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Food Poison Journal

Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis

UPDATE: A Little Bit of History of Raw Milk and Organic Pastures

162037_171911861180_1504922_nFrom a Organic Pastures recent Facebook Post:

Voluntary Internal Recall of OPDC Raw Dairy Product: In abundance of caution, and as part of our safety program, we ask that Organic Pastures customers and stores immediately dispose of any whole milk with the following lot codes:

Use by date: 1/23/16
Lot code: 20160105-1

Use by date: 1/26/16
Lot code: 20160106-2

This is NOT a State mandated recall. This is a voluntary recall being placed by the Organic Pastures team. However, we are working in collaboration with the State and will continue to have open communications with them.

This product may have been released to the Northern and Central Coast areas of California. These lot codes did not reach Southern California.

We test and hold all of our products prior to release. We have reason to believe that some tests yielded unsatisfactory false negative results. In a cautionary response, we request that this product be destroyed.

October 2015 – Organic Pastures Raw Milk Linked to Campylobacter Test:

Raw milk produced by Organic Pastures Dairy of Fresno County with a code date of OCT 24 is the subject of a statewide recall and quarantine order announced by California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones.  The quarantine order followed the confirmed detection of campylobacter bacteria in raw whole milk.  No illnesses have been reported at this time.

Under the recall, Organic Pastures Dairy brand Grade-A raw milk labeled with a code date of OCT 24 is to be pulled immediately from retail shelves, and consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any product remaining in their refrigerators.

CDFA inspectors found the bacteria as a result of product testing conducted as part of routine inspection and sample collection at the facility.

September 2012 – Organic Pastures Raw Milk Linked to Campylobacter Test:

Raw milk, raw skim milk (non-fat) and raw cream produced by Organic Pastures Dairy of Fresno County and with a code date of SEP 13 are the subjects of a statewide recall and quarantine order announced by California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones. The quarantine order followed the confirmed detection of campylobacter bacteria in raw cream. No illnesses have been reported at this time.

Under the recall, Organic Pastures Dairy brand Grade A raw cream, Grade A raw milk and Grade A raw skim milk, all with a labeled code date of SEP 13, are to be pulled immediately from retail shelves, and consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any product remaining in their refrigerators.

CDFA inspectors found the bacteria as a result of product testing conducted as part of routine inspection and sample collection at the facility.

May 2012 – Organic Pastures Raw Milk Linked to Campylobacter Illnesses:

Raw milk, raw skim milk (non-fat), raw cream and raw butter produced by Organic Pastures Dairy of Fresno County is the subject of a statewide recall and quarantine order announced by California State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Whiteford. The quarantine order came following the confirmed detection of campylobacter bacteria in raw cream.

Consumers are strongly urged to dispose of any Organic Pastures products of these types remaining in their refrigerators, and retailers are to pull those products immediately from their shelves.

From January through April 30, 2012, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) reports that at least 10 people with campylobacter infection were identified throughout California and reported consuming Organic Pastures raw milk prior to illness onset. Their median age is 11.5 years, with six under 18. The age range is nine months to 38 years. They are residents of Fresno, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Luis Obispo and Santa Clara counties. None of the patients have been hospitalized, and there have been no deaths.

According to CDPH, symptoms of campylobacteriosis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. Most people with campylobacteriosis recover completely. Illness usually occurs 2 to 5 days after exposure to campylobacter and lasts about a week. The illness is usually mild and some people with campylobacteriosis have no symptoms at all. However, in some persons with compromised immune systems, it can cause a serious, life-threatening infection. A small percentage of people may have joint pain and swelling after infection. In addition, a rare disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome that causes weakness and paralysis can occur several weeks after the initial illness.

2011 Organic Pastures E. coli Outbreak:

In November 2011, a cluster of five young children with Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7 infection with matching pulse-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns was identified. Illness onsets were from August 25 to October 25, 2011. All five children reported drinking commercially available raw (unpasteurized) milk from a single dairy (Organic Pastures) and had no other common exposures. Statistical analysis of case­ patients’ exposures with a comparison group of E. coli O157:H7 patients with non­ cluster PFGE patterns indicated a strong association with raw milk. The epidemiological findings led to a quarantine and recall of all Organic Pastures products except cheese aged more than 60 days, and investigations by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Food and Drug Branch (FOB) and the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). Environmental samples collected at Organic Pastures yielded E. coli O157:H7 isolates that had PFGE patterns indistinguishable from the patient isolates. Organic Pastures raw milk consumed by the case-patients was likely contaminated with this strain of E. coli O157:H7, resulting in their illnesses.  Final Report.

Organic Pastures has been involved in recalls and outbreaks in the past:

Organic Pastures products were recalled for pathogens in 2006, 2007 and 2008. It was tied to a 2007 outbreak of Campylobacter. Most notably, it was quarantined in 2006 after six children became ill with E. coli infections – two with hemolytic uremic syndrome.  The State Report from 2006. 

See also, Raw Milk Myth Buster 1 – Organic Pastures 2006 Raw Milk E. coli Outbreak was caused by Spinach.

2006: 3 strains of E. coli O157:H7 cultured from OPDC heifer feces.  Press Release.

2007: 50 strains of Campylobacter jejuni plus Campylobacter coli, Campylobacter fetus, Campylobacter hyointetinalis, and Campylobacter lari cultured from OPDC dairy cow feces after eight people were sickened.  State Report.

2007: Listeria monocytogenes cultured from Organic Pastures Grade A raw cream.  Press Release.

2008: Campylobacter cultured from Organic Pastures Grade A raw cream.  Press Release.

For more about the risks of raw milk, see Real Raw Milk Facts Dot Com.

USDA Finalizes New Food Safety Measures to Reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in Poultry

New Standards to Help Prevent an Estimated 50,000 Illnesses Annually

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4, 2016 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today announced the finalization of new federal standards to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter in ground chicken and turkey products, as well as in raw chicken breasts, legs, and wings. Based on scientific risk assessments, FSIS estimates that implementation of these standards will lead to an average of 50,000 prevented illnesses annually.

As part of this move to make chicken and turkey items that Americans frequently purchase safer to eat, FSIS has also updated its microbial testing schedule at poultry facilities and will soon begin posting more information online about individual companies’ food safety performance.

“Over the past seven years, USDA has put in place tighter and more strategic food safety measures than ever before for meat and poultry products. We have made strides in modernizing every aspect of food safety inspection, from company record keeping, to labeling requirements, to the way we perform testing in our labs,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “These new standards, in combination with greater transparency about poultry companies’ food safety performance and better testing procedures, will help prevent tens of thousands of foodborne illnesses every year, reaching our Healthy People 2020 goals.”

FSIS uses pathogen reduction performance standards to assess the food safety performance of establishments that prepare meat and poultry products. By making the standards for ground poultry tougher to meet, ground poultry products nationwide will have less contamination and therefore result in fewer foodborne illnesses. FSIS implemented performance standards for whole chickens in 1996 but has since learned that Salmonella levels increase as chicken is further processed into parts. Poultry parts like breasts, wings and others represent 80 percent of the chicken available for Americans to purchase. By creating a standard for chicken parts, and by performing regulatory testing at a point closer to the final product, FSIS can greatly reduce consumer exposure to Salmonella and Campylobacter.

“This approach to poultry inspection is based on science, supported by strong data, and will truly improve public health,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. “The new performance standards will complement the many other proactive, prevention-based food policies that we’ve put in place in recent years to make America’s supply of meat and poultry safer to eat.”

For chicken parts, ground chicken, and ground turkey, FSIS is finalizing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to achieve at least a 30 percent reduction in illnesses from Salmonella. For chicken parts and ground chicken, FSIS is finalizing a pathogen reduction performance standard designed to achieve at least a 32 percent reduction in illnesses from Campylobacter. Because FSIS has found the prevalence for Campylobacter in ground turkey to be already low, the reduction for this product is estimated to be 19 percent.

After these standards were proposed in early 2015, FSIS began to use routine sampling throughout the year rather than infrequent sampling on consecutive days to assess whether establishments’ processes are effectively addressing Salmonella and Campylobacter. Once establishments have completed a full set of testing under the new standards, the agency will also begin posting online which facilities pass, meet or fail the new standards.

An estimated 1.2 million foodborne illnesses are thought to be caused every year by Salmonella, with approximately one-third or 360,000 of those illnesses attributed to FSIS-regulated products. In 2013, the agency released a Salmonella Action Plan, which created a blueprint for the agency to address this pathogen of significant public health concern. Today’s announcement fulfills the major steps that FSIS had outlined in its plan.

Over the past six years, USDA has collaborated extensively with other federal partners to safeguard America’s food supply, prevent foodborne illnesses and improve consumers’ knowledge about the food they eat. USDA’s FSIS is working to strengthen federal food safety efforts and develop strategies that emphasize a three-dimensional approach to prevent foodborne illness: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery.

Some of the other steps taken to improve the safety of meat and poultry include adopting a zero-tolerance policy for raw beef products containing six additional strains of shiga-toxin producing E. coli; ensuring that beef products that have been mechanically tenderized are labeled as such and include validated cooking instructions; implementing a new “test and hold” policy in 2012, which significantly reduces consumer exposure to unsafe meat products; and working closely with FDA and CDC to collectively form the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC), which focuses on projects related to foodborne illness source attribution and will try to improve the classification of foods implicated in foodborne disease outbreaks.

Kansas Buffalo Wild Wings Hit with Norovirus

Buffalo-Wild-Wings1The Kansas health department is yet to find the cause and source of a gastrointestinal illness that affected at least 10 people who ate at a Buffalo Wild Wings Inc restaurant, a spokeswoman for the department’s Johnson County office said.

Shares of the popular chicken wings chain fell as much as 7.8 percent to a 15-month low of $138.31 on Wednesday.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment said on Tuesday that it was working with state health officials in probing reports of gastrointestinal illnesses that affected the people, who ate at a Buffalo Wild Wings outlet in Overland Park in suburban Kansas City.

Laboratory results are awaited, the department said, adding that there were currently no confirmed cases of norovirus.

“We expect (the test results) in the next couple days,” said Barbara Mitchell, the public information officer at the department. “This time of year, we typically have norovirus in the area,” she said.

Buffalo Wild Wings voluntarily closed the restaurant on Saturday for cleaning and reopened it on Sunday following consultation with the health department, a spokesman said in an email.

Norovirus is the most common cause of food-borne illnesses and acute gastroenteritis in the United States, with 19 million to 21 million cases and 570-800 deaths annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

State health officials said last month that they were probing a norovirus outbreak among customers at the New Theatre Restaurant in Overland Park.

“I don’t believe there’s anything that is connected (to the New Theatre outbreak) but we don’t know that as of yet either,” Mitchell said.

CDC and FDA call Chipotle E. coli O26 Outbreaks Over – But:

Ultimately, no food item has been identified as causing the outbreak, and by the same token, no food has been ruled out as a cause. (FDA)

The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with state and local officials are investigating two separate outbreaks of E. coli O26 infections that have been linked to food served at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants in several states.

As of January 27, 2016, the CDC reports a total of 55 people infected with the outbreak strain of STEC (Shiga toxin producing E. coli) O26 from a total of 11 states in the larger outbreak: California (3), Delaware (1), Illinois (1), Kentucky (1), Maryland (1), Minnesota (2), New York (1), Ohio (3), Oregon (13), Pennsylvania (2), and Washington (27). There have been 21 reported hospitalizations. The majority of these cases were reported from Oregon and Washington during October 2015.

In December 2015, the CDC reported five people infected in three states with a different, rare strain of STEC O26: Kansas (1), North Dakota (1), and Oklahoma (3). Interviews were conducted with five ill people, who all reported eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurants. There were no reports of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) and no deaths in either outbreak.

Investigators used whole genome sequencing, an advanced laboratory technique, to get more information about the DNA fingerprint of the STEC O26 bacteria causing illness in both outbreaks. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) was performed on STEC O26 isolates from 36 ill people from the first outbreak. All 36 isolates were highly related genetically to one another. This provided additional evidence that illnesses outside the Pacific Northwest, were related to the illnesses in Washington and Oregon. WGS was also performed on STEC isolates from four people in the second outbreak. All were highly related to one another, although not to the isolates from the first outbreak.

Chipotle Mexican Grill closed 43 restaurants in Washington and Oregon in early November 2015 in response to the initial outbreak. All these restaurants reopened in November 2015. Chipotle Mexican Grill worked in close consultation and collaboration with health officials throughout the investigation to determine whether it was appropriate to reopen these restaurants. Chipotle reports taking the following actions, among others, prior to opening:

  • Confirming that all microbial testing performed by the company did not yield E. coli (more than 2,500 tests of Chipotle’s food, restaurant surfaces, and equipment all showed no E. coli)
  • Confirming that no employees in these restaurants were sickened from this incident
  • Expanded testing of fresh produce, raw meat, and dairy items prior to restocking restaurants
  • Implementing additional safety procedures, and audits, in all of its 2,000 restaurants to ensure that robust food safety standards are in place
  • Working closely with federal, state, and local government agencies to ensure that robust food safety standards are in place
  • Replacing all ingredients in the closed restaurants
  • Conducted additional deep cleaning and sanitization in all of its closed restaurants (will conduct deep cleaning and sanitization additionally in all restaurants nationwide)

The FDA conducted tracebacks of multiple widely-distributed ingredients. Traceback can be difficult with Mexican-style foods given they are often complex dishes containing multiple ingredients. No product of interest was identified. Even without a definitive item to follow, the FDA traced back to their origins some widely distributed ingredients in an effort to identify a source for the outbreak. Unfortunately, the distribution path did not lead to an ingredient of interest.

The FDA also conducted investigations of some suppliers, but did not find any evidence that those suppliers were the source of the outbreak. Ultimately, no food item has been identified as causing the outbreak, and by the same token, no food has been ruled out as a cause.