December 9, 2016

Listeria Infections Rise for Sixth Straight Year in EU

The number of reported cases of listeriosis in the European Union rose for the sixth straight year in 2014, according to the latest annual report by European Food Safety Authority and European Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). During 2014, there were 2,161 confirmed cases of listeriosis, an increase of 16 percent from the 1,868 confirmed cases reported in 2013. Of those, 210 cases were fatal- the highest number of Listeria deaths reported  in the EU since 2009. About 18 percent of the fatalities were among those over 65. Symptoms of a Listeria infection include high fever, severe headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Among pregnant women, Listeria can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. Smoked fish and soft cheeses were the largest offenders. … [Read more...]

Listeria Study Prompts Kroger To Stop Selling Unrefrigerated Caramel Apples

The Kroger Co. announced yesterday that its family of grocery stores will no longer sell unrefrigerated caramel apples that have been pierced with dipping sticks because of a new study that found they support the growth of Listeria. The study, conducted by the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin Madison, was prompted by the  2014 Listeria outbreak, which sickened 35 people, killing seven of them. "After reviewing the study, we have decided to voluntarily withdraw unrefrigerated caramel apples from our stores," said Dr. Payton Pruett, Kroger's vice president of food safety. "While we believe the potential health risk is minimal, we are acting out of an abundance of caution on behalf of our customers." Kroger operates 2,623 supermarkets in 34 states and the District … [Read more...]

Blue Bell Builds Inventory for Return After Listeria Outbreak

Blue Bell Creameries is building inventory for a return to retail sales after a deadly Listeria outbreak  forced a temporary shutdown.  In a Facebook post, the company told customers to "stay tuned in the coming weeks for details of our return." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said several strains of Listeria were involved in the outbreak tied to the nation’s third-largest ice cream maker. At least 10 people were sickened, three people died. Cultures of Listeria strains from patients were identical to those found in ice cream made at the company’s plants in Brenham, Texas and Broken Arrow, Okla. The earliest cases were identified in 2010. After the ice cream was linked to the outbreak, Blue Bell began a series of product recalls, eventually recalling all of … [Read more...]

Via Christi Hospital Cases Brought Blue Bell Outbreak to Light

Three months have passed since Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kansas, stopped serving all types of Blue Bell ice cream at the direction of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). The step coincided with a major breakthrough in a festering outbreak of listeriosis that Kansas tied to Blue Bell creameries in Texas and Oklahoma. As first described March 13 in a national Listeria announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), five patients at the hospital who arrived there for unrelated problems developed invasive listeriosis and three of them died.  Illness onset dates for the five patients ranged from January 2014 through January 2015 and a national database showed highly related strains of Listeria monocytogenes on file in Listeria … [Read more...]

Attorney Discusses Blue Bell FDA Inspection Reports

Attorney Brendan Flaherty, who is representing people sickened in the Blue Bell ice cream Listeria outbreak, discusses the FDA inspection reports about the company's facility. Since ice cream is a ready-to-eat food with no consumer "kill step" of cooking, any finding of Listeria in the plant is a serious issue. Listeria bacteria was present in the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma Blue Bell processing plant as early as March 2013, according to the report. Blue Bell was notified of its "improper cleaning" and continued to ship product from the facility. The company knew they had a "pervasive Listeria infestation in their plant. In the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma plant, they sanitized using normal procedures, and subsequent tests found more Listeria. In other words, the cleaning processes were not … [Read more...]

Senators Urge Full Food Safety Funding After Blue Bell Outbreak

U.S. Senators urge full funding of the Food Safety Modernization Act after the deadly Blue Bell Listeria monocytogenes outbreak and the recall of potentially contaminated pasta salad at Hy-Vee stores across the Midwest. FSMA has been underfunded by less than half the amount it needs for full implementation since it was signed into law four years ago. The Senators include Brian Schatz (D-HI), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). The letter states, in part, "The Food Safety Modernization Act was enacted to bring our nation's food safety system into the 21st century by enabling our agencies to prevent food contamination rather than reacting once illnesses have occurred. Prevention is … [Read more...]

How the Government Solved the Caramel Apple Listeria Outbreak

The Listeria monocytogenes outbreak linked to commercially prepared caramel apples (and some plain apples) last fall was a scary time. People don't usually think of something as innocuous as a caramel apple as being a vehicle for pathogenic bacteria. But fruits and vegetables are often contaminated. In this particular outbreak, at least 35 people in 12 states were sickened, and the illness contributed to at least three of the seven reported deaths. The outbreak was difficult to solve, since the product was made from several ingredients, including wooden sticks and sprinkles. The Listeria Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) Project was a big help for government officials in solving the outbreak. Government scientists used samples from patients, foods, and the environment at Bidart … [Read more...]

Listeria Outbreak in Canada Associated with Imported U.S. Caramel Apples

The Public Health Agency of Canada is reporting that two people are sick with listeriosis in Canada with the same genetic fingerprint as seen in the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak in the U.S. that is linked to commercially produced caramel apples. The outbreak in the United States has sickened at least 29 people and killed five. Public health officials are investigating to see if these people consumed prepackaged caramel apples imported from the U.S. Public officials in Canada are advising that Canadians do not eat commercially produced, prepackaged caramel apples imported from the United States until further notice. This includes plain caramel apples as well as those made with nuts, sprinkles, chocolate, or other toppings. The products have a shelf life of one month so people may have … [Read more...]

Caramel Apple Outbreak: History of Apple Recalls for Listeria

The recent outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes linked to commercially prepared, prepackaged caramel apples in the U.S. may seem surprising. After all, caramel apples are hardly a food one thinks of in relation to food poisoning. But in the past two years, there have been a few recalls of apples products for this bacteria, so the outbreak is not unprecedented, although no illnesses were reported linked to the recalls below. Earlier this month, Giant Eagle recalled their Apple Pistachio Salad, plain and with chicken because they may have contained fresh cut Gala red apples recalled by Del Monte Fresh Produce for possible Listeria contamination. The Del Monte recall was for apple slices, apple slices with dip, apples with cheese, snack packs, pineapple medley, apples with grapes and cheese, … [Read more...]

Listeria Deaths Investigated with Advanced Outbreak Detection

U.S. food safety and health agencies are continuing to expand the use of whole genome sequencing (WGS) to detect outbreaks of life-threatening foodborne illness, especially clusters of infection from Listeria monocytogenes. A 2014 Listeria YouTube video presentation shared recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention depicts how the use of WGS solved a mysterious Listeria outbreak that was sickening pregnant women and infants in Maryland. The same outbreak caused a Listeria death in California. More recently, WGS was credited for helping to solve a multi-state outbreak of Listeriosis associated with mung bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products Inc. Currently, WGS is at the center of the public health response to a 10-state outbreak of Listeria associated with … [Read more...]

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