Editor’s note: Today Food Safety News takes a look back at the most significant outbreaks in the United States in 2018. As in the past, our year-end coverage is not merely a list of individual stories by individual writers. Generally, significant events are the other way around. Multiple stories by multiple writers are involved in our outbreak coverage. It takes a newsroom — not solo work — to give readers the information they have come to expect from us.


The 21 foodborne illness outbreaks logged on the CDC’s “List of Selected Outbreak Investigations” for 2018 show Salmonella was the pathogen behind the vast majority of multistate events in the past 12 months. But, the list doesn’t include information on the number of intrastate outbreaks.

Investigators from the Centers for Disease and Prevention provide assistance to state officials during outbreaks that are defined by state boundaries, but the federal agency does not include one-state outbreaks in its regular reporting.

Public perception is, understandably, that the number of food-related outbreaks has been increasing in recent history. That perception has spurred people to post theories on social media, placing the blame on everything from terrorist attacks to wimpy immune systems they say have been compromised by too much hand sanitizer and parents who vaccinate their children.  

However, food safety experts say there’s more to the equation than year-to-year numbers and urban myths.

Top scientists at the CDC, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dozens of academic research facilities, and food industry organizations all say technological advances are key variables in the outbreak detection formula. Since 2009, the development of new laboratory techniques has fine tuned the detection and identification of pathogens. 

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) is largely responsible for those improvements. And, a database that CDC has been building in recent years — and a similar international project — is allowing public health officials to link seemingly unrelated patients from far flung areas by using so-called DNA fingerprints of specific strains of pathogens. 

That technology allows disease detectives to identify outbreaks earlier by enabling scientists to match lab test results from sick people to pathogens isolated from samples of food. Many such food samples are collected as part of routine, random testing programs by the FDA, USDA, and state health officials.

Matthew Wise, deputy chief of CDC’s Outbreak Response and Prevention Branch, told Food Safety News high-tech tools can also help contain outbreaks. 

“The good news is that CDC’s national laboratory network, PulseNet, uses whole genome sequencing more often to identify the most common bacterial culprits and connect the dots between sick people and contaminated food,” Wise said. 

“We are also providing funding to support state and local health departments’ capacity for epidemiologic work. As a result, we may be finding more outbreaks in the early stages so we can work with state and federal partners to identify the source faster and alert people as to what to avoid to prevent getting sick.”

Food companies recalled products in relation to some of the outbreaks. In the case of the Salmonella outbreak traced to kratom products, multiple companies recalled teas, powders, dried and capsulized forms of the plant. The FDA used its authority to mandate a recall when one kratom company refused to pull its product.

Here are the outbreaks — separated by pathogen — on the CDC’s 2018 “List of Selected Outbreak Investigations.” Individual outbreak stories from 2018 and previous years, including announcements and updates, are available on the Food Safety News website by clicking on the “Outbreaks” button on the navigation bar.

E. Coli outbreaks

Romaine lettuce – E. coli O157:H7
Announced by the CDC on April 10, this 36-state outbreak was declared over June 28. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 88 years old.

  • 210 people were confirmed infected
  • 96 people were admitted to hospitals
  • 27 people developed HUS, a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • 5 people died
  • Illness onset dates ranged from March 13 through June 6

Investigators identified romaine lettuce from the Yuma, AZ, growing area as a common denominator among outbreak victims, but by the time the public was warned to avoid romaine from that area, growers were virtually finished with the season’s harvest. Consequently, no companies recalled any product in relation to the outbreak. In June the FDA and CDC announced the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 had been found in water from an open irrigation canal that runs through the produce fields and past a cattle feed lot that can handle up to 100,000 head at one time. 

Romaine lettuce – E. coli O157:H7
Announced Nov. 20, this 15-state outbreak is ongoing in the United States, according to the most recent update from the CDC on Dec. 18. The outbreak crossed international lines, with the Canadian officials reporting patients in five provinces with infections from the outbreak strain of E. coli. Investigations in both countries showed romaine lettuce from the Central Coast region of California as the common denominator among patients. 

The outbreak strain for this outbreak is different from the one that caused the outbreak in the spring. However, it matches the outbreak strain of a U.S./Canada outbreak in November and December 2017.

In the ongoing U.S. outbreak, people in 15 states had been confirmed infected with the outbreak strain as of the CDC’s most recent update on Dec. 18. They range in age from 1 to 84 years old.

  • 59 people have been confirmed infected
  • 23 people have been admitted to hospitals
  • 2 people have developed HUS
  • No deaths have been confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from Oct. 5 through Nov. 16

Canadian officials declared the outbreak in their country was over as of Dec. 24. Canadian numbers — 29 people infected; 10 hospitalized; 2 developed HUS; no deaths. Patients’ ages ranged from 2 to 93 years old. Illness onset dates reported by the Public Health Agency of Canada ranged from mid-October to mid-November.

In response to this outbreak, many growers and other entities in the supply chain voluntarily recalled romaine and stopped serving it effective Nov. 20, at the request of the FDA. Harvest has since shifted to the Yuma area and the voluntary moratorium on shipping romaine has been replaced with a voluntary labeling program that reveals the harvest date and region.

Investigators identified the outbreak strain of E. coli behind the current outbreak in California in sediment of an irrigation pond at Adam Brothers Farms Inc. in Santa Barbara County. FDA investigators have said other growers and distributors have not been ruled out as possible sources of contaminated romaine in this outbreak. By the time the E. coli was found on the Adams property, romaine harvest in the region had ended, so no romaine was recalled.

Ground beef – E. coli O26
The announcement of this four-state outbreak and related recalls didn’t come until weeks after the last confirmed victim became sick. The CDC declared the outbreak over as of Sept. 20. Cargill Meat Solutions of Fort Morgan, CO., recalled more than 65 tons of product.

  • 18 people were confirmed infected
  • 6 people were admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person developed HUS
  • 1 person died 
  • Illness onset dates ranged from July 5 through July 25
Listeria outbreaks

Deli Ham
Announced Oct. 4, this two-state outbreak was declared over as of Dec. 18. Patients ages ranged from 70 to 81 years old.

  • 4 people were confirmed infected
  • 4 people were admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person died
  • Illness onset dates were not reported. Lab specimens were collected from patients between July 8, 2017, through Aug. 11, 2018.

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that deli ham products from Johnston County Hams Inc. in Smithfield, NC, was contaminated with the same DNA fingerprint as was isolated from the outbreak patients. The contamination in the ham was discovered during routine inspections by federal regulatory officials who collected samples of deli ham at the production facility in 2016 and in early 2018. 

On Oct. 3, Johnston County Hams Inc. recalled ready-to-eat deli ham products that were produced between April 3, 2017, and Oct. 2, 2018

Pork products
Announced Nov. 21, this four-state outbreak has not yet been declared over. Patients ranged in age from 35 to 84 years old. It can take up to 70 days after exposure to Listeria monocytogenes for symptoms of infection to develop. Once diagnosed, it can take another two to 10 weeks for confirmed test results to be added to the CDC’s case count.

  • 4 people were confirmed infected
  • 4 people were admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths have been confirmed 
  • Illness onset dates were not reported. Lab specimens were collected from patients between July 1, 2017, and Oct. 24, 2018.

A day before the outbreak announcement from the CDC, a company called 165368 C. Corp. and doing business as Long Phung Food Products recalled “Vietnamese Style” pork products made from May 21 through Nov. 16 this year. 

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reported it received notification of a cluster of listeriosis patients on Oct. 22 and began working with the CDC to determine the source of the pathogen. On Nov. 19, whole genome sequencing of investigative samples collected from Long Phung Foods Establishment M13561 showed a match with the samples from ill people.

Cyclospora outbreaks

This year marked the first time the Cyclospora parasite was found in fresh produce grown in the United States.

Del Monte Fresh Produce vegetable-dip trays
Announced June 15, this four-state outbreak was declared over Sept. 5. Patients ranged in age from 13 to 79 years old.

  • 250 people confirmed infected
  • 8 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from May 14 through June 20

Epidemiologic evidence showed pre-packaged Fresh Del Monte Fresh Produce vegetable trays containing broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and dill dip were the likely vehicle of this outbreak. On June 15, Del Monte Fresh Produce recalled packaged vegetable trays of pre-cut fresh broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks, carrots and dill dip. It was not possible to determine if an individual component of the vegetable trays was the likely vehicle of infection, according to the CDC. 

Fresh Express salad mix sold by McDonald’s
Announced July 13, CDC and FDA officials reported this 16-state outbreak was not associated with the Cyclospora parasite infection outbreak linked to the Del Monte vegetable-dip trays. The CDC declared this outbreak over on Sept. 12. Patients ranged in age from 14 to 91 years old.

  • 511 people confirmed sick
  • 24 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from May 20 through July 23

Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicated that salads purchased from McDonald’s restaurants were linked to this outbreak. On July 13 McDonald’s voluntarily stopped selling salads at more than 3,000 locations in 14 states.

On July 26, the FDA completed final analysis of an unused package of romaine lettuce and carrot mix distributed to McDonald’s by the Fresh Express. The analysis confirmed the presence of Cyclospora in that sample. The FDA investigation reviewed distribution and supplier information for romaine and carrots but did not identify a single source or point of contamination.

Vibrio parahaemolyticus

Imported crab meat
Announced July 13, this outbreak was declared over as of Sept. 27. Patients ranged in age from 26 to 78 years old.

  • 26 people confirmed infected
  • 9 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from April 1 through July 19

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that crab meat labeled as fresh or precooked and imported from Venezuela was making people sick. State and local health officials collected information from restaurants and grocery stores where ill people reported buying fresh crab meat. The FDA and regulatory officials in Maryland traced back the source of the crab meat and identified multiple Venezuelan suppliers. 

As a result of the outbreak investigation, FDA increased testing of fresh crab meat from Venezuela. FDA testing did not find Vibrio parahaemolyticus in any samples tested, but did find Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. That contaminated crab meat was not allowed to be sold in the United States.

Salmonella outbreaks

Frozen shredded coconut
Announced Jan. 16, this nine-state outbreak was declared over as of Feb. 15. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 82 years old.

  • 27 people confirmed infected
  • 6 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Jan. 9, 2017, through Nov. 4, 2017

Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback evidence indicated that Coconut Tree brand frozen shredded coconut, distributed by Evershing International Trading Co., was the likely source of this outbreak. On Jan. 3, 2018, Evershing International Trading recalled all 16-ounce Coconut Tree Brand Frozen Shredded Coconut after Salmonella was identified in the product by officials in Massachusetts.

Raw, fresh sprouts at Jimmy John’s
Announced Jan. 19, this three-state outbreak was declared over as of Feb. 28. Patients ranged in age from 26 to 56 years old.

  • 10 people confirmed infected
  • No people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Dec. 20, 2017 through Jan. 28, 2018

Epidemiologic evidence indicates that raw sprouts served at Jimmy John’s restaurants were the most likely source of this outbreak. Eight of the 10 patients reported eating at multiple Jimmy John’s restaurant locations. Of these eight people, all eight reported eating raw sprouts on a sandwich from Jimmy John’s in Illinois and Wisconsin.

Various kratom products
Announced Feb. 20, this 41-state outbreak was declared over as of May 24, but both CDC and FDA are continuing to investigate other illnesses and product contamination. Patients in this outbreak ranged in age from less than 1 to 75 years old.

  • 199 people confirmed with infections
  • 50 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Jan. 11, 2017, through May 8, 2018 

This outbreak was detected when a cluster of people infected with Salmonella I 4,[5],12:b:- was identified by CDC’s PulseNet. During the investigation, health and regulatory officials in several states and the FDA collected various leftover and unopened kratom products to test for Salmonella contamination. Multiple product recalls have been initiated by several different companies. The FDA website has a list of contaminated kratom products, which were from several retail locations and online retailers. A list of the recalled kratom products is also available on the FDA website.

Chicken salad from Triple T Specialty Meats and sold by Fareway stores
Announced Feb. 22, the CDC declared this eight-state outbreak over on April 6. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 89 years old.

  • 265 people confirmed infected
  • 94 people admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person died
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Jan. 8 through March 20

Public health officials in Iowa first detected this outbreak and linked the illnesses to chicken salad sold at Fareway grocery stores. The CDC searched the PulseNet database and identified illnesses in other states. Fareway stopped selling chicken salad in all of its stores on Feb. 9 after the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals contacted the company about the illnesses. 

Investigators in Iowa collected chicken salad from two Fareway grocery store locations in the state for laboratory testing. An outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium was identified in both samples. On Feb. 21 Triple T Specialty Meats Inc., which produced the chicken salad, recalled all of the chicken salad it produced from Jan. 2 through Feb. 7. 

Dried coconut
Announced March 21, the CDC declared this outbreak involving eight states and Washington D.C. over as of May 18. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 73 years old.

  • 14 people confirmed infected
  • 3 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Sept. 22, 2017, through to Feb. 26, 2018.

Eight of 10 outbreak victims reported eating dried coconut before becoming sick. Four of them reported buying it from Natural Grocers stores. Federal and state investigators collected and tested leftover dried coconut from ill people’s homes, as well as dried coconut from Natural Grocers store locations where ill people shopped and from the Natural Grocers’ Distribution Center. Lab tests showed the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium in an unopened sample of Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic and in an opened, leftover sample of Natural Grocers Coconut Smiles Organic collected from an ill person’s home. The FDA also found the outbreak strain in samples of International Harvest Brand Organic Go Smile! Dried Coconut Raw and Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw.

On March 16, International Harvest Inc. recalled bags of Organic Go Smile! Raw Coconut and bulk packages of Go Smiles Dried Coconut Raw.

Eggs from Rose Acre Farms
Announced April 16, this 10-state outbreak was declared over as of June 14. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 90 years old.

  • 45 people confirmed infected
  • 11 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Nov. 16, 2017, through May 13, 2018

More than half of the patients interviewed reported eating dishes made with shell eggs in restaurants before becoming sick. Outbreak investigators traced the source of some of the shell eggs supplied to these restaurant locations to Rose Acre Farms’ Hyde County, NC, farm. FDA investigators inspected the farm and collected samples. Laboratory testing identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Braenderup in environmental samples taken at the farm. On April 13 Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, IN, recalled more than 206 million shell eggs. 

Pre-cut melon distributed by Caito Foods
Announced June 8, this nine-state outbreak was declared over as of July 26. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 97 years old.

  • 77 people confirmed infected
  • 36 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from April 30 through July 2

Information collected from stores where ill people shopped indicated that Caito Foods LLC supplied pre-cut melon to the stores. On June 8 Caito Foods, LLC recalled fresh-cut watermelon, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and fresh-cut fruit medley products containing one or more of those melons that were produced at the Caito Foods facility in Indianapolis.

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal
Announced June 14, the CDC reported on Sept. 26 that it was closing its investigation into this 36-state outbreak. The agency stopped short, however, of saying the outbreak is over, mainly because of the long shelf life of the implicated breakfast cereal, which has best-by dates through June 14, 2019.

  • 135 people confirmed infected
  • 34 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from March 3 through Aug. 29

Three out of every four outbreak patients interviewed reported eating Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal before becoming sick. Investigators collected unopened packages of the cereal from retailers and from leftover cereal from patients’ homes. Tests showed the outbreak strain of Salmonella in unopened and leftover cereal. On June 14 the Kellogg Co. initiated an international recall of all Honey Smacks cereal that were on the market within the cereal’s one-year shelf-life.

Hy-Vee Spring Pasta Salad
Announced July 18, this 10-state outbreak was declared over as of Sept. 5. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 89 years old.

  • 101 people confirmed infected
  • 25 people admitted to hospitals
  • No confirmed deaths
  • Illness onset dates ranged from June 21 through Aug. 7

Epidemiologic evidence indicated that Spring Pasta Salad purchased at Hy-Vee grocery stores was a likely source of this outbreak. In interviews, 76 percent of patients reported eating Spring Pasta Salad from Hy-Vee grocery stores in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The ill people in North Dakota, Oregon, and Tennessee traveled to states where Hy-Vee grocery stores are located. On July 16 Hy-Vee Inc. removed Spring Pasta Salad products from all of its stores. The next day Hy-Vee formally recalled its Spring Pasta Salad.

Raw turkey products
Announced July 19, this 38-state outbreak is ongoing. As of the most recent update from the CDC on Dec. 21, the patients range in age from 1 to 99 years old.

  • 216 people confirmed infected
  • 84 people admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person has died
  • Illness onset dates range from Nov. 20, 2017, through Dec. 6, 2018

Ill people reported buying many different brands of raw turkey products from multiple stores. Also, three of the 108 patients interviewed as of Dec. 21 became sick after pets in their home ate raw ground turkey pet food. Four of the 108 ill people interviewed worked in a facility that raises or processes turkeys, or lived with someone who did.

The outbreak strain of Salmonella is resistant to multiple antibiotics, including ampicillin, streptomycin, sulfamethoxazole, tetracycline, kanamycin, gentamicin, nalidixic acid, ciprofloxacin and fosfomycin.

Extensive testing by state and federal officials across the country has revealed Salmonella in raw turkey, in live turkeys, at slaughtering facilities and at processing plants. Federal officials say the pathogen is widespread in the industry and the ongoing outbreak likely involves multiple products from multiple sources.

However, in recent weeks two Jennie-O Turkey Store locations recalled raw ground turkey in relation to the outbreak. Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales LLC in Barron, WI recalled 91,388 pounds of raw ground turkey products and Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales LLC in Faribault, MN recalled 164,210 pounds of raw ground turkey products.

Empire Kosher chicken
Announced Aug. 29, the CDC declared this six-state outbreak over as of Dec. 7. Patients ranged in age from less than 1 to 76 years old.

  • 25 people confirmed sick
  • 11 people admitted to hospitals
  • 1 person died
  • Illness onset dates ranged from Sept. 25, 2017, through Aug. 13, 2018 

In interviews, ill people reported eating kosher chicken, and when asked about the specific brand eaten, several people reported Empire Kosher brand. The outbreak strain was also identified in samples of raw chicken collected from two facilities, including one facility that processes Empire Kosher brand chicken. The samples, collected by USDA-FSIS at the slaughter and processing establishment, were part of USDA-FSIS’ routine testing under the Salmonella performance standards. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella strain from the samples matched the Salmonella strain from ill people.

Eggs from Gravel Ridge Farms
Announced Sept. 10, this 11-state outbreak was declared over as of Oct. 25. Patients ranged in age from 1 to 94 years old.

  • 44 people confirmed infected
  • 12 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates ranged from May 17 through Aug. 26

Of the patients interviewed by epidemiologists, 81 percent said they ate restaurant dishes made with eggs before becoming ill. The restaurants reported using shell eggs in the dishes eaten by ill people. FDA and state investigators traced the shell eggs to Gravel Ridge Farms in Cullman, AL.

Laboratory testing found the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis in environmental samples from Gravel Ridge Farms. Officials in Alabama also detected the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis in eggs. Whole genome sequencing showed the Salmonella bacteria from the environmental samples and from Gravel Ridge Farms eggs matched the Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people. On Sept. 8 Gravel Ridge Farms recalled cage-free large eggs with use by dates of July 25 through Oct. 3.

Ground beef from JBS
Announced Oct. 4, this 28-state outbreak is ongoing, as of the most recent update from the CDC on Dec. 12. Patients range in age from less than 1 to 99 years old.

  • 333 people confirmed infected
  • 91 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from Aug. 5 through Nov. 9

The USDA-FSIS and state partners traced the source of the ground beef eaten by ill people in this outbreak to JBS Tolleson Inc. On Oct. 4, the company recalled approximately 6.5 million pounds of beef in relation to this outbreak. JBS recalled an additional 5.2 million pounds of beef on Dec. 4.

Officials in Arizona collected an unopened package of ground beef from an ill person’s home as part of the outbreak investigation. The outbreak strain of Salmonella Newport was identified in the ground beef. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella identified in the ground beef matched the Salmonella in samples from ill people. The ground beef was one of the products recalled by JBS on Oct. 4.

Raw chicken products
Announced Oct. 17, this 29-state outbreak is ongoing. Patients range in age from less than 1 to 105 years old.

  • 92 people confirmed infected
  • 21 people admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from Jan. 19 through Sept. 9

Evidence collected as of Oct. 17 shows many types of raw chicken products from a variety of sources are contaminated with Salmonella Infantis and are making people sick, according to the CDC. In interviews, ill people report eating different types and brands of chicken products purchased from many different locations.

The outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw chicken pet food, raw chicken products from 58 slaughter and/or processing establishments, and from live chickens. Antibiotic resistance testing shows that the outbreak strain is resistant to multiple antibiotics. 

Samples were collected at slaughter and processing establishments as part of FSIS’s routine testing under the Salmonella performance standards. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella from those samples matches the Salmonella from ill people.

Duncan Hines cake mix
Announced Nov. 7, this three-state outbreak is ongoing. Patients range in age from 26 to 72 years old.

  • 5 people confirmed infected
  • No patients admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from June 13 through Sept. 17

Health officials in Oregon identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Agbeni in a box of Duncan Hines “Classic White Cake Mix” as part of an unrelated investigation. The CDC compared the pathogen found in Oregon with Salmonella strains in the PulseNet database and found it matched samples collected from patients in three states. 

On Nov. 7 ConAgra Brands recalled Duncan Hines cake mix in Classic White, Classic Yellow Cake, Classic Butter Golden Cake, and Confetti Cake flavors, with various “best if used by” dates ranging from March 7 to 13, 2019.

Tahini from Achdut Ltd.
Announced Nov. 28, this three-state outbreak is ongoing. Patients range in age from 17 to 52 years old.

  • 5 people confirmed infected
  • No patients admitted to hospitals
  • No deaths confirmed
  • Illness onset dates range from June 16 through Oct. 18

In interviews, all of the patients reported eating tahini in the days before becoming sick. The FDA had identified Salmonella Concord in a sample of tahini collected at the point of import. The tahini was Baron’s brand manufactured by Achdut Ltd. Whole genome sequencing results showed that the Salmonella strain identified in imported tahini matches the Salmonella strain identified in ill people. On Nov. 27 Achdut Ltd. recalled a variety of tahini products in relation to the outbreak. The FDA website has a list of the tahini products that were recalled.

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Editor’s note: Today Food Safety News takes a look back at the most significant recalls in the United States in 2018. As in past years, our year-end coverage is not merely a list of individual stories by individual writers. Generally, significant events are the other way around. Multiple stories by multiple writers are usually involved in our recall coverage, especially when illnesses or multiple companies are involved. It takes a newsroom — not solo work — to give readers the information they have come to expect from us.


Some of the biggest food recall news of 2018 didn’t come from a food producer or distributor. And, it didn’t force consumers to check their cupboards or refrigerators for potentially poisonous food. It came from FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in September when he announced the agency would begin publicly disclosing retail locations that may have sold or distributed recalled food — in some circumstances.

The shift away from protecting “confidential corporate information” and toward public safety is so significant it made our Top 10 list of food safety news stories for 2018.

Another headline out of the Food and Drug Administration’s 2018 recall file was “the agency’s first-ever mandatory recall order,” Gottlieb said in a Late November statement about the FDA’s investigation of contamination of kratom products and dozens of related illnesses. The kratom situation, which included multiple recalls and a Salmonella outbreak, also earned a spot on the Food Safety News Top 10 list for the year.

Click image for enlarged view.

Other big recall news in the “Year of the Dog” involved millions of eggs, millions of pounds of meat and poultry, an unrevealed volume of other foods under the jurisdiction of FDA and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). Here, in no particular order, are some of the most noteworthy recalls initiated in 2018.

Romaine lettuce
It wasn’t an official recall, but many growers and others in the romaine supply chain launched a voluntary “market withdrawal” of all forms and brands of the popular leafy green two days before Thanksgiving. The action was at the request of the FDA, which announced the third E. coli outbreak in 12 months on Nov. 20. Hundreds of people in the United States and Canada fell ill in the three outbreaks. At least five people died.  

Outbreak investigators found the outbreak strain of E. coli O157: H7 involved in the fall outbreak in the sediment of an irrigation pond on Adam Brothers Farm in Santa Maria, CA. The romaine harvest was well over by December when the contamination was confirmed, but in mid-December, the family-owned farm recalled red and green leaf lettuces and cauliflower in relation to the contaminated pond.

JBS beef
In October, JBS Tolleson Inc., a beef producer in Arizona that is part of the multi-national Brazilian company JBS S.A., recalled 6.5 million pounds of ground beef because of links to a Salmonella outbreak. The company expanded the recall in December to a total of more than 12 million pounds. As of Dec. 12, there were 333 people with confirmed Salmonella Newport infections across 28 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Jennie-O ground turkey
Although the CDC first announced a Salmonella outbreak traced to raw turkey in July, there weren’t any related turkey recalls until Nov. 15 when Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales in Barron, WI, recalled more than 91,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products. On Dec. 21 a Jennie-O Store Sales location in Faribault, MN, recalled more than 164,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the CDC report the outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products, and live turkeys. A single, common supplier of raw turkey products or of live turkeys has not been identified that could account for the whole outbreak. As of Dec. 21, the CDC was reporting 216 people with confirmed Salmonella infections, including one death, across 38 states. 

Shell eggs
On April 13, 2018, Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, IN, recalled more than 206 million shell eggs because they were implicated in a Salmonella outbreak bacteria. Three days later Cal-Maine Foods Inc. voluntarily recalled more than 280,000 eggs it had purchased from Rose Acre Farms. The CDC reported 45 people were infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella across 10 states.

In September, Gravel Ridge Farms in Cullman County, AL, recalled eggs because of Salmonella. Forty-four people across 11 states were infected. The FDA put its new policy to work, listing some retailers that carried the Gravel Ridge Farms eggs. 

McCain Foods USA Inc.
At least a half-dozen companies recalled more than 755 tons of food products because they contained ingredients from a McCain Foods production facility in Colton, CA. The factory produces fire roasted caramelized or sauteed frozen fruit and vegetable products. 

In a news release, McCain said it “identified a potential health risk” to its product line at Colton. The company was not exact about its problem at Colton when it originated, the volume of food involved, or where it was distributed.

The products were sold in Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Walmart, Kroger and Target stores across the country. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service reported more than a dozen food manufacturers in the U.S. received vegetables from McCain that were potentially contaminated with Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

Fresh-cut melon
When Walmart and Kroger pulled fresh-cut melon products from their shelves because they were implicated in a Salmonella outbreak, it took supplier Caito Foods 48 hours to initiate a recall of the fresh fruit. The volume of precut fruit products involved was not disclosed.

Caito distributed the fresh-cut products, packaged with generic labels, to Costco, JayC, Kroger, Payless, Owen’s, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, and Whole Foods/Amazon. The CDC reported 77 people were confirmed ill in the related outbreak.

Del Monte fresh vegetable trays
An outbreak of infections from the Cyclospora parasite spurred Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A. Inc. to recall vegetable trays containing fresh broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks, carrots, and dill dip in mid-June. Neither the company nor the FDA reported how many pounds were recalled.

Del Monte distributed the vegetable-dip trays to retailers including Kwik Trip, Kwik Star, Demond’s, Sentry, Potash, Meehan’s, Country Market, Food Max Supermarket and Peapod. The CDC reported 250 people in four states were confirmed with the parasitic infections.

McDonald’s salads
Also because of Cyclospora parasite infections, McDonald’s pulled an undisclosed number of salads from restaurants in 14 states in July. Ingredients for the salads were distributed by Caito Foods, but were produced by Fresh Express.

Caito Foods officials told the FDA that Fresh Express had notified it of a product recall involving romaine that could be contaminated with the parasites. FDA issued a public alert after Cyclospora was confirmed in Fresh Express product, but the romaine-carrot mix was past its shelf life at that point. When the outbreak was declared over, there had been 511 people across 16 states confirmed with Cyclospora infections.

Retailers including Trader Joe’s, Kroger, and Walgreens removed salads and wraps from their shelves because of the situation.

Honey Smacks
In June the Kellogg Co. issued an international recall of its Honey Smacks cereal in relation to a multistate Salmonella outbreak. The massive recall is still active. However, the CDC declared the outbreak over in late September when the confirmed patient count was 135.

Public health officials are concerned that consumers could still have unopened boxes of the recalled cereal in their homes because of the product’s long shelf life. All Honey Smacks cereal, regardless of size, with best-by dates through June 14, 2019, is subject to the recall. 

Duncan Hines cake mix
In November Conagra Foods recalled four flavors of Duncan Hines brand cake mix after federal investigators told them Oregon’s public health department found Salmonella in a box of Duncan Hines cake mix. The strain matched that of patients in a multistate Salmonella outbreak.

A spokesperson with the Food and Drug Administration told Food Safety News the manufacturing plant where the recalled cake mix was produced is in the United States. The FDA’s outbreak investigation announcement Nov. 5 reported the agency was inspecting the manufacturing plant, but did not indicate where the plant is located.

Goldfish crackers, Hungry Man dinners, Ritz crackers
Several varieties of “the snack that smiles back” were voluntarily recalled by Pepperidge Farm during the summer after the whey powder used in a seasoning ingredient was found to be contaminated with Salmonella.

In addition to the Goldfish crackers from Pepperidge Farm, several other products had to be recalled, including Hungry Man frozen dinners, Ritz brand crackers in the U.S. and Canada, and several brands of snack cakes.

Both the FDA and the FSIS reported the manufacturer of the whey powder was Associated Milk Producers Inc., but the company did not issue a public recall. Officials with Minnesota-based AMPI posted a news release in July saying none of the implicated whey powder was sold directly to consumers. 

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Another Jennie-O Turkey Store, this one in Faribault, MN, late Friday recalled more than 164,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products that may be contaminated with Salmonella Reading, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The recalled turkey was shipped to retail locations nationwide. Based on the continuing investigation, additional products from other companies may also be recalled.

As recently as Nov. 15, the Jennie-O Turkey Store in  Barron, WI, began a recall that ended up totaling more than 147,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products that also may be associated with an outbreak of Salmonella Reading infections.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

As the latest Jennie-O raw turkey recall was being announced, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was also providing an update on the Salmonella Reading outbreak. The CDC says since its Nov. 8 report, 52 people from 26 states and the District of Columbia have been added to the outbreak totals. The agency also reported the first fatality in the outbreak.

FSIS is concerned that some of the recalled turkey may be frozen and in consumers’ homes. Anyone who has purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase. To view photos from all of the products subject to the new recall, please click here.

CDC also report in its Dec. 21 update that:

  • As of Dec. 18, there have been 216 people from 38 states and the District of Columbia confirmed with infections from the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading.
    • 84 people have been hospitalized, and one death has been reported from California.
  • Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that raw turkey products from a variety of sources are contaminated with Salmonella Reading and are making people sick.
  • In interviews, ill people reported eating different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different locations. Three ill people lived in households where raw turkey pet food was fed to pets.
  • The outbreak strain has been identified in samples taken from raw turkey pet food, raw turkey products, and live turkeys.
    • On Nov. 15, Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales in Barron, WI, recalled 91,388 pounds of raw ground turkey products.
    • On Dec. 21, Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales LLC, in Faribault, MN, recalled 164,210 pounds of raw ground turkey products.
    • A single, common supplier of raw turkey products or of live turkeys has not been identified that could account for the whole outbreak.
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada has identified ill people infected with the same DNA fingerprint of Salmonella Reading bacteria in Canada.
  • The outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading is present in live turkeys and in many types of raw turkey products, indicating it might be widespread in the turkey industry. CDC and USDA-FSIS have shared this information with representatives from the turkey industry and asked about steps that they may be taking to reduce Salmonella contamination.

The newly recalled raw ground turkey items were produced on Oct. 22 and 23, 2018. The following products are subject to recall:

  • 3-lb. packages of “Jennie-O GROUND TURKEY 93% LEAN | 7% FAT” with “Use or freeze by” dates of 11/12/18 and 11/13/18 on the side of the trays.
  • 1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O GROUND TURKEY 93% LEAN | 7% FAT” with “Use or freeze by” dates of 11/12/18 on the side of the trays.
  • 1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O TACO SEASONED GROUND TURKEY” with “Use or freeze by” dates of 11/12/18 on the side of the trays.
  • 1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O ITALIAN SEASONED GROUND TURKEY” with “Use or freeze by” dates of 11/12/18 on the side of the trays.
  • 3-lb. packages of “Jennie-O Ground Turkey 85% LEAN | 15% FAT” with a “Use or freeze by” date of 11/13/18 on the side of the trays.
  • 2.5-lb. packages of “Jennie-O Ground Turkey 93% LEAN | 7% FAT” with a “Use or freeze by” date of 11/13/18 on the side of the trays.
  • 3-lb. packages of “STATER BROS. 85% LEAN | 15% FAT ALL NATURAL Ground Turkey” with a “Use or freeze by” date of 11/12/18 on the side of the trays.

The recalled products have the establishment number “EST. P-579” printed inside the USDA mark of inspection or on the side of the package trays.

FSIS, CDC,  the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, have been conducting traceback activities for a sample of Jennie-O brand ground turkey in an intact, unopened package from a case-patient’s home. The patient tested positive for Salmonella Reading and the samples from the case-patient and from the ground turkey are closely related genetically.

This investigation is part of a larger effort involving FSIS, the CDC, and state public health and agriculture partners. Patients have reported eating different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different stores, handling raw turkey pet food and/or raw turkey, or working with live turkeys or living with someone who handled live turkeys. FSIS continues to work with the CDC and state health and agriculture departments on this larger investigation and will provide updated information as it becomes available.

Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume raw poultry product that has been cooked to a temperature of 165°F. Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage are essential in preventing foodborne illness. You can’t see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. In every step of food preparation, follow the four guidelines to keep food safe:

  • Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate — Separate raw meat, poultry and fish from other foods.
  • Cook — Cook to the right temperature.
  • Chill — Refrigerate food promptly.

For additional details on the previous recall, please see:

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

A group of major food companies, retailers, livestock producers, and trade and professional associations today announced a comprehensive framework to strengthen the stewardship of antibiotic use in food animals. The structure is the product of a two-year dialogue among stakeholders, moderated by Farm Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, to ensure that antibiotics are used judiciously throughout production to protect animal and public health.

The stakeholders agreed that the use of medically important antibiotics in all settings, from human health care to livestock production, must be carefully managed to slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and preserve the effectiveness of these vital drugs. The framework issued today defines effective stewardship, lays out its core components, and describes essential characteristics of effective stewardship programs, including key performance measures.

Organizations agreeing to the framework include Elanco Animal Health, Hormel Foods, Jennie-O Turkey Store, McDonald’s Corp., National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Board, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, Smithfield Foods Inc., Tyson Foods, Walmart Inc. and Zoetis.

“Antibiotic stewardship is essential to protecting human and animal health, ensuring food safety and security, and combating antibiotic resistance – issues that consumers increasingly care about when making their purchasing decisions,” said Kathy Talkington, who directs Pew’s antibiotic resistance project. “The organizations who were part of this dialogue represent the food animal supply chain from farm to table, and they recognize the need for meaningful stewardship programs that everyone can understand and trust.”

The 15 core components of the antibiotic stewardship framework are based on the importance of veterinary guidance and partnership, disease prevention strategies, and optimal treatment approaches, as well as effective record keeping and a culture of continuous improvement and commitment to antibiotic stewardship. The components address education, implementation, and evaluation steps for phasing in stewardship programs. The framework’s guiding principles are intended to help ensure that stewardship programs have a clear scientific basis, are transparent, minimize the risk of unintended consequences, encourage alternatives to antibiotics, and focus on long-term sustainability.

“There is a broad consensus across the food animal industry that we must continue to drive and demonstrate antibiotic stewardship in animal agriculture,” said Joe Swedberg, chairman of the board of Farm Foundation. “This framework is about stakeholders coming together to do the right thing and communicate their commitment to antibiotic stewardship, with a transparent and meaningful approach.”

Ultimately, the framework’s stakeholders seek to foster and validate the continuous improvement of science-based and confirmed stewardship practices and to implement best practices throughout the animal production system. The dialogue’s participants also acknowledged that much work still remains to achieve the stewardship framework effectively.

“We look forward to continuing to work together to align these stewardship best practices with existing quality and sustainability programs throughout animal production,” said Talkington.

Swedberg added: “The participating organizations are enthusiastic that the framework provides the basis for a robust and science-based system—one that consumers can understand and trust, and that enhances both animal and public health.”

More information about the Pew Charitable Trusts can be found at www.pewtrusts.org. And more about the Farm Foundation, formed in 1933, is available at www.farmfoundation.org

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She is knee-deep in expertise about beef cattle, but don’t be surprised if Mindy Brashears today mostly “talks turkey” during her long-awaited confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.

The hearing kicks off today at 9:30 a.m. EDT, and will be available via Live Stream from Room 328A Russell Senate Office Building.

Scheduled to appear before the committee are Brashears, nominated to be USDA’s under secretary of agriculture for food safety; Scott Hutchins, nominated to be USDA’s under secretary of agriculture for research, education, and economics; and Naomi Earp, nominated as a USDA assistant secretary of agriculture for civil rights.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has gone without an under secretary for food safety for nearly five years. Brashears, a professor and director of the International Center for Food Industry Excellence at Texas Tech University, was nominated for the position by President Donald J. Trump on May 4. If confirmed by the Senate, she will succeed Dr. Elisabeth Hagen who left the job in December 2013.

Timing and circumstances are among the reasons why Brashears will likely find herself “talking turkey” during today’s nomination hearing. Many food safety issues have come and gone at USDA during the past five years. But this past Friday, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) released a list with a year’s worth of data showing which poultry plants failed Salmonella performance standards.

Salmonella outbreaks from chicken and turkey production have sickened hundreds in recent months and involved some massive recalls by major brands. The slaughter plant in Wisconsin for the Jennie-O Turkey Store company recently recalled 73.6 tons of raw ground turkey because a sample was found to be contaminated with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading that has sickened more than 160, killing one person. Additional brands could be contaminated, but no other recalls have been initiated.

Friday’s FSIS report said the Jennie-O facility is a Category 3 plant, meaning it isn’t meeting the standard in that product class. About 15 percent of 826 poultry plants were in the same boat as the Jennie-O and listed as Category 3. Three other Jennie-O plants were also in that category.

Perdue Farms also has three out of four of its facilities ranked in Category 3. The company claimed the rankings, for the one-year period from Oct. 29, 2017, to Oct. 27, 2018, don’t “necessarily” reflect current salmonella levels.

FSIS’s standard is that no more than 13.5 percent of comminuted turkey samples test positive for Salmonella, and no more than 25 percent of comminuted chicken samples test positive.

FSIS also announced it would be updating the plant information monthly and keeping six months worth of plant-specific data on its public website.

Brashears’ research interests include both meat and poultry products, so don’t expect her to become frustrated no matter where the questioning might lead. She’s also an expert in the use of feed additives to reduce E. coli and Salmonella in cattle.

Her testimony as an expert witness in the agricultural product defamation trial related to the term “pink slime” is credited by many with South Dakota’s Beef Products Inc. winning a reported $177 million from Disney’s ABC News.

Federal law mandates that if there is a vacancy as Under Secretary for Food Safety, the president shall make a qualified appointment who shall serve upon confirmation by the U.S. Senate. The 13 top jobs at USDA require presidential appointment and Senate confirmation. If today’s three nominees are confirmed, 10 of those jobs will be filled.

For additional coverage, please see “Taking Salmonella seriously: Will Dr. Brashears use the tools at her disposal to protect public health?”

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State and federal officials are beginning to identify retailers that received recalled Jennie-O brand ground turkey that is implicated in a 35-state outbreak of Salmonella Reading.

Washington state’s Department of Health reports four chains with stores statewide received the recalled ground turkey products — Walmart, Safeway, Fred Meyer and QFC. As of Tuesday night, named retailers in 10 other states, as reported by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), did not include any locations of the four chains named by Washington state. However, the FSIS list did not yet include Washington.

The FSIS website includes retailers’ locations known to have received the recalled turkey products in Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas and Wisconsin. Additional locations in those states could be added to the list. The federal agency compiles and posts updates for its retailer lists as the information becomes available.

In Washington state, retail locations in addition to the four statewide chains identified so far are:

  •  Camano Island Plaza IGA in Camano Island, WA
  • Fuller’s Shop N Kart in Centralia, WA
  • Darrington IGA in Darrington, WA
  • Farmhouse Market in Fall City, WA
  • Food Market in Kingston, WA
  • Goose Community Grocer in Langley, WA
  • Ocean Shores IGA in Ocean Shores, WA
  • Blanton’s Market IGA in Packwood, WA
  • Dissmore Food Mart IGA in Pullman, WA
  • Fischer’s Market in Randle, WA
  • Bailey’s IGA in Rochester, WA
  • Ken’s Market in Seattle, WA
  • Kress Supermarket IGA in Seattle, WA
  • Fiesta Foods in Sunnyside, WA
  • Cedar Village IGA in Winlock, WA

“We are working on obtaining additional retail information from distributors who may have received the recalled product and will let you know when we have additional information to share. So far we have contacted QFC, Fred Meyer, and Safeway to verify recall notification and product removal,” according to a statement from the Washington Department of Health. 

“Local Health Jurisdictions in Washington are not being asked to participate in any formal recall verification activities at this time, but appropriate staff should be aware of the recall.”

The recall details
On Nov. 15, Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales LLC of Barron, WI, recalled 91,388 pounds of raw ground turkey products after an unopened package tested positive for the outbreak strain of Salmonella Reading that has sickened 164 people in 35 states.

The recalled raw ground turkey products items were produced on Sept. 11. Consumers can determin whether they have any of the recalled products in their homes by looking for the following label information: 

1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O GROUND TURKEY 93% LEAN | 7% FAT” with “Use by” dates of 10/01/2018 and 10/02/2018.
1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O TACO SEASONED GROUND TURKEY” with a “Use by” date of 10/02/2018.

1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O GROUND TURKEY 85% LEAN | 15% FAT” with a “Use by” date of 10/02/2018.

1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O ITALIAN SEASONED GROUND TURKEY” with a “Use by” date of 10/02/2018.

The products subject to recall all have the establishment number “P-190” printed inside the USDA mark of inspection.

Investigators from the FSIS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arizona Department of Health Services have been working on traceback for the unopened package of Jennie-O brand ground turkey collected from an outbreak patient’s home.

Other outbreak patients have reported eating different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different stores. Some patients also reported handling raw turkey pet food and/or raw turkey, or working with live turkeys, or living with someone who handles live turkeys. 

Based on the continuing investigation, federal officials say additional products from other companies may also be recalled.

Advice for consumers
Food that is contaminated with Salmonella bacteria usually does not look, smell or taste spoiled. Anyone can become sick with a Salmonella infection, but infants, children, seniors and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC.

Anyone who has eaten any of the recalled products and developed symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctors about the possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria because special tests are necessary to diagnose salmonellosis. Salmonella infection symptoms can mimic other illnesses, frequently leading to misdiagnosis.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. Otherwise healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, diarrhea may be so severe that patients need to be hospitalized. 

Older adults, children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop a severe illness and serious, sometimes life-threatening conditions.

It is possible for some people to be infected with the bacteria and to not get sick or show any symptoms, but to still be able to spread the infection to others.

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Barron, WS-based Jennie-O Turkey Store Sales LLC late Thursday recalled 91,388 pounds of raw ground turkey products that may be associated with an outbreak of Salmonella Reading, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FSIS and state public health officials, are investigating the Salmonella Reading outbreak.  FSIS is continuing to investigate illnesses associated with this widespread outbreak, and additional product from other companies may also be recalled.

Click on this image to view all of the labels posted by the FSIS in relation to this recall of Jenny-O turkey products.

The raw ground turkey products items were produced on Sept. 11, 2018. The following products are subject to recall:

  • 1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O GROUND TURKEY 93% LEAN | 7% FAT” with “Use by” dates of 10/01/2018 and 10/02/2018.

    Check the back of packages for date and production codes to help determine if you have the recalled turkey in your home. Click the image to see a larger version.
  • 1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O TACO SEASONED GROUND TURKEY” with a “Use by” date of 10/02/2018.
  • 1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O GROUND TURKEY 85% LEAN | 15% FAT” with a “Use by” date of 10/02/2018.
  • 1-lb. packages of “Jennie-O ITALIAN SEASONED GROUND TURKEY” with a “Use by” date of 10/02/2018.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “P-190” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to retail locations nationwide.

CDC, FSIS  and the Arizona Department of Health Services, have been conducting traceback activities for a sample of Jennie-O brand ground turkey in an intact, unopened package from a case-patient’s home. The patient tested positive for Salmonella Reading and the sample from the ground turkey matches the outbreak strain.

FSIS, the CDC, and state public health and agriculture partners, have been working together on the outbreak of 164 case-patients in 35 states. Patients have reported eating different types and brands of turkey products purchased from many different stores, handling raw turkey pet food and/or raw turkey, or working with live turkeys or living with someone who handled live turkeys. FSIS continues to work with the CDC and state health departments on this investigation and will provide updated information as it becomes available. Based on the continuing investigation, additional product from other companies may also be recalled.

Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers. 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.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution lists will be posted on the FSIS website.

FSIS cautions that Salmonella is prevalent and can be present in raw poultry and meat and that no raw poultry or meat is sterile. In addition to discarding the product associated with this recall, consumers can protect themselves now and in the future by ALWAYS cooking their turkey, and other poultry products thoroughly, to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees, as measured using a food thermometer. The cooking process kills the Salmonella. No one should be eating partially cooked or raw turkey. Additionally, it is essential that people wash their hands after handling raw poultry, meat, and pet food to avoid cross contamination.

FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume raw poultry product that has been cooked to a temperature of 165°F. Safe steps in food handling, cooking, and storage are essential in preventing foodborne illness. You can’t see, smell, or taste harmful bacteria that may cause illness. In every step of food preparation, follow the four guidelines to keep food safe:

  • Clean — Wash hands and surfaces often.
  • Separate — Separate raw meat from other foods.
  • Cook — Cook to the right temperature.
  • Chill — Refrigerate food promptly.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Humane farming advocates Food Animal Concerns Trust (FACT) have released an overview of the antibiotics and other drugs used in turkey production. The organization is part of the Keep Antibiotics Working coalition, which recommends that food animal producers limit the use of medically important antibiotics to disease treatment in order to prevent overuse and subsequent spread of antibiotic resistance. FACT found that among the top 20 turkey producers, only Hain Pure Protein, marketed under the Plainville Farms Brand, and Tyson Foods, marketed under the Hillshire Brand, stated that they don’t allow their producers to routinely use antibiotics related to those used in humane medicine either for disease prevention or for growth promotion. Another four companies prohibit the use of these antibiotics for growth promotion, but allow such use for disease prevention. Nine companies, including the three largest – Butterball, Jennie-O and Cargill – stated that they don’t use the non-antibiotic growth-promoter ractopamine. FACT recommends that consumers avoid companies that allow ractopamine or routine antibiotic use and seek out companies that are transparent about the drugs they use in food production. The report also recommends that consumers look for products that are produced under a third-party certification that includes controls on veterinary drug use. “Turkey meat has consistently had the highest level of superbugs compared to other meats, and so it’s important for consumers to know about the use of antibiotics in turkey production,” said Steven Roach, FACT’s Food Safety Program Director. “This report shows that most turkey companies have not committed to ending routine antibiotic use on their farms.” (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Joe Ferguson says he just couldn’t take it any longer. The former inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) spent more than 23 years monitoring operations inside pork processing plants inspecting hog carcasses for signs of anything that could translate to a food safety problem, in particular hints of Salmonella contamination on the processing line. But Ferguson, who retired in September 2014, is now a so-called “whistleblower,” joining forces with critics who say that a trial high-speed hog processing inspection program piloted by USDA is a food safety nightmare. Critics charge that the faster line speeds and fewer numbers of government inspectors on processing lines called for by the program result in carcasses flying by too fast for inspectors to spot signs of trouble. Five U.S. hog plants are participating in the USDA’s Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Inspection Models Project (HIMP), including three owned by, or contracted to supply, Hormel Foods Corporation. The program is supposed to provide for a more flexible and efficient inspection system. Processing line speeds can run roughly 20-percent faster than at conventional plants, allowing for the processing of approximately 1,300 hogs per hour. The program gives plant operators more responsibility for carcass inspection while government inspectors verify the effectiveness of the company’s work. “In my opinion, the only standards they were concerned about meeting were the standards that the company had for production,” Ferguson told Food Safety News, referring to a key Hormel supplier in Austin, MN, which has become a particular target of critics. An undercover video recently shot inside that plant, privately owned by Quality Pork Processors Inc., was released Nov. 11 by an animal rights group. The video, coupled with allegations from food safety activists, has thrust concerns about pork processing into the national spotlight and is prompting a probe by USDA. Made by a worker for the nonprofit animal rights group Compassion Over Killing, the video includes footage of pigs being beaten and dragged, and they are shown writhing on a conveyor belt as their throats are slit at the slaughterhouse. The group said the video shows that pigs with feces and pus-filled abscesses are being processed for human consumption with a “USDA inspection seal of approval.” The video also shows a supervisor who appears to be sleeping at a time when the animal rights group said he was supposed to have been working.

Pork plant photo
Photo from an undercover video taken inside a pork processing plant in Austin, MN.
Quality Pork Processors, which provides more than 50 percent of Hormel’s fresh pork raw materials needs and processes roughly 19,000 hogs a day, said in a statement that it was making “significant corrective measures” in response to the video. Many of these measures are being mandated by Hormel, both companies noted, and include enhanced compliance oversight and increased third-party auditing at Quality Pork. Hormel is also placing “humane handling officers” at the pork plant. In a statement posted Nov. 12, Hormel said that the company was “extremely disappointed and concerned to see the recently released undercover video detailing instances of aggressive animal handling and employee insensitivity at one of our supplier facilities. These actions do not reflect the values of Hormel Foods, its employees or its customers.” Meanwhile, a USDA spokesman said that the federal agency is investigating activities seen in the video for possible violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. “The actions depicted in the video under review are completely unacceptable, and if we can verify the video’s authenticity, we will aggressively investigate the case and take appropriate action,” USDA said in a statement. “Had these actions been observed by the inspectors, they would have resulted in immediate regulatory action against the plant.” The Food Integrity Campaign, a program of a whistleblower group called the Government Accountability Project (GAP), said that the video shows only part of the problems. Ferguson and at least one other now-retired USDA inspector have come forward with concerns about conditions at the hog plant which they believe threaten public health. The inspectors have witnessed line speeds moving so fast that it’s nearly impossible to detect abscesses, lesions, fecal matter and other defects that may make the hog carcasses unsafe or unwholesome, the group said in a statement. Plant employees cannot safely report food safety problems or slow down the processing lines without fear of retaliation, and USDA inspectors are only allowed to conduct inspections on a small sample of hogs which doesn’t reflect the true pathogen risk, GAP said. “Inspectors have told us what’s been happening in this Hormel plant. It’s not surprising that where food safety concerns appear, other areas of concern like animal welfare and worker safety arise as well,” said Amanda Hitt, director of the Food Integrity Campaign. Hitt’s group raised similar concerns in January when it said that affidavits obtained from Ferguson and three other USDA inspectors noted increased contamination problems in the HIMP plants. A similar program is also in place at U.S. poultry plants, and a labor union representing U.S. poultry inspectors has claimed that the program jeopardizes food safety. Hormel, known for its Spam luncheon meat and Jennie-O, Muscle Milk and Dinty Moore brands, referred questions about the effectiveness of the HIMP process and related concerns about food safety to USDA. USDA defended the HIMP program and said that it is not to blame for the actions seen in the video. The agency added that its own analysis shows that the HIMP hog plants are performing as well as, or better, than plants operating under traditional inspection processes. Under the HIMP market hog inspection system, there are two to three online carcass inspectors and one offline verification inspector assigned to each processing line. At the traditional hog plants, there are typically seven online carcass inspectors and one offline verification inspector. But USDA said that in the HIMP plants, government inspectors perform 1.4 times more offline verification inspection procedures than occur in non-HIMP hog plants. And HIMP establishments have lower levels of non-food safety defects, equivalent or better Salmonella testing results, and fewer positives tests for chemical residues, the agency noted. Pat Maher, another retired FSIS inspector with 30 years of experience, told Food Safety News that he is not totally opposed to the HIMP inspection model, but he does think the faster line speeds are a problem. “It is too fast, way too fast for me to get a good look at things, that’s for sure,” Maher said. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

In my job over at Outbreak Database, I have been keeping track of foodborne illness outbreaks – small and large – over the last 12 months. Here are some of the more interesting:

Don Julio Mexican Restaurant December 2011 – 59 ill. A salmonellosis outbreak was linked to eating at the Don Julio’s Mexican Restaurant in Corinth, Mississippi. A food producer or supplier did not appear to be the cause. The food vehicle and the contributing factors were not described as of December 16. 

Hannaford Hamburger Ground Beef December 2011 – 16 ill.  On December 16, Hannaford, a Scarborough, Maine-based grocery chain, recalled fresh ground beef products that may have been contaminated with a strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. The recall resulted from an investigation into human illness. By December 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 16 ill persons with an indistinguishable pulse field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern. Eleven of those individuals reported consuming ground beef. Seven individuals were hospitalized. Ten of the 14 case-patients reported purchasing ground beef at Hannaford stores in Maine, New York, New Hampshire and Vermont between October 12 and November 20. The Salmonella Typhimurium was resistant to several commonly used antibiotics.

 

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Organic Pastures Unpasteurized, Raw Milk November 2011 – 5 ill.  Raw milk products produced by Organic Pastures were recalled and quarantined by the state of California after five children drank Organic Pastures raw milk and were infected with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7. The children were residents of Contra Costa, Kings, Sacramento, and San Diego counties. The only common food exposure was the unpasteurized raw milk. Laboratory sampling failed to detect E. coli O157:H7. The recall was ordered strictly on the basis of the epidemiologic findings of the California Department of Public Health, which concluded that Organic Pastures was the likely source of the outbreak. Organic Pastures was implicated in an earlier outbreak of E. coli O157:H7, in 2006; the E. coli O157:H7 associated with this outbreak was different than the strain implicated in 2006.

 

Cozy Vale Creamery Raw, Unpasteurized Milk Products November 2011 – 3 ill.  Cozy Vale Creamery’s raw milk products were recalled due to their link to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in Washington state that began in August. Cozy Vale Creamery’s whole and skim milk and cream were distributed through seven retail outlets in Pierce, Thurston and King counties. The recalled products had sell-by dates of December 6 or earlier. The Washington State Department of Agriculture discovered that locations in the milking parlor and processing areas were contaminated with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. The milk products were sold at the farm store and at Marlene’s Market in Tacoma, two Olympia Food Co-Op locations in Olympia, Olympia Local Foods in Tumwater, Yelm Co-op in Yelm, Mt. Community Co-op in Eatonville and Marlene’s Market in Federal Way. Retail raw milk is legal in Washington state.

 

Utah State Prison Pruno October 2011 – 12 ill.  Inmates of a Utah State Prison developed botulism after drinking pruno, a drink made from various fruit, potato, bread, water, table scraps and sugar, which are then fermented to make alcohol. Making pruno in prison is a violation of prison rules. Most illnesses began on October 1. The last illness began on October 3. Health officials planned to test pruno samples to pinpoint the specific source. Three of the 12 who became ill were critically ill.

 

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Multistate Schnucks Salad Bars, College Campuses Romaine Lettuce October 2011 – 60 ill.  An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 was first identified in the region around Saint Louis, Missouri. Cases were found in Saint Louis, Jefferson, Saint Charles, and Saint Clair counties and in the city of Saint Louis. The cases ranged in age from 1 to 94. At least six people were hospitalized. Many of the cases had eaten items from salad bars prior to becoming ill. On October 28, Illinois state health officials revealed that they were investigating an illness that might be linked to the outbreak in Missouri. The link was not described. On October 31, health department officials acknowledged that Schnucks salad bars were a focus of the investigation, however other sources had not been excluded. Cases were identified in Minnesota and Missouri that were linked to college campuses. Additional cases were found in other states; the exposure location in these states was not described. Traceback analysis determined that a common lot of romaine lettuce, from a single farm, was used to supply the Schnucks’ grocery stores and the college campuses. The lettuce was sold to Vaughn Foods, a distributor, that supplied lettuce to the university campus in Missouri, but records were not sufficient to confirm that this lot was sent to this university campus. Preliminary findings of the investigation at the unnamed farm did not identify the source of the contamination.

 

Sunrise Commodities Turkish Pine Nuts October 2011 – 43 ill.  A confirmed outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis was associated with eating Turkish pine nuts purchased from bulk bins at Wegman’s grocery stores between July 1 and October 18. As of November 17, there were 43 cases, ranging in age from less than one year to 94 years. Some of the pine nuts were eaten as an ingredient in prepared foods, such as Caprese salad or asparagus with pine nuts. Among 40 ill persons for whom information was available, 28 (70 percent) had eaten pine nuts or products containing pine nuts. Wegman shopper card records were helpful in identifying pine nut purchases. The outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis was isolated from several consumer pine nut samples and from pesto made in a private home using the implicated pine nuts. Wegman’s grocery stores are located along the East Coast, mostly in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Laboratory testing conducted by public health laboratories in several states identified the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis from at least five samples of Turkish pine nuts or pesto containing Turkish pine nuts.

 

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Jensen Farms Rocky Ford Cantaloupe October 2011 – 146 ill.  A multistate outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes was associated with consumption of cantaloupe that had been grown in the Rocky Ford region of Colorado and shipped by Jensen Farms. As of December 8, 2011, a total of 146 peo
ple had been reported
to the CDC and were infected with at least one of the four outbreak associated strains. Thirty-one people died, and one pregnant woman miscarried. Among those for whom information is available, reported illness onset ranged from July 31, 2011 through October 27, 2011. Ages of ill people ranged from less than 1 year to 96 years, with the median age of 77. Most ill people were over 60 years old or had health conditions that weakened their immune systems. Seven of the illnesses were related to pregnancy (three newborns; four pregnant women). Among the 144 ill people with available information on whether they were hospitalized, 142 (99 percent) were hospitalized. Among the 140 ill people with available information on what they ate, 131 (94 percent) reported consuming cantaloupes in the month before illness onset. Several ill people remembered the type of cantaloupe they had eaten and said they were Rocky Ford cantaloupes, which are grown in southeastern Colorado. Source tracing of the cantaloupes indicated that they came from Jensen Farms, and were marketed as being from the Rocky Ford region. These cantaloupes were shipped between July 29 through September 10 to at least 24 states with possible further distribution. Laboratory testing by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified Listeria monocytogenes bacteria on cantaloupes collected from grocery stores and from ill persons’ homes. Laboratory testing by FDA has identified L. monocytogenes matching outbreak strains in samples from equipment and cantaloupe at the Jensen Farms’ packing facility in Granada, CO. The FDA identified several factors at the packing plant that likely contributed to the introduction, spread, and growth of Listeria monocytogenes in the cantaloupe. This outbreak had several unusual features. This was the first listeriosis outbreak associated with melon. Four widely differing PFGE pattern combinations and two serotypes (1/2a and 1/2b) were associated with the outbreak. This outbreak was unusually large and resulted in the highest number of deaths of any U.S. foodborne outbreak since a listeriosis outbreak in 1998 (See Bil Mar Foods Ready-to-eat Meats 1998). 

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Jaquith Strawberry Farm Strawberries September 2011 – 15 ill.  An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 was linked to eating fresh strawberries produced by Jaquith Strawberry Farm in Oregon. The farm sold berries to buyers who in turn distributed them to roadside stands and farmers’ markets in Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Yamhill, and Clatsop counties. The berries were sold in unmarked containers and were last distributed on August 1. Confirmed cases included residents of Washington, Clatsop, and Multnomah counties. Strawberries had not previously been implicated in an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in the U.S. Ten percent of the environmental samples collected at the Jaquith Strawberry Farm tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. Those samples included deer feces; deer were suspected to be the source of the contamination. The outbreak strain was found in samples from fields in three separate locations.

 

Tyson Fresh Meats Ground Beef September 2011 – 4 ill.  An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 was associated with eating ground beef in a private home in Butler County, Ohio. A consumer sample of leftover ground beef was tested and confirmed the presence of the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. On September 27, Tyson Fresh Meats issued a voluntary recall of 131,300 pounds of ground beef. The recall involved beef sold as Kroger brands at Kroger Company supermarkets; Butcher’s Beef at Food Lion supermarkets; and generic beef sold to Save-A-Lot, Spectrum Foods, Supervalu and the Defense Commissary Agency.

 

Jerry Dell Farm Unpasteurized, Raw Milk September 2011 – 2 ill.  At least two people became ill due to campylobacteriosis after drinking raw milk. Jerry Dell Farm in Freeville, New York had produced the milk. The farm had an agricultural permit to sell raw milk at the farm. The milk was confirmed to be contaminated with Campylobacter. 

Larry Schultz Organic Farms Eggs August 2011 – 6 ill.  An outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis was associated with eating organic eggs produced by Larry Schultz Organic Farms, Owatonna, Minnesota. At least six illnesses were attributed to this outbreak. The illnesses occurred in adults and children in a seven-county metropolitan area surrounding Minneapolis, Minnesota. Five of the six cases reported eating the implicated eggs after purchasing them from grocery stores or co-ops. The eggs were distributed to restaurants, grocery stores, food wholesalers and foodservices companies in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan and were voluntarily recalled. 

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J & B Meats Ground Beef July 2011 – 2 ill.  J & B Meats recalled ground beef after an investigation into two cases of E. coli O157:H7 linked the product to the illnesses. The beef had been sold to restaurants in the Cincinnati, Ohio, region.

 

McNees Meats and Wholesale LLC Ground Beef July 2011 – 9 ill.  An outbreak of E. coli O157:NM was attributed to the consumption of ground beef produced by McNees Meats and Wholesale, LLC, of North Branch, Michigan. The implicated beef was sold to restaurants through a retail establishment owned by McNees Meats and Wholesale, LLC. Illnesses were reported from Genesee, Isabella, Lapeer, and Sanilac counties.

Michigan Cow Share Raw Milk June 2011 – 3 ill.  Three Michigan women who had consumed raw cow’s milk were infected with Q fever. The milk was obtained from a Livingston County farm through a dairy herd share program. Herd or cow share programs are where members own part of a cow and in return receive raw, dairy products. These programs are not subject to inspection or regulation under Michigan’s dairy laws. The milk was not sold at retail stores. Q fever is caused by the bacteria Coxiella burnetii. This organism is common in farm animals such as cattle, sheep and goats. Infected animals shed the organism in their urine, feces, milk and birthing fluids. One of the women was hospitalized due to Q Fever meningitis.

North Cape Elementary School Raw Milk June 2011 – 16 ill. Laboratory test results proved that the Campylobactor jejuni bacteria caused the diarrheal illnesses among 16 individuals at the North Cape Elementary School. Raw milk had been served at a school event on June 3. The same strain of Campylobacter jejuni bacteria was found in raw milk from the local farm where the milk originated. A parent supplied the milk for the school event. The farm had not sold the unpasteurized milk to the parent.

 

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Evergreen Produce Alfalfa and Spicy Sprouts June 2011 – 21 ill.  In late June, Idaho health officials announced an investigation into an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis suspected to be caused by the consumption of contaminated alfalfa and spicy sprouts. As of June 28, at least 21 cases were known in Idaho, Washington, Montana, North Dakota, and New Jersey. Six cases reported consumption of alfalfa sprouts obtained from a northern Idaho grower, Evergreen Produce, located in Moyie Springs, Idaho. On June 27, the Idaho Department of Health and the FDA recommended the public to avoid eating the sprouts while the investigation was underway. On July 1, Evergreen Produce voluntarily recalled its alfalfa and spicy sprouts. 

Tucker Adkins Dairy Raw Milk June 2011 – 8 ill.  On July 18, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned consumers to avoid drinking raw milk from Tucker Adkins Dairy, located in York, South Carolina. The cases were from three different households and had consumed raw milk from the dairy on June 14, 2011. Although retail sale of raw milk is legal in South Carolina, it was illegal to distribute raw milk in final package form, for direct human consumption, in interstate commerce. Retail sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal in North Carolina.

 

Matanuska-Suisitna Valley Cow Share Program Raw Milk May 2011 – 18 ill.  An outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni was linked to the consumption of raw milk obtained through a cow share program in southeast Alaska. In Alaska, regulations do not allow the sale of raw milk; however owning shares of a cow to obtain milk is permissible. Campylobacter was not isolated from milk, but was isolated from manure samples collected at the dairy farm. Coincidentally Listeria was isolated, but no human illness had been attributed to this pathogen.

 

Portillo’s Restaurant Salad April 2011, Illinois – 36 ill.  An investigation into an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium among patrons of Portillo’s Restaurant in St. Charles, Illinois, was first announced on May 10, 2011. Cases were infected with a rare strain of Salmonella Typhimurium. There were 36 case patients meeting the case definition of which 19 were laboratory-confirmed with S. Typhimurium. Cases resided in Kane, DuPage, Cook, DeKalb, Kenall and Will Counties. Two case patients lived in Minnesota but traveld to St. Charles in Kane County. An investigation was conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Kane County Health Department. Investigators concluded that a salad prepared at Portillos was the contaminated food item. They did not determine how the salad became contaminated with Salmonella.

 

Jason’s Deli Guacamole April 2011 – 11 ill.  Patrons of Jason’s Deli in Killeen, Texas, became ill with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria. The epidemiologic investigation revealed that guacamole made on April 13 was the most likely cause of the outbreak. The guacamole had been used as a sandwich spread for the California Club sandwich. The guacamole had likely become contaminated at the deli.

 

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DeFusco’s Bakery, Salmonella Heidelberg March 2011 – 79 ill.  On March 26, the Rhode Island Department of Health announced an investigation into an outbreak of Salmonella linked to recalled baked goods produced by DeFusco’s Bakery in Johnston, Rhode Island. The products were first recalled on March 25 when it was discovered that the pastry cream used to fill zeppole, a doughnut-like pastry, and the eclairs, had been stored at unsafe temperatures. On March 27, it was revealed that the bakery had stored finished zeppole shells in used egg crates, which could have led to cross contamination of the zeppole shells. The bakery goods from DeFusco’s Johnston store were sold at all DeFusco Bakery locations, Crugnale Bakery locations in Providence, East Providence, North Providence, Cranston and Cumberland, Colvitto’s Bistro in Narragansett, Sal’s Bakery in Providence, and Focaccia World in Johnston. The zeppole were also sold to American Bakery Supplies, a distributor, which in turn distributed the pastries to Roch’s Market in West Warwick, Meal Works in Coventry, and Touch of Class Catering in West Warwick. Meal Works, a catering company, served the zeppole on March 17 and 18 at the West Warwick Manor Senior Center, St. John and Paul Church in Coventry, Sparrow Point Senior Center in West Warwick, and Crescent Park Manor in Riverside. Two deaths were linked to the outbreak. One of the decedents had been a resident of the West Warwick Manor Senior Center.

Brunton Dairy Pasteurized Milk March 2011 – 16 ill. An outbreak of Yersinia enterocolitica was associated with drinking milk or eating ice cream made by the Brunton Dairy. Nine individuals in Beaver County and seven in Allegheny County were sickened(Pennsylvania). On August 26, it was revealed that Yersinia enterocolitica was found in an unopened container of Brunton Dairy ice cream. Later Yersinia enterocolitica was isolated from homemade yogurt made from the dairy’s milk. Through home delivery and retail sales, Brunton’s Dairy distributed approximately 10,000 milk containers per week to 650 households and 40 retail outlets. The mechanism of milk and ice cream contamination was unknown. The dairy resumed milk production and distribution following a Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture culture of a test batch of products that demonstrated no growth of Yersinia. No additional outbreak-associated cases of Yersinia were reported after August 5. The dairy farm had been operated by the Brunton family since 1832 and had bottled milk beginning in 1964.

Frederick County 4-H Country Butchering Event and Benefit Pancake Breakfast Sausage March 2011 – 18 ill. An outbreak of Salmonella Infantis occurred among people attending a benefit pancake breakfast on March 5, in Thurmont, Maryland, at the Trinity United Church of Christ. Sausage and meat pudding were named as the vehicles of infection. These originated from a Frederic County, 4-H Camp Center Country Butchering event; the sausage was confirmed to be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.

Del Monte Fresh Produce Cantaloupe February 2011 – 21 ill.  Del Monte Fresh Produce recalled whole cantaloupes after an epidemiologic link was found between the cantaloupe and an outbreak of Salmonella Panama. The cantaloupes were sold as a package of three through warehouse clubs in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. The cantaloupes were grown in Guatemala. 

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Cargill Meat Solutions Ground Turkey February 2011 – 136 ill.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a public health alert, on July 29, due to concerns about illnesses caused by Salmonella Heidelberg associated with the use and the consumption of ground turkey. The alert was initiated after continuous medical reports; ongoing investigations and testing conducted by various departments of health across the nation determined an association between consumption of ground turkey products and illness. On August 3, Cargill Meat Solutions issued a recall of ground turkey products. The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “P-963” inside the USDA mark of inspection. On August 4, the CDC published their first outbreak summary. The Salmonella Heidelberg was multi-drug resistant, resistant to ampicillin, streptomycin, tetracycline, and gentamycin. The CDC began their investigation on May 23, after recognizing an “unusual clustering” of Salmonella Heidelberg cases. About the same time, routine surveillance by a federal food monitoring system found the same strain of Salmonella Heidelberg in ground turkey in stores. On July 29, the initial outbreak strain and a second, closely related, strain of Salmonella Heidelberg was isolated from a sample of leftover unlabeled frozen ground turkey from the home of an outbreak case in Ohio. The consumer product sample originated from the Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation establishment in Springdale, Arkansas. On September 11, Cargill Meat Solutions recalled an additional, approximately 185,000 pounds, of ground turkey contaminated with an identical strain of Salmonella Heidelberg that had led to the earlier recall on August 3. As of September 27, no illnesses had been linked to the additionally recalled, ground turkey products.

 

Palmyra Bologna Company Lebanon Bologna January 2011 – 21 ill.  On March 23, the CDC announced that there was an investigation underway into an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that had been epidemiologically linked to the consumption of Lebanon bologna. The Palmyra Bologna Company, of Palmyra, Pennsylvania, issued a recall of the product on March 22. Lebanon bologna is a fermented, semi-dry, sausage. The suspect bologna was produced in December 2010, and had been shipped to five states. 

Agromod Produce Papayas January 2011 – 99 ill.  Agromod Produce recalled papayas purchased prior to July 23 after an outbreak of Salmonella Agona had been linked to the papayas. The outbreak related illnesses began after January 16 and continued to occur over several months. On August 25, the Food and Drug Administration banned imports of papayas grown in Mexico because of widespread and ongoing salmonella contamination. More than 15 percent of fresh papayas entering the U.S. from Mexico were contaminated with Salmonella.

 

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Schreiber Processing Company, MealMart Brand, Kosher Broiled Chicken Livers January 2011 – 179 ill.  An outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg was associated with eating broiled chicken liver or chopped chicken liver produced by the Schreiber Processing Company under the MealMart brand. As of November 16, 99 cases were identified in New York, 61 cases in New Jersey, 10 cases in Pennsylvania, 6 cases in Maryland, 2 cases in Ohio, and 1 case in Minnesota. Consumers believed that the product was fully cooked; however it was not. The product should have been heated before eating. The outbreak strain of Salmonella was found in samples of kosher broiled chicken livers and in samples of chopped chicken liver made from the same broiled chicken liver. In stores, “broiled chicken livers” are often re-packaged and sold in smaller quantities or are used to prepare chopped liver sold at deli-style establishments.

Three notable outbreaks began in December, 2010, but were reported in 2011:

Sprouters Northwest/Jimmy John’s Restaurants Clover Sprouts – 7 ill. Sprouters Northwest of Kent, Washington, issued a product recall Jan. 3, 2011 after the company’s clover sprouts had been implicated in an outbreak of Salmonella Newport in Oregon and Washington. At least some of the cases had consumed clover sprouts while at a Jimmy John’s restaurant.   The recall of Sprouters Northwest products included: clover; clover & onion; spicy sprouts; and deli sprouts sold to grocery stores and wholesale operations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. The FDA inspection found serious sanitary violations.

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DeFranco and Sons In Shell Hazelnuts – 8 ill. An outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 was associated with eating in-shell hazelnuts (also known as filberts) purchased from bulk bins in grocery stores or in a repacked form. The E. coli strains isolated from case patients, and from a consumer product sample, matched genetically. The investigation led to a common distributor, DeFranco and Sons, a California based firm. On March 4, 2011, DeFranco and Sons issued a recall of all hazelnut and mixed nut products distributed from November 2, 2010, to December 22, 2010. Only in shell nuts were included in the recall. The nuts were shipped to stores in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and to Canada. Based on a consumer hazelnut sample that proved to be contaminated with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7, the Minnesota Department of Health traced the hazelnuts to a December 9 shipment from DeFranco and Sons. Later the states of Wisconsin and California isolated the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 from mixed nut samples.

Jenny-O-Turkey Burgers – 12 ill. Jennie-O-Turkey Store recalled about 54,960 pounds of frozen All Natural Lean White Meat Turkey Burgers on April 1, 2011, after an outbreak of Salmonella Hadar had been linked with the consumption of this product. The turkey burgers were sold exclusively in 4-pound cartons through Sam’s Club stores. Consumer turkey burger samples in two states were confirmed to be contaminated with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Hadar. The Salmonella Hadar is known to be resistant to several antibiotic drugs, including ampicillin, amoxicillin/clavulanate, cephalothin and tetracycline. The Jenny-O Turkey Store is part of the Hormel Foods Company.

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Janice Boase is a former nurse epidemiologist for Public Health Seattle & King County and an infectious disease expert. She has been on the frontlines in numerous foodborne illness investigations, such as the outbreaks involving Jack in the Box hamburgers, Odwalla apple juice, Sun Orchard orange juice.  She was involved in setting initial, national,
health and safety practice standards for child care programs. She currently works for Group Health Cooperative in the practice of travel medicine, but keeps her interest in outbreak investigation by monitoring, and writing about, outbreaks for the food safety law firm Marler Clark.