August 28th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
About 8,500 pounds of ground beef have been recalled by Wyalusing, PA-based Cargill Meat Solutions Corp.
This is an E. coli-related Class I recall, which designates “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
This isn’t Cargill’s first time at the recall rodeo. As I reported in November, the company was forced to recall 5,522 pounds of beef tongues because workers neglected to remove tonsils—a violation of both USDA regulations and my personal “ick” meter.
Read More:New Ground Beef Recall; More Eggs Join List
August 25th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
We’ve been regularly updating you on the ongoing egg recall that has sickened 1,300 people, with posts on how salmonella contaminates eggs, the recall’s scope and why going organic is your best choice.
Here’s the latest news wrap-up:
- More Recalls Issued. As expected, more distributors that purchased eggs from Wright County Egg have issued recalls. Fullerton, Calif.-based Luberski Inc. recently recalled eggs distributed to food wholesalers, retail centers and food service companies in California and Nevada; no retail cartons were involved. In addition, Fontana, Calif.-based Moark, LLC, Monday recalled approximately 291,600 eggs sold to retail stores.
- Full Recall List Now Available. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has compiled a master list of recalled egg brands, which will be updated regularly.
- Fears Driving Consumers to Farmers’ Markets. Hallelujah. Mainstream consumers may finally begin to appreciate family farmers.
- Guidelines for Cooking Eggs Emphasized. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is reminding consumers to cook eggs thoroughly. This means scrambled eggs should be cooked until firm, not runny. If you’re frying, poaching, boiling or baking eggs, cook them until both the whites and yolks are firm. And if you’re using eggs in casseroles, cook the dish until the internal temperature reaches 160°F; use a food thermometer to verify.
- FDA Commissioner Speaks Out. Margaret Hamburg, MD, who this week appeared on several network morning shows, says egg-safety laws that took effect in July could have prevented this crisis. She’s now pushing for passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which has yet to receive a full Senate vote. But some critics believe FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigations are inadequate. Food, Inc. producer Robert Kenner continues to call attention to the dangers of factory farms.
- Wright County Egg Owner Called “Corporate Criminal.” Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, reveals that Wright County Egg owner Jack DeCoster’s “malfeasance reaches back for decades, but he seems to regard fines as the cost of doing business.” Check out Reich’s blog for The Christian Science Monitor.
- Congress Is Getting Busy. Thanks to several congressional activists—Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)—our elected officials have launched an investigation into safety protocols and violations (environmental, health, safety, animal cruelty). As DeLauro noted in a press statement:
“This urgent nationwide recall is very disturbing, not only because it appears to have been preventable, but it also may have been the result of an inefficient and unresponsive food safety system. Given the split jurisdiction between FDA and USDA over ensuring the safety of eggs, I fear the investigation and subsequent recall may have been delayed as FDA traced the source of the contamination.
“Because USDA is responsible for egg safety at processing plants, it is troubling that FDA is the lead agency in this investigation, even though it has never inspected the Wright County Egg facility. Instead of reinforcing each other’s work, the current food safety system of split jurisdiction appears to have resulted in a disjointed inspection process.
“It has never been more clear that Congress needs to pass FDA food safety legislation this year that will increase inspections at high-risk facilities, establish performance standards for reducing foodborne pathogens and grant FDA mandatory recall authority. This bill, combined with the FDA egg safety rule that went into effect July 9, could have prevented or minimized this salmonella outbreak.
“In the long term, we must create a single food safety agency that consolidates the work that is currently splintered across 15 federal agencies. One agency focused exclusively on protecting our food supply would prevent jurisdictional confusion, result in an efficient and responsive food safety system, and diminish the potential for future outbreaks such as this one.”
Read More:7 New Facts About Ongoing Egg Recall
August 22nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Salmonella can infect the eggs we buy in two basic ways:
- Hens with infected ovaries or oviduct tissue contaminate eggs before they’re laid.
- The bacterium can penetrate the shell when a laid egg is exposed to fecal material.
“We used to think that just washing the eggshell, and using Grade A shell eggs, would keep us safe,” says Patrick McDonough, PhD, a professor of microbiology and clinical bacteriologist at the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. “However, we know that infected hens do not show clinical signs and that the infection is harbored in the ovaries. When the shell is laid down, it actually covers the yolk, the albumen [egg white] and the infection.”
In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration enacted new egg safety requirements for producers with 50,000 or more laying hens (about 80% of our egg supply). The rules, which the FDA estimated would reduce egg-related salmonella infections by nearly 60%, mandate:
- Buying chicks and young hens only from suppliers that monitor for salmonella bacteria
- Establishing rodent and pest control, as well as biosecurity measures, to prevent the spread of bacteria throughout the farm by people and equipment
- Conducting testing in the poultry house for salmonella enteritidis, with specific measures for handling infected eggs
- Cleaning and disinfecting poultry houses that have tested positive for salmonella enteritidis
- Refrigerating eggs at 45°F during storage and transportation, no later than 36 hours after the eggs are laid
Many experts say proper precautions could have prevented the Wright County Egg recall, and the New York Times reports that company owner Jack DeCoster “has had run-ins with regulators over poor or unsafe working conditions, environmental violations, the harassment of workers and the hiring of illegal immigrants.”
Per the Times, DeCoster previously paid a $2 million fine to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And Robert Reich, President Clinton’s Secretary of Labor, called DeCoster’s workplace “an agricultural sweatshop.”
“If all works as it is supposed to, we would not have salmonella enteritidis outbreaks,” Dr. McDonough says. “Because we know the risks and how to control, prevent or mitigate as appropriate, the number of outbreaks should be able to be decreased. This is especially important, as we have a growing aging population, and these people are one of the groups especially at risk.”
In the meantime, going organic can help protect you from the dangers posed by factory farms.
Photos: Farm Sanctuary
Read More:How Did Salmonella Contaminate So Many Eggs?
August 21st, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
I wish I could tell you that the ongoing egg recall is under control, with all affected egg brands clearly delineated and successfully pulled from market shelves.
Unfortunately, Iowa-based Wright County Egg sold its products to a slew of major grocery chains, retailers and distributors, and additional recalls are likely to be announced. To wit: Hillandale Farms of Iowa yesterday issued a new recall, as did Los Angeles-based Country Eggs, Inc. on Thursday.
Investigative journalist David Kirby, author of Animal Factory: The Looming Threat of Industrial Pig, Dairy, and Poultry Farms to Humans and the Environment, noted in Thursday’s Huffington Post that cheap eggs are destined to make us sick. As he writes:
“Salmonella is largely a problem for factory-farmed eggs. Laying hens raised in organic or sustainable conditions are allowed to peck around outdoors for grubs and high-quality feed provided by farmers who are as concerned about animal health and the safety of the food they sell as they are about keeping their costs—and prices—to a minimum. These eggs are less likely to carry disease, and to me at least, they taste a whole lot better.”
Be sure to check out Kirby’s July 15 post, American Factory Farming: You Owe It to the Animals to Watch This (Video). It makes a trip to McDonald’s all the more maddening.
Photo: George Grinsted
Read More:Egg Recall Highlights Benefits of Going Organic
August 19th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Since May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noticed a 400% increase in Salmonella enteritidis infections.
As I reported earlier this week, the feds have linked the ongoing outbreak to Wright County Egg, an Iowa-based company that has sold potentially contaminated shell eggs to retailers and distributors in eight states: California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. Brands subject to recall appear here.
The Associated Press initially reported that 228 million eggs were recalled. The recall has since expanded to 380 million eggs and nine additional states: Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.
At last count, 226 Californians, 28 Coloradans and 7 Minnesotans have been sickened. Additional illnesses are suspected in Arizona, Nevada, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.
The current epidemic is linked to intact and disinfected grade A eggs. Salmonella enteritidis silently infects the ovaries of seemingly healthy hens and contaminates the eggs before the shells form.
California Distributor Recalls Wright Eggs
On Tuesday, Ripon, Calif.-based NuCal Food recalled eggs supplied by Wright County Egg. The eggs, repackaged into 5-dozen retail units, were distributed to food wholesalers and retailers in California and Nevada.
In addition to the original Wright County Egg brands cited, the following products are being recalled:
Bayview Large 5dz
Mountain Dairy Medium 5dz
Nulaid Medium 5dz
Nulaid Medium 5dz
Sun Valley Medium 5dz
How Salmonella Presents
Infected patients usually have fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, which begin 12 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated foods or beverages. The illness lasts approximately 4 to 7 days, and most people recover without antibiotic treatment. If diarrhea is severe, hospitalization may be required.
During the 1980s, illnesses related to contaminated eggs occurred most frequently in the northeastern United States. Now, other parts of the country are equally at risk.
The CDC estimates 2% of U.S. consumers could be exposed to a contaminated egg each year.
Read More:Recall Expands to 380 Million Eggs in 17 States
August 15th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Wright County Egg is recalling specific brands of shell eggs because they may be contaminated with salmonella.
Eggs (cartons of 6, 12 and 18) were distributed in California, Illinois, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa under the following brand names:
- Mountain Dairy
- Farm Fresh
- Dutch Farms
Egg carton dates are based on the “Julian calendar,” which reflects the day of the year they were produced (for example, Jan. 1=1, while Dec. 31=365). Affected eggs have a Julian date range of 136 to 225 (see photo, above). The date is stamped at the end of the carton.
Eggs from plant numbers 1026, 1413 and 1946 are affected. The plant number begins with the letter P, followed by the number (see photo). The Julian date follows the plant number—for example: P-1946 223, as illustrated in the photo.
There have been confirmed salmonella infections related to the eggs, and investigators are working to pinpoint where contamination occurred.
If you’ve purchased these eggs, don’t eat them. Return them to the place of purchase for a full refund.
Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, the frail or elderly, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals infected with salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, salmonella infection can reach the bloodstream, producing more severe illnesses.
Read More:Eggs Recalled Over Salmonella Concerns
August 14th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Fresh Express is recalling 2,825 cases of its Veggie Lover’s Bagged Salad with a Product Code of I208 and a Use-by Date of Aug. 10. The salads may be contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes (Lm).
No other Fresh Express salads are included in the recall, and no illnesses have been reported to date. If you have this product at home, discard it immediately. For additional information, call the Fresh Express Consumer Response Center at (800) 242-5472 (Monday–Friday, 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. PT).
The recall is based on a random sample test conducted by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. One package yielded a positive result for Lm.
Affected products were delivered to 13 states, with the potential for redistribution to an additional 14 states:
Possible Redistribution States
MO, MI, OH, IL, WI, IN, MD, MA, NY, KS, KY, PA, NJ
AR, TN, WV, IA, MN, DC, VA, VT, NH, NE, RI, PA, CT, MS
Signs and symptoms of Listeria-related foodborne illness may include fever, muscle aches and gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, diarrhea). If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms may include headache, stiff neck or confusion. The illness primarily affects pregnant women and adults with weakened immune systems. Most healthy adults and children rarely become seriously ill.
As I noted in a prior post, Fresh Express recalled numerous romaine-based salads in May.
Read More:New Recall: Fresh Express Veggie Lover’s Salad
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
August 8th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Modesto, Calif.-based Valley Meat Co. is recalling approximately 1 million pounds of frozen ground beef patties and bulk ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli.
This is a U.S. Department of Agriculture Class 1 recall, which indicates “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
Affected products are listed here. At press time, seven individuals have become ill.
As I reported in October, eating ground beef is still considered a “gamble.”
Read More:New Recall: 1 Million Pounds of Ground Beef
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