June 21, 2024

Fast-Growing Glass Onion Catering Under Scrutiny for E. coli

The California company at the center of a multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 associated with gourmet style, grab-and-go salads and wraps sold at Trader Joe’s and other large and moderately sized retail chains is a fast-growing firm that only recently undertook a large expansion to serve a growing market.Trader-Joes-Chopped-Salad Now the company, known as Glass Onion Catering and Gourmet Foods, is the focus of investigation by three federal agencies and several state health departments in connection with its recall this week of 181,620 pounds of ready-to-eat salads and sandwich wrap products with fully-cooked chicken and ham that the feds say may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

So far, government officials say there are 22 people in California who have been confirmed as being infected by the outbreak strain of toxic E. coli. Four other confirmed case patients live in Arizona and Washington. At least a couple of these food poisoning victims have been hospitalized with a life-threatening complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS E. coli.

According to a  City of Richmond document obtained by Food Poisoning Bulletin, Glass Onion Catering and Gourmet Foods launched a major expansion just a couple of years ago when it purchased a 42,500 square feet building at 200 West Ohio Avenue in Richmond, California. The acquisition was the basis for moving the company’s operations and staff of more than 100 people from Berkeley, the report said.  The previous occupant of the manufacturing plant was a non-food company in the paper business and the city manager of Richmond reported in mid-May 2011 that Glass Onion would spend six months “retrofitting the building to suit their needs.” According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, it’s the Richmond plant that produced the salads and wraps that were recalled due to the E. coli outbreak.

The Richmond city manager’s report said Glass Onion Catering was launched as a food company in 1992 as a gourmet catering company for large, high-end events and corporate lunch programs. “Glass Onion Catering is viewed as a rising force in the prepackaged, ‘grab and go’ gourmet food industry,” the report said. “The founding owner helped create a catering and gourmet deli program for Andronico’s Market that offered restaurant quality food for cash and carry.”

In 1996, Glass Onion began selling wraps, cookies and salads to well-known, southern California retail market chains. According to USDA reports, the products recalled for possible E. coli contamination had been sold for distribution in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington.

The Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences has questioned whether the rapid rise of Glass Onion contributed to manufacturing defects with public health implications. In a blog called Penn State Food Safety, the college wrote this week: “It will be interesting to see if facility issues had any impact in light of the fact that the operation was retrofitted for food production. Along with moving into a new facility, there is also the rapid expansion in the operation to meet a growing market. When small companies rapidly increase production volume, such as when they pick-up national accounts (in this case, Trader Joe’s), an important question is whether they have the necessary systems in place to control quality and ensure safety?”

According to the Glass Onion website, the quality and uniqueness of the company’s food remains high. A nationwide contract added quality co-packers to Glass Onion’s availability to supply its food across the United States, the website said. Glass Onion was envisioned and created by Tom Atherstone, a Northern California native. According to the company website, Atherstone is a graduate of Cal Poly Pomona with a degree in Hotel Restaurant Management. He has worked with many talented chefs including Wolf Gang Puck and Mary Sue Milliken. “He served as a sous chef at Beverly Hills hotel, Polo Lounge, where he learned how to create extraordinary dishes which can be replicated thousands of times without sacrificing quality,” the website said. It was after a move back to San Francisco when Atherstone accepted a position as sous chef and creative director for Andronicos, where he helped create a catering and gourmet deli program.

Report Your Food Poisoning Case

Error: Contact form not found.


Home About Site Map Contact Us Sponsored by Pritzker Hageman, P.A., a Minneapolis, MN law firm that helps food poisoning victims nationally.