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 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 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 10th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been investigating the source of two recent multistate salmonella outbreaks, and some experts say Taco Bell veggies are the likely culprit.
The CDC has identified the outbreak source only as a “Mexican-style fast food restaurant chain,” but Oregon Senior Epidemiologist William E. Keene told The Oregonian that Taco Bell has been in investigators’ crosshairs. He cautioned, however, that “it’s equally clear that it’s not all Taco Bell. It’s also not a single Taco Bell restaurant.”
The combined outbreaks have sickened 155 consumers, with 42 hospitalizations. Lawsuits have recently been filed, but Taco Bell’s chief quality assurance officer maintains the chain’s food is safe.
Taco Bell’s shredded lettuce was linked to an E. coli outbreak in 2006. Initially, investigators suspected green onions had sickened more than 70 people in five states.
Read More:Taco Bell: Ground Zero for Salmonella Outbreak?
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 14th, 2010 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that salsa and guacamole prepared at restaurants pose a high risk for foodborne illness – i.e. food poisoning – because often salsa and guacamole are made in large batches and may not be properly refrigerated.
Ugh! I can’t stand eating out as it is. Who knows whose molesting my food? Quick, get me my surgical mask and rubber gloves!
But it isn’t just about employees not washing their hands, the fresh produce is also to blame. Raw vegetables, like tomatoes, cilantro, and peppers, have been previously linked to foodborne illness outbreaks.
Don’t we know! In May, pre-packaged Fresh Express romaine lettuce salads were recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. And just last week, Ready Pac baby spinach got pulled off shelves for E. coli contamination.
So the CDC is recommending restaurant workers take additional care when making and storing dips. From 1998 to 2008 salsa and guacamole dips accounted for 3.9% of food poisoning outbreaks traced to restaurants.
According to consumer and public health groups, foodborne illnesses cost the United States $152 billion in health-related expenses each year.
Read More:Restaurant Salsa and Guacamole Might Make You Sick
June 22nd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Pacoima, Calif.-based Natural Balance Pet Foods, Inc., a manufacturer of natural and organic pet foods, is voluntarily recalling its Sweet Potato & Chicken Dry Dog Food because it may be contaminated with salmonella.
The affected products, sold in 5- and 28-lb. bags, have a “Best By” date of June 17, 2011.
During routine FDA testing, a random product sample was found to be contaminated. No illnesses have been reported to date.
Recalled products were distributed in pet specialty stores in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
If you’ve purchased this product, return it to the store for a full refund. For additional information, call Natural Balance Pet Foods Customer Service at (800) 829-4493 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PDT).
Salmonella Infection in Pets
Salmonella can infect humans and animals.
Infected pets may be lethargic and have diarrhea or bloody diarrhea, fever and vomiting. Some pets will exhibit only decreased appetite, fever and abdominal pain. If your pet has consumed the recalled product and has these symptoms, please contact your veterinarian.
Infected, but otherwise healthy, pets can be carriers of salmonella, with the potential to infect other animals or humans. Owners can also become infected after handling dry pet food, especially if they fail to wash their hands.
Read More:Natural Balance Issues Dog Food Recall
May 29th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
We have yet another recall to report, and this one involves organic spinach.
Salinas, Calif.-based organicgirl Produce is voluntarily recalling 336 cases of 10-oz. baby spinach packages because of potential salmonella contamination.
The affected products have an expired use-by date of May 22, are labeled with product code 11A061167 and were sold in six states: Alabama, North Carolina, Oregon, Wisconsin, Arizona and California.
None of the company’s other products are included in the recall.
A random test conducted by an FDA-authorized laboratory found a single package of baby spinach was contaminated. No illnesses have been reported.
Consumers who have a potentially affected package should immediately dispose of it. If you have any questions, call the organicgirl Produce consumer hotline at (831) 758-7810 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST weekdays).
Retailers are being asked to check their inventories and store shelves to confirm that none of the potentially affected product is present or available for purchase.
Read More:organicgirl Produce Recalls Baby Spinach
May 26th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
And the salmonella hits just keep on comin’…
Two recent recalls—romaine lettuce and alfalfa sprouts—were bad enough, but we have a new one to report: Salinas, Calif.-based Fresh Express just announced a salmonella-related recall of specific Fresh Express romaine-based, ready-to-eat salads.
Affected products have expiration dates of May 13 through May 16, as well as an “S” in their product codes. Please refer to the full product list at the end of this article.
At press time, the recall extended only to products with these use-by dates and product codes that were sold in the following states: Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota.
The recall has been issued because a single package of Fresh Express Hearts of Romaine Salad, with a use-by date of May 15, tested positive for salmonella in a random sample test conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Because it’s still possible that products bearing these dates could be on store shelves, this recall extends to both retailers and consumers.
Consumers who have an affected product should immediately dispose of it and contact a Fresh Express consumer representative at (800) 242-5472 (Monday through Friday, 24 hours per day).
The affected products include:
Read More:Fresh Express Recalls Romaine-Based Salads