April 29, 2016

CDC Informs About Cronobacter in Infant Formula

Last week, the CDC issued a new report informing consumers about the possible presence of Cronobacter, formerly called Enterobacter sakazaki, a pathogen found in the environment that can survive under very dry conditions. Bacteria usually need a certain amount of free water in food products to survive. This bacteria has been found in the past in powdered infant formula, powdered milk, herbal teas, and starches, which are foods not usually associated with bacterial contamination. The government is especially concerned about infants, who are more susceptible to serious complications from bacterial infections. In fact, Cronobacter infections are often deadly in young infants. Three are only about 4 to 6 cases from Cronobacter every year in infants, but reporting this illness isn't … [Read more...]

CDC Study on Retail Deli Slicer Cleaning Frequency

The CDC, in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for the week of April 1, 2016 has published a study on how often retail deli slicers are cleaned. Deli foods are notorious for being contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Listeria infections are the third highest number of foodborne illness deaths in the country, after Salmonella and Toxoplasma gondii. Deli meats are a major source of listeriosis illnesses. And once Listeria bacteria are present in a facility, it can be very difficult to eradicate them. Mechanical slicers pose cross-contamination risks in delicatessens. Reducing Listeria contamination of these products in delis will likely reduce Listeria illnesses and outbreaks. Good slicer cleaning practices can reduce this risk. CDC's Environmental Health … [Read more...]

Feds Try to Close Down Kansas Food Manufacturer

A civil complaint against Native American Enterprises, LLC, of Wichita, Kansas, was filed on Monday, March 21, 2016, to stop the distribution of allegedly adulterated foods. The announcement was made by the Department of Justice and filed in the U.S. District Court for Kansas. The injunction has not yet been granted, but is being sought by the government. The company makes and distributes food, mostly ready-to-eat refried beans, meat products, and sauces, and sells them to Kansas public schools, distributors in Missouri and Kentucky, and to restaurants. Native American Enterprises, located at 230 North West Street in Wichita, was founded in 1930 and is owned by members of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. Their web site states that they also provide the U.S. military with beef, buffalo, … [Read more...]

FDA Guidance to Reduce Acrylamide in Food

The FDA is asking for comments on its guidance for industry in reducing acrylamide in food. This compound is formed when sugars and an amino acid (protein) called asparagine combine in high temperature dry heat cooking, such as grilling, roasting, baking, and frying. Plant based products such as grains and potatoes form most acrylamide. There are human health risks associated with consumption of acrylamide. The guidance is going to suggest a range of possible approaches to reducing acrylamide levels. Acrylamide caused cancer in animals when they were exposed to the compound at ver high doses. In 2010, the Joint food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives concluded that acrylamide is a human health concern. The FDA has conducted … [Read more...]

Researchers Develop Antimicrobial Wash for Fresh Produce

The Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to Dole packaged salads and greens has sickened at least 18 people in nine states. And there are two other ongoing outbreaks of illness linked to fresh produce products. An E. coli O157 outbreak linked to alfalfa sprouts produced by Jack and the Green Sprouts has sickened at least 9 people in two states. And a Salmonella Muenchen outbreak linked to Sweetwater Farms alfalfa sprouts has sickened 9 people in three states. All of these outbreaks have consumers understandably nervous. The FDA says that we should continue consuming fresh produce for good health, and that the health benefits of these products outweighs the risk of illness. However, if you have been sickened after eating a salad or a sandwich, the health benefits of lettuce and sprouts … [Read more...]

Restaurant Microwave Use: Bad at Cooking, Good at Reheating

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) conducted a study looking at the types of food service establishments that use microwave ovens, how those ovens are used, the types of food cooked, and the level of compliance with U.S. FDA guidelines. Microwave ovens are good at reheating food, but can be a food safety hazard when used to cook foods such as meat, chicken, or eggs because of uneven heating or improper use. MDH collected data from 60 food establishments in the state, including fast-food restaurants, sit-down restaurants, school food service, nursing homes, hotels, motels, and day care centers. The food prep was classified as pre-serve, cook serve, or complex. Most of the establishments in this study reported using microwave ovens to warm commercial ready-to-eat products and to … [Read more...]

FDA Addresses Spice Safety

The FDA has been analyzing a two year nationwide study to collect information on the presence of Salmonella in retail packages of spices consumers buy in supermarkets, ethnic markets, discount stores, and on the internet. There have been several recalls of spices and herbs in the past few years for Salmonella contamination, and a Salmonella outbreak linked to spices in Sweden sickened 178 people last summer. An FDA report in 2013 found that 12% of imported spices are tainted with pathogenic bacteria or filth. The draft risk profile found that the presence of pathogens such as Salmonella, and filth in spices is a "systemic challenge" and that the problem relates in part of poor or inconsistent use of appropriate controls to prevent contamination. In the study, spice shipments from 79 … [Read more...]

Is There Wood in Your Parmesan Cheese?

A cheese manufacturer went bankrupt and was charged in criminal court for food labeling violations over the manufacturing of Parmesan cheese. Almost three years ago, the FDA sent a warning letter to Castle Cheese in Pennsylvania, telling them that their products are adulterated because their Parmesan cheese doesn't actually contain Parmesan cheese. In addition, the facility was adding cellulose, or wood pulp (this was the sensational news headline part) to extend the cheese. Parmesan cheese is strictly regulated by its official definition. Parmesan cheese should be made from Parmesan cheese. That sounds logical, but some manufacturers substitute a less expensive cheese, and add filler to reduce their costs even more. Cellulose is technically wood, but it won't hurt you and is used in … [Read more...]

Food Safety for Super Bowl 50

The 50th Super Bowl will be played next Sunday, February 7, 2016, and the USDA is offering tips to help you serve a safe buffet or meal during your party. Food safety has changed in the last 50 years, along with the game. The most important change in food safety is that using a good, reliable food thermometer is the only way to make sure that meat, poultry, and egg products are cooked to safe temperatures. And research has shown that kitchen towels can be a source of cross-contamination, so either wash them frequently in the hot cycle of the washing machine, or use paper towels while you work in the kitchen (and don't reuse those!). The four basic tenets of food safety remain: Clean, Separate, Cook, & Chill. Always wash your hands well with warm water and soap for 20 seconds … [Read more...]

Keep Your Food Safe During the Storm

A huge winter storm is approaching the Northeast United States, and may cause flooding and power outages. The FDA is offering advice to prepare for this storm and keep your food safe. Before the storm, make sure you have appliance thermometers in your refrigerator and freezer. The refrigerator should be set to 40°F or lower, and the freezer should be at 0°F or lower. The thermometers will help you determine if the food is safe if there is a power outage. Frozen items in a closed, well filled freezer can stay safe up to 48 hours. If the power is out for more than four hours, refrigerated food should be transferred to coolers with ice cubes or frozen gel packs. Purchase or make ice cubes in advance and freeze gel packs ahead of time. Store these items in the freezer. Make sure you … [Read more...]

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