for lacking a full federal inspection. Many of the carcasses that were the subject of the recall were shipped to other establishments, where they were processed into smaller cuts and sold. Some of this meat was included in processed products such as frozen entrees. FSIS has since followed the path of the recalled product as the cuts were sold for processed food. The agency’s March 8 list of retailers included more than 5,800 specific retailers in 45 states, Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico. There are another 171 “Nationwide, State-Wide, or Area-Wide Distribution” locations listed that include 7-11, Albertsons, Family Dollar, Kroger, Piggly-Wiggly, Walgreens and various gas stations. Shell and Target are the two stores with locations listed as “nationwide.” Consumers who have shopped at one of the establishments on the list should contact that store’s manager to see if product they purchased is part of the recall. As of March 20, 2014, FSIS has completed all checks and determined that the recall activities were effective. There will be no further additions to the distribution list, but, in an effort to make the information as accessible as possible, it will remain in the “active” section of the FSIS recalls website.

(This article was updated March 10 with information from USDA’s March 8 list of retailers.) The U.S. Department of Agriculture now believes that the approximately 8.7 million pounds of meat recalled by Petaluma, CA, processor Rancho Feeding Corporation and lacking a full federal inspection was shipped to distribution centers and retail establishments nationwide. The Class 1 recall initially stated that the recalled products had been shipped to distribution centers and retail establishments in California, Florida, Illinois and Texas. The current list of distributors published by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) includes more than 5,800 specific retailers (a previous version listed more than 6,300) in 45 states, Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico. There are another 171 “Nationwide, State-Wide, or Area-Wide Distribution” locations listed that include 7-11, Albertsons, Family Dollar, Kroger, Piggly-Wiggly, Walgreens and various gas stations. Shell and Target are the two stores with locations listed as “nationwide.” FSIS reissued the recall release on Feb. 18, stating that the update is “a consequence of a properly working recall process.” “When the recall release was first issued on February 8, FSIS was unable to ascertain the extent of the establishments involved,” the notice reads. “As the establishments were notified, the list of States affected grew.” In the March 8 update, more than 2,300 stores are listed for California, the state with the most retailers. Among the additional “Nationwide, State-Wide, or Area-Wide Distribution” locations in California are about 60 chains including 7-11, Chevron, Family Dollar, Food 4 Less, Rite Aide, Safeway, Walgreens and Winco. Nestlé has also recalled some of its Hot Pockets sandwiches because, although the company did not purchase meat directly from Rancho, “a small quantity of meat from Rancho was used at Nestlé’s Chatsworth, California production operation.” The following Rancho Feeding Corporation products are subject to recall:

  • “Beef Carcasses” (wholesale and custom sales only)
  • 2 per box “Beef (Market) Heads” (retail only)
  • 4-gallons per box “Beef Blood” (wholesale only)
  • 20-lb. boxes of “Beef Oxtail”
  • 30-lb. boxes of “Beef Cheeks”
  • 30-lb. boxes of ” Beef Lips”
  • 30-lb. boxes of “Beef Omasum”
  • 30-lb. boxes of “Beef Tripas”
  • 30-lb. boxes of “Mountain Oysters”
  • 30-lb. boxes of “Sweet Breads”
  • 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Beef Liver”
  • 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Beef Tripe”
  • 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Beef Tongue”
  • 30- and 60-lb. boxes of “Veal Cuts”
  • 40-lb. boxes of “Veal Bones”
  • 50-lb. boxes of “Beef Feet”
  • 50-lb. boxes of “Beef Hearts”
  • 60-lb. boxes of “Veal Trim”

Beef carcasses and boxes bear the establishment number “EST. 527” inside the USDA mark of inspection. Each box bears the case code number ending in “3” or “4.” The products were produced Jan. 1, 2013, through Jan. 7, 2014, and shipped to distribution centers and retail establishments nationwide. FSIS has received no reports of illness due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an illness should contact a health care provider.

— OPINION —

By Jayne Roth, M.P.H, REHS
Rimkus Consulting Group, Inc.

At the end of 2021, a survey fielded by the National Restaurant Association showed that 78 percent of operators said their restaurants did not have enough employees to support customer demand. Understaffing is not only an economic issue, but also a food safety issue. With fewer staff, many safety and operating procedures get shorted in exchange for service expectations. This has the potential to increase risks of foodborne illnesses (FBIs).

Going out to dinner with family shouldn’t cause an impending feeling of danger. However, did you know there are more than 250 types of pathogens that can cause foodborne illness? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes statistics each year of FBIs, such as hospitalizations, and deaths, and these numbers are in the thousands. FBIs can happen anywhere at any time, including one’s own home. However, restaurants or businesses serving food have a higher expectation for FBI control and understaffing because of Covid-19, which can result in an increased risk and additional liabilities to their food safety managers and the establishments themselves.

It is important to realize that FBIs can happen to anyone and can have varying degrees of severity. An individual suffering from something they ate can be devastating. It may result in missed days of work, which for some families means that they can’t afford to buy food for dinner this week or are rendered unable to care for their children. Or it may result in a several days’ stay in a hospital, among other outcomes.

The fear of contracting COVID-19 has caused millions of customers and employees to stay at home, resulting in a massive decrease of dollars spent on entertainment, gas, and food. This double-edged sword has reduced the numbers of customers going out to eat and, in turn, resulted in plummeting sales. Restaurants either can’t stay in business, or they reduce staff to do so. The number of restaurant employees dropped by 2.2 million from 2019-2020. Unfortunately, many restaurants attempt to maintain status quo, but with a potential price to those who eat at their establishments. We are discovering the hard way that the side effects of COVID-19 may be indirectly causing FBIs from the circumstances at hand.

The value of the restaurant industry in 2020, after being adjusted because of COVID-19, was $659 billion ($240 billion less than projected). Restaurant managers and owners are trying to stay open and staffed, which is commendable. However, a survey conducted by the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association found that 88 percent of respondents are operating with inadequate staffing. The public health sector has seen thousands of illnesses occur for decades, and much needed new laws and regulations that keep up with current science have been adopted to change industry practices. 

A restaurant with an eight-page menu, for example, shouldn’t operate with a skeleton crew unless they have made other adjustments. Adequate staff is needed to operate the kitchen in a manner that is conducive to a controlled situation and ensures that corners are not cut on food safety practices. 

It sounds simple, but the risks understaffing poses to public health need to be addressed quickly. Labor violations, such as not giving employees time to eat or take a break, can be common in the restaurant industry. These violations usually go unpunished since workers cannot afford to refuse shifts, speak up for their rights, or even take sick time. Unfortunately, FBIs are occurring in understaffed foodservice establishments. Those employees who do continue to work may not have the knowledge or experience needed to control food safety risks in the kitchen. However, having knowledge of food safety is not a predictor of proper food handling, especially with time constraints, poor training, and a general lack of resources. 

One of the biggest contributors to foodborne illness outbreaks is human error. Often, these errors are unintentional. For example, an employee is rushing or forgets to take the internal temperature of the meat being cooked and inadvertently serves undercooked (potentially harmful) hamburger. Or they place packages of raw poultry on a high shelf in the walk-in cooler, and raw juices drip on (and contaminate) the ready-to-eat foods below. Or they leave a delivery of refrigerated products out in the hot sun for hours, making them unsafe and unusable. These human errors are magnified when restaurants are understaffed, leaving even less time to follow critical food safety procedures.

Cutting corners, working while ill, and lack of general food safety knowledge can lead to devastating outcomes. In 2018, a British pub chef admitted to disregarding food regulations and indicated he was rushing while preparing Shepherd’s pie, which contributed to poor cooking, cooling, and reheating steps necessary to control potential pathogen survival or growth in food products. As a result, one person died and 30 people were sickened. The chef was ultimately given a four-month jail sentence, community service, and a large fine. 

These situations have the potential to end up in litigation. If a restaurant does have insurance, it may not be sufficient to cover medical costs of ill customers. Foodservice establishments must be compliant with applicable rules and regulations to protect their reputation and, ultimately, their pocketbook.

During FBI investigations, I have had heart-wrenching conversations including one with a young husband whose wife was on life support because of complications from E. coli O157:H7. I’ve had conversations with a mother whose son was lying on the bathroom floor screaming as he suffered from vomiting and diarrhea simultaneously after consuming a ‘healthy shake.” The list could go on and on. Ignoring proper food safety procedures has proven to be devastating.

 The solution sounds easy, right? Do not operate with inadequate staff. But what determines “inadequate staff?” I can surmise that deciding to close or reduce staff is one of the most difficult decisions for a manager or owner to make. Businesses are condensing their menus, which is a positive approach, as well as decreasing hours of operation and decreasing available tables. Evaluating food processes to build-out food safety risks by partnering with a food safety expert can decrease steps, save time, improve efficiency, and reduce food safety hazards. If there is an alleged exposure, then working with a qualified food safety expert/consultant, can help in the exposure identification, response, and investigation of claims related to food, food packaging, and processes. These investigations can include:

  • Auditing food safety procedures at restaurants and manufacturing facilities
  • Investigating food damage claims related to product safety and product quality
  • Identifying causation of food microbial contamination as well as physical contamination of food products
  • Evaluating compliance in food industry regulations regarding of standards of care 
  • Investigating food allergen allegations
  • Crisis management response to food-related incidents such as illnesses, recalls, aseptic sampling, public health considerations, and communication messaging
  • Assisting in environmental sampling following positive tests by regulatory agencies

COVID-19 has provided numerous challenges to the food service industry, but none that cannot be addressed with proactive measures and intentional planning. Many of these challenges are molding the industry for the future. By understanding how these challenges could impact food safety, we will be designing a more resilient industry in the future.

Footnotes

 Restaurant job growth remained sluggish in September, National Restaurant Association, October 2021. https://restaurant.org/education-and-resources/resource-library/restaurant-job-growth-remained-sluggish-in-september/

2 Burden of Foodborne Illness: Findings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/2011-foodborne-estimates.html#:~:text=Burden%20of%20Foodborne%20Illness%3A%20Findings.%20CDC%20estimates%20that,are%20hospitalized%2C%20and%203%2C000%20die%20of%20foodborne%20diseases.

3 2021 State of the Hospitality Industry Report: Technology Trends, the Future of Restaurants and More. Lightspeed. October 2021. https://www.lightspeedhq.com/blog/state-of-the-hospitality-industry/

4 RESTAURANT LABOR SHORTAGE: WHY ARE COMPANIES STRUGGLING TO FIND WORKERS? 360 Training. https://www.360training.com/blog/restaurant-labor-shortage

5 90 percent of state restaurants, hotels are understaffed as industry struggles to survive https://www.fox2detroit.com/news/90-percent-of-state-restaurants-hotels-are-understaffed-as-industry-struggles-to-survive

6 RESTAURANT LABOR SHORTAGE: WHY ARE COMPANIES STRUGGLING TO FIND WORKERS? 360 Training. https://www.360training.com/blog/restaurant-labor-shortage

7 Assessing Factors Contributing to Food Safety Culture in Retail Food Establishments. FOOD PROTECTION TRENDS | AUGUST 2012 https://www.foodprotection.org/files/food-protection-trends/Aug-12-Neal.pdf

8 Chef sentenced after deadly shepherd’s pie strikes down 32 people with food poisoning, killing one. Ben Chapman. December 2021. https://www.gbnews.uk/news/chef-sentenced-after-deadly-shepherds-pie-strikes-down-32-people-with-food-poisoning-killing-one/170302

References

  1. Restaurant job growth remained sluggish in September, National Restaurant Association, October 2021. https://restaurant.org/education-and-resources/resource-library/restaurant-job-growth-remained-sluggish-in-september/
  2. Burden of Foodborne Illness: Findings. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/foodborneburden/2011-foodborne-estimates.html#:~:text=Burden%20of%20Foodborne%20Illness%3A%20Findings.%20CDC%20estimates%20that,are%20hospitalized%2C%20and%203%2C000%20die%20of%20foodborne%20diseases.
  3. 2021 State of the Hospitality Industry Report: Technology Trends, the Future of Restaurants and More. Lightspeed. October 2021. https://www.lightspeedhq.com/blog/state-of-the-hospitality-industry/
  4. RESTAURANT LABOR SHORTAGE: WHY ARE COMPANIES STRUGGLING TO FIND WORKERS? 360 Training. https://www.360training.com/blog/restaurant-labor-shortage
  5. 90 percent of state restaurants, hotels are understaffed as industry struggles to survive.https://www.fox2detroit.com/news/90-percent-of-state-restaurants-hotels-are-understaffed-as-industry-struggles-to-survive
  6. RESTAURANT LABOR SHORTAGE: WHY ARE COMPANIES STRUGGLING TO FIND WORKERS? 360 Training. https://www.360training.com/blog/restaurant-labor-shortage
  7. Assessing Factors Contributing to Food Safety Culture in Retail Food Establishments. FOOD PROTECTION TRENDS | AUGUST 2012. https://www.foodprotection.org/files/food-protection-trends/Aug-12-Neal.pdf
  8. Chef sentenced after deadly shepherd’s pie strikes down 32 people with food poisoning, killing one. Ben Chapman. December 2021. https://www.gbnews.uk/news/chef-sentenced-after-deadly-shepherds-pie-strikes-down-32-people-with-food-poisoning-killing-one/170302

About the author: Jayne Roth, MPH, REHS, is Senior Food Safety Consultant at Rimkusin Portland, OR. She has more than 25 years of experience in the food industry, working in both the government sector and with the food safety programs of large companies such as Walmart and Amazon. Her experience includes local and state jurisdictions, working closely with State Infectious Disease Teams to mitigate large foodborne illnesses. She is well-versed in food safety regulatory compliance and the regulatory structure of U.S. public health jurisdictions and served as the Illinois U.S. FDA Food Standardization Officer. Roth was instrumental in the adoption of food regulations at federal and state levels as part of the U.S. FDA Model Food Code. She holds a master’s in public health with an emphasis in microbiology.

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