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Food Poison Journal Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Monthly Archives: September 2007

Recall now tops 21,700,000 Pounds of Hamburger – Second largest in US History

Topps According to a press release by Topps, Topps Meat Company LLC, located in Elizabeth, NJ, has voluntarily expanded its recall announced on September 25 to include 21.7 million pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. This represents all products produced by Topps with a "sell by date" or "best if used by date" that falls between September 25, 2007 and September 25, 2008. This information may be found on the back panel of the package. All recalled products will have a USDA establishment number of EST 9748, which is located on the back panel of the package and/or in the USDA legend.  For more information on past recalls and specific information about this recall, visit Marler Blog and E. coli Blog.

School Lunch source of E. coli?

At least seven children have been confirmed ill with E. coli O157:H7 infections, with another six illnesses awaiting confirmation from health officials in an E. coli outbreak among students of Galena Elementary School and their siblings.  In an article about the Floyd County E. coli outbreak that looked into whether the outbreak was part of an E. coli outbreak traced to consumption of Topps Meats ground beef, the Louisville Courier-Journal interviewed school district and health department officials about the investigation into the  Floyd County children’s illnesses.

Dave Rarick, a spokesman for the New Albany-Floyd County schools, said the district does not use frozen hamburger supplied by the Topps Meat Co. in New Jersey, which on Tuesday announced a recall of more than 330,000 pounds of frozen meat because of possible E. coli contamination.

The Floyd County cases all involve students or siblings of students at Galena Elementary in Floyds Knobs, with seven of the cases confirmed as caused by the E. coli bacteria and six others deemed probable.

Rarick said the school system uses precooked hamburger supplied by the J.T.M. Co.

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E. coli outbreak traced to Topps Meats

Proof that ‘Lightning does strike the same spot twice,’ says Marler Clark attorney

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service yesterday announced that Topps Meat Company of Elizabeth, New Jersey, was recalling 331,582 pounds of frozen ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The recall was prompted by a combined New York Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigation into an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak that was determined to have been caused by consumption of Topps ground beef products.

New York is not the only state impacted by the beef recall and E. coli outbreak. The Associated Press reported today that residents of Connecticut, Indiana, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania were part of the outbreak.

“We have a lawsuit pending in Albany County Superior Court that is the result of a 2005 E. coli case traced back to ground beef produced by Topps and sold at Price Chopper,” said William Marler, the nation’s foremost attorney representing victims of foodborne illness. “What we’re seeing here is that lightning does strike the same spot twice.”

Marler noted that for the first time since 2002, the number of meat recalls and E. coli outbreaks connected to ground beef has been increasing. “The CDC and USDA’s numbers have shown significant declines in E. coli outbreaks traced back to contaminated ground beef since 2002, and our client-base was backing those numbers up,” Marler continued. “Most of our E. coli cases in the last five years have been the result of contaminated produce, but not this year – we’ve filed lawsuits against California [UFG and the Fresno Meat Market], Minnesota, and Oregon beef producers in the last six months.

“To quote Buffalo Springfield, ‘Something’s happening here.’”

SALMONELLA GROWS STRONGER IN SPACE

It sounds like the plot for a scary B-movie: Germs go into space on a rocket and come back stronger and deadlier than ever.

Except it really happened.

The germ: Salmonella, best known as a culprit of food poisoning.

The trip: Space Shuttle STS-115, September 2006.

The reason: Scientists wanted to see how space travel affects germs, so they took some along — carefully wrapped — for the ride.

The result: Mice fed the space germs were three times more likely to get sick and died quicker than others fed identical germs that had remained behind on Earth.

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Listeria warning for raw cream

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to consumers not to consume Organic Pastures raw cream after testing revealed the product may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that can cause food poisoning.  The FDA stated in its warning:

This product, marketed by Organic Pastures Dairy Company ("Organic Pastures"), Fresno, Calif., may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause a serious and sometimes fatal disease called Listeriosis in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeriosis can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The product was sold in retail stores throughout California and was also available worldwide via phone orders, and is not pasteurized. Pasteurization, a process that heats milk to a specific temperature for a set period of time, kills bacteria responsible for diseases such as listeriosis, salmonellosis, campylobacteriosis, typhoid fever, tuberculosis, diphtheria and brucellosisis. The California Department of Food and Agriculture issued an order to Organic Pastures on September 7 to withdraw the raw cream from retail distribution after routine product sampling at the facility detected the bacteria. As of September 20, 2007, the California Department of Agriculture has now permitted Organic Pastures to sell and distribute raw cream within the state of California.

FDA advises consumers to throw away product labeled as "ORGANIC PASTURES Grade A RAW CREAM" with code dates "SEP 14" through "SEP 21".

It is believed that ingestion of as few as 1,000 cells of Listeria bacteria can result in illness. After ingestion of food contaminated with Listeria, incubation periods for infection are in the range of 3 to 70 days, usually 4 to 21 days.

Five days to three weeks after ingestion, Listeria has access to all body areas and may involve the central nervous system, heart, eyes, or other locations. Fetuses of pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the Listeria bacterium. A person with listeriosis usually has fever, muscle aches, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache, stiff neck, loss of balance, confusion, obtundation or convulsions can occur. With brain involvement, listeriosis may mimic a stroke.

Infected pregnant women will ordinarily experience only a mild, flu-like illness; however, infection during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage, infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth. The perinatal and neonatal mortality rate is 80%.

New Mexico man died of botulism

The New Mexico man who fell ill with Botulism after reportedly eating canned Castleberry’s chili products earlier this year has died.  The man, who was 52, has not been confirmed as part of the Botulism outbreak traced to consumption of Castleberry’s products, according to a New Mexico Environment Department spokeswoman, who renewed a warning to consumers that contaminated Castleberry’s products may still be in their pantries.  As reported by the Deming Headlight:

This latest warning is an extension and update of an earlier warning issued by NMED dating back to late July. According to Stone, the earlier recall is not complete, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "There are reports that these hazardous products may still be on store shelves," she said.

"The (New Mexico) Department of Health did not confirm that the Sandoval County man’s botulism diagnosis was linked to the recalled food items," Stone said, "but the man had eaten some of the recalled goods in the past and had shopped at a store that sold several recalled canned goods."

Botulism is a rare but serious paralytic illness caused by a nerve toxin that is produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Clostridium botulinum is the name of a group of bacteria commonly found in soil. The bacteria are anaerobic, gram-positive, spore-forming rods that produce a potent neurotoxin. These rod-shaped organisms grow best in low oxygen conditions. The bacteria form spores that allow them to survive in a dormant state until exposed to conditions that can support their growth. The organism and its spores are widely distributed in nature. They occur in both cultivated and forest soils, bottom sediment of streams, lakes, and coastal waters, in the intestinal tracts of fish and mammals, and in the gills and viscera of crabs and other shellfish.

Foodborne botulism is a severe type of food poisoning caused by the ingestion of foods containing the potent neurotoxin formed during growth of the organism. The incidence of the disease is low, but the disease is of considerable concern because of its high mortality rate if not treated immediately and properly. Most of the 10 to 30 outbreaks that are reported annually in the United States are associated with inadequately processed, home-canned foods, but occasionally commercially produced foods are implicated as the source of outbreaks. Sausages, meat products, canned vegetables, and seafood products have been the most frequent vehicles for foodborne botulism.

Baby water recalled for Cryptosporidium contamination

Mom Enterprises, Inc., announced today that the company is recalling Apple Flavored Baby’s Bliss Gripewater for potential Cryptosporidium contamination.  The product, which was distributed nationwide, is coded 26952V 10/08, with an expiration date of October, 2008.  In a press release, Mom Enterprises, also known as Bliss by Mom, stated:

One instance of illness has been reported in Minneapolis, MN (August 2007). The most common symptom is watery diarrhea, however, other symptoms may include dehydration, weight loss, stomach cramps or pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Symptoms typically begin two – ten days after infection and generally last one – two weeks. While most people with healthy immune systems will recover without treatment, the infection could be serious or life-threatening for certain individuals. Infants, children and pregnant women are susceptible to dehydration, which can be life-threatening, resulting from diarrhea. Individuals with weakened immune systems are also at risk for a more serious and life-threatening form of illness.

Cryptosporidiosis, the infection caused by ingestion of the Cryptosporidium parasite, causes painful abdominal cramping and profuse, watery diarrhea. In addition to diarrhea, symptoms of infection are fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

Symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis appear an average of seven days after oocysts are swallowed, and normally last for two weeks or less in healthy adults. People with compromised immune systems (those with diabetes, receiving cancer treatments, who have received organ transplants, or are infected with HIV/AIDS), the elderly, pregnant women, and small children are more likely to become infected, and will suffer more severe illnesses than healthy adults. In some cases, Cryptosporidiosis can be life-threatening, especially when those infected become dehydrated.

Food Poisoning Database

The Center for Science in the Public Interest announced today that it has launched a new database that contains details about foodborne illness outbreaks.  In its press release, CSPI stated:

CSPI has long maintained an offline database of foodborne illness outbreaks, compiled largely from the data issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s surveillance unit. For the early years, CSPI added data culled from state health departments, peer-reviewed medical journals, and verified media reports. (In the past, CDC did not make outbreak data public, but that changed when CSPI started filing Freedom of Information Act requests for it. Now CDC releases data about two years after the outbreaks occurred.) CSPI’s database includes all outbreaks (where two or more individuals got sick from eating the same food) for which both the food source and the pathogen have been identified. The database released today covers the years 1990 to 2004. Additional data on 2005 is available from CSPI, and will be released later this year.

The new online database lets individuals search by food, by pathogen, or by state. And the results aren’t pretty. Take poultry. The database includes 541 outbreaks and 16,280 associated illnesses. A search on produce reveals 639 outbreaks and 31,496 associated illnesses. Multi-ingredient items—sandwiches, salads, pasta, and other foods—were linked to 948 outbreaks and 27,812 associated illnesses.

Click here to access the CSPI food poisoning database.

Reno restaurant reopens after Salmonella scare

Reno Salmonella Outbreak

The Reno Gazette-Journal’s Jason Hidalgo reported on the reopen of Jazmine, a restaurant that was recently identified as the source of a Salmonella outbreak, yesterday – the same day that the International Food Safety Network came out with an infosheet about the outbreak.  From the Gazette-Journal article:

Jazmine was ordered closed by the Washoe County District health Department on Aug. 23 after it tested positive for salmonella. The restaurant, which serves up popular Asian fare such as pot stickers, dim sum dumplings, pork ribs and sushi, re-opened its doors for dinner on Aug. 29. The restaurant could have opened two days earlier but had to wait for most of its employees to get approved to return to work.

Despite receiving a clean bill of health to operate again, the restaurant is still struggling to get back customers who have stayed away following the incident.
“Business has dropped tremendously,” said manager and co-owner David Tran. “We’ve lost more than half of our business right now.”

The health department hasn’t been able to trace the source of the outbreak to any particular food in the restaurant. That makes it likely that the source of the outbreak was an infected food handler, said Randall Todd, director of epidemiology at the district health department.

Castleberry’s plant reopens

Castleberry’s, the company whose products were recalled this summer after confirmed botulism cases were linked to consumption of its products, will resume processing tomorrow after a two-month period when the company was shut down.  According to Examiner.com:

The company was green-lighted to reopen the plant last week by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said Dave Melbourne, a senior vice president at the company, in a prepared statement.

However, the production line that made the hot dog chili sauce will not placed into operation yet, company officials said.

"The investigation conducted by Castleberry’s and by the regulatory agencies determined that mechanical issues with one processing system were the cause of any contamination," Melbourne said.

Melbourne did not give additional detail about the mechanical issues.