Articles Posted in Food Contamination

full grocery cartThere have been several food contamination and food safety-related items in the news lately, including the shocking story of two Florida individuals who found a dead bat in their pre-washed salad mix package. The company that produced the product, Fresh Express, initiated a recall of packaged salads that may also be affected and began conducting tests on the package to determine if the salad mix was contaminated. According to one report, the bat was so decomposed that testing officials were unable to verify whether the bat carried rabies. This places consumers at serious risk for contracting harmful and dangerous diseases, including food-borne pathogens like salmonella and listeria. Both of these pathogens can lead to serious health consequences that often require hospitalization.

Next, Conagra Brands announced a recall of its Chili Kits after determining that the kits may contain salmonella, another harmful pathogen. For individuals with weakened immune systems like the elderly, pregnant women, and children, salmonella can have devastating consequences and even lead to death in some situations. To date, there have been no reports of salmonella-related illnesses associated with consumption of the chili kits, but the company is urging purchasers to refrain from consuming affected units.

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nut butter jarFood safety is one of the most popular topics in the headlines these days. Whether it is major foodborne illness outbreaks at popular national chain restaurants or contaminated food products on store shelves, consumers face serious risks when food providers and manufacturers fail to take reasonable precautions and to use due care.

Recently, a couple in California filed a lawsuit against the maker of SoyNut Butter, IM Healthy, alleging that one of the spouses suffered serious injuries as a result of consuming SoyNut Butter that was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. The complaint alleges that as a result of the contamination the wife required hospitalization and extensive medical treatment. The complaint also states that she purchased the product at a popular retail store in California.

The outbreak associated with the soy nut butter spread was first identified by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene after a resident of that state who became ill stated that they had consumed SoyNut Butter shortly beforehand. The Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in addition to a number of local health departments, have launched investigations into the outbreak. Recently, IM Healthy initiated a recall for the product and stated that the voluntary recall applied to its Original Creamy SoyNut Butter product that bears a Best By date of August 30, 2018 or August 31, 2018. The company also stated in the recall announcement that the recall was due in part to the FDA’s notice that it was investigating a potential link between the product and cases of E. coli-related illness.

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steaks on grillThere are many benefits that our modern food system has to offer, including the ability to ship produce around the globe so that we can enjoy some of our favorite fare throughout the year. This same benefit, however, also exposes consumers to hidden dangers. It’s not always a guarantee that imported food products were produced according to the same food safety standards adopted in the United States.

Recently, China and the European Union ceased imports of meat from Brazil, the world’s largest beef exporter, after police officials alleged that some of the inspectors may be accepting bribes to approve salmonella-contaminated or rotten meats for export. The announcement came as part of an anti-corruption probe in Brazil. Inspectors play a key role in ensuring the safety of meat products, preventing contaminated or diseased meat from entering the food supply and helping to enforce food safety regulations at processing plants.

The police force orchestrated 200 raids involving 1,100 officers in an operation dubbed “carne fraca” in an attempt to obtain additional evidence to corroborate the bribery claims. Following the raids, the police stated that they verified 40 cases of suspected bribery or other wrongdoing, including adding chemicals to expired meat to improve the smell or adding flour or cardboard to sausages to increase volume.

The government responded to the accusation by saying it is false and that it is based on only a few isolated cases. In the meantime, the Brazilian Agriculture Minister suspended exports from 21 meat processing facilities in the country. There are over 4,800 meat processing facilities in Brazil, and the country exports meat products to 150 countries. China’s suspension of meat imports has serious implications for Brazil because China imports roughly one-third of Brazil’s meat exports, accounting for nearly $14 billion.

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Raw milk is becoming an increasingly popular choice as an alternative to traditional dairy products that have undergone pasteurization. For all of the benefits purportedly associated with consuming raw milk, there are also substantial health risks. In the United Kingdom, for example, an outbreak that led to six confirmed cases of Campylobacter was linked to a raw milk vending machine. The outbreak started in roughly mid-December 2016 and has now resulted in at least 56 cases.milk

In general, Campylobacter causes over 280,000 instances of food poisoning each year in the United Kingdom, with nearly 75,000 of those cases directly tied to food-related sources. It is also a serious threat to consumers in the United States. Raw milk products can contain a variety of contaminants that can be harmful if consumed. Some of the dangers associated with raw milk from cows, goats, sheep, and other livestock include Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. These illnesses can be severe, often requiring hospitalization and leading to fatalities on occasion. Although the sale of raw milk remains unlawful in many areas, there are some localities that have enacted rules allowing the sale of raw milk in limited situations. For example, many of these laws allow consumers to purchase raw milk products if the consumer travels to the farm where the raw milk is sourced and purchases the raw milk directly from the farm.

If you have suffered injuries as a result of consuming a contaminated food product, you can bring a personal injury claim against the individuals or companies that may be responsible. When it comes to food contamination, there are many parties involved in the production process, including farmers, harvesters, packers, processors, distributors, packaging plants, chefs or cooks, and restaurant staff. According to the negligence doctrine, each of these individuals has a duty to use reasonable care and skill when handling, processing, or serving food. This standard encompasses any applicable health and safety regulations. If the plaintiff can show that the defendant failed to follow an applicable statute or regulation in relation to the food product, the plaintiff will be allowed to assert a rebuttable presumption that the defendant acted negligently.

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Multiple products have recently caught media attention after their respective manufacturers announced that they contain tainted powdered milk. Publix Super Markets recalled some of its pancake and waffle mixes, due to the presence of contaminated powdered milk. The grocery store chain also encouraged consumers to check their cupboards and immediately return any products that may contain the contaminated powdered milk. The contaminated mixes were distributed at Publix locations in multiple states, including South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, and North Carolina.milk

The second recall also involved pancake and waffle mix. According to the FDA, the pancake and waffle mix varieties contain powdered milk that is contaminated with salmonella. The contamination happened at a manufacturing facility where powdered milk intended for use in various food products is manufactured. The Stonewall Kitchen pancake and waffle mixes affected by the contamination include three flavors:  toasted coconut, orange cranberry, and cinnamon apple. They were sold at locations across the United States through direct retail sales through retailers like Macy’s, catalog orders, and wholesale.

According to Stonewall Kitchen, pathogenic bacteria were not found in the powdered products, but the manufacturer initiated a recall out of an abundance of caution. Consumers should immediately return any affected product and refrain from consuming it. Although the notice announcing the recall for the Stonewall Kitchen products containing Salmonella-contaminated milk did not specific the milk supplier involved, Publix indicated that the two recalls were related.

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block of cheeseWe place a great deal of trust in our food safety system. We trust that the individuals who harvest, package, prepare, and serve our food are using reasonable care to ensure that the food is handled and stored in a manner that reduces the chances for contamination to occur. Although this system works in most cases, there are some unfortunate instances in which individuals take advantage of the system and put consumers at risk.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office recently reported that a resident in Miami-Dade County was sentenced to almost one-and-a-half years in prison for knowingly distributing contaminated cheese. The defendant, Christian Rivas, owns a food business based in Miami called Oasis Brands, Inc. According to Count I of the indictment, the defendant engaged in intentional fraud when he delivered a packaged cheese product packaged at the facility that contained listeria. This is an incredibly harmful food contaminant that can lead to serious health consequences, sometimes requiring hospitalization and even leading to death on some occasions.

According to documents filed in the court proceeding, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services received an alert from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, indicating that cheese provided by the defendant’s company was randomly sampled on July 26, 2015, and tested positive for listeria. The FDA then conducted an inspection of the facility, which revealed several violations of good manufacturing practices. Numerous environmental swab samples from the premises also tested positive for listeria.

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thermometer in chickenConsumers are paying more and more attention to food safety. Federal regulators are also making the safety and reliability of our food system a higher priority. A recent survey from TrendSource, Inc., a San Diego-based data collection and analysis service, sought to figure out which perceptions diners have about food safety. The survey involved asking nearly 3,000 consumers who were at least 18 years old about a number of topics involving safety. The subjects included food handling, cleanliness, employee hygiene, and food-borne illnesses. The majority of the people who participated in the study were females with college educations, ages 31 to 60. The study focused primarily on fast-casual restaurants.

Approximately 65 percent of the people surveyed reported that they patronize a fast-casual restaurant a couple times each month and that they will visit on average four different restaurants during that timeframe. Over 80 percent of survey members prefer to see their food being prepared, believing that it gives them a better sense of whether it was prepared safely and helps them ensure its quality. An even higher percentage of participants stated that when the individuals preparing their food wear gloves, they believe their food is either safe or very safe to eat. Still, slightly more than half of the people surveyed indicated that they do not think employees at restaurants wash their hands after using a restroom, after taking a smoking break, or prior to handling food items.

When it comes to biases, almost half of participants said that they believe certain types of foods are more likely to be contaminated than others. Some of these biases were based on cultural cuisines, with Mexican food topping the list of cuisines most likely to cause illnesses.

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Soylent Drink PowderNamed after the infamous 1973 movie in which meal replacements are made status quo, beverage and snack bar maker Soylent has announced that it will temporarily stop manufacturing its formula 1.6 Soylent Powder after a landslide of consumer reports and major media outlets highlighted serious illnesses associated with the products. According to the company, which has received millions of dollars in venture capital investments, it is reviewing the formula to figure out which ingredients are causing people to become so sick.

Consumers who became ill after consuming Soylent snack bars reported experiencing symptoms similar to a food-borne illness., including stomach-related problems. The products underwent testing to see if pathogens, outside contamination, or other toxic substances were present, but all tests came back negative. This means that some ingredient or multiple ingredients in the product are allergens that should be listed on the packaging so that individuals can avoid them as needed for their health and wellness.

Although the company has temporarily stopped producing Powder 1.6, it has come out saying that fewer than 0.1 percent of people who consumed the powder suffered issues and that it has not received any complaints or reports regarding illnesses related to its other powder versions. So far, Soylent intends to return the snack bars and beverage mixes containing the suspect powder to store shelves during the first quarter of next year.

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several square wafflesMajor breakfast food retailer Kellogg’s has issued a voluntary recall that covers 10,000 cases of its famous Eggo waffle products over concerns that they are contaminated with listeria. The contaminated cases reached an estimated 25 states in the U.S. Listeria is a very dangerous foodborne illness pathogen that can lead to severe health problems and even death, especially if the victim is a child, elderly individual, or person with a compromised immune system. Pregnant women may also experience a miscarriage or stillbirth if they contract listeria while pregnant. In otherwise healthy persons, listeria can lead to severe, flu-like symptoms, including headaches, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting, high fever, stiffness, and diarrhea.

Although the company has not received any reports indicating that an individual has become ill as a result of consuming a contaminated waffle, the risk is still very serious. Kellogg is asking consumers who may have purchased an affected package to return it immediately and to refrain from consuming its contents.

There have been a number of multi-state food-borne illness outbreaks involving listeria this year, including frozen vegetables, raw milk, packaged salads, and citrus. For the Centers for Diseases Control to formally recognize an outbreak, there must be two or more individuals who manifest disease-specific symptoms as a result of consuming the same drink or food item that has been contaminated. The CDC will then investigate the outbreak to determine its source and underlying cause.

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empty hospital roomThe number of individuals who have been affected by the recent outbreak of Hepatitis A in Hawaii continues. The outbreak has been linked to a seafood importer and a sushi chain. A class action lawsuit has been filed against both entities, alleging various claims against them. According to the Hawaiian state health departments, the number of individuals who have contracted Hepatitis A as a result of the outbreak has climbed to 228. Based on this and other information regarding the outbreak, the estimated number of individuals who could end up contracting Hepatitis A or who have been exposed to Hepatitis A could reach 10,000.

The restaurant chain involved in the incident is called Genki Sushi, while the distributors involved include Koha Foods and Sea Port Products Corp. According to the Food and Drug Administration, scallops provided by the distributor and served by the restaurant were contaminated with Hepatitis A. The federal food safety agency has advised anyone who has eaten at Genki Sushi or who may have come into contact with an employee or someone related to the restaurant to seek medical care as soon as possible.

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