10 of the Biggest U.S. Outbreaks in 2013

Food Safety News has compiled their list of 10 of the biggest U.S. outbreaks in 2013.  These outbreaks are an opportunity for learning about the times when things go wrong.  It also helps you identify preventative strategies for your farm.  Be sure to visit their page for the story link for each point.

10. E. coli O157:H7 from Glass Onion chicken salads, 33 sick. Trader Joe’s customers in four states fell ill after eating one of two pre-made salad products from Glass Onion Catering: the Field Fresh Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken or the Mexicali Salad with Chili Lime Chicken. At least seven people were hospitalized, with two developing hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a kidney disease associated with severe E. coli infections.

9. Salmonella from Hacienda Don Villo in Channahon, IL, 35 sick. Health investigators traced 35 Salmonella illnesses back to this Mexican restaurant in Grundy County, but they could never pinpoint the exact food source. At least one person was hospitalized, and one employee was among those who tested positive for Salmonella.

8. E. coli O121 from frozen Farm Rich foods, 35 sick. Prompting a large recall of frozen mini pizza slices, cheeseburgers and quesadillas, this outbreak sickened predominantly minors across 19 states. Of those confirmed ill, 82 percent were 21 years of age or younger. Nine were hospitalized. The company recalled all products created at one Georgia plant between June 2011 and March 2013.

7. Salmonella from imported cucumbers, 84 sick. Investigators eventually traced this outbreak of Salmonella Saintpaul back to cucumbers imported from Mexico. Of those confirmed ill, 17 were hospitalized. The importers were barred from bringing more products into the U.S. until they could prove the products were not contaminated.

6. E. coli O157:H7 from Federico’s Mexican Restaurant in Litchfield Park, AZ, 94 sick. Investigators have implicated lettuce served at the restaurant as the likely source of the E. coli, but no other restaurants in the area had cases connected to them. The lettuce may have been cross-contaminated from another food at the restaurant, or the restaurant may have received a highly contaminated batch. Two victims developed HUS as a result of their infections.

5. Salmonella from Foster Farms chicken, 134 sick. The first of two Foster Farms outbreaks in 2013 hit Washington and Oregon the hardest, but then spread out across 13 states. At least 33 people were hospitalized, with infections likely resulting from cross-contamination or undercooking of highly contaminated raw chicken. Foster Farms has not issued a recall for either of the two major outbreaks caused by chicken it produced this year.

4. Hepatitis A from Townsend Farms frozen organic berries, 162 sick. At least 71 people were hospitalized after eating an organic berry mix purchased at Costco stores in the Southwest. The exact source of the outbreak was eventually traced back to pomegranate seeds from Turkey which were contained within the mix.

3. Salmonella from dining at Firefly restaurant in Las Vegas, NV, 294 sick. Patrons of this popular Las Vegas tapas restaurant fell ill after dining within a five-day stretch in April. The owners ultimately closed up shop and re-opened the restaurant in a new location.

2. Salmonella from Foster Farms chicken, 416 sick. While this outbreak appears to be ongoing, hundreds of individuals have fallen ill over the course of the year in connection with raw chicken processed at Foster Farms facilities in California. At least 162 people have been hospitalized after likely undercooking the contaminated raw chicken or handling it in a way that lead to accidental cross-contamination. Foster Farms has refused to issue a recall, and cases continue to appear as recently as early December.

1. Cyclospora from salads and cilantro, 631 sick. The outbreak of this foodborne parasite also takes the title for most confusing, as it appeared to be two separate Cyclospora outbreaks working in tandem. One set of patients – predominantly from Iowa and Nebraska – clearly appeared to be connected to Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants (both owned by Darden Restaurants), while, just weeks later, patients in Texas began cropping up with no apparent connection to those restaurants. The Darden illnesses were tentatively traced to lettuce supplier Taylor Farms de Mexico, but no contamination could be found at the farms. Meanwhile, many of the Texas illnesses seemed to implicate fresh cilantro grown in Puebla, Mexico. [CDC outbreak information]

Iowa Produce Cleared in Cyclospora Outbreak

Investigators in Iowa are ready for federal agencies to pick up the ball in the multi-state cyclospora parasite-related outbreak saying they have eliminated Iowa-grown produce as the source.

“We don’t believe it was an Iowa product because the cases are spread across the state and none of our (produce) farmers have that kind of distribution network,” said Steven Mandernach, bureau chief for food and consumer safety at Iowa’s Department of Inspections and Appeals.

As of July 16, Iowa’s Department of Health reported 81 confirmed cases — up 10 from the day before. In Nebraska, the case count was at 53 on July 16. Public health officials in both states believe fresh vegetables, not fruit, is the source.

An update from Dr. Joseph Acierno, Nebraska’s chief medical officer and director of public health, echoed comments from Iowa officials, saying that patient interviews, illness onset dates and the widespread nature of the outbreak suggest locally grown produce is not part of this outbreak.

“Interviews also show people’s symptoms started no later than the end of June, which suggests the contaminated food source may have worked its way through the system since fresh produce has a limited shelf life,” Acierno said in his update.

Iowa’s Mandernach said he and other Iowa officials have given all of their traceback investigation information to the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which the state has been working with since the outbreak was discovered in late June.

“We told them yesterday afternoon in our call that we think it’s time to transition the investigation to the FDA and CDC and that we would like that to happen by mid-week.”

CDC Communications Center, AtlantaOn July 15, CDC spokeswoman Sharon Hoskins said federal officials are assisting but that “Iowa and Nebraska are leading the investigation.”

– See more at: http://www.thepacker.com/fruit-vegetable-enewsletter/Week_In_Review/Officials-think-fresh-veggies-likely-cause-of-cyclospora-outbreak-215584211.html#sthash.QpMZN5kW.dpuf

Packinghouse Blamed in Cantaloupe Outbreak

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released an environmental assessment inspection report on how exactly the cantaloupes linked to a deadly 2012 Salmonella outbreak may have been contaminated. The report comes six months after Chamberlain Farms in Owensville, Indiana was pinpointed as the source of the outbreak, which sickened 261, including three deaths, in 24 states.

According to the report, the initial contamination of the cantaloupes “likely occurred in the production fields and was most likely spread by operations and practices in the packinghouse. It is also likely that the contamination proliferated during storage and transport to market.”

During an inspection of the Chamberlain Farms packinghouse from August 14  t0 31 of last year, FDA found a number of conditions that could have contributed to the spread of contamination. According to the report, the food contact and non-food contact surfaces in the packhouse were constructed with materials that couldn’t be easily cleaned or sanitized, including carpet and wood. The FDA also said that records were not available to demonstrate whether the farm had monitored its water for washing the melons had the proper pH for disinfecting and preventing cross-contamination.

The report also notes there was an accumulation of debris including trash, wood, food pieces, standing water, mud, and dirt observed beneath the conveyer belt in the cantaloupe packinghouse and that the melons were not pre-cooled after packing before shipment to retail stores. “Warm cantaloupe with rinds that have an increased water-activity (i.e., free residual moisture from washing procedures) and available nutrients from contact with insanitary food contact surfaces may have facilitated Salmonella survival and growth on the cantaloupe rind during subsequent holding,” according to FDA.

Read more from Food Safety News, March 5, 2013.

FDA Recalls Grape Tomatoes from Cresco

(8/13/12) Menno Beachy of Cresco, Iowa, is recalling one pint containers of Certified Organic Grape Tomatoes because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella, an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail, or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

A food distributor in Minnesota distributed 15 cases containing 12 one-pint containers of the affected grape tomatoes to retail stores located in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan between July 26, 2012 and Aug. 6, 2012.

The grape tomatoes are packaged in square-shaped clear plastic clamshell containers labeled as Menno Beachy Certified Organic Grape Tomato.  Menno Beachy became aware of the contamination after the Minnesota Department of Agriculture collected a sample of the grape tomatoes located at the Minnesota distributor. The sample of lot number MB725GT0 found the grape tomatoes to be contaminated with Salmonella. Menno Beachy is investigating the source of the contamination.

Consumers who have the affected product should either discard it in the trash or return it to the point of purchase. Consumers with questions can leave a message on Menno Beachy’s voice mailbox at 563-203-4671 and they will return your call.

No illnesses have been associated with the product.


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