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

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

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?”

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

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.

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

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.

 

raw-milk14-featured.jpg

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. 

 

Four outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant Salmonella — the most ever in a single year — were 2011’s 3rd most important food safety story.

Since April, Salmonella Hadar, Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Typhimurium infections have left a trail of victims who cannot be successfully treated with common antibiotics.

The sudden frequency of these antibiotic-resistant Salmonella outbreaks in 2011 is sounding alarm bells on several fronts.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not ban Salmonella in meat and poultry. But when an antibiotic-resistant Salmonella strain is found in meat linked to an illness, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) treats it like a banned substance.

That’s why outbreaks of illness traced to contaminated ground turkey, chicken livers, and ground beef led to recalls in 2011. 

After one of those recalls, the Center for Science in the Public Interest called upon USDA to change its current policy and not wait for people to be sickened before asking producers to recall meat tainted with four antibiotic-resistant strains of Salmonella.

CSPI in May formally petitioned USDA to declare those four Salmonella strains — Heidelberg, Newport, Hadar and Typhimurium —  as “adulterants” under federal law, making it illegal to sell products containing them.

USDA still has the petition “under consideration” as 2011 draws to a close.

“The only thing worse than getting sick from food is being told that no drugs exist to treat your illnesses,” said CSPI attorney Sarah Klein, who filed the petition.  “And that is what more consumers will hear if these drug-resistant pathogens keep getting into our meat.”

And did they ever get into our meat in 2011.

In April, Jennie-O Turkey, which ran a massive television campaign promoting turkey burgers during 2011, was forced to recall 54,900 pounds of ground turkey contaminated with Salmonella Hadar.

The recall was associated with a 10-state Salmonella Hadar outbreak that left 12 people infected and sent three to hospitals. Later in the year, Jennie-O Turkey television advertisements included a brief caution about the need to thoroughly cook turkey burgers.

In August, Cargill Meat Solutions called back 36 million pounds of ground turkey from its Arkansas facility after a massive Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak infected 136 people in 34 states. There was one fatality. Cargill’s voluntarily closed its Springdale, AR turkey plant and did not get it up and running again until Dec. 19.

About 40 percent of those with the Heidelberg infections required hospitalization, and in many of those cases fighting the infections proved difficult.

“The isolates from the ground turkey samples were resistant to antibiotics including ampicillin, streptomycin, tetracycline, and gentamicin, ” according to the CDC. “The sensitivity testing results indicated that isolates from humans were also resistant to ampicillin and tetracycline, and some were resistant to streptomycin and gentamicin. 

“All human isolates were sensitive to several common antibiotics used in clinical practice such as ciprofloxacin, ceftriaxone, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Antimicrobial resistance may increase the risk of hospitalization or possible treatment failure in infected individuals.”

The “treatment failure” option is what has public health officials concerned about antibiotic-resistant Salmonella.

Two more outbreaks added to the toll in 2011.  Chicken livers contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg infected at least 179 people in a half dozen states.  Schreiber Processing Corp. recalled “Kosher broiled chicken livers” implicated in the outbreak.

In December, fresh ground beef from a Maine grocery store chain was recalled for Salmonella Typhimurium contamination. At least 16 people were infected and at least seven were hospitalized.

The government has long been looking for ways to fight back against the bacteria.

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at year-end appeared to be backing off the long-held theory that low doses of antibiotics used in animal feed to spur grow is part of the problem.  In a Dec. 22  filing, FDA withdrew its 1977 proposal for withdrawing approval for such routine use of penicillin and tetracycline in food-producing animals.

FDA may have been reacting to a Government Accountability Office of Congress report from earlier in 2011 that said there is not even sufficient data to study a link between antibiotic uses in food animals to antibiotic uses in humans.

One thing that is for certain — 2011’s 3rd most important story is not going away anytime soon.

With the Hannaford Hamburger Salmonella Outbreak of 2011 hitting the wires a few days ago, Salmonella — especially antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Outbreaks — should be on manufacturers’, regulators’ and consumers’ minds. 

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.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported 14 ill persons with an indistinguishable PFGE pattern. Eleven of those individuals reported consuming ground beef. Seven individuals were hospitalized and no deaths have been reported.

Ten of the fourteen case-patients reported purchasing ground beef at Hannaford stores in Maine, New York, New Hampshire and Vermont between October 12 and November 20, 2011.

Here is a decade of history of Antibiotic-Resistant Salmonella Outbreaks:

Emmpak/Cargill Ground Beef 2002 – 47 Ill

In early 2002, isolates of Salmonella Newport in New York State were found to be resistant to more than nine antibiotics and had a decreased susceptibility to the antibiotic, ceftriaxone. Since 1996, an increasing number of Salmonella Newport isolates had been found to be resistant to antibiotics. This particular strain of Salmonella Newport was referred to as SN-MDR-AmpC. Subsequent to the discovery of cases in New York, four additional states discovered cases sharing the same strain of SN-MDR-AmpC.

When the cases were investigated, it was found that consumption of undercooked ground beef was the only food that was significantly associated with a risk of infection. The risk of infection when undercooked ground beef eaten was over 50 times greater than when well-cooked meat was eaten.

A sample of ground beef provided by a case-patient was analyzed and was found to be contaminated with SN-MDR-AmpC. Traceback of the meat implicated Emmpak Foods Inc., a subsidiary of Cargill, Inc. Most patients had eaten lean, or extra-lean, ground beef.

This outbreak was the first to implicate ground beef as a source of SN-MDR-AmpC. It illustrated the spread of antibiotic resistance from animal products to humans.

Northeastern States Ground Beef 2003 – 58 Ill

A cluster of Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 cases was found in the northeastern United States in late 2003. The strain was resistant to several antibiotics and was referred to as R-type ACSSuT. Illness was associated with consuming grocery store bought ground beef that was prepared at home as hamburgers.

Product traceback linked the cases to a single, large ground beef manufacturer that had previously been implicated in a multistate outbreak of a highly antibiotic resistant strain of Salmonella Newport in 2002. The meat processor produced much of the ground beef from culled cows.

On January 29, 2004, the USDA issued a reminder to consumers to cook beef thoroughly, but no product recall was issued. Related cases were found through April 2004. Cases were more likely than controls to have pre-existing medical problems.

Safeway Ground Beef 2007 – 43 Ill

Safeway markets in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and New Mexico sold contaminated ground beef. A rare, drug resistant, strain of Salmonella Newport was isolated from the ill.

No recall was issued as the Food Safety and Inspection Service could not identify the specific “establishments, lots and products” that received the ground beef.

An alert was issued on December 21, 2007 that advised Safeway customers to refrain from eating ground beef that had been purchased between September 19 and November 5.

Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef 2009 – 2 Ill

In December, Beef Packers, Inc., owned by Cargill, recalled over 20,000 pounds of ground beef contaminated with a drug-resistant strain of Salmonella Newport.

The company issued an earlier recall in August 2009, due to contamination of ground beef with the same strain of Salmonella Newport. This contaminated ground beef was produced in September and was distributed to Safeway grocery stores in Arizona and New Mexico.

The Arizona Department of Health linked two illnesses to the ground beef.

Beef Packers, Inc., Cargill, Ground Beef 2009 – 40 Ill

A Beef Packers, Inc. plant in California, owned by Cargill, distributed approximately 830,000 pounds of ground beef that was likely contaminated with Salmonella Newport. The beef was shipped to distribution centers in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Utah where it was repackaged into consumer-sized packages and sold under different retail brand names.

The contaminated beef contained a strain of Salmonella resistant to several commonly used antibiotics (called MDR-AmpC resistance). At least 40 people in nine states fell ill; at least 21 of the people lived in Colorado and five lived in California. Most people became ill during late June and early July, 2009.

Most of the ill in Colorado had purchased the ground beef at Safeway grocery stores. Ground beef was likely sold through other retail outlets as well.

Cargill is a privately held, multinational corporation whose business activities include production of crop nutrients, grain, livestock feed, agricultural commodities, and ingredients for processed foods.

King Soopers, Inc., Ground Beef 2009 – 14 Ill

King Soopers, Inc., a supermarket chain, recalled approximately 466,236 pounds of ground beef that was linked to an outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium DT 104 in the state of Colorado.

The beef had been distributed in the states of Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The recall involved tray packs and chubs. The ground beef was produced on various dates ranging from May 23 to June 13, 2009. The Salmonella was resistant to many the antibiotics.

Jenny-O-Turkey Burgers 2010 – 12 Ill

Jennie-O-Turkey Store, All Natural Lean White Meat Turkey Burgers were recalled 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.

Cargill Meat Solutions Ground Turkey 2011 – 136 Ill

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspe
ction Service (FSIS) issued
a public health alert on July 29, 2011, 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. On August 4, the Centers for Disease Control published its first outbreak summary.

The Salmonella Heidelberg was multi-drug resistant, resistant to ampicillin, streptomycin, tetracycline, and gentamycin.

The CDC began its 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. Since February 27, 2011, a total of 23 ill persons were reported to PulseNet with this second, closely related, strain. Eighty-four ill persons were infected with the initial strain.

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, 2011 no illnesses had been linked to the additionally recalled ground turkey products.