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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

WA Custom Slaughterhouse Fined $6,000 and Shut

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) has revoked the license of the custom slaughter establishment of Rickson Vilog (also known as Vilog LLC) after inspections found on-going sanitation problems at the Auburn business. In addition to revoking the company’s license, WSDA also assessed a civil penalty of $6,000.

As a result of WSDA’s action, the company cannot slaughter and process animals, including those purchased live on-site. Goats, sheep, swine and cattle are among the livestock slaughtered at the business.

Custom slaughter establishments are typically used by farmers, livestock owners, and practitioners of some religions to have their meat animals processed for personal consumption.

This week’s enforcement action follows several inspections of Rickson Vilog in which WSDA food safety inspectors found problems with unsanitary conditions, poor employee sanitation practices, and a general failure to protect food products from contamination. During the most recent inspection in October, inspectors noted ongoing failures to meet sanitary meat processing conditions, including lack of refrigeration and improper carcass handling. The firm failed to perform required compliance actions.

California Celery Likely Link to Minnesota E. coli Outbreak

According to a recently released report by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDOH), 57 individuals who met the case definition[1] were deemed to be part of the outbreak linked to Jim-N-Joe’s Northland Katering.

Of those ill, 65% were women.  All cases reported diarrhea, 96% cramps, 61% bloody stool, 37% vomiting and 19% fever.  37% sought medical treatment with 16% hospitalized.  No one developed hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

After an exhaustive investigation, MDOH concluded that the common server at the five events between July 1 and July 17 on the Fond du Lac Reservation was Jim-N-Joe’s Northland Katering.  MDOH also found that the most common food items were the celery and onions.  Potato Salad, which included celery and onions was found to be tainted with E. coli O157:H7.  Cases were also identified at events where potato salad was not served, but celery was.  The celery was traced back to a field adjacent to a defunct dairy operation near Gonzales, California.

We represent several of those hospitalized due to E. coli O157:H7. See additional documents at Outbreak Database.

E. coli:  Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of E. coli outbreaks and hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). The E. coli lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness infections 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 E. coli lawyers have litigated E. coli and HUS cases stemming from outbreaks traced to ground beef, raw milk, lettuce, spinach, sprouts, and other food products.  The law firm has brought E. coli lawsuits against such companies as Jack in the Box, Dole, ConAgra, Cargill, and Jimmy John’s.  We have proudly represented such victims as Brianne Kiner, Stephanie Smith and Linda Rivera.


[1] A case was defined as an individual who attended an event catered by Jim-N-Joe’s Northland Katering and subsequently developed diarrhea that was bloody or at least three days of duration, or an individual who had E. coli O57:H7 isolated from a stool culture with a PFGE pattern indistinguishable from the main outbreak pattern.

Norovirus Report Released

I just received the Final Summary Report on the 2014 Royal Hawaiian Norovirus Outbreak from the State of Hawaii Department of Health (HDOH).  It was well done and to the point.

On May 17, 2014, management at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel (RHH) reported illnesses linked to a wedding reception at the Azure Restaurant held on May 15th.  Illnesses were reported on May 16th.

The investigation found that 114 individuals reported illnesses compatible with a confirmed (stool culture positive for Norovirus) or probable case.  Illness onset ranged from May 14th to May 26th.

Ill persons identified a wide variety of food consumed at various venues.  The common denominator was that the food was prepared in the kitchen at the RHH.

17 RHH employees reported illness during the outbreak period.  On employee reported and episode of diarrhea on May 14th just prior to serving dinner.  On May 15th another employee reported vomiting into a kitchen area trashcan.

On May 19th HDOH inspected the RHH kitchen and observed violation of sanitizing procedure and cold holding temperatures.

The HDOH conclusion was “[t]his was a confirmed outbreak of Norovirus GL3B associated with consumption of a meal prepared by the [RHH]….  Of the 114 primary ill persons identified, 17 were employees of the [RHH]….  Illness among food handling personnel and coincident environmental contamination were likely contributing factors which served to propagate the infection among hotel guests and employees.”

Norovirus is a very contagious virus. You can get norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. The virus causes your stomach or intestines or both to get inflamed (acute gastroenteritis). This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up.

Listeria Outbreak: Is it Time for a Warning Label on Sprouts?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last week that the 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.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 (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 state and local public health laboratories, CDC, and federal food regulatory laboratories that perform molecular surveillance of foodborne infections.

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.

My friends at Barf Blog document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-8-1-14.xlsx.

Listeria:  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 cantaloupe, cheese, celery and milk.