January 9, 2021

FSIS Foodborne Illness Outbreaks For Fiscal Year 2019

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has released its summary of FSIS foodborne illness outbreaks for fiscal year 2019 that involved FSIS-regulated products. The four pathogens that most often affect those products are Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter. During fiscal year 2019, FSIS investigated 16 outbreaks that sickened about 1000 people and hospitalized more than 175 patients. 94% of these outbreaks involved illnesses in more than one state. Salmonella was the most common pathogen in these outbreaks, followed by STEC, and Listeria monocytogenes. Beef and chicken were the most common food products of interest. Salmonella serotypes in these outbreaks included Blockley, Enteritidis, Newport, Rissen, and … [Read more...]

FDA Launches Outbreak Investigation Table Triggering Questions

The FDA has just released a new outbreak investigation table to honor its promise for transparency to keep the public informed about food poisoning outbreaks. But the table is raising some questions. The table lists the pathogen responsible for each outbreak, total case count, investigation status, outbreak status, and whether a recall was initiated. If the outbreak doesn't result in "specific, actionable steps for consumers" the government may not identify a source or reveal contributing factors. And that is confusing. These outbreak investigations are managed by FDA's CORE Response Teams. The FDA will still issue public health advisories for investigations that have resulted in actionable steps. The table lists the three mystery E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks identified this … [Read more...]

What You Need to Know About Apple Cider Season and Food Poisoning

Every fall many family make trips to orchards to buy apple cider. But there are things you need to know about apple cider season and food safety, especially about unpasteurized fruit juices. There have been three food poisoning outbreaks linked to unpasteurized apple cider or juice in the last few years. Those outbreaks include a cryptosporidium outbreak in 2015 that was linked to apple cider that was sold and consumed at the Pike County Fall Color Drive in Illinois. At least 70 people were sickened in that outbreak, and several were hospitalized. Also in 2015, an E. coli O111 outbreak that sickened 13 people was linked to apple juice from High Hill Ranch. And in 2013, a cryptosporidium outbreak in Iowa was linked to unpasteurized apple cider. Eleven people were sickened in that … [Read more...]

Pritzker Hageman Files Second E. coli O157:H7 Lawsuit in Ohio

The law firm of Pritzker Hageman has filed a second E. coli O157:H7 lawsuit in the state of Ohio on behalf of a teenage girl who was sickened with a Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infection after allegedly eating food purchased at the Chipotle at 1140 Polaris Parkway in Columbus, Ohio. The suit was filed on Friday, November 6, 2020. The first lawsuit, also against the same restaurant location, was filed on October 31, 2020. Their client allegedly ate a salad bowl or burrito bowl purchased from that restaurant on September 22, 2020, and another on September 24, 2020. The bowl contained romaine lettuce, tomato salsa, guacamole, and other items. Several days later the teenager got sick with bloody diarrhea, and sought medical treatment. A diagnosis of STEC infection was … [Read more...]

How Common Are E. coli O157:H7 Leafy Greens Outbreaks?

There are currently two active E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks in the United States that were announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this month. Neither has had a specific food, brand, store, or restaurant associated with it, although the FDA has hinted that one may be linked to a restaurant and one may be linked to leafy greens. How common are foodborne E. coli O157:H7 leafy green outbreaks? The CDC has a fact sheet on leafy greens that will shed light on this question and also helps consumers protect themselves against foodborne illness linked to those products. From 2014 to 2018 there have been 51 foodborne illness outbreaks linked to leafy greens. Five of those outbreaks were publicized by the government. Two of those five outbreaks were inked to packaged … [Read more...]

Learn How Romaine Lettuce Is Contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 Bacteria

With many E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks linked to romaine lettuce in 2017, 2018, and 2019, food safety experts are concerned that another outbreak could occur in 2020. Let's take a look at how romaine lettuce is contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 bacteria in the first place. That pathogen exists in the guts of ruminant animals, more specifically, cows and sheep. Deer can also carry it. How does it travel from those animals to farm fields? There are several factors that come into play here. First, many concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are located near fields where romaine and other leafy greens are grown. Second, feces can contaminate ground water and canals that are a source of irrigation water. And third, two of the physical attributes of the lettuce play a role. E. … [Read more...]

Forty Leafy Greens STEC Outbreaks Occurring During 2009 to 2018

The October 2020 issue of the CDC's Emerging Infectious Diseases has a study about E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks from 2009 to 2018 and found that there were forty leafy greens STEC outbreaks during that time frame. STEC is Shiga toxin-producing E. coli bacteria, most often E. coli O157:H7. Those outbreaks caused 1,212 illnesses, 77 cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and eight deaths. More of those outbreaks were linked to romaine lettuce than any other type of leafy green. Forty-five percent of those outbreaks occurred in the fall, and 28% occurred in the spring. Leafy greens are the second most common source of foodborne STEC outbreaks, after ground beef. The connection between those two products is that cattle are considered the major reservoir for the pathogen, and STEC … [Read more...]

Restaurant Food Safety Fails When Training Fails

As food safety lawyers, people have been asking us (from a distance) how worried they should be about COVID-19 and the safety of their takeout food? While we can’t tell them about viral transmission rates via various sources – we’re lawyers, not scientists - we can tell them what we have learned from years of representing people sickened by germs in restaurant food. Good sanitary conditions and safe food preparation processes and procedures (food safety plans) are very important…but it all fails when employee training fails. Obviously, when food safety plans are bad (for example, if they do not include proper testing of food storage areas for correct temperature control or mandate specific locations to keep raw foods from cross-contaminating cooked foods) then germs can spread. Too … [Read more...]

How Do You Know If You Have a Cyclospora Infection?

Every year for the last several years in the United States, there has been a massive cyclospora outbreak that sickens thousands. In fact, last year several cyclospora outbreaks sickened more than 2,400 people. One of those outbreaks that was linked to imported fresh basil sickened more than 240 people across the country and was the number four outbreak for 2019. So how do you know if you have a cyclospora infection? Cyclosporiasis is the illness caused by this single celled parasite called Cyclospora cayetanensis. People get sick by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the parasite. This infection is not spread person-to-person, since the oocyte needs time, usually one to two weeks, to sporulate and become infectious after it is expelled in feces. The parasite is … [Read more...]

Cryptosporidium Outbreaks Have Increased by 13% Year Over Year

According to a study published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, cryptosporidium outbreaks in 40 states and Puerto Rico have increased by 13% year over year in this country. Leading causes for this illness include swallowing contaminated water in pools or water playgrounds, contact with infected cattle, and contact with infected people in childcare settings. From 2009 to 2017, there were 444 cryptosporidiosis outbreaks from 40 states and Puerto Rico that caused 7,465 illnesses. Twenty-two of those outbreaks were associated with unpasteurized milk and apple cider. And the report states that the outbreaks likely underestimate the actual number of cryptosporidiosis outbreaks, and the reported number of cases "likely underestimate the actual magnitude of individual … [Read more...]

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