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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Fish Recalled Over Botulism Risk

Arcadia Trading Inc. of Brooklyn, N.Y. is recalling all packages of Red Thread Fish because they are uneviscerated. The product comes in a 7 oz. heat sealed plastic bag.

The recalled Red Thread Fish was distributed nationwide in supermarkets. Consumers are warned not to use the product even if it does not look or smell spoiled.

The potential for contamination was noted by New York State Department of Agriculture inspectors during a routine inspection and subsequent analysis of product by Food Laboratory personnel confirmed that the fish was not properly eviscerated prior to processing.

The sale of uneviscerated processed fish is prohibited under New York State Agriculture and Markets regulations because Clostridium botulinum spores are more likely to be concentrated in the viscera than any other portion of the fish. Uneviscerated fish have been linked to outbreaks of botulism poisoning.

Symptoms of botulism poisoning include blurred or double vision, general weakness, and poor reflexes, difficulty swallowing and respiratory paralysis.

No illness have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

Marler: Be Your Own Safety in the Defense Against Foodborne Illness for Superbowl

Don’t be tackled by bad pizza—follow these tips from food safety advocate Bill Marler

The Super Bowl is this Sunday and whether you’re rooting for the Seattle Seahawks or New England Patriots, Bill Marler, one of the nation’s top food safety advocates, would like all fans to serve up football’s biggest day with a heaping helping of food safety.

Second only to Thanksgiving in food consumption, Super Bowl Sunday is the day we indulge in the very best comfort food favorites: nachos, pizza, barbecue wings, sliders, chips, dip, and so much more.

While there’s not much anyone can do to avoid post-game gluttonous guilt, there are a few simple rules all Super Bowl fans need to follow to be their own safety in the defense against foodborne illness.

  • Follow Katy Perry Rule #1—that is “Hot & Cold.”  Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold and never let hot and cold co-mingle on the same platter. In the kitchen, the same is true of cooked and uncooked foods: keep them separated.
  • When the pizza arrives, stick it in a pre-heated oven to keep it fresh and bacteria free.
  • Use slow cookers to keep chili, hot wings, and other warm foods safe to eat throughout the game.
  • Serving dip, veggies, hummus, or other cold foods? Nestle cold serving dishes in a bowl of ice to keep foods below 40°F.
  • Wash all fresh vegetables and fruits thoroughly. Never use the same cutting board or knife for vegetables and meat.
  • Never, ever add fresh food to serving dishes with food that’s been sitting out.
  • Follow the Half-Time Rule—that is, before Katy Perry takes the stage, change out all food that has been sitting out without proper heating or cooling since the beginning of the game. Perishable food shouldn’t be out for more than two hours. Yes, this includes pizza and nachos.
  • Inspect your ground beef. Packaged, fresh ground beef should be bright red in color and used within 1-2 days of purchase.
  • If frying food, don’t overcrowd the deep fryer or pan as this can increase the risk of undercooked food.

Finally, always be sure to cook meats to safe internal temperatures:

  • Ground Beef: 160°F
  • Poultry: 165°F (includes ground chicken and turkey)
  • Steak: 145°F

ABOUT BILL MARLER

Bill Marler is an accomplished food safety advocate and attorney. He began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993, when he successfully represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak. Over the years, Bill and his firm, Marler Clark, have become the leaders in representing victims of foodborne illness, and have gone against companies that include Odwalla, Chili’s, ConAgra, Dole, KFC, Sizzler, Golden Corral and Wendy’s.

Bill regularly writes about food safety related issues on his blog and serves as publisher of Food Safety News, the online resource for food safety-related news and commentary.

Wholesome Soy Bean Sprouts Cause of Listeria Outbreak

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated Listeria monocytogenes from mung bean sprouts and sprout irrigation water samples obtained during a routine assignment on August 13, 2014, at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. Based on this finding, FDA conducted an inspection of the facility from August 12, 2014, through September 3, 2014, and isolated Listeria monocytogenes from 25 environmental swabs obtained during the inspection. FDA also issued a report with 12 inspectional observations, citing the firm for numerous unsanitary conditions and poor equipment maintenance.

On August 28, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. agreed to conduct a voluntary recall of mung bean sprouts and notified customers by telephone. Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. ceased production of sprouts on August 28, 2014, and resumed production on September 15, 2014 after Listeria monocytogenes was not identified in the finished product. From October 7, 2014, to October 31, 2014, FDA re-inspected the facility and identified Listeria monocytogenes in nine environmental swabs. FDA investigators issued another report to the firm, noting 12 inspectional observations involving unsanitary conditions and poor equipment maintenance. Nine of these observations had persisted from the previous inspection.

On October 14, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. ceased production of all products except mung bean and soy bean sprouts. On November 7, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. verbally agreed to close their facility and to cease production and distribution of sprouts. The facility is no longer in production. Sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products Inc. are likely no longer available for purchase or consumption given the 5-day shelf life reported by the facility.

FDA performed pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) on the isolates from mung bean sprouts and environmental samples from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. to further characterize the Listeria isolates. Compared with PFGE, WGS provides a clearer distinction of genetic differences among Listeria isolates, and strains that are highly related by WGS are more likely to have a common source.

Public health investigators used PFGE and WGS to identify cases of illness that were caused by highly related strains and therefore possibly related to products made at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. This included data from PulseNet, the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories that are coordinated by CDC.

Whole-genome sequences of Listeria strains isolated from five ill people were found to be highly related to sequences of the Listeria strain isolated from mung bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. These ill people have been reported from two states: Illinois (4) and Michigan (1).  They became ill from June through August 2014. All five people were hospitalized, and two deaths were reported. Two of the five people were interviewed, and both reported consuming bean sprouts in the month before becoming ill.

The high degree of genetic similarity between isolates from ill people and from mung bean sprouts and environmental samples collected at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. shows that the food was contaminated with a strain of Listeria monocytogenes that can cause serious illness. Although limited information is available about the specific sprout products that the ill people consumed, the whole genome sequencing findings, together with the sprout consumption history of two patients and inspection findings at the firm, suggest that these illnesses could be related to products from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc.

This investigation is closed.

Texas Woman Files Suit Against Reily Foods over Spice Products Tainted with Peanut Allergens

Plaintiff suffered a severe allergic reaction after consuming chili made with spices from New Orleans-based Reily Foods Co.

Montgomery County resident Jillian Neal has filed a lawsuit against Reily Food Co. of New Orleans, LA after suffering a severe allergic reaction from chili made with the company’s chili spice mix. Neal is represented by John Ramsey of Ramsey Hill LLP in Houston, TX, and Bill Marler of Marler Clark, a Seattle-based firm specializing in food safety. The cause number for the lawsuit, which was filed in Montgomery County, is 15-01-00782.

Deathly allergic to peanut products, Jillian Neal has trained herself to be diligent in checking labels for ingredients.  In November of 2014, she ate chili made with the seemingly harmless chili spice mix from Reily Foods. The mix did not mention nuts of any kind in its ingredients list or labeling. Soon after, she became violently ill, suffering from a severe allergic reaction. Her family rushed her to the hospital where she received life-saving medical care.

It wasn’t until a month later, on December 19, 2014, that the Federal Food and Drug Administration recalled Reily’s “Wick Fowler 2 Alarm Chili Kit” and “Carroll Shelby White Chicken Chili Mix” after it was found that one or more of the spice ingredients purchased from a third-party supplier contained peanut and almond allergens that were not declared on the products’ ingredient statements.

“There is no excuse for someone with a severe peanut allergy almost dying simply because they ate a bowl of chili,” said John Ramsey, who has worked with many product liability victims. “With all the people in this country suffering from peanut allergies, food companies need to ensure their products are properly labeled.”

Jillian Neal is one of approximately 3 million people in the U.S. who suffer from peanut allergies. It is one of the most common food allergies and can cause a severe, potentially fatal, allergic reaction. To prevent a reaction, strict avoidance of peanut and peanut products is essential.

“Consumers put a lot of faith in food companies to keep them safe from foodborne illness, allergic reactions, and other related health risks, yet there are still so many near death and fatal occurrences as a result of food consumption,” said Bill Marler, who has been working to help improve food safety standards since representing victims of the Jack In The Box E. coli outbreak in the early 1990s. “I’ve said it a hundred times and I’ll say it a hundred more. It is time we value our customer’s health as much as we value their dollars and make proper labeling and food safety a top priority.”

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of foodborne illness and other-related pathogens. Their attorneys have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark has litigated against huge corporations including Cargill, Dole, Wal-Mart, Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Nebraska Beef, Nestle, and Yum! Brands. Marler Clark’s attorneys travel widely to speak to environmental, health, consumer protection, and industry groups as well as to university students and food safety conference audiences, often on topics related to the intersection of public health and the law preventing foodborne illness.

Ramsey Hill LLP is a Texas based law firm with offices in Houston and San Antonio, Texas.  The Texas Trial Attorneys at Ramsey Hill LLP have litigated and tried lawsuits all over the State of Texas and in many other states.  The Texas Personal Injury Lawyers at Ramsey Hill LLP practice primarily in the areas of personal injury, product liability, oil & gas, and commercial litigation.