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Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

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Raw Milk Hit With Campylobacter Lawsuit in California

Lawsuit Filed Against Claravale Farm Company over Tainted Raw Milk that Sickened Seven with Potentially Deadly Campylobacter Bacteria

Plaintiff is Santa Cruz resident who was hospitalized and continues to suffer impairing side effects

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Santa Cruz resident John Surbridge who became ill with Campylobacter jejuni after drinking tainted raw milk products from Claravale Farm Company. The defendant, Claravale Farm Company, is based in San Benito County and sells dairy products in the state of California. Surbridge is represented by Marler Clark, a Seattle-based firm specializing food safety, and Rains, Lucia, Stern, PC of San Francisco.

On or around March 19, 2015, Surbridge, AGE, drank Claravale Farms unpasteurized raw jersey milk, which was purchased by his roommate at a local farmers market.

A few days later, Surbridge began to feel the first symptoms of his illness, which developed into nausea, vomiting, bloody diarrhea, increasingly intense chest pains, and shortness of breath. He began to run a fever that spiked to 103 degrees.

Over the next several days, his symptoms worsened with excruciating stomach and chest pains, uncontrollable diarrhea, and shortness of breath. He was transported via ambulance to the emergency room where, after examination, he was hospitalized for three days.

Soon after being discharged from the hospital, Surbridge was contacted by the Health Services Agency who informed him he had tested positive for Campylobacter. He also then learned of a press release issued on March 24, 2015 about a California Department of Public Health investigation tracing back the illnesses of six northern California residents to multiple bottles of Claravale Farm raw milk that tested positive for Campylobacter. After additional tests, it was confirmed that Surbridge’s illness stemmed from the raw milk he drank from Claravale Farm.

“There’s an assumption that raw milk is better for you, but the reality is that whatever benefits there might be are eliminated by the fact that it can kill you. There’s a reason mass pasteurization of dairy products is the norm—so that people aren’t putting their lives and health at risk by enjoying a glass of milk,” said Bill Marler, principal of Marler Clark. Marler has been working to help improve food safety standards for decades and has represented numerous victims of raw milk contamination. He is also the publisher of www.realrawmilkfacts.com, which informs on the benefits and risks of consuming unpasteurized or “raw” dairy products.

Even after recovering from a Campylobacter infection, victims can experience side effects for months or years. Surbridge is still being seen regularly by doctors to monitor his recovery. He continues to suffer pain and numbness in his arms, legs, and fingers. He has a difficult time holding onto silverware, cups, and his cell phone. In addition, he continues to struggle with shortness of breath and now has difficulty digesting milk.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Campylobacter outbreaks. The Campylobacter lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Campylobacter 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 Campylobacter lawyers have litigated Campylobacter cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of sources, such as raw milk and municipal water.

Salmonella Paratyphi Linked to California Sushi

Tuna-Sushi-Salmonella-RecallThe Ventura County Public Health Department announced a Salmonella Paratyphi outbreak on Monday. Eighteen cases have already been confirmed in Southern California with one case in Santa Barbara County and four in Ventura County. Seven other cases are from out-of-state, most of who had travel to Southern California.

In a statement released to the media, the Ventura County Health Department said the cause of the outbreak remains under investigation. “As of April 17th, 10 out of 10 people who completed detailed food questionnaires stated they had consumed sushi, and over 80 percent reported having eaten raw tuna,” said the Health Department. Twenty percent of affected patients have been hospitalized.

This particular strain of Salmonella had never been seen before March 2015, but the Health Department said that a closely related strain was responsible for a Salmonella outbreak that occurred in California and Hawaii back in 2010. That outbreak was found to be linked to raw tuna imported from Indonesia. “This strain is genetically different from the 2010 strain, so it appears the two strains are unrelated at this time,” noted the Health Department.

Blue Bell Issues Worldwide Ice Cream Recall After Listeria Tests

Blue Bell Ice Cream of Brenham, Texas, is voluntarily recalling all of its products currently on the market made at all of its facilities including ice cream, frozen yogurt, sherbet and frozen snacks because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections 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 headaches, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The products being recalled are distributed to retail outlets, including food service accounts, convenience stores and supermarkets in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma,  South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Wyoming and international locations.

Today’s decision was the result of findings from an enhanced sampling program initiated by Blue Bell which revealed that Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream half gallons produced on March 17, 2015, and March 27, 2015, contained the bacteria. This means Blue Bell has now had several positive tests for Listeria in different places and plants and as previously reported five patients were treated in Kansas and three in Texas after testing positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Blue Bell is implementing a procedure called “test and hold” for all products made at all of its manufacturing facilities. This means that all products will be tested first and held for release to the market only after the tests show they are safe. The Broken Arrow facility will remain closed as Blue Bell continues to investigate.In addition to the “test and hold” system, Blue Bell is implementing additional safety procedures and testing including:

–          Expanding our already robust system of daily cleaning and sanitizing of equipment

–          Expanding our system of swabbing and testing our plant environment by 800 percent to include more surfaces

–          Sending samples daily to a leading microbiology laboratory for testing

–          Providing additional employee training

My bet is that Blue Bell wishes it had implemented these programs long ago.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria 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 Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as caramel apples, cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.

CDC: Eat Wholesome Soy Mung Bean Spouts in 2014 and Get Salmonella?

Bean_sproutsThe 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.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella 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 Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants. The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.

CDC: Eat Cucumbers in 2014 and Get Salmonella?

cucumberIn August 2014, PulseNet, the national molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance, detected a multistate cluster of Salmonella entericaserotype Newport infections with an indistinguishable pulse-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern (XbaI PFGE pattern JJPX01.0061).* Outbreaks of illnesses associated with this PFGE pattern have previously been linked to consumption of tomatoes harvested from Virginia’s Eastern Shore in the Delmarva region and have not been linked to cucumbers or other produce items (1). To identify the contaminated food and find the source of the contamination, CDC, state and local health and agriculture departments and laboratories, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory investigations. A total of 275 patients in 29 states and the District of Columbia were identified, with illness onsets occurring during May 20–September 30, 2014. Whole genome sequencing (WGS), a highly discriminating subtyping method, was used to further characterize PFGE pattern JJPX01.0061 isolates. Epidemiologic, microbiologic, and product traceback evidence suggests that cucumbers were a source of Salmonella Newport infections in this outbreak. The epidemiologic link to a novel outbreak vehicle suggests an environmental reservoir for Salmonella in the Delmarva region that should be identified and mitigated to prevent future outbreaks.

Epidemiologic Investigation

A case was defined as infection with Salmonella Newport with PFGE pattern JJPX01.0061 (the outbreak strain) in a person with illness onset occurring during May 20–September 30, 2014. Initial interviews of ill persons conducted by state and local health officials found that travel to the Delmarva region during the incubation period was commonly reported. A structured, focused supplemental questionnaire was developed to collect detailed information on travel and exposure to restaurants, seafood, fruit, and produce, including tomatoes, in the 7 days before illness onset. Exposure frequencies were compared with the 2006–2007 FoodNet Population Survey, in which healthy persons reported foods consumed in the week before interview. Information also was collected on illness subclusters, defined as two or more unrelated ill persons who reported eating at the same restaurant, attending the same event, or shopping at the same grocery store in the week before becoming ill.

A total of 275 cases were reported from 29 states and the District of Columbia (Figure 1). An additional 18 suspected cases not meeting the case definition were excluded from the analysis because they were found to be temporal outliers and unlikely to be related. Illness onset dates ranged from May 25 to September 29, 2014 (Figure 2). Median age of patients was 42 years (range = <1–90 years); 66% (174 of 265) were female. Thirty-four percent (48 of 141) were hospitalized; one death was reported in an elderly man with bacteremia. A total of 101 patients were interviewed using the supplemental questionnaire about exposures in the week before illness onset. This questionnaire focused on leafy greens and tomatoes and contained smaller sections on fruit, vegetables, and seafood common to the Delmarva region. Many patients were unreachable and did not receive the supplemental questionnaire. Sixty-two percent (49 of 79) of respondents reported eating cucumbers in the week before becoming ill. Patients were significantly more likely to report consuming cucumbers compared with respondents in the 2006–2007 FoodNet Population Survey, both for national year-round cucumber consumption (46.9% [p=0.002]) and for cucumber consumption in Maryland during the month of July (54.9% [p=0.04]). The proportion of ill persons who reported eating tomatoes, leafy greens, or any other item on the supplemental questionnaire was not significantly higher than expected compared with findings from the FoodNet Population Survey.

Traceback investigation

Officials in Maryland, Delaware, and New York worked with their FDA district offices and FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture foodborne outbreak rapid response teams to conduct an informational (i.e., nonregulatory) traceback from retail establishments in these states to identify a point of distribution convergence for produce items (i.e., cucumbers, leafy greens, and tomatoes) consumed in nine of 12 subclusters. Each of eight establishments in Maryland and Delaware received cucumbers from a single major distributor. Preliminary traceback from the distributor to several brokers identified a common grower on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in the Delmarva region. Traceback from a New York subcluster led to a different distribution chain than in Maryland and Delaware. Officials from the Maryland Department of Agriculture, the Maryland rapid response team, and the FDA Baltimore District Office visited the Maryland farm. Officials collected 48 environmental samples from areas where cucumbers were grown, harvested, and packed. Sediment and manure samples were taken from the farm. No samples yielded Salmonella; however, sampling was performed several months after the harvest. Records and interviews indicated that the farm applied poultry litter approximately 120 days before harvest, but it was not available for testing.

Laboratory investigation

Twelve distinct illness subclusters were identified across four states, ranging in size from two to six cases. WGS was performed on 58 clinical isolates by state health departments, FDA, and CDC laboratories to further characterize the genetic relatedness of bacteria isolated from patients. Phylogenetic analysis revealed a primary group of highly related clinical isolates from cases in Delaware, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia (median single nucleotide polymorphism distance = 26 [97.5% confidence interval = 1–37]). An additional group of highly related isolates from patients in New York was also identified, but this group was distinct from the primary phylogenetic group, consistent with the epidemiologic and traceback findings (single nucleotide polymorphism distance between the two phylogenetic groups = 102 [97.5% confidence interval = 85–114]). CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System laboratory conducted antibiotic resistance testing on three isolates from ill persons with the outbreak strain. All three were susceptible to all antibiotics tested.

Discussion

The epidemiologic data, traceback investigations, and whole genome sequencing all support the hypothesis that cucumbers were a likely source of SalmonellaNewport infections in this outbreak. Cucumbers were the only food eaten by patients significantly more often than expected. Traceback investigations performed using invoices from illness subclusters in Maryland and Delaware identified a common grower of cucumbers in the Delmarva region. This is the first multistate outbreak of Salmonella Newport implicating a fresh produce item grown in the Delmarva region other than tomatoes. Historically, SalmonellaNewport outbreaks associated with this PFGE pattern have been linked to red round tomatoes grown on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. These outbreaks occurred in 2002 (333 persons), 2005 (72 persons), 2006 (115 persons), and 2007 (65 persons), with an additional suspected outbreak in 2010 (51 persons) (1). A definitive contamination source has not been found, and Salmonella Newport has not been isolated directly from any Delmarva region tomatoes. Wildlife have been evaluated as a possible source of contamination, but fecal specimens from deer, turtles, and birds have been negative and do not support the hypothesis that animals are a source (2). Other serotypes of Salmonella have been linked to cucumbers; most recently an outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul infections was linked to imported cucumbers from Mexico in 2013 (3).

Investigating illness subclusters can provide critical clues about the source of an outbreak. Informational traceback can support the epidemiologic investigation by quickly assessing the plausibility of one or more vehicles as the source of the outbreak. Informational traceback generally can be completed much more quickly than regulatory traceback, which requires the collection of specific types of records, such as receipts, invoices, and bills of lading, at each step of the distribution chain. In this investigation, the informational traceback quickly provided a critical clue that suggested cucumbers were a likely source in the outbreak.

Consultation with independent industry experts early in an outbreak investigation also can provide important clues to help focus the investigation on certain suspected foods. Because of the suspicion that this outbreak was caused by a novel vehicle for this Salmonella Newport PFGE pattern, an industry consultation was held on September 11, 2014, with three independent experts from the produce industry to obtain information regarding cucumber harvesting and distribution on the Delmarva region. The consultants provided information regarding crop production and distribution practices that also helped assess the plausibility of cucumbers as an outbreak vehicle.

Advanced molecular detection methods, including WGS, might improve discrimination of subclusters during outbreak investigations. WGS data from the subclusters in this investigation demonstrated a phylogenetic link between clinical isolates from the eight Maryland and Delaware subclusters, in addition to differentiating these clusters from a subcluster in New York. The significance of this differentiation remains unclear at this time but might suggest that some of the illnesses in New York were not related to consumption of cucumbers from the Delmarva region. This is also supported by the informational traceback from the New York establishment, which led to a different distribution chain than those of the Maryland and Delaware establishments.

The findings in this report are subject to at least two limitations. First, no case-control study was performed because illness subclusters were small. Second, not all patients in the subclusters were systematically asked about cucumber consumption.

This outbreak supports the continued evaluation of farm practices by FDA as a part of the development of a Produce Safety Rule. These evaluations include conducting a risk assessment and working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other stakeholders. It also includes performing research to strengthen scientific support for determining appropriate intervals between application of raw manure fertilizer and harvest. The Maryland Department of Agriculture plans additional assessments in the Delmarva region before the 2015 planting season to determine whether additional or alternative “best practices” can be implemented.

Given the typical shelf life of cucumbers is 10–14 days, cucumbers from the implicated grower are no longer available for purchase or in person’s homes. Consumers and retailers should always follow safe produce handling recommendations.** Cucumbers, like all produce, should be washed thoroughly, scrubbed with a clean produce brush before peeling or cutting, and refrigerated as soon as possible to prevent multiplication of bacteria such as Salmonella.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella 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 Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants. The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.

CDC: Eat Wawona Fruit in 2014 and Get Listeria?

BHGjA.AuSt.8On July 19, 2014, a packing company in California (company A) voluntarily recalled certain lots of stone fruits, including whole peaches, nectarines, plums, and pluots, because of concern about contamination with Listeria monocytogenes based on internal company testing (1). On July 31, the recall was expanded to cover all fruit packed at their facility during June 1–July 17 (2). After the initial recall, clinicians, state and local health departments, CDC, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received many inquiries about listeriosis from concerned consumers, many of whom had received automated telephone calls informing them that they had purchased recalled fruit. During July 19–31, the CDC Listeria website received >500,000 page views, more than seven times the views received during the previous 52 weeks. However, no molecular information from L. monocytogenes isolates was available to assess whether human illnesses might be linked to these products.

In early August 2014, a two-enzyme pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern shared by three L. monocytogenes isolates from stone fruit associated with the recall was uploaded to PulseNet, the national molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance. Four human isolates with isolation dates during the period May 8–July 8, 2014 (Illinois, Massachusetts, and South Carolina) and August 28 (Minnesota) were identified that had PFGE patterns indistinguishable from isolates from company A stone fruit. Samples of stone fruits from company A collected after the recall yielded an additional 31 L. monocytogenes isolates, 22 of which were indistinguishable from the initial isolates by PFGE; three other PFGE patterns were identified that did not match any isolates from clinical specimens collected during May 1–August 31. Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) analysis by whole-genome multilocus sequence typing showed that isolates from the Massachusetts and Minnesota patients were highly related (<10 allele differences and <10 high-quality single nucleotide polymorphism differences) to the isolates from recalled stone fruits, whereas the Illinois and South Carolina isolates were not (Figure).

A review of the standardized Listeria Initiative exposure questionnaire (3) for the Massachusetts patient showed that organic nectarine consumption was recorded, although the form does not specifically ask about stone fruit consumption. A subsequent interview using a questionnaire with questions about stone fruits indicated that the patient consumed nectarines and peaches purchased from stores that sold company A stone fruit. Traceback using receipts and shopper card data indicated the patient’s family purchased recalled fruit. An interview with a family member of the Minnesota patient revealed that the patient consumed peaches from a store that received company A stone fruit; however, dates from receipts indicated that the peaches were purchased after the recalled fruit was reported to have been removed from the shelves. After removal of recalled fruit, the store received company A peaches that were not part of the recall as well as peaches from another California supplier. The South Carolina patient reportedly did not eat stone fruit before becoming ill. Family of the Illinois patient could not be reached for interview.

Strong evidence linked the Massachusetts case to recalled stone fruit, including food exposure interviews, receipt and shopper card data, and WGS results showing very high genetic relatedness between the patient’s isolate and isolates from nectarines. Consumption data and WGS results suggest that stone fruit was also the likely source of L. monocytogenes infection in the Minnesota case; however, the later dates of illness onset and fruit purchase suggest that the patient consumed stone fruit that was not included in the recall.

This is the first reported link between human listeriosis and stone fruit. WGS results provided a basis for focusing resources for extended case interviews and follow-up. Specifically, among cases that matched the recalled stone fruit by PFGE, WGS allowed differentiation between sporadic cases and cases associated with stone fruit consumption.

Reported listeriosis is much more common in pregnant women than in the general population and can cause major fetal and perinatal complications. Because of this higher risk, and partially in response to public concern stemming from these recalls, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued guidelines for management of pregnant women with possible L. monocytogenes exposure (4). Although exposure to this recalled product was likely widespread, disease was very rare. Therefore, this recall and associated illness does not provide sufficient evidence to recommend that persons at higher risk for listeriosis (e.g., pregnant women, persons aged ≥65 years, and immunocompromised persons) avoid fresh stone fruits. However, it does support the need to understand risks associated with contaminated, ready-to-eat fresh fruit so that prevention strategies can be strengthened.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria 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 Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as caramel apples, cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.

CDC and FDA: Latest on Blue Bell Ice Cream Listeria Outbreak and Recall

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This is a complex and ongoing multistate investigation of listeriosis occurring over an extended period. Several strains of Listeria monocytogenes are involved in this outbreak. Information indicates that various Blue Bell brand products produced in facilities in Texas and Oklahoma are the source of this outbreak.

The outbreak consists of two clusters of people infected with several strains of Listeria monocytogenes that were also found in products made at two Blue Bell facilities in Texas and Oklahoma. Eight people with Listeria infections related to this outbreak have been confirmed from two states: Kansas (5) and Texas (3). Three deaths were reported from Kansas.

Cluster 1 consists of five patients reported from Kansas during January 2014 through January 2015 who were all hospitalized at a single hospital for unrelated problems before developing listeriosis. Of the four ill people for whom information is available on the foods eaten in the month before Listeria infection, all consumed milkshakes made at the hospital with a Blue Bell brand ice cream product called “Scoops.” Whole genome sequences of Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from four of the patients were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from “Scoops” and two other products made on the same line at the company’s Texas facility. These products were recalled by Blue Bell Creameries on March 13, 2015.

Cluster 2 consists of three patients reported from Texas during 2011 through 2014 who were all hospitalized for unrelated problems before developing listeriosis. Whole genome sequences of their Listeria monocytogenes strains were nearly identical to Listeria strains isolated from ice cream produced at the Blue Bell Creameries’ Oklahoma facility.

Three additional patients with listeriosis during 2010 through 2012 whose isolates have PFGE patterns similar to those of others in the cluster have been identified in the PulseNet database; further molecular laboratory testing is under way to determine whether these illnesses may be related to this outbreak. Results of this testing will be reported once they are available.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently isolated Listeria monocytogenes strains from a 1-pint container of Blue Bell brand banana pudding ice cream collected from the company’s Oklahoma production facility. This contaminated product was produced in the same facility but on a different line from the 3 oz. institutional/food service ice cream cups previously recalled.

On April 3, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries reported that they had voluntarily suspended operations at their Oklahoma production facility.  On April 7, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries announced a third product recall that included banana pudding ice cream pints and other products made on the same line that were produced between February 12, 2015 and March 27, 2015 at their Oklahoma facility. Further testing of environmental and product samples from Blue Bell Creamery facilities is ongoing.

Blue Bell Creameries previously issued two other recalls. On March 13, 2015, the company removed from the market “Scoops” and other products made on the same line at their Texas facility. On March 23, 2015, the company recalled 3 oz. institutional/food service ice cream cups of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla flavors made at their Oklahoma facility.

In an unrelated investigation, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control isolated Listeria monocytogenes from the following Blue Bell brand single-serving ice cream products collected from a distribution center in 2015: Chocolate Chip Country Cookie Sandwiches and Great Divide Bars.  In response to the findings in South Carolina, the Texas Department of State Health Services collected product samples from the Blue Bell Creameries production facility in Brenham, Texas. These samples yielded Listeria monocytogenes from the same two products tested by South Carolina and also from the ice cream Scoops, which is made on the same production line. Listeria monocytogenes was not found in other Blue Bell brand ice cream products tested.

Three strains of Listeria monocytogenes isolated from the ice cream samples had PFGE patterns that were indistinguishable from those of Listeria bacteria obtained from samples from four patients. Listeria monocytogenes isolates with four other PFGE patterns were also isolated from the ice cream samples. Invoices provided by the hospital to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment indicate that the Blue Bell brand ice cream Scoops used in the patients’ milkshakes came from Blue Bell Creamery’s facility in Texas. Whole genome sequencing of the Listeria monocytogenes isolates obtained from the ice cream is in progress.

One patient’s Listeria monocytogenes strain has a PFGE pattern that does not match any identified in an ice cream sample. However, epidemiologic evidence, including acquiring infection at the same hospital as the other patients and consumption of the ice cream products, suggests that this illness may be related. CDC and state and local public health partners are continuing laboratory surveillance through PulseNet to identify any additional ill persons whose illnesses may be related to this outbreak.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria 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 Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as caramel apples, cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.

Marler Clark Retained in Blue Bell Listeria Outbreak

To date, there have been eight reports indicating these products have caused illness and contributed to three deaths.

On March 23, 2015, Blue Bell Ice Cream recalled 10 frozen snack items because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The FDA found Listeria bacteria in samples of Blue Bell Chocolate Chip Country Cookies, Great Divide Bars and individually packaged SCOOPS. Seven other products made on the same production line were also recalled: individually packaged Sour Pop Green Apple Bar, Cotton Candy Bar, Almond Bar and Vanilla Stick Slices and 6 pk Cotton Candy Bars, 6 pk Sour Pop Green Apple Bars and 12 pk NSA Mooo Bars.

Also on March 23, 2015, Blue Bell Ice Cream recalled three 3 oz. institutional/food service ice cream cups- chocolate, strawberry and vanilla with tab lids because they have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. On March 22, the Kansas Department of Health & Environment reported one positive test for Listeria monocytogenes on a chocolate institutional/food service cup recovered from a hospital in Wichita, Kan. This cup was produced in the Broken Arrow, Okla., plant on April 15, 2014. These cups are not sold thru retail outlets such as convenience stores and supermarkets.

On April 3, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries suspended operations at its Broken Arrow, Okla., plant to thoroughly inspect the facility due to a 3oz. institutional/food service chocolate cup that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes and was immediately withdrawn from all outlets. That product was only available to Blue Bell’s food service and institutional accounts and was recalled along with 3oz. vanilla and strawberry institutional/food service cups. On April 4, 2015, Blue Bell began working with retail outlets to remove all products produced in Broken Arrow, Okla., from their service area. These products are identified with a code date ending in O, P, Q, R, S or T located on the bottom of the carton and they are a part of the market withdrawal. On April 7, 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration notified Blue Bell that the Banana Pudding Ice Cream pint tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes. This pint was produced in the Broken Arrow, Okla., plant on February 12, 2015. Subsequently Blue Bell recalled all products made on that one particular production line, from February 12, 2015 – March 27, 2015. These products were produced on that same line and have a code date ending in either S or T.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria 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 Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as caramel apples, cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.

Pho Tam Shut for Salmonella

The Boise Central District Health Department on Thursday suspended the food establishment license of Pho Tam restaurant, located at 1098 N. Orchard St., linked to five cases of Salmonella poisoning.

Pho Tam was shut down after health inspectors found two critical violations of food safety regulations and two other violations.

“Due to the violations identified today, we determined they were not demonstrating proper practices to prevent foodborne illness so we suspended their food establishment license,” health department spokeswoman Christine Myron said in an email sent to The Idaho Statesman.

The closure order came just a day after health department officials held one-on-one education training with the Vietnamese restaurant’s employees on proper food safety procedures.

Pho Tam has 15 days to contact the health department to request a compliance conference to discuss with owner Long Doan the major risk factors that were found and develop a plan to control the risk factors that could make customers sick.

At an inspection last June, health inspectors found five violations, two of them critical. The restaurant was written up for inadequate hand-washing facilities for workers and improper cleaning and sanitizing of food contact surfaces, both critical violations. The other violations dealt with thermometers, dishwashing machinery and the restaurant’s physical facilities. Two follow-up inspections in July found only one violation, dealing with the physical facilities. No violations were detected during a July 23 inspection.

The strain that sickened Pho Tam’s customers, Salmonella Schwarzengrund, is relatively rare.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Salmonella outbreaks. The Salmonella lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Salmonella 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 Salmonella lawyers have litigated Salmonella cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as cantaloupe, tomatoes, ground turkey, salami, sprouts, cereal, peanut butter, and food served in restaurants. The law firm has brought Salmonella lawsuits against such companies as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.

Blue Bell Listeria Outbreak Jumps to 8 Sick in Kansas and Texas

epi-04-08-2015-fullThe outbreak now consists of two clusters of illnesses that are likely linked to Blue Bell brand ice cream products. The outbreak involves eight people infected with outbreak strains of Listeria monocytogenes; eight people are reported from Kansas (5) and Texas (3).

Cluster 1 consists of five patients reported from Kansas during January 2014 through January 2015 who were all hospitalized at a single hospital for unrelated problems before developing listeriosis. Of the four ill people for whom information is available on the foods eaten in the month before Listeria infection, all consumed milkshakes made at the hospital with a Blue Bell brand ice cream product called “Scoops.” Whole genome sequences of Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from four of the patients were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from “Scoops” and two other products made on the same line at the company’s Texas facility. These products were recalled by Blue Bell Creameries on March 13, 2015.

Cluster 2 consists of three patients reported from Texas during 2011 through 2014 who were all hospitalized for unrelated problems before developing listeriosis. Whole genome sequences of their Listeria monocytogenes strains were highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from another Blue Bell ice cream product, 3 oz. institutional/food service chocolate ice cream cups made at the Oklahoma production facility. The cup products were recalled by Blue Bell Creameries on March 23, 2015.

Three additional patients with listeriosis during 2010 through 2012 whose isolates have PFGE patterns similar to those of others in the cluster have been identified in the PulseNet database; further molecular laboratory testing is under way to determine whether these illnesses may be related to this outbreak. Results of this testing will be reported once they are available.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently isolated Listeria monocytogenes strains from a 1-pint container of Blue Bell brand banana pudding ice cream collected from the company’s Oklahoma production facility. This contaminated product was produced in the same facility but on a different line from the 3 oz. institutional/food service ice cream cups previously recalled.

On April 3, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries reported that they had voluntarily suspended operations at their Oklahoma production facility.  On April 7, 2015, Blue Bell Creameries announced a third product recall that included banana pudding ice cream pints and other products made on the same line that were produced between February 12, 2015 and March 27, 2015 at their Oklahoma facility. Further testing of environmental and product samples from Blue Bell Creamery facilities is ongoing.

Blue Bell Creameries previously issued two other recalls. On March 13, 2015, the company removed from the market “Scoops” and other products made on the same line at their Texas facility. On March 23, 2015, the company recalled 3 oz. institutional/food service ice cream cups of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla flavors made at their Oklahoma facility.

CDC continues to recommend that consumers do not eat any Blue Bell brand products made at the Oklahoma production facility (including the recalled products) and that retailers and institutions should not sell or serve them. This advice is particularly important for consumers at higher risk for listeriosis, including pregnant women, adults 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems.

Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Listeria outbreaks. The Listeria lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Listeria 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 Listeria lawyers have litigated Listeria cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods, such as caramel apples, cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.