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Food Poison Journal Food Poisoning Outbreaks and Litigation: Surveillance and Analysis


Attorney Bill Marler Named to America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food for 2017

The food safety advocate and attorney is number 40 on the annual list.

The Daily Meal has included prominent food safety attorney Bill Marler, of Marler Clark LLP, on their annual list of America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food for 2017. Marler has made the list over the last several years, coming in this year at number 40. This ranking acknowledges Marler’s status in the field of food safety law, most notably his advocacy for the improvement of food safety standards and the defense of foodborne illness victims.

Marler joins the likes of industry CEOs, food and restaurant critics, and celebrity chefs on the seventh annual iteration of the list. “I’m deeply honored to be included on the list again for 2017,” said Marler. “The importance of prioritizing the health and standards of our nation’s food has never been higher, and I’m glad to continue to spread the message of food safety.” “It is unclear at this point what impact the Trump Administartion policies will have on food safety,” Marler added.

Seattle-based attorney Bill Marler rose to international prominence representing Brielle Kiner in the Jack-in-the-Box E. Coli outbreak of 1992. Since then, Marler has represented countless victims of foodborne illness, as well as serving as a lecturer for numerous legal and food safety conferences. In addition to representing clients and speaking to industry professionals, his blog keeps abreast of food poisoning outbreaks, legal outcomes of foodborne illness cases, and updates on food safety policy nationwide.

Marler Clark, LLC has been an advocate for victims of foodborne illnesses for decades. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Marler Clark attorneys have litigated cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a variety of foods. The firm has brought lawsuits against companies such as Cargill, ConAgra, Peanut Corporation of America, Sheetz, Taco Bell, Subway and Wal-Mart.

If you would like to speak with Bill Marler about his site and selection to the America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food list, please contact Colleen McMahon (colleen@quinnbrein.com), Samantha Jones (Sam@quinnbrein.com) or call (206) 842-8922.

Florida Gateway College Science Olympiad Tied to Food Poisoning Event

Florida_Gateway_College_(emblem)News4 reports that 30 people were taken to the hospital Saturday for what officials believe was a foodborne illness.

Multiple agencies were called to Florida Gateway College in Lake City, where 28 minors and two adults attending the Science Olympiad competition were suffering from what is believed to be food poisoning.

Due to the volume of people needing treatment, ambulances were called in from neighboring counties, and were taken Lake City Medical Center and Shands Lake Shore. 

Officials said the only common denominator was the catered lunch provided to those participating in the competition. A witness said everyone who had eaten the pork was taken to a hospital.

Golden Pond Restaurant and Party House a Disaster Waiting to Happen Before 260 Sick

348sMouse droppings in the kitchen, grease and food debris throughout the kitchen, spilled and leaking food containers in the floor of a walk-in cooler, mold on the beverage gun holder and a buildup of grease and dust on hood filters.

Steve Orr of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has been reporting on the investigation of the Thanksgiving Day foodborne illness outbreak in Greece, New York has become a painstaking affair, drawn out by the nature of the uncommon pathogens suspected in the case.

At least 260 people were sickened after eating at the Golden Pond Restaurant and Party House on Thanksgiving Day. Four patrons of the restaurant were hospitalized. No deaths from the gastrointestinal illness been reported.

The restaurant was inspected by the health department and ordered closed the day after Thanksgiving. It will remain closed at least until the cause of the illnesses is determined and until shortcomings identified during inspections are rectified.

Golden Pond had a history, quite recent, of food safety violations:

  • On Nov. 1, inspectors listed 18 violations that were classified as blue, or non-critical violations, which do not directly cause foodborne illness, according to health department documentation. Among the violations were mouse droppings in the kitchen, grease and food debris throughout the kitchen, spilled and leaking food containers in the floor of a walk-in cooler, mold on the beverage gun holder and a buildup of grease and dust on hood filters. “Discussed massive cleaning required to eliminate violations and fire hazards. Cooling and reheating and glove use discussed also,” the report concluded. The report also noted that the restaurant was “high risk,” based upon its menu and cooking processes — the more complex, the more risk, according to Ricci.
  • The same inspector returned to the restaurant on Nov. 16 and apparently found an improved situation. The number of blue violations was down to three. The inspector noted that wire rack shelves and the floor of the walk-in cooler had food debris, and the floor area throughout the kitchen needed cleaning, but that the situation did not require a reinspection. Nine days later, though, a different inspector found three of the more serious red violations, which health department documentation describes as relating directly to factors that could lead to foodborne illness.
  • That inspection was conducted on Nov. 25, the day the restaurant was closed. While some of the violations could be attributed to the aftermath of unusually busy service the day before, others seemed to point to longer-term issues. Heavy deposits of food spills and mold were on the walk-in refrigerator floor, a damaged gasket on a walk-in freezer did not allow its door to close tightly, an ice maker had mildew growing inside, knives stored as clean in the knife rack were dirty, heavily rusted shelving required replacement and a pan of rice and carrots was being held at an unsafe room temperature. “Kitchen/store areas are in very poor sanitary condition. A drastic change in improving sanitation and cleanliness needs to occur ASAP. Lighting needs to improve,” the report stated.
  • The inspector from Nov. 25 visited again on Dec. 5, and found one red violation and 16 blue violations. Pans of food that had been in the walk-in cooler the day of the suspended permit — tripe, sausage, potatoes, meatballs, Italian sausage and Polish sausage — were now stored in the walk-in freezer. Those were discarded by the chef at the direction of the health department. The door gasket on the walk-in freezer was still an issue., the kitchen ice maker was rusting on the inside and ice sinks and chiller plates in the bar had lime buildup and “bio-slime” starting to grow, it noted.

Seems like the restaurant should have closed before Thanksgiving.

Costco Recalls Frozen Chicken and Rice

yakitori-chicken-with-japanese-style-friday-riceThe Canadian Food Inspection Agency is warning people not to eat a frozen chicken and fried rice product recalled by Costco Canada for the second time this year.

On Dec. 16, Costco recalled the Ajinomoto-brand yakitori chicken with Japanese-style fried rice in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

According to the CFIA, there is a risk that the chicken in the ready-to-eat product is undercooked.

It said the recall was triggered by one in another country.

The recalled products have best before dates between Sept. 26, 2017, and Nov. 5, 2017. Their product code is 0-71757-05642-8.

The CFIA said people should throw out the product or return it to the store where they purchased it. The agency had not received any reports of people getting sick from the chicken and fried rice meal.

The same product was recalled in May due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

For more information visit the CFIA website.

Golden Ponds Restaurant in Greece NY Tied to 260 Foodborne Illnesses

Screen Shot 2016-12-13 at 6.54.40 PMAccording to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, more than 260 people have been sickened by a Thanksgiving dinner at a popular Greece restaurant and party house, which is quite likely the largest recent outbreak of foodborne illness in Monroe County.

Health Department inspectors closed Golden Ponds Restaurant and Party House restaurant at 500 Long Pond Road in Greece on Nov. 25 after many people reported becoming ill after eating Thanksgiving dinner there. The department is now awaiting the results of laboratory tests on both stool and food samples that were sent to the New York State Department of Health for testing in its laboratory in Albany.

More than 80 people have spoken to the Monroe County Health Department about becoming ill after eating at Golden Ponds on Thanksgiving, said spokesman John Ricci. Those people reported the illnesses of others within their party, bringing the total to more than 260.

Conagra Subsidiary Sentenced in Connection with Outbreak of Salmonella Poisoning Related to Peanut Butter – Largest Fine in Food Safety Case Imposed

ConAgra Grocery Products LLC, a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods Inc., today pleaded guilty to a criminal misdemeanor charge alleging the shipment of contaminated peanut butter linked to a 2006 through 2007 nationwide outbreak of salmonellosis, or salmonella poisoning, the Department of Justice announced today.  Following its guilty plea, the company was sentenced to pay an $8 million criminal fine and forfeit an additional $3.2 million in assets.  The sentence represents the largest fine ever paid in a food safety case.  ConAgra Grocery Products LLC is based in Omaha, Nebraska, with a manufacturing facility in Sylvester, Georgia.

The company pleaded guilty pursuant to a plea agreement filed last year in federal district court in the Middle District of Georgia.  Senior U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands accepted the company’s guilty plea and imposed the sentence proposed in the plea agreement.  In pleading guilty to violating the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, the company admitted that it introduced Peter Pan and private label peanut butter contaminated with salmonella into interstate commerce during the salmonellosis outbreak.

“This case demonstrates companies – both large and small – must be vigilant about food safety,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We rely every day on food processors and handlers to meet the high standards required to keep our food free of harmful contamination.”

In February 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that an ongoing outbreak of salmonellosis cases in the United States could be traced to Peter Pan and private label peanut butter produced and shipped from the company’s Sylvester, Georgia, peanut butter plant.  The company voluntarily terminated production at the plant on Feb. 14, 2007, and recalled all peanut butter manufactured there since January 2004.  The CDC eventually identified more than 700 cases of salmonellosis linked to the outbreak with illness onset dates beginning in August 2006.  The CDC estimated that thousands of additional related cases went unreported.  The CDC did not identify any deaths related to the outbreak.

The criminal information specifically alleged that on or about Dec. 7, 2006, the company shipped from Georgia to Texas peanut butter that was adulterated, in that it contained salmonella and had been prepared under conditions whereby it may have become contaminated with salmonella.  The company admitted in the plea agreement that samples obtained after the recall showed that peanut butter made at the Sylvester plant on nine different dates between Aug. 4, 2006, and Jan. 29, 2007, was contaminated with salmonella.  Environmental testing conducted after the recall identified the same strain of salmonella in at least nine locations throughout the Sylvester plant.

“Consumers are at the mercy of food merchants when it comes to the wholesomeness and healthiness of the food we consume and, as the result, a great responsibility is imposed by law on those merchants and manufacturers,” said U.S. Attorney G. F. “Pete” Peterman III for the Middle District of Georgia.  “Likewise, agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry and peanuts and peanut products are a major factor in the health of that industry.  While ConAgra did take corrective action eventually, by failing to timely recognize and rectify the problem of salmonella contamination, this company damaged the health of both public consumers and of the agricultural industry overall.  I commend my staff, that of the Consumer Protection Branch of the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the investigators of the FDA, for the excellent work by all in bringing this incident to this conclusion and I hope that it will serve as a reminder to others in the industry of the high cost of failing to protect the public that relies on them to properly meet this responsibility.”

As part of the plea agreement, the company admitted that it had previously been aware of some risk of salmonella contamination in peanut butter.  On two dates in October 2004, routine testing at the Sylvester plant revealed what later was confirmed to be salmonella in samples of finished peanut butter.  Company employees attempting to locate the cause of the contamination identified several potential contributing factors, including an old peanut roaster that was not uniformly heating raw peanuts, a storm-damaged sugar silo, and a leaky roof that allowed moisture into the plant and airflow that could allow potential contaminants to move around the plant.  As stated in the plea agreement, while efforts to address some of these issues had occurred or were underway, the company did not fully correct these conditions until after the 2006 through 2007 outbreak.  In public statements after the 2007 recall, company officials hypothesized that moisture entered the production process and enabled the growth of salmonella present in the raw peanuts or peanut dust.

The company also admitted in the plea agreement that between October 2004 and February 2007, employees charged with analyzing finished product tests at the Sylvester plant failed to detect salmonella in the peanut butter, and that the company was unaware some of the employees did not know how to properly interpret the results of the tests.

“Product safety has to be a high priority for every manufacturer of foods sold in the United States” says Stephen M. Ostroff, Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine at the FDA. “FDA is working with food producers to promote compliance with food safety requirements, but if problems occur and are willfully ignored, we will use all available resources to protect American consumers from unsafe food.”

Following the outbreak and shutdown, the company made significant upgrades to the Sylvester plant to address conditions the company identified after the 2004 incident as potential factors that could contribute to salmonella contamination.  The company also instituted new and enhanced safety protocols and procedures regarding manufacturing, testing and sanitation, which it affirmed in the plea agreement it would continue to follow.

The case was prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Georgia and the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.  This matter was investigated by the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations.

Feedspot: Food Safety Blogs Best 30 List – Marler Blog and Food Poison Journal Made It

food_safety1000pxFrom Feedspot:  The Best Food Safety blogs from thousands of top Food Safety blogs in our index using search and social metrics. Data will be refreshed once a week.

These blogs are ranked based on following criteria

  • Google reputation and Google search ranking
  • Influence and popularity on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites
  • Quality and consistency of posts.
  • Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

CONGRATULATIONS to every blogger that has made this Top Food Safety blogs list! This is the most comprehensive list of best Food Safety blogs on the internet and I’m honoured to have you as part of this! I personally give you a high-five and want to thank you for your contribution to this world.

11 – www.foodpoisonjournal.com – Food Poison Journal supplements Marler Clark’s Web site www.foodborneillness.com, a site that provides information about food poisoning, and some of the most common causes of foodborne illness. Information includes the symptoms and risks of infection, testing/detection of foodborne illness, and how to prevent food poisoning outbreaks.

17 – www.marlerblog.com – Providing Commentary on Food Poisoning Outbreaks & Litigation by Bill Marler. Marler is dedicated to eliminating the need for foodborne illness litigation in this country. Until we succeed in putting ourselves out of business, we will use our experience and industry knowledge to assist consumers who have been sickened by contaminated food.

Golden Ponds Restaurant Sickens 60 in Greece New York

636160209212436744-golden-pondsThe Monroe County Department of Public Health has closed the Golden Ponds Restaurant and Party House, at 500 Long Pond Road in Greece. The restaurant was closed Friday after as many as 60 people reported being sick after eating at the restaurant on Thanksgiving Day, said John Ricci, spokesman for the Monroe County Health Department.

Ricci said the Health Department started getting calls about people experiencing severe diarrhea on Friday morning. While one or two calls about a given restaurant are not uncommon, “when you start to get multiple calls, similar time of day, all with the same story, that pretty quickly leads us to think something might be going on,” he said. The department has talked to 25 to 30 people; as many as 60 people were reported as being ill.

Health Department inspectors visited Golden Ponds restaurant on Friday. They inspected the facility, interviewed the staff, reviewed records and collected samples of leftover food. Following the collection of samples, the inspectors ordered that the rest of the leftover food be destroyed, Ricci said.

“Having done all that and given what was seeming to turn out to be a pretty significant number of calls coming in, we thought it best to close them,” Ricci said. This is a relatively rare action, with fewer than three restaurants closed each year, he said.

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.