The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today released its Salmonella Action Plan that outlines the steps it will take to address the most pressing problem it faces–Salmonella in meat and poultry products. An estimated 1.3 million illnesses can be attributed to Salmonella every year.
“Far too many Americans are sickened by Salmonella every year. The aggressive and comprehensive steps detailed in the Salmonella Action Plan will protect consumers by making meat and poultry products safer.” said Under Secretary for Food Safety Elisabeth Hagen.
The Salmonella Action Plan is the agency’s strategy to best address the threat of Salmonella in meat and poultry products. The plan identifies modernizing the outdated poultry slaughter inspection system as a top priority. By focusing inspectors’ duties solely on food safety, at least 5,000 illnesses can be prevented each year.
Enhancing Salmonella sampling and testing programs is also part of this comprehensive effort, ensuring that these programs factor in the latest scientific information available and account for emerging trends in foodborne illness. Inspectors will also be empowered with the tools necessary to expeditiously pinpoint problems. With more information about a plant’s performance history and with better methods for assessing in-plant conditions, inspectors will be better positioned to detect Salmonella earlier, before it can cause an outbreak.
In addition, the plan outlines several actions FSIS will take to drive innovations that will lower Salmonella contamination rates, including establishing new performance standards; developing new strategies for inspection and throughout the full farm-to-table continuum; addressing all potential sources of Salmonella; and focusing the Agency’s education and outreach tools on Salmonella.
These efforts will build upon the work that USDA has done over the past several years. In 2011, USDA strengthened the performance standards for Salmonella in poultry with a goal of significantly reducing illnesses by 20,000 per year. And through the Salmonella Initiative Program, plants are now using processing techniques designed to directly reduce Salmonella in raw meat and poultry. Thanks to these innovative technologies and tough policies, Salmonella rates in young chickens have dropped over 75 percent since 2006.
Mr. Ron Foster
CEO Foster Farms Establishment 6137AP
2960 Cherry St.
Fresno, CA 93706
Dear Mr. Foster:
This letter serves as an official notification by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), Alameda District, of the intent to withhold the marks of inspection and suspend the assignment of inspectors for the Slaughter, Raw Intact and Raw Non Intact processes at your establishment, in accordance with FSIS Rules of Practice, Title 9 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Parts 500.4(a), 500.4(b) and 500.4(c). This action is based on your establishment’s failure to operate in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan, Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP) program, and Sanitation Performance Standards (SPS) regulations, Title 9 Parts 417 and 416. Your failure to operate in accordance with these regulations at Establishment 6137A in Fresno, California, is evidenced by the fact that multiple poultry products produced by your establishment have been implicated in an ongoing illness outbreak for Salmonella Heidelberg. Since July 1, 2013, FSIS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been investigating an ongoing outbreak of human illness caused by Salmonella Heidelberg beginning in March 2013, through at least September 2013. In addition, your failure to operate in accordance with the above mentioned regulations is evidenced by the results of intensified Salmonella verification testing conducted by FSIS over a three week period in September 2013. This intensified testing occurred at multiple Foster Farms establishments, including Establishment 6137A, whereby a high frequency of Salmonella positives and, specifically, a high frequency of one or more outbreak strains of serotype Salmonella Heidelberg were found in your products.
The Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) (21 U.S.C. 451 et seq.) provides that it is essential in the public interest that the health and welfare of consumers be protected, by ensuring that poultry and meat products distributed to them are wholesome, not adulterated, and properly marked, labeled and packaged. The Act gives FSIS the authority, as delegated by the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, to prescribe rules and regulations describing sanitation requirements for inspected establishments. The Act also provides FSIS program personnel the authority to refuse to allow poultry or poultry food products and meat or meat food products to be labeled, marked, stamped, or
The sanitary conditions of any such establishment are such that product is rendered adulterated, and provide definitions for the term ‘adulterated.’ Furthermore, the Act provides FSIS the authority to appoint inspectors from time to time to examine and inspect products, including the sanitary conditions of facilities. The Act also gives FSIS program personnel the right to examine and inspect all carcasses and parts of carcasses that are further treated and prepared and the right to access and examine establishment records.
When a facility does not properly maintain sanitary conditions, FSIS can refuse to provide inspection and indefinitely suspend inspection from an establishment provided that FSIS affords the establishment appropriate notice and an opportunity to contest the suspension.
Under the authorities of the Act, FSIS has prescribed rules and regulations required for establishments producing poultry products including the requirements pertaining to Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (Title 9 CFR Part 416) and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (Title 9 CFR Part 417) and other matters. FSIS has also developed Rules of Practice regarding enforcement (Title 9 CFR Part 500). The Rules of Practice describe the types of enforcement action that FSIS may take and include procedures for taking a withholding action and suspension, with or without prior notification, and for filing a complaint to withdraw a grant of Federal inspection.
Findings/Basis for Action
On July 1, 2013, FSIS was notified of a Salmonella Heidelberg cluster with Pulse Field Gel Electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern JF6X01.0258. Since that time CDC, has defined the outbreak to include six additional patterns (.0022, .0045, .0041, .0326, .0122 and .0672) as part of the case outbreak definition. As of September 30, 2013, there are 207 case-patients from 15 states with illness onset dates range from March 2, 2013, to September9, 2013.
The majority of case-patients reported chicken consumption prior to illness onset; among those with brand information, 80 % reported consumption of Foster Farms chicken during case-patients’ interviews. A high proportion of case-patients were hospitalized. Foster Farms has been implicated as the producer and supplier of poultry products associated with an ongoing Salmonella Heidelberg illness outbreak in several states.
Establishment 6137A has been implicated as a producer and supplier of poultry products associated with this ongoing Salmonella Heidelberg illness outbreak. As a result, on September 9, 2013, FSIS initiated intensified Salmonella verification testing of various poultry products at this establishment, as well as three other Foster Farms establishments (Establishment 6137 in Livingston, California; Establishment 7632 in Fresno, California; and Establishment 6164A in Kelso, Washington).
Results from the intensified FSIS Salmonella verification testing, have shown that one or more of the outbreak strains of Salmonella was found in the poultry products produced at your facility. Additionally, the results have shown that one ore more of the outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg is present in your products. Ongoing illness continues to be associated with these products. FSIS personnel collected 150 various product samples at Establishment 6137A. As of October 5, 2013, a total of 38 samples (25.33 %) confirmed positive for Salmonella. There have been 38 isolates of Salmonella Heidelberg derived from the Salmonella positive samples thus far (See Attachment 1). Furthermore, FSIS has found that multiple Salmonella isolates identified on products produced at your facility have the same PFGE patterns as those in the illness outbreak. Although presence of the outbreak strain alone is not evidence that product is adulterated, presence on product coupled with illnesses suggests that the sanitary conditions in the establishment under which the product is produced could pose a serious ongoing threat to public health. The frequency of microbiologically relevant positive findings suggests that the slaughter, dressing, and further processing of raw poultry product, including the prevention of contamination and the pathogen reduction interventions, are inconsistent and unreliable to control the pathogen of concern. Your sister facility, Establishment 6164A, in Kelso, Washington, was also under intensified FSIS Salmonella verification testing. However, Establishment 6164A demonstrated a more consistent and effective process control based on the results of the microbiological testing, along with less evidence of illnesses being associated with product from this establishment. The samples collected from Establishment 6164A resulted in a 1.3% (2/150 samples) Salmonella positive rate with only one of the positive samples being associated with the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak strain.
Pathogens such as Salmonella are of serious public health concern and can cause a variety of illnesses. The organism can cause a serious infection, which can lead to illnesses, including death. Your establishment has failed to demonstrate that it has adequate controls in place to address Salmonella in your poultry products as evidenced by the continuing illness outbreak. Your establishment’s control measures and antimicrobial interventions in your Slaughter, Raw Intact and Raw Non Intact operations are not sufficient to control Salmonella, specifically, Salmonella Heidelberg, which has been associated with the illness outbreak. This is a regulatory noncompliance with Title 9 CFR 417.4(a)(l).
Your establishment identifies Salmonella as a food safety hazard not reasonably likely to occur in your Raw Intact and Raw Non Intact processes. However, as evidenced by the multiple Salmonella positive test results in poultry parts, whole chickens, and chicken tenderloins/strips produced at your facility, your establishment is unable to support that Salmonella is a biological food safety hazard not reasonably likely to occur in your Raw Intact and Raw Non Intact processes. Your establishment has failed to implement adequate control measures to address the prevalence of Salmonella in your poultry products. Your establishment is unable to support the decisions in your Raw Intact and Raw Non Intact hazard analyses. This is a regulatory noncompliance with Title 9 CFR 417.2(a), as well as the associated requirements of Title 9 CFR 417.5(a)(l).
Foster Farms was notified on July 25, 2013, via teleconference with Foster Farms Corporate officials and FSIS management personnel, of the ongoing illness outbreak associated with Foster Farms poultry products, including a specific identification of Establishment 6137A. Your establishment failed to adequately reassess the HACCP plan and modify the plan to control food safety hazards that could be introduced inside or outside the establishment. This is noncompliant with Title 9 CFR 417.4(a)(3).
Although FSIS is primarily concerned with the performance of the establishment beginning at the time of the intensified FSIS Salmonella testing and forward, the performance of the establishment just prior to and during the time of the illness onset forward also is of concern. During this time, your establishment has had multiple regulatory noncompliances issued for insanitary conditions. Specifically, from January 1, 2013, Gust prior to identification of illness in early March), through September 27, 2013, FSIS personnel have documented 12 Noncompliance Records (NRs) for findings of fecal material on carcasses. Furthermore, FSIS has identified multiple noncompliances including but not limited to findings of poor sanitary dressing practices, insanitary food contact surfaces, insanitary non food contact surfaces and direct product contamination as evidenced by the documentation of a considerable number of recurring NRs issued to your establishment for preoperational, operational, and SPS noncompliances.
For the reasons stated above and in accordance with Title 9 CFR 417.6(a) and Title 9 CFR 417.6(d), FSIS has determined your HACCP system is inadequate. Additionally, the multiple and recurring sanitation noncompliances identified at your facility during the period of time your establishment was implicated with associated illnesses, could indicate your establishment has failed to operate and produce poultry products in a manner that complies with Title 9 CFR 416.1.
FSIS is very concerned with the failure of Establishment 6137A to implement adequate and supportable control measures to address Salmonella, coupled with the high frequency of one or more outbreak strains of Salmonella Heidelberg associated with ongoing illnesses and found in products produced by this establishment. You are unable to effectively implement and maintain your HACCP system or demonstrate that your establishment’s process controls are functioning as intended to prevent or control Salmonella in your process. The prevalence of Salmonella in finished poultry products poses a risk to public health. As demonstrated by the FSIS Salmonella verification testing, your establishment has failed to prevent the production of products contaminated with Salmonella and of a serotype known to cause human illness.
A prudent establishment would take the control measures necessary to prevent the persistent recurrence of Salmonella, including but not limited to validated interventions to demonstrate control of your process. FSIS affirms that proper process controls are an important, fundamental, and integral aspect of an adequate food safety system.
The Poultry Products Inspection Act, 21 U.S.C. 456 states: “the Secretary shall refuse to render inspection to any establishment whose premises, facilities, or equipment, or the operation thereof, fail to meet the requirements of this section. ” Foster Farms failed to implement and maintain an adequate HACCP system. This resulted in the failure to maintain sanitary conditions at the establishment that could result in the production of products that may have been rendered injurious to health.
In accordance with FSIS Rules of Practice, Title 9 CFR Part 500.4, we are notifying you of our intent to withhold the marks of inspection and suspend the assignment of inspectors at your facility. You are required to respond this notice adequately, in writing, addressing all regulatory non-compliances in this notice. Plea se provide this office with a written response within three (3) business days from the date of your receipt of this letter. We will determine if any further administrative enforcement action will be taken based on your response. You may submit your response by facsimile to (5 10) 337-5081.
In accordance with Title 9 CFR 500.5(b)(4), you may contest the basis for this proposed action by contacting:
Dr. Keith Gilmore
Executive Associate for Regulatory Operations
210 Walnut Street Room 923
Des Moines, IA 50309
If you have any questions, please call the Alameda District Office at (510) 769-5712.
Yudhbi R. Sharma, DVM District Manager
At this point in the investigation, FSIS is unable to link the illnesses to a specific product and a specific production period. Raw products from the facilities in question bear one of the establishment numbers inside a USDA mark of inspection or elsewhere on the package:
The products were mainly distributed to retail outlets in California, Oregon and Washington State.
The public health alert was issued after an estimated 278 illnesses were recently reported in 18 states, predominantly in California. The outbreak is continuing. The investigations indicate that consumption of Foster Farms brand chicken and other brand chicken produced at Foster Farms plants are the likely source of this outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections. Illnesses were linked to Foster Farms brand chicken through epidemiologic, laboratory and traceback investigations conducted by local, state, and federal officials.
Sometime ago (when the CDC updated this outbreak last time) I had lunch with an old friend (now days, all my friends are) who asked me why Foster Farms and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) have not recalled chicken – presumably whole or cut and not ground – even after (at that time) 124 have been sickened (at least 30 hospitalized) by antibiotic-resistant Salmonella Heidelberg? I tried to explain, but I do not think I was very convincing. Let me try again. Here is the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) legal charge on food Safety:
21 USC §342:
A food shall be deemed to be adulterated:
(a) Poisonous, insanitary, or deleterious ingredients.
(1) If it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health;
FDA seems to have historically taken the position that if food (everything not meat – except fish) has made it into the market, and it includes a pathogen that can kill you, it needs to be recalled. Seems simple.
Interestingly, the FSIS has a remarkably similar legal charge in 21 USC §601:
(m) The term ”adulterated” shall apply to any carcass, part thereof, meat or meat food product under one or more of the following circumstances:
(1) if it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health;
Yet, FSIS deems only seven pathogens – E. coli O157:H7, O26, O45, 0103, O111, O121, and O145 – as adulterants – meaning, if found in meat (well, only ground meat, trim and other non-intact meat) it cannot be sold, and if in the market, would need to be recalled.
Seriously, the FSIS’s position is that meat – Beef, Lamb or Chicken is perfectly fine with Salmonella (and several other pathogens) – even antibiotic-resistant varieties – is fine until people start getting sick. Well, at least that is what I thought until there was no recall of Foster Farms’ Salmonella chicken.
Perhaps there has been no recall because the chicken is not ground? Perhaps not enough epidemiological evidence to support the link between sick people and tainted chicken? Or, perhaps not enough people sick – yet?
Given FSIS’s Mission Statement waiting on a recall makes little sense:
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the public health agency in the U.S. Department of Agriculture responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.
Salmonella is a fecal bacterium. I guess FSIS’s and Foster Farms’ explanation of no recall is “Shit happens!”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announcing two additional public meetings on the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Proposed Rules on Foreign Supplier Verification Programs and the Accreditation of Third-Party Auditors/Certification Bodies. These meetings are the second and third in a series of meetings announced in the August 16, 2013 Federal Register Notice and on FDA’s FSMA website.
The first meeting will be September 19-20, 2013, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC.
Second Meeting – Miami, FL
October 10, 2013
8:30 am – 5:00 pm
October 11, 2013
8:30 am -12:30 pm
Hyatt Regency Miami 400 SE Second Avenue
Miami, FL 33131
Third Meeting – Long Beach, CA
October 22, 2013
8:30 am -5:00 pm
October 23, 2013
8:30 am – 12:30 pm
Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Center 701 West Ocean Boulevard Long Beach, CA 90831
The purpose of the public meetings is to discuss the two proposed rules aimed at strengthening assurances that imported food meets the same safety standards as food produced domestically. The Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) proposal would establish requirements for importers to verify that their foreign suppliers are implementing the modern, prevention-oriented food safety practices called for by FSMA. The second proposed rule on the Accreditation of Third-Party Auditors/Certification Bodies would strengthen the quality, objectivity and transparency of foreign food safety audits on which many U.S. food companies and importers currently rely to help manage the safety of their global food supply chains. The meetings are also designed to solicit oral stakeholder and other public comments on the proposed rules, inform the public about the rulemaking process (including how to submit comments, data and other information to the rulemaking dockets), and respond to questions about the proposed rules.
Public Meeting attendees are encouraged to register on-line or contact: Lauren Montgomery, Teya Technologies, LLC, 101 East 9th Avenue, Suite 9B, Anchorage, Alaska 99501; telephone: 443-833-4297; FAX: 907-562-5497; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For general questions about the meetings, to request an opportunity to make an oral presentation or to request special accommodations due to a disability, contact: Juanita Yates, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Food and Drug Administration, 5100 Paint Branch Pkwy, College Park, MD 20740; telephone: 240-402-1731; e-mail: Juanita.Yates@fda.hhs.gov.
Registration and Additional Information
This London conference will examine the latest research on Campylobacter and Listeria focusing on how controls can be implemented from farm through to fork using innovative technology, enforcement, education and behavioral change to ensure the risks from these bacteria are eliminated if not reduced.
Delegates will hear from expert speakers, including representatives from the Food Standards Agency and the Health Protection Agency, who will be looking at how we can get Campylobacter and Listeria under control.
Speakers will also be able to provide an industry update as well as sharing information from an EHO perspective and discussing the issues that influence the public.
This conference will also look at the new and emerging research around the use of silver as an extra control measure in the battle against Campylobacter. Delegates will learn how silver can be included in products to reduce risks in a variety of environments.
We are very pleased to announce that Bill Marler will be joining us for this event. Bill is the founder and Managing Partner, Marler Clark LLP PS, the major food poisoning lawyers in the USA who have represented thousands of clients in litigation against restaurants and companies whose food was identified as the source of illness. This includes the 2011 Listeria outbreak in melons where 142 were hospitalized and over 30 deaths were reported.
Who should attend June 26, 2013?
The meeting will provide an excellent opportunity to update on the issues surrounding Campylobacter and Listeria. It is essential learning for those working in food hygiene and safety and public health. It will be particularly relevant for environmental Health Practitioners, Food Safety Trainers and Food Manufacturers.
Food safety advocate William “Bill” Marler, Marler Clark, L.L.P., P.S. will open the Center for Produce Safety 4th annual Produce Research Symposium on Tuesday, June 25, with a keynote presentation on “The evolving legal and financial realities of produce food safety: what it means for you.” Marler, the leading plaintiff’s attorney in food safety, will describe the evolving legal and financial implications when foodborne illness outbreaks occur. Mr. Marler will share his experiences and provide the human and business context for the importance of developing and implementing risk and science-based food safety programs. Stephen Patricio, CPS chair and president of Westside Produce, stated, “Bill Marler will provide perspective to the difficult issues that surround produce food safety. We are honored Bill will be a part of the symposium.”
The event’s opening day will also include a look into the past and the future of CPS produce food safety research, along with an afternoon session on Listeria and produce. On the second day sixteen research projects will be presented. Each project will include industry context to the research and its application. Presenting scientists will be available for one-on-one questions from symposium participants. Nineteen posters highlighting research in the CPS pipeline will be on display throughout the event.
An addition to this year’s symposium program is the food safety tour of Wegmans Food Market on June 24. This educational tour will highlight the everyday food safety responsibilities of retail industry.
To help minimize the public health burden of listeriosis, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have conducted a major study to better understand the risk of foodborne illness associated with eating certain foods prepared in retail delicatessens and developed recommendations for changes in current practices that may improve the safety of those products.
The study, a quantitative risk assessment, provides a scientific evaluation of the risk of listeriosis associated with consumption of meats, cheeses and other ready-to-eat foods prepared in retail delis. It also examines interventions that limit the survival, growth or transmission of Listeria monocytogenes (Lm), the bacteria that causes listeriosis.
Control of Lm has long been an objective of the public health community. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that infections with Lm cause about 1,600 illnesses, 1,500 hospitalizations and 260 deaths in the United States each year. Listeriosis is rare, but its fatality rate is very high (i.e., about 16 percent, compared with 0.5 percent for either Salmonella or E. coli O157:H7). It primarily affects older adults, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems.
“The risk assessment will be a tremendous asset in our efforts to reduce the 1,600 illnesses and 260 deaths attributed to this pathogen annually,” USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Elisabeth Hagen said. “Essential information has been gained from these findings, including the fact that once Lm enters a retail environment, it has the potential to spread due to cross contamination. This assessment highlights the importance of our work to prevent Lm from entering the retail environment in the first place, and provides a significant tool towards this effort to protect consumers and prevent foodborne illness.”
The U.S.-focused study is the first of its kind. It quantitatively links retail deli practices to predicted public health outcomes, which has never been done before. The study is based on observations of deli employees’ work routines; concentrations of Lm on incoming products and in the deli environment; simulations of the bacteria’s transmission, such as from slicer to food; and dose-response modeling. The study was designed to apply to a range of deli establishments, from small independent operations to the deli departments in large supermarkets.
The study also reinforces the importance of FDA’s Food Code recommendations to operators of retail delis. State, local and tribal jurisdictions can do their part to reduce listeriosis by enforcing all relevant provisions of the Food Code as part of their own food safety requirements.
No single intervention will put an end to Lm in food sold at retail delis, the study found. Instead, there are many steps that retail deli operators and their suppliers can take to help reduce listeriosis. The study’s key findings include:
- Storage temperature. If all refrigerated, ready-to-eat foods are stored at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below, as the FDA Food Code recommends, at least 9 of every 100 cases of listeriosis caused by contaminated deli products could be prevented.
- Growth inhibitors. If all deli products that support Lm growth were reformulated to include growth inhibitor, 96 of every 100 cases of listeriosis caused by contaminated deli products could be prevented. While this finding is significant, the actual benefit may be smaller in part because growth inhibitor may be used in concentrations not effective throughout the shelf life of a food, and it can affect the flavor.
- Cross contamination. The predicted risk of listeriosis dramatically increases in retail delis as a result of cross contamination, with slicers remaining a particular challenge. Cross contamination is particularly difficult to eliminate, but the study shows proper cleaning and personal hygiene makes a difference.
- Contamination of Incoming Product. If current levels of Lm in ready-to-eat foods received by the retail deli from processing establishments were reduced by half, 22 of every 100 cases of listeriosis caused by contaminated deli products could be prevented. This finding suggests that continued efforts to prevent low levels of Lm contamination during processing, even on products that do not support growth of the pathogen, reduces the risk from these products and other ready-to-eat foods that can be subsequently cross contaminated in the retail delicatessens.
FDA and FSIS have taken many steps to enhance retail food safety in an effort to reduce listeriosis and other foodborne illnesses. For instance, since its initial release in 1993, the FDA Food Code has been revised to target Lm prevention, including more stringent temperature controls for refrigerated foods and limits on how long such foods can be retained after opening or preparation.
In addition, FDA has created educational materials in recent years to support foodservice operators, including guidance on how to keep deli slicers properly cleaned and sanitized, a handbook on employee health and personal hygiene, food-safety posters in nine languages, and video testimonials designed as training aids. FSIS is planning to provide outreach materials to retailers where ready-to-eat meat and poultry products are sliced, prepared, or packaged for consumption in the home. These materials will highlight risky practices based on the results of the interagency risk assessment and help retail establishments to adopt best practices that could decrease the potential for Lm growth or cross contamination.
Consumers, too, have a role to play in reducing listeriosis. For advice on keeping refrigerated foods cold, cleaning one’s refrigerator regularly, and cleaning hands and kitchen surfaces often, visit foodsafety.gov. To further minimize any risk of listeriosis, FDA and FSIS recommend that older adults, pregnant women and adults with weakened immune systems reheat hot dogs and lunchmeats until steaming hot.
The study was published today and can be read in its entirety on either the FDA or FSIS web sites. A public meeting to discuss the study and its findings will be held at USDA’s Jefferson Auditorium at 1400 Independence Avenue, Southwest, Washington, D.C., on May 22nd, from 8:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. People who plan to attend the meeting are asked to register in advance at FSIS’ website.
Marler Clark, the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of foodborne illness outbreaks, and Underberg & Kessler filed a class action lawsuit today against Alta Restaurant. The lawsuit was filed in New York County Superior Court on behalf of named plaintiff Michael Piacente and other restaurant patrons who received hepatitis A vaccinations after alleged exposure to the hepatitis A virus at Alta Restaurant between March 23 and April 2, 2013.
On April 5, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene advised Alta Restaurant patrons who had eaten dessert purchased from the restaurant between March 23 and April 2, 2013 to seek vaccination against hepatitis A, a communicable disease that is often transmitted through food-contamination. According to multiple news reports, a pastry chef who works at the restaurant had recently returned from Mexico and contracted the virus. Because symptoms of infection do not appear for roughly 2 weeks after exposure, the Alta Restaurant worker prepared food while infectious, but before exhibiting symptoms illness, which include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) and fatigue.
The Health Department encouraged Alta Restaurant customers to contact a healthcare provider for vaccination or to visit one of three vaccination clinics the public health agency offered. According to the complaint, Michael Piacente obtained the appropriate vaccination against hepatitis A from his private physician. He also had blood drawn so a sample could be tested for hepatitis A.
“I’ve seen this situation play out time and again,” said William Marler, attorney for the plaintiffs. “If restaurants would require workers to be vaccinated—or better yet, pay for vaccinations—they could go a long way toward preventing these public health scares and the loss of business that naturally goes with them.”
BACKGROUND: Marler Clark has represented hundreds of people who contracted hepatitis A after eating contaminated food. The law firm has represented thousands who received hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin injections to prevent infection.
Anyone Who Ate Dessert at Alta Restaurant (64 W 10th St) Between From March 23 To April 2 Should Get Hepatitis A Vaccine as a Precautionary Measure
Patrons Should See Their Doctor or Visit Health Department Clinic
In response to a case of Hepatitis A in a food handler at Alta restaurant in the West Village, the Health Department today urges patrons who ate dessert at the restaurant between March 23rd and April 2nd to get Hepatitis A vaccination as a precautionary measure. Hepatitis A is spread by putting something in your mouth (even though it might look clean) that has been contaminated with traces of fecal matter from an infected person. Symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of eyes and skin), fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea.
Any patron who ate dessert at Alta from March 23rd – April 2nd is considered at risk and is recommended to receive a preventive vaccine. The Health Department is working with the restaurant to obtain as many names as possible of people who may have been exposed and will contact each of them directly. Patrons can also call 311 for more information.
The restaurant owners, who are cooperating fully with the Health Department, estimate that about 3,000 people may have visited on these nights with about 15% having eaten dessert. No additional cases of illness have been identified.
People can visit their regular doctor to receive this shot. Pregnant women are urged to consult with their doctor to discuss whether to receive vaccine or a different preventive treatment. The Health Department will also offer free Hepatitis A vaccinations to patrons starting tomorrow at the Chelsea Health Center, 303 Ninth Avenue, 1st Floor in Manhattan at the following times:
Saturday, April 6: 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday, April 7: 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Monday, April 8: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
People who were exposed but have already received two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine sometime in their life do not need another shot; all others should be vaccinated.
“We are asking these restaurant patrons to get this vaccination as a precautionary measure,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “If people experience symptoms, they should see a doctor immediately. This incident serves as an important reminder to always wash your hands thoroughly to prevent the spread of disease.”
“We are working closely with the Health Department to ensure the safety of our customers,” said Christopher Chesnutt, owner of Alta restaurant. “This is an isolated incident and the infected employee is no longer on premises.”
Hepatitis type A is a liver disease caused by a virus. It is spread from person to person by putting something in the mouth (even though it might look clean) that has been contaminated with traces of fecal matter from an infected person. There are no special medicines or antibiotics that can be used to treat a person once the symptoms appear. While some people who have chronic liver disease or a weakened immune system could experience more severe illness and require hospitalization, hepatitis A is rarely fatal (fewer than 1% of cases).
In order for the vaccine to be most effective, people who have been exposed to Hepatitis A should be vaccinated within 14 days. The earlier the vaccine is given, the more effective it is in preventing the disease.
About the Investigation
The Health Department investigates all cases of Hepatitis A in New York City. The Department was notified of this case on April 4, began the investigation, and inspected the restaurant yesterday. An average of 65 cases of Hepatitis A occur in New York City each year, with 1-2 occurring in food handlers.
Hepatitis A: Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Hepatitis A outbreaks. The Hepatitis A lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Hepatitis A 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 Hepatitis A lawyers have litigated Hepatitis A cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as green onions, lettuce and restaurant food. The law firm has brought Hepatitis A lawsuits against such companies as Subway, McDonald’s, Chipotle, Quiznos and Carl’s Jr.