December 4, 2016

Flour and Other Contaminated Foods: Food Defect Action Levels

The recall of Gold Medal flour for possible E. coli O121 contamination and the outbreak that is associated with those products reminded me of my food safety classes at the University of Minnesota. The CDC stated tonight that "collaborative investigative efforts indicate that flour produced at the General Mills facility in Kansas City, Missouri is a likely source of this outbreak." While E. coli bacteria in flour may seem unlikely to many, it does happen. And foods do contain "icky" ingredients in addition to bacteria. Most people don't know that there are allowable levels of "unavoidable defects" in food and that the FDA has set these levels to below what would make an average person ill. Those "defects" include the presence of insect filth, maggots, insect eggs, mold, grit, rust, and … [Read more...]

What Should You Do if You Bought General Mills Flour?

If you bought any of the General Mills flour products that are being recalled for possible E. coli O121 contamination, and that are linked to a multistate outbreak, you are probably pretty worried. It's unsettling to think that food in your home may be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. But don't panic. The first thing to do is to read through the list of recalled products and note the product size, the "better if used by" dates, and the UPC number. If these numbers don't match the products you have in your home, relax. If you do have a recalled product, immediately put it into a bag. Clean the area where you stored the flour with soap and water, then wash your hands. You can throw away the flour as long as it is placed in a sealed container so animals and other people can't … [Read more...]

Should You Be Worried About the Gold Medal E. coli Flour Recall?

Whenever a well known product, such as Gold Medal flour, is recalled for possible pathogenic bacteria contamination and is associated with an outbreak, we receive many emails and messages from worried people. While it's true that bacteria are everywhere, discovering that a product you use may contain bacteria that could make you and your family seriously ill is upsetting. Controls are supposed to be in place to make our food supply as safe as it could be, but it is impossible to ensure that every bite we eat is completely safe. Most corporations do follow the law and market safe foods, but there are some that run a sloppy operation and even some company owners who have been negligent about the safety of their products, such as the owners of the Peanut Corporation of America. So … [Read more...]

Pizza Ranch E. coli Outbreak Hits Minnesota Hard

Minnesota was hard hit by a multistate E.coli outbreak linked to Pizza Ranch restaurants.  Five of 13 people sickened are from Minnesota where health officials say those sickened developed E. coli O157:H7 infections after eating at Pizza Ranch between December 6, 2015 and January 16, 2016. Dough used to make desserts is the suspected source of the outbreak. Pizza Ranch has discontinued using the dough. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  said today that the outbreak is over as the most recent illness was reported on February 9, 2016. Illnesses were reported from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, New Jersey, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Minnesota is the only state where multiple cases were reported. Two children in Kansas and Nebraska … [Read more...]

CDC Updates E. coli Sprouts Outbreak in MN and WI

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Has updated their investigation into an E. coli O157 (STEC O157) outbreak in Minnesota and Wisconsin linked to recalled Jack & the Green Sprouts alfalfa and alfalfa onion sprouts products. Seven people are sick in Minnesota, and two in Wisconsin. Two people in Minnesota have been hospitalized, but no one has reported hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a type of kidney failure. On February 25, 2016, Jack and the Green Sprouts voluntarily recalled all alfalfa and alfalfa onion sprout products. These products do not have a long shelf life, so hopefully consumers will not have them in their homes. If you do, throw them away and clean out your refrigerator with a mild bleach solution, then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and … [Read more...]

Jack and the Green Sprouts MN and WI E. coli Outbreak: Protect Yourself

The FDA has released information on how to select and serve produce safely, which is timely considering the two current outbreaks linked to raw sprouts. An E. coli O157:NM outbreak in Minnesota and Wisconsin has sickened at least 9 people, and a Salmonella Muenchen outbreak in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania has sickened at least 13. It's worth noting, however, that raw sprouts are an inherently risky product, and your selecting and handling this food may not have any effect at all on their safety. Sprouts can be contaminated from within, so no amount of cleaning on your part will ever make them safe. For other produce, you can follow safe handling tips to protect yourself and your family. And if you choose to eat raw sprouts, these tips may help reduce the risk of … [Read more...]

E. coli Sprout Outbreak in MN and WI: FDA Guidance

An E. coli O157:NM outbreak linked to recalled Jack and the Green Sprouts raw alfalfa sprouts and alfalfa onion sprouts has sickened seven people in Minnesota and two people in Wisconsin. Sprouts are a risky food that have been linked to at least 30 outbreaks in the past 20 years. In addition, many recalls of this product have been issued. The FDA has issued two about growing raw sprouts. In July 1999, the FDA issued an advisory to the public called "Consumers Advices of Risks Associated with Raw Sprouts," along with two guidance documents for sprout growers to try to deal with the problem. Sprouts include alfalfa, clover, sunflower, broccoli, mustard, radish, garlic, dill and pumpkin as well as mung, kidney, pinto, navy, soy beans and wheat berries (wheat grass). The most common … [Read more...]

Minnesota, Wisconsin E. coli Outbreak Linked to Jack & the Green Sprouts

An E. coli outbreak linked to alfalfa sprouts produced by Jack & the Green Sprouts has sickened seven people in Minnesota and two in Wisconsin, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Consumers should not eat and retailers and restaurants should not sell or serve Jack & the Green Sprouts brand alfalfa sprouts as E. coli can cause serious illness. The sprouts at issue were packaged in a plastic clamshell with a "brightly colored round label on top that notes the sprout variety," according to the Minnesota Department of Health. They may be mixed with other sprout varieties. Located in River Falls, Wis., Jack & The Green Sprouts distributes alfalfa sprouts to states in the upper Midwest. Those sickened purchased the contaminated sprouts at a variety of locations … [Read more...]

Minnesota E. coli Lawsuit Addresses 2014 Applebee’s Outbreak

The Minnesota Department of Health investigated an E. coli O111 outbreak in 2014 that led to a lawsuit against Apple Minnesota, LLC d/b/a Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar. State epidemiologists traced the mid-summer outbreak to food served at Applebee's restaurants, then narrowed their focus to whole head green cabbage, an ingredient in Oriental Chicken Salad. From there, the FDA took over the investigation but no results have been published by the agency as to the origin of the tainted cabbage or the source of contamination. The initial Minnesota Health press release on July 14 discussed 13 cases that were under review, but officials later upped the number of Minnesotans sickened in the outbreak to 15. The illnesses were confirmed between June 24 and July 10 and four of the … [Read more...]

Fond du Lac Reservation E. coli Outbreak Link to Catering

Fond du Lac Reservation tribal leaders began to investigate an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 during mid-summer 2014 with assistance from the Minnesota Department of Health. By August 22, the investigation found that 63 people had been infected by two closely knit molecular patterns of the pathogen, including nine people who were hospitalized and 21 who sought care at a clinic. Interviews of more than 130 attendees of an Elder Picnic pointed to potato salad as a significant exposure at the event and testing later confirmed the outbreak strain of E. coli in the potato salad. Jim-N-Jo's Northland Katering out of Cloquet, Minnesota, was identified as the food provider. The company also catered a wedding on the reservation where additional people were sickened by toxic E. coli. A report … [Read more...]

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