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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

Antioch Thanksgiving Illnesses Still a Mystery

DocumentContra Costa Health Services (CCHS) has now identified two additional people who fell ill soon after eating food from a Thanksgiving charity event in Antioch.

All people who became ill developed symptoms within 24 hours of ingesting food served at the charity event and we don’t expect to see new cases.

These two newly discovered people didn’t seek medical attention and have recovered. There are now 19 total people known to have fallen ill—including three people who died—after eating food served at the Antioch American Legion auditorium, 403 West Sixth St., on Thanksgiving.

Anyone with leftover food from this event should not eat it and throw it away. Anyone who ate food from the Thanksgiving Day event and is now feeling sick should immediately contact their medical provider and also call CCHS at 925-313-6740.

Tests of biological samples from the reported cases came back negative for 21 foodborne diseases, including salmonella, E. coli and norovirus. CCHS is sending samples to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to test for other agents that are common but testing is not locally available. Results from the CDC tests may not be available for months.

Federal Authorities Seize 4 Million Pounds of Milk Powder

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced today that the U.S. Marshals Service seized more than 4 million pounds of product produced by Valley Milk Products LLC (Valley Milk) of Strasburg, Virginia. The company is owned by the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative Association Inc. in Reston, Virginia. The seized products include dry nonfat milk powder and buttermilk powder packaged in 40- and 50-pound bags for further manufacturing and are worth nearly $4 million.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed the complaint, on behalf of the FDA, in the U.S. District Court for the Virginia Western District, alleging that the seized products are adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

During an FDA inspection of Valley Milk from July – September 2016, FDA investigators observed poor sanitary practices and reviewed the company’s records, which showed positive results for Salmonella in the plant’s internal environmental and finished product samples. FDA investigators observed residues on internal parts of the processing equipment after it had been cleaned by the company and water dripping from the ceiling onto food manufacturing equipment. In addition, environmental swabs collected during the inspection confirmed the presence of Salmonella meleagridis on surfaces food came into contact with after being pasteurized. Throughout the investigation, the FDA worked closely with the Virginia Department of Health and Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“The FDA urged Valley Milk to conduct a voluntary recall of the implicated products,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “The firm refused to recall and, as a result, we have had to intervene and seize this adulterated food to prevent it from reaching consumers who could be exposed to Salmonella from these products.”

The FDA used a bacterial typing tool called whole genome sequencing (WGS) to link the samples collected in the facility over time. WGS technology can show the relationship among isolates of bacterial pathogens found in the environment, a food source or a person who became ill from consuming contaminated food. The sampling results indicate that the Salmonella strains from 2016 are nearly identical to Salmonella strains found at the company in 2010, 2011 and 2013. These findings of Salmonella meleagridis at the company dating back several years demonstrate the existence of a persistent strain of Salmonella at this facility.

Salmonella is a pathogenic bacterium that can contaminate foods and which may result in gastroenteritis or other serious clinical conditions, including septicemia, arterial infections, endocarditis and septic arthritis. Most people recover from salmonellosis in four to seven days without treatment but about one person in every thousand with salmonellosis dies.

Valley Milk is currently not producing dry powdered milk products. No illnesses linked to Valley Milk products have been reported to date. Consumers can report problems with FDA-regulated products to their district office consumer complaint coordinator.

What is Clostridium perfringens?

Clostridium perfringens are bacteria that produce toxins harmful to humans. Clostridium perfringens and its toxins are found everywhere in the environment, but human infection is most likely to come from eating food with Clostridium perfringens in it. Food poisoning from Clostridium perfringens fairly common, but is typically not too severe, and is often mistaken for the 24-hour flu.

The majority of outbreaks are associated with undercooked meats, often in large quantities of food prepared for a large group of people and left to sit out for long periods of time. Because of this, it is sometimes referred to as the “food service germ.” Meat products such as stews, casseroles, and gravy are the most common sources of illness from C. perfringens. Most outbreaks come from food whose temperature is poorly controlled. If food is kept between 70 and 140 F, it is likely to grow Clostridium perfringens bacteria.

People generally experience symptoms of Clostridium perfringens infection 6 to 24 hours after consuming the bacteria or toxins. Clostridium perfringens toxins cause abdominal pain and stomach cramps, followed by diarrhea. Nausea is also a common symptom. Fever and vomiting are not normally symptoms of poisoning by Clostridium perfringens toxins.

Illness from Clostridium perferingens generally lasts around 24 hours, and is rarely fatal.

The Type C strain of Clostridium perfringens can cause a more serious condition called Pig-bel Syndrome. This syndrome can cause death of intestinal cells and can often be fatal.

To prevent infection by Clostridium perfringens, follow the these tips:

  • Cook foods containing meat thoroughly
  • If keeping foods out, make sure they maintain a temperature of 140 F (60 C)
  • When storing food in the refrigerator, divide it into pieces with a thickness of three inches or less so that it cools faster
  • Reheat foods to at least 165 F (74 C)


Clostridium perfringens.” Illinois Department of Public Health. Available at http://www.idph.state.il.us/Bioterrorism/factsheets/clostridium.htm.
Rohrs, Barbara. “Clostridium perfringens.” Ohio State University Extension Family and Consumer Sciences. Available at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/5568.html.

Letter from GFSF Chairman

It just gets better and better! 2016 has been a good year for GFSF. We are grateful to GFSF China staff and Director, Mr. Yuan Yao, for all their creative energies in organizing a series of successful events culminating in the annual June Summit. This year, the Summit was held at the Banji Yanqi Lake International Convention Center outside Beijing, followed by a half day of presentation and discussions at Tootoo Organic Farm, Beijing. On the third day, several registrants joined an official delegation visit to Yantai in the northeastern province of Shandong, China, for a follow-on session with local businesses and visits to local farms, beverage facilities, and agro-software industries.

Our partnership with the World Bank’s Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) has been productive in terms of shaping new forms of collaboration. The program now has a new CEO, Ms. Lystra Antoine, and is planning a new program and activity agenda for CY 2017. GFSF publications and social media have gained increasing attention for GFSF and outreach opportunities.

We are continuing our efforts to offer a curriculum of e-courses in collaboration with the University of Maryland, JIFSAN (Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition) and MOOCS in conjunction with GFSP. We now have a few courses available in Chinese and are hopeful that we will secure a formal co-host for these courses in China.

Food safety liability insurance products are another high priority for us. We hosted workshops during the year and will be offering more in CY 2017 to give our members the opportunity to learn of the multiple advantages to these products as suppliers for international buyers. The amended Basic Food Safety Law encourages insurance and we are working with China government counterpart agencies and international buyers to raise participation levels. We hope to educate Chinese companies on the benefits of these products to achieve compliance with national and international standards as well as to satisfy new requirements of international buyers.

As China has advanced in regulatory oversight of food safety in China, we are placing more emphasis on food safety technologies as a complementary effort to help regulators and companies comply with food safety requirements in the global supply chain. We are encouraged by the widening participation of technology providers in GFSF activities. We’re also reviewing options for training in the use of blockchain applications in food safety and are evaluating our own direct participation in offering new blockchain software for food tracing systems technologies.

On the brick and mortar side, we welcome all the support we receive from our strategic partners, including AmCham Vietnam, Food Industry Asia, and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. With the help of AmCham, we are preparing to expand our franchise to Vietnam which promises to be a major event for 2017.

We have a robust agenda for new projects and activities in 2017, but the building blocks are much the same as this year. We are grateful for the support we receive from industry and the close collaboration with official China government agencies. GFSF has become a platform to solve problems and create opportunities for collaborative risk mitigation strategies.

As we enter the final quarter of the year, we ask you to join us in our full range of activities and programs that will position your company as a leader in food safety in the China market. For further information on our end-of-the-year special membership rates, please contact us at GIC Group or myself directly at rickgilmore@gicgroup.com

Best regards,

Rick Gilmore
GFSF www.globalfoodsafetyforum.org