Archive for the 'Food Safety' Category

The FDA Says to Avoid All Pistachio Products

Pistachios are center of new salmonella concernsFederal food safety officials have issued a consumer warning to stop eating all foods containing pistachios until they determine the source of another possible salmonella outbreak. The FDA learned about the potential salmonella problem last Tuesday, when Kraft Foods Inc. notified the agency that it had detected salmonella in roasted pistachios through routine product testing.

The source of the infection has been traced to the Central California-based Setton Farms which is the nation’s second-largest pistachio processor.  Setton Farms has voluntarily recalled all of its 2008 crop — more than 1 million pounds of nuts.  Late last week it also made the decision to shut down the plant.

Kraft and the Georgia Nut Co. have recalled their Back to Nature Nantucket Blend trail mix. Kroger Co., a grocery chain, has recalled one of its lines of bagged pistachios because of possible salmonella contamination due to the fact that Setton Farms also supplied its nuts. Those nuts were sold in 31 states.

It will take weeks to determine how many products could be affected, officials say. Contaminated products might even include such things as ice cream and cake mixes. Setton Farms has shipped 2,000-pound bags of nuts to 36 wholesalers across the country. The plant is based in Terra Bella, a rural hamlet in Tulare County, California. 

This possible contamination is not connected with the recent outbreak associated with peanuts or peanut butter. 

Read about the Symptoms and Treatment of Salmonella Food Poisoning

Source: “The Georgia Nut Company Issues Voluntary Recall of Certain Snack Products Containing Shelled Pistachio Nuts Because of Possible Health Risk“, FDA, March 25, 2009

Source: “Back to Nature Foods Company Conducts Nationwide Recall of Nantucket Blend Trail Mix Containing Pistachio Nuts Because of Possible Health Risk“, FDA, March 25, 2009

One Out of Four Americans Get Food Poisoning Each Year

Food-borne pathogens are seen only under a microscopeFood poisoning can occur from either a virus, a bacteria, or a parasite. By far the most common cause of food poisoning are the Noroviruses, which are widespread in the community but also are well known for sickening cruise-ship passengers, according to the CDC. A virus does not respond to antibiotics, whereas bacteria are treatable with antibiotics.

The symptoms of norovirus illness usually include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and some stomach cramping. Sometimes people additionally have a low-grade fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and a general sense of tiredness. Symptoms of norovirus illness usually begin about 24 to 48 hours after ingestion of the virus, but they can appear as early as 12 hours after exposure. The illness is usually brief, with symptoms lasting only about 1 or 2 days.  Most people get better within 1 or 2 days, and they have no long-term health effects related to their illness. However, sometimes people can become dehydrated and may need special medical attention.

The next most common type of food poisoning come from two types of bacteria, campylobacter and salmonella. Both of these bacteria are diagnosed by a simple stool culture which must be ordered by a health care provider.

Salmonella has been in the news quite a bit lately. Earlier in 2008, salmonella poisoning was linked to hot peppers and tomatoes from Mexico that sickened more 1,400, and the recent peanut-related salmonella outbreak has triggered one of the largest food recalls ever in the United States. It has been linked to nine deaths and caused 654 confirmed illnesses in 44 states so far. The salmonella-peanut butter outbreak is continuing, though the numbers of new cases have declined modestly since December.  This outbreak was traced to Peanut Corp. of America, which is now undergoing bankruptcy proceedings.  To date, more than 2,100 products in 17 categories have been voluntarily recalled by more than 200 companies, and the list continues to grow. 

Salmonella is a bacteria that invades a person’s gastrointestinal system (stomach and intestines). It can be in drinking water or food, but it also can occur from coming in contact with infected animals or contaminated surfaces.    Most people with a Salmonella infection develop a diarrhea illness within 6 to 72 hours from the ingestion of the bacteria. Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and fever occur in varying degrees of severity, depending on a number of factors. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, although mild cases may only last 1-2 days. In some cases, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized, however most persons recover without treatment.

Some cases of salmonella may cause severe illness, hospitalization and even death in susceptible people such as children under 5, the elderly, and people who have lowered natural resistance to disease. In some cases, arthritic symptoms may follow 3-4 weeks after the onset of the gastrointestinal symptoms. 

Campylobacter is also a bacteria that can be a food-borne illness, but it can also be spread to humans from infected animals.  Most people who become ill with campylobacter get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism. The symptoms can be severe and the diarrhea may be bloody and sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The illness typically lasts one week. The severity varies from person to person. Some people who are infected do not have any symptoms at all, while those with compromised immune systems may have an infection so severe that it spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life-threatening infection.

There are a number of very important precautions you can take to prevent food poisoning.

Read more: 

Source: CDC, February 2009 

Peanut Processor Ignores Salmonella to Save Money

CandyThe salmonella outbreak has been  responsible for eight deaths and 600 reported salmonella illnesses in 44 states. Some 1,800 products containing Peanut Corporation ingredients have been recalled so far, but manufacturers and retailers have issued 27 new recall announcements just this week.

Alarming details of Peanut Corporation’s operations were revealed in a Congressional Hearing yesterday.    Peanut Corporation apparently stopped using a lab that found salmonella contamination in its products too often. Also an E-mail was found from the plant manager to the owner saying that the plant had received a positive salmonella test result on a batch of its peanut products. But after receiving two subsequent negative results on the batch, it was shipped. The company is accused of “lab shopping” or sending the product to a number of labs until one result turned up negative.

FDA inspectors recently found the following at the Peanut Corporation’s plant:

  • peanut butter being made on equipment that was not cleaned after salmonella was detected in a batch of peanut butter produced with it in September 2008, nearly five months before.
  • water leaking from the ceiling into the cooler that contained peanuts
  • salmonella on the floor three feet away from peanuts which also tested positive for salmonella
  • mold, improper ventilation, leaking walls, and a cockroach in a bathroom near the production floor

Peanut Corporation owner Stewart Parnell and plant manager Sammy Lightsey appeared before the congressional committee yesterday, but invoked their Fifth Amendment rights and refused to answer any questions.  Yesterday, Peanut Corporation suspended operations at another of its plants, in Plainview, Texas, while the FDA and state public health inspectors examine its procedures and records. The company also has a facility in Suffolk, Va. A criminal probe into Peanut Corporation’s operations is ongoing.

Although the blame at the hearing was focused on the Peanut Corporation executives, this outbreak also underlines the deficiencies within our nation’s food safety systems.  A number of bills have been recently introduced in Congress that would address food safety.  One was submitted yesterday by Dingell which would require plant inspections every four years, apply companies’ registration fees to help pay for the government’s food safety efforts, and give the FDA increased authority to recall products.

Currently consumers need to be aware that the investigation is ongoing and the FDA continues to advise that if you don’t know the source of peanuts, or a product containing peanut butter, or peanut paste, don’t eat it. Major-label peanut butter sold in jars, such as Peter Pan, Jif and Smuckers, continue to be considered clear of contamination with salmonella and are considered safe.   The FDA posts a daily updated list of recalled products on its website, and it has advised that any product containing peanut butter, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, ice cream, nutrition bars, candies and dog biscuits should not be eaten at the current time until it can be cleared in the ongoing nationwide salmonella outbreak.

Source: The FDA maintains an updated list of all recalled products
Source: “Congressional Panel Turns Harsh Spotlight on Peanut Processor”,  MedPage Today, February 11, 2009


Georgia Peanut Plant Knowingly Sold Contaminated Products

Peanut Butter CookieThe Peanut Corp. of America, found salmonella in internal tests 12 times in 2007 and 2008 but sold the products anyway, according to a recent finding by the FDA. Four strains of salmonella have been discovered at their Blakely Georgia plant which has been linked to the salmonella outbreak that has killed eight people and sickened 500 people in 43 states and Canada. Half of the people who have become ill are children.

The peanut butter and peanut butter paste manufactured at this plant are not sold in stores but are sold to other foodmakers to produce nutrition bars, crackers, cookies,  cereal, ice cream, candies and dog biscuits. Kellogg and McKee Foods are two of the many manufucturers who have recalled more than 100 products made with these ingredients. 

Production at the Georgia plant has been stopped and the Director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, said it appears that the company violated federal law, but he could not say whether the company might face criminal charges. 

Major-label peanut butter sold in jars, such as Peter Pan, Jif and Smuckers, is not suspected to be contaminated with salmonella and is considered safe.   The FDA posts a daily updated list of recalled products on its website, although it has advised that any product containing peanut butter, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, ice cream, nutrition bars, candies and dog biscuits should not be eaten at the current time until it can be cleared in the ongoing nationwide salmonella outbreak.  The recommendation does not apply to name-brand jars of peanut butter available in grocery stores, which have not been implicated in the rash of infections.

Source: FDA, January 28, 2009
Source:, January 28, 2009

Salmonella Concerns Give Rise to a Growing List of Recalls

Many foods have been recalled due to concerns over salmonellaThe FDA has posted an extensive list of food products subject to recall in the United States since January 2009 related to peanut butter and peanut paste recalled by Peanut Corporation of America. This list is current as of the date indicated and will be updated as new information is received.

via  Recalled Foods, FDA, January 2009

Energy Bars and Dog Biscuits Recalled Over Salmonella Concerns

Salmonella cases in the U.S.

Certain dog biscuits, and granola, energy and nutrition bars, have been added to the growing list of product recalls because they contain peanut paste from Peanut Corporation of America.  This Blakely, Ga., processing facility has been identified as the source of the Salmonella Typhimurium outbreak, according to the FDA. A significant association has recently been found between infection and prepackaged peanut butter crackers with Austin and Keebler brand crackers. 

As of January 20, 2009, the following products have been withdrawn or recalled, even though there has not been any known illnesses related to them:

  • NutriSystem Inc. has withdrawn its peanut butter granola bars carrying lot codes TC08158A, TC08188A, TC09158A, TC09168A, TC09178A, TC11148A, and TC11178A. The products were not available for retail purchase.
  • Evening Rise Bread Co. of McCall, Idaho, has recalled peanut butter cookies and peanut butter bars sold throughout Idaho.
  • Nature’s Path Organic Foods of Richmond, British Columbia, has withdrawn peanut butter-flavored Optimum Energy Bars, which carry the UPC code 058449777151 and are marked with a “best before” date of Oct. 1, 2009.
  • Country Maid Inc. has recalled two-pound packages of Classic Breaks peanut butter cookie dough, which were distributed through fundraising organizations from Oct. 6, 2008 through Jan. 9 and carry the lot numbers 26208, 26308, 29808, 33808, 36508.
  • Ready Pac Foods Inc. has recalled certain celery with peanut butter products sold under the Ready Pac, Trader Joe’s, and Eating Right brands and apple with peanut products sold under the Eating Right brand.
  • Premier Nutrition has recalled some of its Twisted and Titan brand nutrition bars in vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter, and chocolate peanut crunch flavors.

On January 19, 2009, the FDA issued an advisory that any product containing peanut butter, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, and ice cream, should not be eaten at the current time until it can be cleared in the ongoing nationwide salmonella outbreak. The recommendation does not apply to name-brand jars of peanut butter available in grocery stores, which have not been implicated in the rash of infections.

Illustration courtesy of the CDC

via  “NutriSystem Announces Nationwide Voluntary Recall of Peanut Butter Granola Bar Due to Possible Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) Contamination and Potential Health Risk“, FDA, January 21, 2009

via “PetSmart Voluntarily Recalls Grreat Choice® Dog Biscuits“, FDA, January 20, 2009

via “PetSmart Dog Biscuits Recalled Over Salmonella Concerns“, MedPage Today, January 21, 2009 


FDA advises against eating any product with peanut butter

Peanut butter cookieAny product containing peanut butter, such as cookies, crackers, cereal, and ice cream, should not be eaten at the current time until it can be cleared in the ongoing nationwide salmonella outbreak, the FDA has advised. The recommendation does not apply to name-brand jars of peanut butter available in grocery stores, which have not been implicated in the rash of infections.

The FDA’s investigation is focusing on Peanut Corporation of America’s processing plant in Blakely, Ga., which has halted operations after health authorities in Minnesota and Connecticut detected salmonella in peanut butter produced there. The products were sent to 85 manufacturers and distributors, some of which have initiated voluntary recalls of a variety of foods believed to contain peanut butter or paste from Peanut Corporation of America.

Read about “Salmonella Food Poisoning” from Bay Area Medical Information

via FDA, January 19, 2009
via MedPage Today, January 19, 2009

Kellogg takes peanut butter products off store shelves

As a precaution, Kellogg Company has halted distribution of snack foods containing peanut paste and pulled products from store shelves.  Kellogg has asked customers to avoid eating any of these products until the FDA has completed its investigation of products from Peanut Corporation of America. Salmonella has not been found in any of Kellogg’s products, and the company has not received any reports of illness.

Foods on hold are Austin and Keebler brand Toasted Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Crackers, Cheese and Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers, and Peanut Butter-Chocolate Sandwich Crackers.

Kellogg uses peanut paste provided by several suppliers, including Peanut Corporation of America, which recently recalled all of the bulk peanut butter manufactured at one of its processing facilities after salmonella was found in a single sample. 

According to the CDC, the common brands of peanut butter sold in retail stores have not been associated with the nationwide outbreak.   

via “Kellogg Peanut Butter Snacks Taken Off Store Shelves“, MedPage Today,   January 15, 2009

Salmonella found in King Nut peanut butter

Peanut butter sandwichThe likely source of the national salmonella outbreak has been identified in a container of peanut butter at a Minnesota nursing home.  The 5-pound container of King Nut peanut butter, which tested positive, appears to be manufactured for sale in large containers to institutions such as nursing homes, cafeterias, etc.

Salmonella Typhimurium has been reported in 43 states since Sept. 3. The infections have been linked to 400 illnesses and three deaths — two in Virginia and one in Minnesota.

The distributor of King Nut peanut butter has taken voluntary action to withdraw its peanut butter products from the marketplace. The FDA, CDC, and state health agencies are continuing to investigate whether these products are the source of the national outbreak. 

via FDA, January 12, 2009 

Melamine found in U.S. baby formula and food products

Topaz Wafer Rolls were found to be contaminatedThe Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently reported that the industrial chemical melamine and a byproduct cyanuric acid have now been detected in four of 89 containers of infant formula made in the United States. 

In a recent article in Yahoo, Finance, “In November, The Associated Press reported previously undisclosed FDA tests, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showing that out of 77 containers of domestic infant formula tested, a can of milk-based liquid Nestle Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron contained traces of melamine while Mead Johnson’s Enfamil LIPIL with Iron had traces of cyanuric acid.

The FDA has now updated its response to the AP’s FOIA request by posting results of 89 tests on its Web site. Those results show that two additional containers of Enfamil LIPIL with Iron had traces of cyanuric acid.

Separately, a third major formula maker — Abbott Laboratories, whose brands include Similac — told AP in November that in-house tests had detected trace levels of melamine in its infant formula.”

This contamination has been found to be extremely minute, at levels safe for babies, according to federal regulators. 

The FDA has broadened its domestic and import sampling and testing of milk-derived ingredients and finished food products containing milk or milk-derived ingredients from Chinese sources. Certain foods have been found to be contaminated with melamine and consumers have been advised not to consume any of these products.   As of January 8, 2009, the list of products includes:

  • Topaz Wafer Rolls with Chocolate Flavored Cream Filling
  • New!Topaz Wafer Rolls with Hazelnut Chocolate Flavored Cream Filling New!
  • Topaz Wafer Rolls with Vanilla Flavored Cream Filling New!
  • Topaz Wafer Rolls with Mocha Cappuccino Flavored Cream Filling New!
  • G&J Hot Cocoa Stuffer Item 120144
  • G&J His and Hers Hot Cocoa Set Item 120129
  • G&J Cocoa item 120126, sold in 2 flavors: French Vanilla Cocoa and Double Chocolate Cocoa
  • Wonderfarm “Successful” Assorted Biscuits
  • Wonderfarm “Royal Flavour” Assorted Biscuits
  • Wonderfarm “Lovely Melody” Assorted Biscuits
  • Wonderfarm “Daily Life” Assorted Biscuits
  • Topaz Hazelnut Wafer Rolls with Hazelnut Chocolate Flavored Creme Filling (photo page)
  • Sweet Time Christmas Dressy Bear with Chocolate Bar
  • Fresh and Crispy Jacobina Biscuits
  • Koala’s March Crème filled Cookies
  • YILI Brand Sour Milk Drink
  • YILI Brand Pure Milk Drink
  • Blue Cat Flavored Drinks
  • White Rabbit Candies
  • Mr. Brown Mandehling Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown Arabica Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown Blue Mountain Blend Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown Caramel Macchiato Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown French Vanilla Instant Coffee (3-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown Mandheling Blend instant Coffee (2-in-1)
  • Mr. Brown Milk Tea (3-in-1)
  • Infant formula manufactured in China

via FDA, January 2009,

Photo above courtesy of the FDA