The New Yorker – A Bug in the System – Why last night’s chicken made you sick – A lawyer is leading the fight to keep contaminated food off the supermarket shelf. WIL S. HYLTON’s piece in this week’s New Yorker is worth the read.
What: A study published today in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal shows that the average annual number of outbreaks due to drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk more than quadrupled since the last similar study – from an average of three outbreaks per year during 1993-2006 to 13 per year during 2007-2012. Overall, there were 81 outbreaks in 26 states from 2007 to 2012. The outbreaks, which accounted for about 5 percent of all foodborne outbreaks with a known food source, sickened nearly 1,000 people and sent 73 to the hospital. More than 80 percent of the outbreaks occurred in states where selling raw milk was legal.
Where: The study was published today on the EID journal website.
Why: As more states have allowed the legal sale of raw milk, there has been a rapid increase in the number of raw milk-associated outbreaks. Since 2004, eight additional states have begun allowing the sale of raw milk, bringing the number of states where raw milk sales are legal to 30. At least five additional states allow cow shares – a practice where people can pay a fee for a cow’s care in return for some of the cow’s raw milk – for a total of 10 states as of the most recent survey. If more states begin allowing sales of raw milk, the number of outbreaks and illnesses will continue to rise. CDC recommends against consuming raw milk, especially for people who may be more likely to suffer severe illness (children, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems).
CDC scientists are available to discuss the latest data and implications for the public’s health by contacting the CDC press office. Contact: CDC Media Relations 404-639-3286
More information about health risks associated with raw milk is available at: http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/rawmilk/raw-milk-index.html.
Mayor Kelly A. Yaede announces a Hepatitis A vaccination clinic due to the recent Hepatitis A public health issue involving Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering, located on South Broad Street in Hamilton. Persons who ate food at or from Rosa’s between November 10, 2014, through December 1, 2014, who have not been previously vaccinated for Hepatitis A, are urged to attend.
Hepatitis A Vaccination Clinic
Location: Colonial Volunteer Fire Company, 801 Kuser Road, Hamilton NJ
Date : Thursday , December 4, 2014
Time: 2 pm to 8 pm
· Clinic is open to Hamilton Residents only
· ID is required
· Ages 12 months and up
· Ages 18 yrs and below must be accompanied by an adult
· The cost of each vaccination will be $35
Residents can also contact the Hamilton Township Division of Health at 609-890-3884 for questions or additional information.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has revoked the license of the custom slaughter establishment of Rickson Vilog (also known as Vilog LLC) after inspections found on-going sanitation problems at the Auburn business. In addition to revoking the company’s license, WSDA also assessed a civil penalty of $6,000.
As a result of WSDA’s action, the company cannot slaughter and process animals, including those purchased live on-site. Goats, sheep, swine and cattle are among the livestock slaughtered at the business.
Custom slaughter establishments are typically used by farmers, livestock owners, and practitioners of some religions to have their meat animals processed for personal consumption.
This week’s enforcement action follows several inspections of Rickson Vilog in which WSDA food safety inspectors found problems with unsanitary conditions, poor employee sanitation practices, and a general failure to protect food products from contamination. During the most recent inspection in October, inspectors noted ongoing failures to meet sanitary meat processing conditions, including lack of refrigeration and improper carcass handling. The firm failed to perform required compliance actions.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking for potential breakthrough ideas on how to find disease-causing organisms in food – especially Salmonella in fresh produce.
The 2014 FDA Food Safety Challenge was developed under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010, which grants all federal agencies broad authority to conduct prize competitions to spur innovation, solve tough problems, and advance their core missions. This challenge offers a total prize pool of $500,000.
Concepts must be able specifically to address the detection of Salmonella in minimally processed fresh produce, but the ability of a solution to address testing for other microbial pathogens and in other foods is encouraged.
Food safety experts such as scientists, academics, entrepreneurs, and innovators, as well as those new to the field, are encouraged to participate in the challenge, which launches September 23. A panel of food safety and pathogen detection experts from the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will judge the submissions, determine finalists, and select a winner or winners.
“We are thrilled to announce the FDA’s first incentive prize competition under the America COMPETES Act,” said Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine. “This is an exciting opportunity for the federal government to collaborate with outside experts to bring forth breakthrough ideas and technologies that can help ensure quicker detection of problems in our food supply and help prevent foodborne illnesses.”
While the American food supply is among the safest in the world, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans is sickened by foodborne illness annually, resulting in about 3,000 deaths, according to the CDC. Salmonella is the leading cause of deaths and of hospitalizations related to foodborne illness, estimated to cause 380 deaths and 19,000 hospitalizations in the United States each year.
Those interested in participating should submit concepts to the FDA by Nov. 9, 2014. Up to five submitters will be selected to advance as finalists. Finalists will be awarded $20,000 and will have the opportunity to be coached by FDA subject matter experts who will help them mature their ideas before they present their refined concepts to the judges.
For a complete list of challenge rules and to submit a concept, visit http://www.foodsafetychallenge.com.
An accomplished attorney and national expert in food safety, William (Bill) Marler has become the most prominent foodborne illness lawyer in America and a major force in food policy in the U.S. and around the world . Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, has represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused life altering injury and even death.
He began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the historic Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak, in her landmark $15.6 million settlement with the company. The 2011 book, Poisoned: The True Story of the Deadly E. coli Outbreak that Changed the Way Americans Eat, by best-selling author Jeff Benedict, chronicles the Jack in the Box outbreak and the rise of Bill Marler as a food safety attorney.
For the last 20 years, he has represented victims of nearly every large foodborne illness outbreak in the United States. He has filed lawsuits against such companies as Chili’s, Chi-Chi’s, Cargill, ConAgra, Dole, Excel, Golden Corral, KFC, McDonald’s, Odwalla, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Sizzler, Supervalu, Taco Bell and Wendy’s, securing over $600,000,000 for victims of E. coli, Salmonella, and other foodborne illnesses.
Among the most notable cases he has litigated, Bill counts those of nineteen-year-old dancer Stephanie Smith, who was sickened by an E. coli-contaminated hamburger that left her brain damaged and paralyzed, and Linda Rivera, a fifty-seven-year-old mother of six from Nevada, who was hospitalized for over 2 years after she was stricken with what her doctor described as “the most severe multi-organ [bowel, kidney, brain, lung, gall bladder, and pancreas] case of E. coli mediated HUS I have seen in my extensive experience.”
New York Times reporter Michael Moss won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of Smith’s case, which was settled by Cargill in 2010 for an amount “to care for her throughout her life.” Linda’s story hit the front page of the Washington Post and became Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s touchstone for successfully moving forward the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2010.
Bill Marler’s advocacy for a safer food supply includes petitioning the United States Department of Agriculture to better regulate pathogenic E. coli, working with nonprofit food safety and foodborne illness victims’ organizations, and helping spur the passage of the 2010-2011 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. His work has led to invitations to address local, national, and international gatherings on food safety, including testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce.
At little or no cost to event organizers, Bill travels widely and frequently to speak to food industry groups, fair associations, and public health groups about the litigation of claims resulting from outbreaks of pathogenic bacteria and viruses and the issues surrounding it. He gives frequent donations to industry groups for the promotion of improved food safety, and has established numerous collegiate science scholarships across the nation.
He is a frequent writer on topics related to foodborne illness. Bill’s articles include “Separating the Chaff from the Wheat: How to Determine the Strength of a Foodborne Illness Claim”, “Food Claims and Litigation”, “How to Keep Your Focus on Food Safety”, and “How to Document a Food Poisoning Case” (co-authored with David Babcock.) He is the publisher of the online news site, Food Safety News and his award winning blog, www.marlerblog.com is avidly read by the food safety and legal communities. He is frequent media guest on food safety issues and has been profiled in numerous publications.
In 2010 Bill was awarded the NSF Food Safety Leadership Award for Education and in 2008 earned the Outstanding Lawyer Award by the King County Bar Association. He has also received the Public Justice Award from the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association.
WHAT IS BOTULISM?
Botulism is a rare but potentially life-threatening bacterial illness. Clostridium Botulinum bacteria grows on food and produces toxins that, when ingested, cause paralysis. Botulism poisoning is extremely rare, but so dangerous that each case is considered a public health emergency. Studies have shown that there is a 35 to 65 percent chance of death for patients who are not treated immediately and effectively with botulism antitoxin.
Infant botulism is the most common form of botulism. See below for symptoms specific to infant botulism.
Most of the botulism cases reported each year come from foods that are not canned properly at home. Botulism from commercially canned food is rare, but commercial canned chili products were identified as the source of a botulism outbreak in 2007.
SYMPTOMS OF BOTULISM
Botulism neurotoxins prevent neurotransmitters from functioning properly. This means that they inhibit motor control. As botulism progresses, the patient experiences paralysis from top to bottom, starting with the eyes and face and moving to the throat, chest, and extremities. When paralysis reaches the chest, death from inability to breathe results unless the patient is ventilated. Symptoms of botulism generally appear 12 to 72 hours after eating contaminated food. With treatment, illness lasts from 1 to 10 days. Full recovery from botulism poisoning can take weeks to months. Some people never fully recover.
In general, symptoms of botulism poisoning include the following:
Dry skin, mouth and throat
Lack of fever
Infant botulism takes on a different form. Symptoms in an infant include lethargy, poor appetite, constipation, drooling, drooping eyelids, a weak cry, and paralysis.
LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF BOTULISM
The majority of botulism patients never fully recover their pre-illness health. After three months to a year of recovery, persisting side-effects are most likely permanent. These long-term effects most often include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, dry mouth, and difficulty performing strenuous tasks. Patients also report a generally less happy and peaceful psychological state than before their illness.
If a patient displays symptoms of botulism, a doctor will most likely take a blood, stool, or gastric secretion sample. The most common test for botulism is injecting the patient’s blood into a mouse to see whether the mouse displays signs of botulism, since other testing methods take up to a week.
Sometimes botulism can be difficult to diagnose, since symptoms can be mild, or confused with those of Guillan-Barre Syndrome.
TREATMENT OF BOTULISM
If found early, botulism can be treated with an antitoxin that blocks circulation of the toxin in the bloodstream. This prevents the patient’s case from worsening, but recovery still takes several weeks.
PREVENTION OF BOTULISM
Since botulism poisoning most commonly comes from foods improperly canned at home, the most important step in preventing botulism is to follow proper canning procedure. Ohio State University’s Extension Service provides a useful guide to sanitary canning techniques.
Further botulism prevention techniques include:
Not eating canned food if the container is bulging or if it smells bad, although not all strains on Clostridium Botulinum smell
Storing garlic or herb-infused oil in the refrigerator
Not storing baked potatoes at room temperature
To prevent infant botulism, do not give even a small amount of honey to an infant, as honey is one source of infant botulism.
Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Botulism outbreaks. The Botulism lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Botulism and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Botulism lawyers have litigated Botulism cases stemming from outbreaks traced to carrot juice and chili.
The Seattle food safety attorney will discuss the infamous Jack in the Box E. coli case and how it changed the way we look at food safety
WHO: Bill Marler of Marler Clark, LLP is an accomplished personal injury and products liability attorney. He began litigating foodborne illness cases in 1993, when he represented Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor of the Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak.
Marler settled Brianne’s case for $15.6 million, creating a Washington state record for an individual personal injury action. He settled several other Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak cases for more than $1.5 million each.
At IAFP 2014, Marler will walk through the history of the Jack in the Box outbreak and how this terrible tragedy led to necessary changes in food safety – from supply to preparation.
WHAT: Opening Session Lecture – 20 Years Later, Where Were We, Where are We and Where are We Going? at The International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Annual Meeting, which in 2014 is in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Indiana Convention Center.
WHEN: Sunday, April 3, 2014 from 6:00 PM
WHERE: 500 Ballroom (Indiana Convention Center)
The 1992–1993 Jack in the Box E. coli O157:H7 outbreak was one of the biggest outbreaks in the beef and restaurant industry. The story of Brianne Kiner, the most seriously injured survivor, and how Bill Marler came to represent her is recounted in the nonfiction novel Poisoned by Jeff Benedict.
“It is a privilege to speak at the IAFP and be given a chance to honor those who were sickened and those who died in the outbreak,” said Marler. At the Opening Session Lecture, Marler will also recognize the major breakthroughs over the past 20 years that have occurred in academics, government, and industry, in trying to make our food supply safer.
For media wishing to speak with Bill Marler, please contact Ginger Vaughan (email@example.com) or Sam Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 206-842-8922. Also contact us if you would like to attend the conference as Marler’s guest.
Infant botulism is a very rare but serious form of illness that can affect children up to one year. It is caused by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. This bacteria forms “spores” that when swallowed may grow and produce a poison in the baby’s intestine.
C. botulinum can be found in both pasteurized and unpasteurized honey. Therefore, it is very important to never feed honey to a child under the age of one. As the spores are not easily destroyed by heat (for example by cooking or boiling), it should also not be added to infants’ food as a sweetener. C. botulinum can also be found in soil and dust.
What you should do?
– Don’t give honey to infants younger than one year of age
– Don’t add honey to their formula, food or water
– Don’t put honey on their soother
Older children (more than one year old) can safely eat honey
Signs and Symptoms of Infant Botulism
Constipation is often the first sign of infant botulism that parents notice (although many other illnesses also can cause constipation). Contact your health care provider if your baby hasn’t had a bowel movement for several days. Other symptoms can include:
– weakness and/or lack of energy
– too weak to cry or suck as usual
– wobbly head because the neck is weak
– lacks facial expression
– weak arms and legs
– has trouble breathing
– unable to swallow
Botulism: Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Botulism outbreaks. The Botulism lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Botulism and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Botulism lawyers have litigated Botulism cases stemming from outbreaks traced to carrot juice and chili.
If you or a family member became ill with Botulism after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Botulism attorneys for a free case evaluation.
96% and a stellar audit rating did not stop a US rockmelon farm from selling contaminated melons that killed 33 people. How much responsibility should the auditor bear?
In 2011, whole rockmelons contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes sickened 147 and killed 33 people in the US. The rockmelons were traced to Jensen Farms in south-eastern Colorado. The two brothers who owned the farm were indicted with six federal misdemeanor charges for “introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce”. They each faced up to six years in prison plus up to US$1.5 million in fines.
After seeing their farm forced into bankruptcy, Eric and Ryan Jensen have just been sentenced with each receiving five years’ probation, six months of home detention and $150,000 each in restitution fees to victims. Victim families have already received $3.8 million from the Jensens’ insurance policy.
Now consumers have every right to expect that the rockmelon they purchase from the supermarket will not kill them and will not make them sick. But where does responsibility lie for this contamination disaster?
Prior to this case there is no record of whole, unprocessed rockmelons causing sickness. Then there is the matter of auditing.
The Jensen brothers moved their rockmelons through the distributor Frontera Produce to retailers including Walmart and Kroger. Apparently Frontera “required” the farm to be audited by PrimusLabs, a California-based food-safety consultant that provides “internationally recognized audits” for food producers such as Jensen Farms.
Jensen Farms contracted with PrimusLabs for an audit of both its farmlands and its packing house. PrimusLabs then hired a subcontractor, Bio Food Safety, to conduct the actual audit. Just six days before the Listeria outbreak began, Bio Food Safety’s auditor, James Dilorio, gave Jensen Farms 96/100 and a “superior” rating.
There is no question that Jensen Farms was the source of the outbreak and several problem areas have been highlighted. The packing room floor had water puddles, the conveyor and washing system was difficult to clean, the melons were washed in town water without added chlorine sanitizer, the farm-warm melons were not pre-cooled before going into cold storage …
However, if you had just received 96/100 for your food safety audit would you be looking for problems?
The Jensen brothers had no intention of causing anyone any harm – they just wanted to run their farm and make a living for their families. There is no way the brothers could have been charged with murder as there was absolutely no “intention to cause harm”. If the brothers were charged with a felony they could quite justifiably plead “not guilty” and hold their audit results up as proof that they were endeavoring to do the right thing. The matter could stay before the courts for decades.
To avoid this, the brothers were charged with a misdemeanor. Unlike felony convictions, misdemeanor convictions do not require proof of fraudulent intent or even of knowing or willful conduct. All that is required is that the person held a position of responsibility such that they could have prevented the violation. There is no need to even prove that the person knew of the violation – just that they could have stopped it.
The Jensen brothers could have stopped the contamination disaster so they had absolutely no option except to plead guilty.
With the farm bankrupt and each receiving five years’ probation, six months of home detention and $150,000 in restitution fees to victims, the brothers will now be able to sue the auditors, distributor and even the retailers.
Food safety is a basic consumer right and the responsibility for this safety needs to continue through the full distribution chain.
Walmart and Kroger required audits that they knew full well would generate a glowing inspection, all the while ignoring what was there to be seen. They used their market power to squeeze the supply chain of any profit that could have been invested in food safety while covering their own backs by setting the specifications for the “fresh fruits”.
The relationship between retailers and auditor is simply a conspiracy to keep product flowing through the chain of distribution at the lowest cost and an attempt to shield retailers from responsibility for the products they sell.
If the Jensen brothers had not met “Primus Certified” standards and so been “Primus Certified” they could not have sold and distributed their rockmelons in interstate commerce through Frontera.
They would also not be pleading guilty to federal misdemeanors and 33 people would not have died.
It is very easy to say that food processors should check their auditors – but how do you do that? And what can you do when the choice of auditor is dictated by those to whom you are selling your goods?
Food safety is a basic right and it is crucial that when foodborne disease outbreaks occur they are investigated and steps are taken to ensure that the problem cannot happen again.
Reprinted with permission of http://www.foodprocessing.com.au/articles/65435-Who-audits-the-auditors-How-rockmelons-can-turn-deadly.