August 11th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
There’s always a chance that dry pet food and treats may be contaminated with salmonella, so it’s particularly important to keep infants and toddlers away from them.
In fact, Procter & Gamble has expanded its recent recall of Iams veterinary and Eukanuba specialized dry pet foods because they may be contaminated.
More than 23,000 tons of dry dog and cat food were recalled during several salmonella outbreaks between 2006 and 2008, with one manufacturer closing its plant permanently.
During this time, 79 human contamination cases in 21 states were identified—48% of which involved children 2 and younger. More individuals may have become ill but failed to report it, according to a study released Monday in the journal Pediatrics. Illness was primarily associated with feeding pets in the kitchen (as opposed to kids putting pet food in their mouths).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers the following suggestions:
- Purchase products in good condition, with no signs of package damage (dents or tears).
- Wash hands with hot water and soap—for at least 20 seconds—after handling dry pet foods and treats.
- Wash hands before preparing food and eating.
- Keep infants and toddlers away from pets’ feeding areas. Don’t allow them to touch or eat pet food.
- Wash pet food bowls, dishes and scooping utensils with soap and hot water after each use.
- Don’t use your pet’s feeding bowl as a scooping utensil. Use a clean, dedicated scoop or spoon.
- Dispose of old or spoiled pet food products in a safe manner (i.e., in a securely tied plastic bag to be placed in a covered trash receptacle).
- Promptly refrigerate or discard any unused, leftover wet pet food. Your refrigerator should be set at 40º F.
- Dry products should be stored in a cool, dry place (less than 80º F).
- If possible, store dry pet food in its original bag inside a clean, dedicated container with a lid, keeping the top of the bag folded closed.
- Keep pets away from food storage and preparation areas.
- Keep pets away from garbage and household trash.
Read More:Keep Pet Food Away from Curious Infants, Toddlers
July 30th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Sunday’s recall of specific Specialty Farms organic alfalfa sprout products has been expanded.
Now, the company’s Organic Alfalfa Sprouts Blend (UPC 509800108) and Organic Sprout Salad (UPC 8192400024) with best if sold by dates of 8/3/2010 and 8/1/2010, respectively, may also be contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes (Lm). This expansion reflects new “sell by” dates.
The company is also recalling the following Stop & Shop-brand products with a “best if sold by” date of 8/1/2010:
- Nature’s Promise Organic Alfalfa Sprouts (4 oz.)—UPC 8826704741
- Nature’s Promise Organic Alfalfa Sprouts (8 oz.)—UPC 8826704102
- Nature’s Promise Organic Zesty Sprouts (4 oz.) —UPC 8826703903
At press time, products dated 8/4/2010 and beyond were not included in this recall.
Products have been sold to distributors and retail stores in Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.
In a laboratory analysis, samples tested positive for Lm. No illnesses have been reported.
Specialty Farms is trying to determine where and how the sprouts were contaminated.
If you’ve purchased these products, return them to the store for a refund. If you have questions, please call Specialty Farms at (203) 366-6919 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST).
Read More:Recall of Organic Alfalfa Sprouts Expands
July 26th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Yesterday’s report on the recall of organic sprouts serves as a reminder that we still have a long way to go in ensuring the safety of our food supply.
In fact, Listeria monocytogenes (Lm)—the bacterium involved in the sprout recall—has been a key target for regulatory agencies in the United States and abroad.
In 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture made rigorous attempts to reduce Lm contamination after contending with 2 years of outbreaks associated with ready-to-eat meat and poultry products, according to Daniel Engeljohn, PhD, acting assistant administrator of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service’s Office of Data Integration and Food Protection.
Aggressive food testing and a zero-tolerance policy have contributed to major strides in decreasing outbreaks, he recently told attendees at the 2010 Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting.
Stepped-up prevention efforts have led to a program that:
- Determines a specific product’s contamination risk
- Sets a frequency for regular testing
In the past, food products were tested at random, without considering the likelihood of contamination. Testing has also been expanded to 10,000 products annually.
As a result, the incidence of Lm-contaminated, ready-to-eat foods has decreased to .38% last year, as compared to 4.61% in 1990.
The international community has also made significant progress in reducing infections, according to Ewen C.D. Todd, PhD, a professor of advertising, public relations and retailing at Michigan State University.
Photo courtesy of the CDC
Read More:Feds Work Toward Reducing Listeriosis Outbreaks
July 25th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Bridgeport, CT-based Specialty Farms, LLC, is voluntarily recalling its Organic Alfalfa Sprouts Blend (UPC code 8192400108) and Organic Sprout Salad (UPC code 8192400024) because they may be contaminated with the bacterium Listeria Monocytogenes (Lm).
The products have a sell-by date of 7/26/2010 and are sold in 4-oz. plastic containers.
Lm can cause serious and occasionally fatal infections in young children, the elderly and individuals with weakened immune systems. Healthy people may suffer short-term signs and symptoms: high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. The bacterium can also cause miscarriages and stillbirths.
Products dated 7/27/2010 and later are not included in this recall. The affected products were distributed to the retailer Price Chopper and to the distributor Cooseman’s in the following states: New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Pennsylvania.
If you have purchased these products, return them to the store for a refund. If you have any questions, contact Specialty Farms at (203) 366-6919 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST).
Read More:Organic Sprouts Recalled in Northeast
July 21st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
My mother, who lives 3,000 miles away, has this weird penchant for using me as a food-safety barometer.
“I made some chicken salad a week ago,” she’ll tell me over the phone. “Do you think I can eat it for lunch?”
“Not unless your life-insurance premium is paid up,” I’ll reply.
Food poisoning is on my official Top 10 List of Unpleasant Experiences, courtesy of a visit to a fish eatery at New York City’s South Street Seaport some years ago. I’m talking about the bona fide nastiness that exiles you to your hotel room for 3 straight days, as you cope with fever, fatigue, cramping and surreal gastrointestinal upheavals.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25% of us will contract one of 250 foodborne illnesses each year—a statistic that doesn’t include the headline-making, recall-related salmonella and E. coli outbreaks that seem to occur with increasing frequency. While we cannot control how food is prepared and stored when we dine out, we can take specific steps to prevent problems at home.
“Despite the spate of recent food recalls, consumers aren’t completely helpless when it comes to feeding their families more safely,” confirms Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart magazine.
In a recent issue, Freeman’s editorial team offered tips on decoding what food product dates really mean. This one’s for you, Mom:
- “Sell” or “pull” date. Grocery stores use this date to determine how long food products should remain on shelves. Properly stored products should be safe to eat 3 to 7 days after the sell-by date.
- “Best if used by” date. This date is set by the manufacturer. Use the product by this date for top quality and flavor.
- Expiration date. Here’s the biggie. Always check this date when shopping because you don’t want to bring an expired—or close-to-expiring—product home. If products in your cupboard have expired, discard them to avoid becoming ill.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has posted a Food Labeling Fact Sheet that offers specific information on baby food, meat, poultry, eggs and prepared foods.
For Your Organic Bookshelf: Food Alert! The Ultimate Sourcebook for Food Safety
Read More:Decoding Food-Label Expiration Dates
July 16th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
If I say “E. coli,” I bet you’ll associate it with contaminated foods—from bagged baby spinach and romaine to steak and ground beef.
Indeed, the most common sources of E. coli infection, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, are:
- Eating undercooked ground beef (with a pink interior)
- Drinking contaminated water
- Drinking unpasteurized (raw) milk
- Working with cattle
But I’d like to bring your attention to a nonfood source of infection: beach sand, on which E. coli can thrive, grow and reproduce. Animals’ (dogs, cats, birds) fecal material is the usual source.
Unwrap your well-packed organic sandwich while soaking up some sun, and you could potentially ingest unwanted microbes. That’s why it’s critical to wash your hands after touching sand.
Read More:E. coli: A Hidden Beach Danger
July 8th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Ready-to-eat bagged salads seem a lot less appealing these days.
In May, Fresh Express recalled romaine-based salads and organicgirl Produce recalled packaged organic spinach because of salmonella concerns.
Now, Ready Pac Foods, Inc., is recalling 702 cases of the Baby Spinach variety of its Spinach Temptations 6-oz. bagged salads, which may be contaminated with E. coli.
The products have “Use by” dates of July 4 (with Product Code 11707B, IR127121) and July 8 (with Product Code 12007B, IR130373). They were sold in California, Washington and Arizona.
Random sample testing conducted by the FDA revealed the presence of E. coli. No illnesses have been reported to date.
Retailers and consumers who have potentially contaminated products should dispose of them immediately. Consumers can contact the company at (800) 800-7822 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, PT) to obtain a full refund.
Read More:Ready Pac Foods Recalls Baby Spinach
July 5th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
I recently urged you to watch GasLand, HBO’s outstanding documentary on “fracking” (hydraulic fracturing)—a dangerous drilling procedure that allows natural gas to infiltrate our water supply and create pools of toxic wastewater.
Since my June 28 blog post, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has quarantined 28 cows from a Tioga County farm, as they were exposed to a large pool of drilling wastewater from a nearby natural gas operation.
Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding says he doesn’t know how much wastewater the cows consumed, and he announced the quarantine to prevent potentially contaminated beef from entering the food supply.
“Cattle are drawn to the taste of salty water,” he says. “Drilling wastewater has high salinity levels, but it also contains dangerous chemicals and metals. We took this precaution in order to protect the public from consuming any of this potentially contaminated product should it be marketed for human consumption.”
The cows were out to pasture when a wastewater holding pond leaked, sending contaminated water into the adjacent field. The resulting toxic pool killed a 30’ x 40’ patch of grass.
While no cows were seen drinking the wastewater, their tracks were evident throughout the pool, which had extended 200 to 300 feet into their pasture. Tests found the wastewater contained chloride, iron, sulfate, barium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium, strontium and calcium.
Redding says he’s most concerned about the strontium, which can be toxic to humans (especially children).
The state’s Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violation to the drilling company, East Resources Inc., and required further sampling and site remediation. This simply isn’t good enough. The site should be shut down before it causes even greater harm, and fracking should be outlawed altogether.
Read More:Cows Quarantined After Exposure to Natural-Gas Wastewater
June 30th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
While mercury concentrations in freshwater fish are much higher than in saltwater fish, Duke University researchers have found that saltwater fish—including tuna, mackerel and shark—are a greater health threat to humans.
In freshwater, harmful methylmercury latches onto decayed plants and animal matter, which sunlight can more easily break down. But in seawater, methylmercury latches onto chloride (salt), which doesn’t degrade as easily, and marine life ingests it.
Fish and shellfish have a natural tendency to store methylmercury in their organs, which makes them the leading source of mercury ingestion for humans. A potent neurotoxin, methylmercury can cause kidney problems, neurological disorders and even death, says Heileen Hsu-Kim, PhD, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering. Fetuses exposed to it can develop the same conditions, as well as learning disabilities.
Ingested mercury accumulates in the human body, and Dr. Hsu-Kim says Americans have a high rate of exposure. In fact, 8% of U.S. women exhibit levels that exceed national guidelines.
Dr. Hsu-Kim believes scientists and policymakers should focus on the effects of mercury in oceans instead of freshwater. (Currently, the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration make no distinction.)
As you make your grocery list, check mercury levels in specific fish and seafood by visiting the Environmental Defense Fund’s Seafood Selector.
Read More:Study Compares Mercury Levels in Freshwater vs. Saltwater Fish
June 29th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a draft guidance on limiting the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals.
By definition, organic meat and poultry are free of antibiotics, pesticides and hormones.
The agency wants to ensure animals remain healthy, while decreasing human and animal resistance to these drugs—a growing public health hazard.
Not surprisingly, meat industry representatives are unhappy with the recommendation. The National Pork Producers Council argues it will be “overly burdensome,” while claiming there’s no connection between nonorganic meat consumption and antibiotic resistance. (Try again, guys…)
The FDA is inviting public comments on the draft guidance, so seize the opportunity to voice your concerns.
Photo: Scott Bauer/USDA
Read More:FDA Advises Livestock Producers to Limit Antibiotic Use