April 2009

The Obama Administration is far from having its own people in place to run the food safety machinery of the federal government. However, we are starting to see some of the changes that were promised in last year’s campaign. One of these changes is to issue warnings to the public not to eat something once its apparent there is a problem. The latest such warning was issued in regards to raw spouts.

Here’s what your federal government had to say in issuing the warning on Sunday:

 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today recommended that consumers not eat raw alfalfa sprouts, including sprout blends containing alfalfa sprouts, until further notice because the product has been linked to Salmonella serotype Saintpaul contamination. Other types of sprouts have not been implicated at this time.

The investigation indicates that the problem may be linked to contamination of seeds for alfalfa sprouts. Because suspect lots of seeds may be sold around the country and may account for a large proportion of the alfalfa seeds currently being used by sprout growers, and cases of illness are spread across multiple states, FDA and CDC are issuing this general advisory.

FDA will work with the alfalfa sprout industry to help identify which seeds and alfalfa sprouts are not connected with this contamination, so that this advisory can be changed as quickly as possible.

CDC, FDA and six State and local authorities have associated this outbreak with eating raw alfalfa sprouts. Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, and West Virginia have reported 31 cases of illness with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Saintpaul to CDC. Most of those who became ill reported eating raw alfalfa sprouts. Some reported eating raw sprouts at restaurants; others reported purchasing the raw sprouts at the retail level.

The illnesses began in mid-March. Cases are still being reported, and possible cases are in various stages of laboratory testing, so illnesses may appear in other states. No deaths have been reported. The number of infected people may be higher than currently reported because some illnesses have not yet been confirmed with laboratory testing.

The CDC and FDA recommend at all times that persons at high risk for complications, such as the elderly, young children, and those with compromised immune systems, not eat raw sprouts because of the risk of contamination with Salmonella or other bacteria. Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy individuals infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses, such as meningitis and bone infections.

Initial investigation results trace the contaminated raw alfalfa sprouts to multiple sprout growers in multiple states. This suggests a potential problem with the seeds used, as well as the possible failure of the sprout growers involved to appropriately and consistently follow the FDA Sprout Guidance issued in 1999. The guidance recommends an effective seed disinfection treatment immediately before the start of sprouting (such as treating seed in 20,000 parts per million Calcium hypochlorite solution with agitation for 15 minutes) and regularly testing the water used for every batch of sprouts for Salmonella and E coli O157:H7 contamination.


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A 77-year-old Dayton woman is recovering after being hospitalized for salmonella poisoning from pepper.  Shirley Shultz’s infection coincides with recalls of white and black pepper by California-based companies Union International Food Co. and CJ United Corp. over the last month.  Shultz was discharged Tuesday from a Carson City hospital after spending over a week there.

Experts for lawyers representing the victims of the Salmonella Typhimurium inspected both the Peanut Corporation of America’s Plainview, TX and Blakely, GA plants this week.  With nine deaths and hundreds of illnesses linked to the Salmonella contamination found inside the PCA facilities, media attention on this week’s first inspections by outside experts was high.

Jennifer Emert

 FDA announced that Union International Food Co. is expanding a spice recall to include all Lian How brand and Uncle Chen brand sauces, oil and oil blends in various size packages because the products may be contaminated with salmonella, an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections, especially in young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems. The company had previously recalled Lian How brand and Uncle Chen brand dry spices.

California state health department officials say the salmonella outbreak has sickened 33 people throughout northern and central California, and nine others in Nevada, Oregon and Washington. No deaths have been reported. Officials say most of the people sickened appeared to have been exposed to salmonella while eating at Asian restaurants that used the company’s spices.The company said salmonella was isolated from an open container of Lian How white pepper.

The Uncle Chen and Lian How brand products were distributed to retailers, wholesalers, distributors, restaurant suppliers and restaurants. Details: By phone at 510-471-6799; on the Web at http://www.ufunionfood.com.

The recall includes the following Lian How brand items:


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Asia Cash & Carry Inc. in Maspeth, New York, is recalling 34 cases of CROWN FARMS brand “KESKI” Frozen Fish (Bangladeshi Freshwater Fish) in 300gm packages with production code JULY 2008 because the product has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

CROWN FARMS brand “KESKI” (Bangladeshi Freshwater Fish) Fish was distributed to retail stores