walnuts.jpgThe Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Johnvince Foods announced a recall on Thursday, September 1, 2011, of some President’s Choice and Reddi Snack walnuts because the products may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The raw, shelled walnuts products were imported from the United States and later packaged and distributed in Canada. The products were distributed across Canada.

Yesterday, September 6, 2011, CFIA expanded the recall to include raw shelled walnuts sold from bulk and additional prepackaged raw shelled walnuts and walnut containing products. CFIA and Johnvince Foods are warning the public not to consume certain bulk and prepackaged raw shelled walnut products described below because these products may also be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7:

  • Bulk walnuts distributed by Johnvince Foods and sold at retail from bulk bins** 11.34 kg sold from April 27 to August 6, 2011, inclusive
  • President’s Choice Raw California Walnut Halves Unsalted (250g) UPC 0 60383 and 87185 7
  • President’s Choice Deluxe Trail Mix (220g) UPC 0 60383 and 87201 4
  • No Frills Natural Walnut Halves and Pieces (175g) UPC 0 64777 and 37773 4
  • Longo’s California Walnuts (240g) UPC 7 72468 and 10107 9
  • Compliments California Walnut Halves & Pieces (225g) UPC 0 68820 and 12395 8
  • Compliments Walnut Halves (100g) UPC 0 55742 and 35977 0
  • FreshCo California Natural Walnut Halves & Pieces (200g) UPC 7 70974 and 80188 9
  • Marketplace Co-op “Halt” The Salt Walnut Halves & Pieces (250g) UPC 0 64777 and 44085 8
  • Johnvince Foods Caramel Toffee Walnuts (11.34 kg)
  • Stock & Barrel Caramel Toffee Walnuts (300g) UPC 0 64777 and 37906 6
  • Joe’s Tasty Travels California Select Walnuts Mostly Halves (350g) UPC 6 64989 and 60689 1
  • Selection Walnut Halves (250g) UPC 0 59749 and 90882 5  
  • Planters Vitality Mix 100 Calories per bag (240g) UPC 0 58716 98972 0 16881
  • Marketplace Co-op Vitality Mix (375g) UPC 0 64777 and 44131 2

**The bulk walnuts listed above were imported and distributed in Canada by Johnvince Foods in 25 lb cardboard cases bearing Lot code W1866 and the name Andersen and Sons Shelling, Vina, California, USA. Consumers who may have purchased unlabelled walnuts from bulk and are unsure if they have the affected product are advised to contact the place of purchase to determine if it is affected by this recall.

Although there have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products, Johnvince Foods of Downsview, Ontario is voluntarily recalling the affected products from the marketplace as a precautionary measure.

In another walnut recall in January, one person in Quebec died and 13 other Canadians fell sick with an E. coli bacterial infection with the same genetic fingerprint. Of the 14 reported cases of E. coli infection, nine people consumed walnuts and seven ate walnuts from the same distributor, the CFIA said at the time.

The link between Hillandale and Wright County Egg was made clearer this morning by Mary Clare Jalonick of the Associated Press who reported that both businesses "share suppliers of chickens and feed as well as ties to an Iowa business routinely cited for violating state and federal law."

The company Quality Egg supplies young chickens and feed to both Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms. The two share other suppliers, said Jewanna Porter, a spokeswoman for the egg industry, but she did not name them.

That business with a history of violations that Ms. Jalonick refers to is DeCoster Farms, owned by businessman Austin "Jack" DeCoster.  She continues:

DeCoster is no stranger to controversy in his food and farm operations:

  • In 1994, the state of Iowa assessed at least four separate penalties against DeCoster Farms for environmental violations, many of them involving hog waste.
  • In 1997, DeCoster Egg Farms agreed to pay $2 million in fines to settle citations brought in 1996 for health and safety violations at DeCoster’s farm in Turner, Maine. The nation’s labor secretary at the time, Robert Reich, said conditions were "as dangerous and oppressive as any sweatshop." Reich’s successor, Alexis Herman, called the state of the farms "simply atrocious," citing unguarded machinery, electrical hazards, exposure to harmful bacteria and other unsanitary conditions.
  • In 2000, Iowa designated DeCoster a "habitual violator" of environmental regulations for problems that included hog manure runoff into waterways. The label made him subject to increased penalties and prohibited him from building new farms.
  • In 2002, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced a more than $1.5 million settlement of an employment discrimination lawsuit against DeCoster Farms on behalf of Mexican women who reported they were subjected to sexual harassment, including rape, abuse and retaliation by some supervisory workers at DeCoster’s Wright County plants.
  • In 2007, 51 workers were arrested during an immigration raid at six DeCoster egg farms. His farms had been the subject of at least three previous raids.
  • In June 2010, Maine Contract Farming, the successor company to DeCoster Egg Farms, agreed in state court to pay $25,000 in penalties and to make a one-time payment of $100,000 to the Maine Department of Agriculture over animal cruelty allegations that were spurred by a hidden-camera investigation by an animal welfare organization.

William D. Marler, a Seattle attorney for a person who filed suit alleging illness from tainted eggs in a salad at a restaurant in Kenosha, Wis., said Sunday his firm has been retained by two dozen families and was representing a woman who was hospitalized in California.

"The history of ignoring the law makes the sickening of 1,300 and the forced recall of 550 million eggs shockingly understandable," Marler said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. "You have to wonder where the USDA and FDA inspectors were."

The list keeps expanding of manufacturers who packaged and sold Wright County eggs, currently the subject of a massive recall related to an ongoing nationwide Salmonella outbreak.  Thankfully, we have people like Phyllis Entis over at eFoodAlert.com to help keep up on the ever-expanding list of implicated products being recalled in this debacle.  Phyllis has been compiling and updating the recall list with details on the corresponding manufacturing dates and product label codes.  Here is her latest update:

Recalled eggs were packed in in varying sizes of cartons (6-egg cartons, dozen egg cartons, 18-egg cartons) with Julian dates ranging from 136 to 225 and plant numbers 1026, 1413 and 1946. Dates and codes can be found stamped on the end of the egg carton. The plant number begins with the letter P and then the number. The Julian date follows the plant number, for example: P-1946 223.

  • Albertson:- Albertson’s store brand, packaged and recalled by Wright County Egg (Galt, IA)
  • Bayview:- Bayview Large 5 dozen (UPC 7-17544-30172-1; plant P-1686; Julian dates 142-149) produced by Wright County Egg and packaged by NuCal Foods; distributed to food wholesalers and retailers in California and Nevada.
  • Boomsma/Dutch Farms:- Distributed to Walgreens stores in Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, South Dakota and Arkansas. Wright County Eggs used unauthorized egg cartons to package and sell eggs under the Dutch Farms name without Dutch Farms knowledge. Dutch Farms is seeking legal representation.
  • Farm Fresh:- Packaged and recalled by Wright County Egg.
  • Glenview Farms:- The Lund Egg Co. (Woodville, WI) has issued a Class I Recall on eggs including some Glenview Farms product.
  • Hillandale:- Packaged and recalled by Wright County Egg.
  • Kemps:- Packaged and recalled by Wright County Egg.
  • Lucerne:- Lucerne Foods recalls Lucerne Grade AA eggs in 12-count and 18-count cartons (packed and recalled by Wright County Egg), sold at Safeway Food & Drug stores in Northern California and Northern Nevada (“Sell By” dates of May 16, 2010 to August 13, 2010, followed by Plant code numbers P1026, P1413 or P1946); and in Denver, New Mexico, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming (“Sell By” dates of June 29, 2010 to September 12, 2010, followed by Plant code number P1026)
  • Lund:- The Lund Egg Co. (Woodville, WI) has issued a Class I Recall on eggs including some Glenview Farms product.
  • Mountain Dairy:- Mountain Dairy AA Grade Large Eggs, 18 ct., AA Grade Large Eggs, 12 CT, and AA Grade Medium Eggs, 5 dozen, sold in Food4Less, Foodsco, and Ralphs stores (members of the Kroger family of stores); Mountain Dairy Medium 5dz (UPC 0-11110-89969-9; Plant P-1951; Julian dates 193-208) were produced by Wright County Egg and packed by Nucal Foods.
  • Nulaid:- Nulaid Medium 5dz (Plant P-1091 & P-1951; Julian dates of 167-174 and 195-210, respectively); produced by Wright County Egg and packed by NuCal Foods.
  • Ralph’s:- Ralph’s AA Grade Large Eggs, 12 ct., and AA Grade Large Eggs, 18 ct., sold in Food 4 Less, Foodsco, and Ralphs stores (members of the Kroger family of stores)
  • Shoreland:- Packaged and recalled by Wright County Egg.
  • Sunshine:- Sunshine Extra Large Eggs (sku 01175), sold in Trader Joe’s stores in Southern California and Las Vegas, NV
  • Sun Valley:- Sun Valley Medium 5dz (UPC 6-48065-11432-6; PlantP-1951; Julian dates195-209); produced by Wright County Egg and packed by NuCal Foods. Distributed to food wholesalers and retailers in California and Nevada.
  • Trafficanda:- Packaged and recalled by Wright County Egg.

In addition to the recall notices listed above, U.S. Foodservice has reported that some eggs supplied to restaurants and food service customers by U.S. Foodservice, Sysco Corp. and Restaurant Depot (Jetro), are included in the Wright County Egg recall.

Just in time for the 4th of July, Rocky Mountain Natural Meats, a Colorado company, is recalling approximately 66,000 pounds of ground and tenderized steak bison products due to possible contamination with E. coli O157:H7, a potentially deadly pathogen.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the recall yesterday after an on-going investigation into a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in Colorado with illness onset dates between June 4, 2010 and June 9, 2010.  Working in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the New York Department of Health, 5 case-patients have been identified in Colorado as well as 1 case-patient in New York with an indistinguishable PFGE pattern. FSIS determined that there is an association between the ground bison products and the cluster of illnesses in the state of Colorado. FSIS is continuing to work with the CDC, affected state public health partners, and the company on the investigation.

The following products are subject to recall:

  • 16-ounce packages of “GREAT RANGE BRAND ALL NATURAL GROUND BISON.” These products have a “sell or freeze by” date of June 21, June 22 or June 24, 2010.
  • 16-ounce packages of “NATURE’S RANCHER GROUND BUFFALO.” These products have a “sell or freeze by” date of June 22, 2010.
  • 16-ounce packages of “THE BUFFALO GUYS ALL NATURAL GROUND BUFFALO 90% LEAN.” These products have a lot number of 0147.
  • 12-ounce packages of “GREAT RANGE BRAND ALL NATURAL BISON STEAK MEDALLIONS.” These products have a “sell or freeze by” date of June 23 and June 24, 2010.
  • 12-ounce packages of “GREAT RANGE BRAND ALL NATURAL BISON SIRLOIN STEAKS.” These products have a “sell or freeze by” date of June 20, June 23 and June 24, 2010.
  • 15-pound boxes of “ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATURAL MEATS, INC. BISON 10 OZ SIRLOIN STEAK.” These products went to restaurants and bear a Julian Code of 0141.

The products subject to recall bear the establishment number “EST. 20247” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These products were produced between the dates of May 21, 2010 through May 27, 2010, and were distributed to retail establishments nationwide and food service distributors in Utah and Arizona. While the sell-by dates for these products have passed, FSIS and the establishment are aware that consumers may also freeze the product before use and there is concern that some product may still be frozen and in consumers’ freezers.

In light of the large recall of Conagra’s Marie Callender’s Cheesy Chicken and Rice Frozen Meals due to its link to at least 30 Salmonella Chester illnesses in 15 states, grocery stores across the country are scouring their freezers to ensure it is pulled off the shelf.  Two stores, Grocers Giant Food LLC and Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., have announced that all of the recalled frozen dinners have been removed.

Because it of the long shelf life of the frozen meals, it is important for consumers to check their freezers.

ConAgra said it was informed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of a possible association between the product and eight people in the United States who were infected with the Salmonella bacteria.

A ConAgra spokeswoman said there are about 100,000 cases of the product in the market and that each case has about 8 packages.

Symptoms of Salmonella gastroenteritis include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, fever, nausea, and/or vomiting. In mild cases diarrhea may be non-bloody, occur several times per day, and not be very voluminous; in severe cases it may be frequent, bloody and/or mucoid, and of high volume.

FSIS has just announced that Campbell Soup Supply Company, LLC, a Paris, Texas, establishment is recalling approximately 15,000,000 pounds of "SpaghettiOs with Meatballs" canned products due to possible under-processing.

The following products are subject to recall:

14.75-ounce cans of "SpaghettiOs" with Meatballs, bearing the identifying product code "U5" on the bottom of the can.

14.75-ounce cans of "SpaghettiOs" A to Z with Meatballs, bearing the identifying product code "4N" on the bottom of the can.

14.75-ounce cans of "SpaghettiOs" Fun Shapes with Meatballs (Cars), bearing the identifying product code "KS" on the bottom of the can.

The products subject to recall bear the establishment number "EST 4K," as well as a "Use By" date between June 2010 and December 2011 ink-jetted on the bottom of each can. These products were manufactured between December 2008 and June 2010 and distributed to retail establishments nationwide. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on FSIS’ website at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FSIS_Recalls/Open_Federal_Cases/index.asp.

The problem was discovered through a routine warehouse inspection by the company and its subsequent investigation. FSIS has received no reports of illnesses from consumption of these products.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers.

Consumer questions regarding the recall should be directed to Campbell’s Hotline at (866) 495-3774; media inquiries should be directed to the company’s Director of Corporate Communications, Anthony Sanzio at (856) 968-4390.

Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.

Circumstances have long been ripe for calling all shiga-toxin producing strains of Escherichia coli (E. coli) “adulterants” in our food supply. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, which is the entity that has the regulatory capacity to do just this, currently has in its possession two citizen petitions to take this action.  In our petition, we state:

Despite strong scientific evidence that many strains of non-O157 STEC are as pathogenic as E. coli O157:H7, FSIS has thus far failed to include all STEC as adulterants under the FMIA.  Recent studies have repeatedly shown that non-O157 STEC is a serious food safety hazard. According to one study, non-O157 STEC are prevalent in beef production systems at rates as high as 70.1%.5 A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) study states that non-O157 STEC have been found in ground beef and on cattle hides and feces at levels comparable to E.coli O157:H7.6 Furthermore, European studies indicate that non-O157 STEC infections occur more frequently than E. coli O157:H7 infections.7 With such a ubiquitous presence, the potential risk for harm caused by non-O157 STEC may be on par with, or even greater than, the risk created by E. coli O157:H7. Indeed, another study concluded that “non-O157 STEC can cause severe illness that is comparable to the illness caused by STEC O157.”

Our petition has recently received the support of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). FSIS’s response, to date, is that they are considering the petition. Also currently on the federal government’s to-do list is a Senate vote on S 510 "The Food Safety Modernization Act."  The Food Safety Modernization Act would amend the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act by giving the Food and Drug Administration better authority and ability to monitor the safety of our food supply, and take quicker and more effective action for food companies that don’t adequately protect against foodpoisoning risks.

Readers may ask why these regulatory and legislative measures are ripe for action.

1.  Stephanie Smith

2.  Linda Rivera

3.  252 illnesses nationally linked to salami, black pepper, and red pepper

4.  Millions and millions of pounds of meat products recalled.

5.  HVP recall, which, although it caused no known illnesses, resulted in one of the largest food product recals in history.

6.  About 76,000,000 other reasons every year.

As for the regulatory action that has really got our eye, particularly in the wake of multiple outbreaks linked to non-O157 strains of E. coli. Currently, at least 60 people recently fell ill in Michigan, Ohio, and New York due to infection by E. coli O145. Also last month, at least11 inmates at a correctional institution in Colorado fell ill due to infection by E. coli O111. Word of exactly what food products were contaminated in the Michigan, Ohio, and New York E. coli O145 outbreak has not yet come.

To understand the significance of regulating non-O157 strains of E. coli, a little background information is useful. FSIS’s stated mission renders it “responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products is safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged.” To promote its mission, FSIS has the power—under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA)—to, among other things, seek the recall of products that have been deemed “adulterated.” FSIS drastically shifted how it interpreted and enforced the FMIA in 1994 when, following the Jack in the Box outbreak, the agency declared E. coli O157:H7 to be an adulterant.

The petition details the scientific and legal bases for the requested action, but perhaps more importantly it details the suffering that food contaminated with non-O157:H7 enterohemorrhagic E. coli inflicted upon three individuals: June Dunning, Megan Richards, and Shiloh Johnson. Ms. Dunning, whose infection was caused by E. coli O146:H21, unfortunately succumbed to her illness, passing in 2006. Ms. Richards and Ms. Johnson endured lengthy hospitalizations, kidney failure, and will both endure a lifetime of medical complications as a result of their E. coli O121:H19 and E. coli O111 infections (respectively).

Seattle Times staff reporter, Maureen O’ Hagen,  writes in today’s paper about the role our firm, Marler Clark, played in the recent WinCo Foods meat recall related to potential E. coli O157:H7 contamination. Positive E. coli O157:H7 test results revealed in a study that Marler Clark has commissioned revealed the contamination:

The E. coli came to light not because of testing by the government or by WinCo or its suppliers. Instead, it was because a Seattle lawyer is conducting a private study, testing ground beef from retailers all over the country.

"I’ve spent about a half-million dollars on this project," attorney Bill Marler said. Clients represented by Marler’s firm have won more than $500 million in settlements from companies whose food sickened them.

Marler set out, in 2008, to prove a point: that certain pathogens could be in your burgers because of a loophole in government regulations.

Most of the time, when you hear about E. coli, it’s a strain known as O157:H7. Under government regulations, O157 is an "adulterant" in ground beef, which means processors have to test for it. If the meat tests positive, it can’t be sold.

But there are other potentially harmful strains of E. coli, too — O26, O111, O103 — and they can cause illness just as serious as O157, including diarrhea, kidney failure, and even death. (Cooking meat well-done should kill the pathogens.)

For a number of reasons, however, these bugs aren’t labeled as "adulterants" under government regulations so processors don’t have to test for them. The bottom line is, since processors aren’t testing for them, you could be eating them.

Last October, Marler petitioned the government to include these bugs in its list of "adulterants." If he succeeds, beef processors will have to conduct additional testing. But if pathogens do slip through and people get sick, it also could make it easier for Marler to sue.

Waiting for a decision, he took an unprecedented step: private testing.

"This is clearly something the government should be doing," he said. "This is stuff, frankly, I think retail stores should be doing. They’re the ones that could put the pressure on the manufacturers."

He hired a well-regarded local scientist to test grocery-store ground beef around the country. So far, they’ve tested 4,700 samples and found about 1.9 percent contain the non-O157 E. coli strains they were looking for, Marler said.

To him, that argues for regulation.

Periodically, he’d also been testing for the more well-known E. coli O157. That’s when Marler said they found two contaminated packages at a WinCo store in Modesto, Calif. Because O157 is regulated, they felt they should report it to WinCo.

"It was a call out of the blue from a lab that we hadn’t hired and wasn’t connected with a government study," said Michael Read of WinCo. The company voluntarily recalled all ground beef sold over a 13-day period, ending April 9.

WinCo has stores in six Western states, including Washington. No human illness has been linked to the recalled ground beef.

Meanwhile, Marler has been hammering government regulators, and is impatient for a decision.

J. Glenn Morris, director of the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida, says that while Marler has a valid point — government should address this issue — it’s not quite so simple. Not all of these non-0157 E. coli bacteria carry the genes that make them harmful to humans, he said.

"This is, in part, why the regulatory process has been going somewhat slowly," he said. "Because there are uncertainties."


Days after the expansion of Winco’s E. coli O157:H7 ground beef recall, Beltex Co, of Fort Worth, TX, has recalled approximately 135,000 pounds of beef trim products due to E. coli O157:H7.  The recall followed an FSIS Food Safety Assessment performed at the establishment.   The establishment’s methods for analyzing samples for E. coli O157:H7 in beef products raised concerns about the safety of the product.

The product was sold to wholesalers in Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

The products subject to the recall are:

• Various pound boxes of “FRONTIER MEATS BEEF TRIMMING 50/50”
• Various pound boxes of “FRONTIER MEATS BEEF TRACE TRIM”
• Various pound boxes of “FRONTIER MEATS BEEF COMBO BNLS”
• Various pound boxes of “FRONTIER MEATS BEEF KIDNEY FAT”
• Various pound boxes of “FRONTIER MEATS BEEF COMBO TRIM 75/25”
• Various pound boxes of “FRONTIER MEATS BEEF COMBO TRIM 85/15”
• Various pound boxes of “FRONTIER MEATS BEEF 115A BNLS CHUCK 2PCS”
• Various pound boxes of “FRONTIER MEATS BEEF TRIMMING 85/15 VAC PACK”
• Various pound boxes of “FRONTIER MEATS BEEF B-90 TRIMMINGS 91-CTRN”
• Various pound boxes of “FRONTIER MEATS BEEF COMBO TRIM 85/15”
• Various pound boxes of “FRONTIER MEATS BEEF COMBO BNLS 80/20”

Each box bears the establishment number "EST. 07041B" inside the USDA mark of inspection on a label. The products were produced on Oct. 28, 2009, Nov. 20, 2009, Feb. 19, 2010, or April 2, 2010.

This morning, Phyllis Entis of eFoodAlert.com posted an interesting article on the Montefiore Cheese Salmonella recall that has occurred in Austrialia, Tazmania, and New Zealand.  Ms. Entis’s issue with the conduct of the recall seems to be delays in product testing that revealed the contamination, and dissemination of that critical information to the food-consuming public.  The article, titled Montefiore Cheese Plays Recall Hopscotch With Salmonella, asks:

It took more than three weeks for Montefiore to complete its Salmonella tests, in an era when Salmonella tests can be completed easily within 48 hours.  What took so long?  And why, with rapid testing so readily available, would Montefiore not follow a test-and-hold policy – an approach that would have vastly reduced the risk of contaminated products entering the food supply.

Another example, according to the article, of slow and inefficient action that lead to an outbreak occurred in Canada in 2008.  Ms. Entis states:

I would refer Montefiore’s management to the 2008 experience of Canada’s Maple Leaf Foods. That company initially recalled just two batches – produced two weeks apart – of ready-to-eat deli meat, after those batches were found to contain Listeria monocytogenes. The recall quickly expanded to include additional production dates and deli meat varieties. Ultimately, the entire production facility was shut down for extensive cleaning and sanitation, and several months worth of ready-to-eat meats were recalled. Fifty-seven illnesses were linked to the contaminated deli meats. Twenty-two people died.

Though insightful and always worth emphasizing, this is not new stuff.  Timely testing and reporting are critical to ensuring the safety of our food supply, and when contamination does occur, ensuring that people don’t get sick.  As I have reported before,  

 whether it appears in a statute or not, recalling companies have an obligation not only to announce the recall but also to act aggressively in (a) identifying what retailers or other companies may have received the contaminated product (b) identifying what consumers may have purchased the contaminated product and (c) using all means necessary to make the important details of the recall (e.g. what products are included) known to retailers and consumers alike.

See Transparency in food recalls:  important on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ms. Entis ultimately concludes, as we both have before, "A bit more transparency would be helpful here."  I still agree wholeheartedly.  Consumer health and safety demands it.