Archive for the ‘FDA’ Category

Your Recall Hit Parade

July 4, 2009

Dairy recalls two years worth of product

A major recall by a Minnesota dairy cooperative is now beginning to play out across the country. Plainview Milk Products Association last weekend issued a recall for several of its products after one of its customers found traces of Salmonella contamination in a product containing ingredients from Plainview (FDA recall info here). Environmental tests conducted at the Plainview plant by the Food and Drug Administration “found some positive test results for Salmonella” in swabs from “walls, ceilings, floors, and equipment” according to a release from the cooperative. Plainview is recalling product from the last two years of production, as a result.

The company doesn’t sell directly to consumers but, instead, produces whey protein, milk powder, gums, and fruit stabilizers for sale to food makers across the United States. The cooperative also produces fluid milk products, but these are not affected by the recall. Plainview customers who have issued recalls so far include:

  • CPI Foods, which is recalling 15,000 packets of non-fat dry milk distributed to various community service companies in Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia.
  • NOW Foods, a nationwide producer of dietary supplements and natural foods, has recalled 12 of its whey protein products.
  • Stop & Shop Supermarkets, a New England chain, has recalled Stop & Shop Nonfat Dried Milk, which is sold in 5 and 10 packs of 16-ounce and 32-ounce packets, respectively.
  • Traditions, which has recalled ILS Meals Home Delivery Meal Service prepackaged meal kits, and Traditions Meal Solutions prepackaged meal kits. These were distributed nationwide and were made between January 28, 2008, and June 5, 2009. Tradition’s products were distributed to food distributors and regional nutrition service providers.

Pierogis with a little something extra

These dumplings may contain a bit more than you bargained for. Grandma’s Food of Buffalo, N.Y., is recalling more than 200,000 pounds of its frozen pierogies, pelmenis, and other assorted dumplings because they contain Amaranth #2, a dye which has been banned in the United States since 1976. The dumplings were made between June 1 and 5. Additional information


Tuna steaks recalled

New Englanders have been cautioned by the Food and Drug Administration about a bad batch of tuna steaks. North Coast Seafood is recalling tuna steaks sold between June 20 and 24 at Shaw’s, Star Market, and Big Y Stores, located throughout the region. The fish may have high levels of histamine and could cause scombroid poisoning. There were three cases reported by July 1. Additional information

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No leads yet in E. coli outbreak

June 25, 2009

Investigation at Nestlé’s Virginia plant by FDA continues

Speculation about the possible contamination of a popular brand of ready-to-bake cookie dough with E. coli O157:H7 continues, but so far there have been no leads.

It’s been a week since officials at Nestlé USA, based in Solon, Ohio, learned about a possible link to their Toll House cookie dough in a nationwide outbreak of E. coli. So far, at least 70 people have been sickened in 30 states, and 30 of those people have been hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Seven of the victims developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a form of kidney failure. No one has died.

Nestlé, in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC, is investigating whether their product is the source of the contamination, and just how E. coli may have ended up in their product. They issued a full recall of 300,000 cases of the cookie dough immediately after being notified by the FDA of the possible link to their company last week, and have closed their production facility in Virginia while the investigation continues.

“We just don’t know at this point,” said Nestlé spokeswoman Edie Burge early this afternoon. The FDA is looking at “every aspect of production,” she said, from the water the plant uses to operating procedures, and the manufacturing plant’s air control system.

Two lawsuits have been filed against Nestlé by people in California and Colorado, and another family in Oregon has asked for an apology from Nestle for the illness their teenage daughter suffered after eating what they believe was contaminated cookie dough.

“We just learned about this issue last week and reacted as quickly as we could,” Laurie MacDonald, vice president of corporate and brand affairs, told the Portland Oregonian earlier this week. “If it is determined that our product is the source of the girl’s illness, we will certainly apologize to her and her parents.”

If people do become ill, Nestlé encourages them to contact their physician, said Burge.

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Anyone up for a game of Clue?

June 23, 2009

Colonel Mustard

Speculation about the source of the E. coli 0157:H7 is still up in the in air, but it might make for an exciting parlor game. Anyone up for a game of Clue?

“So, how the hell does cow shit (E. coli O157:H7) get into Nestles’ Toll House cookie dough?” wonders Seattle attorney Bill Marler, in his blog.

“For starters, we don’t really know yet whether raw cookie dough is the source of this E. coli outbreak,” replied nutritionist and writer Marion Nestle in Food Politics. “It could be something else, and Nestlé will have recalled 300,000 cases purely out of precaution.  The most likely source of bacterial contamination is eggs, but eggs typically carry Salmonella, not E. coli O157:H7.   And besides, the eggs in raw cookie dough are undoubtedly pasteurized, which ought to kill any bacteria that happen to be present.”

More than 65 people in 28 states have been made ill since March, according to the Food and Drug Administration, and 25 of those were hospitalized. No one has died, but seven people have suffered hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure, as a result.

For the record, Nestlé does use pasteurized eggs in its cookie dough, according to Edie Burge, a spokesperson for the company in Glendale, Calif.

What’s significant about this particular outbreak is the contamination, itself. E. coli, as Marler so eloquently noted, is typically found in meat. The major ground beef recalls over the past several years have almost all been linked to E. coli contamination after fecal-contaminated muscle tissue is ground in with meat from other animals.

“A single fast food hamburger now contains meat from dozens or even hundreds of different animals,” journalist Eric Schlosser wrote in Fast Food Nation. Of course, we’re not talking about hamburger, here. The ingredients for Nestle Chocolate Chip Toll House cookie dough certainly don’t list any ingredients that could raise suspicion, except for the eggs (Thanks to Fooducate for the ingredients listing).

“Bleached Enriched Flour, Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Nestle Toll House Morsels, Semi-Sweet Chocolate, Sugar, Chocolate, Cocoa Butter, Milkfat, Soy Lecithin, Vanillin – an Artificial Flavor, Natural Flavor, Sugar, Margarine, Soybean Oil, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Water, Salt, Whey, Soy Lecithin, Mono-, Diglycerides, Artificial Flavor, Beta-Carotene Color, Vitamin A Palmitate Added, Water, Eggs, Molasses, Baking Soda, Salt, Vanilla Extract, Vanillin – an Artificial Flavor.”

A Dutch study published in 2002 even suggests that milk fats may inhibit growth of food-borne pathogens, although it noted that E. coli was less vulnerable to milk fat’s bactericidal properties. Vegetable oils, too, can inhibit growth of pathogens. Other ingredients, such as water, are being tested by the FDA.

It’s possible, then, that contaminated eggs somehow made it into the product, or that the contamination came from in house. It’s too early to speculate, as Burge noted, and the investigation at Nestle’s Danville, Va., plant is really just getting underway. Until then, it could very easily have been Col. Mustard in the library – with the candlestick, no doubt.

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Consumers want more action by the FDA, poll finds

November 20, 2008

Consumers want more inspections of food processing plants, according to a poll by Consumer Reports. While the country’s meat processing plants must be inspected daily by the United Stated Department of Agriculture, those plants that fall under the purview of the Food and Drug Administration have no such requirements.

“While 73 percent polled currently regard the overall food supply as safe, nearly half (48%) said their confidence in the safety of the nation’s food supply has decreased,” said Consumer Reports in a press release. “A bare majority of Americans feel the government is doing all it can to ensure food safety (54%). Eighty-three percent of respondents are concerned with harmful bacteria or chemicals in food and 81 percent are concerned with the safety of imported food.”

Consumers are worried, too, about FDA plans to not require labeling of cloned or genetically engineered meat. That issue will become even more visible as the FDA has just closed the public comment period on its draft plan for how it will approve genetically engineered animals.

FDA finally acts decisively on melamine scare

November 14, 2008
Months into the melamine crisis, the Food and Drug Administration is finally cracking down on certain categories of Chinese exports.

The FDA announced Thursday it has beefed up its import controls for Chinese dairy products as well as non-dairy proteins. This action follows its last major action when, on Oct. 10, the agency placed an import alert on specific products found to be contaminated with melamine and melamine-related compounds.

Since then, “FDA has collected additional information on the scope of the melamine contamination problem in China,” the agency said in a press release, “and determined a countrywide import alert is warranted.”

The FDA defines an import alert as “detention without physical examination.” The alert has been applied to all milk products, all milk-derived ingredients, and finished food products containing milk. The alert also includes animal feeds: last month, Hong Kong officials reported finding traces of melamine in eggs, possibly as a result of tainted feed fed to chickens.

No reports of injuries as a result of melamine contamination have come to light in the United States, but more than 54,000 infants in China have reportedly suffered kidney and other ailments as a result of consuming contaminated infant formula. Four have died.

Food processors dismayed by public distrust

November 13, 2008
Surprise! Americans don’t trust big food processors.

Late last month, industry journal Meat and Poultry published a commentary expressing surprise and disappointment that public faith in the country’s large meat processors was at a critical low.

“We’re losing significant ground on food safety,” Charlie Arnot, CEO of [Center for Food Integrity], which is supported by several universities as well as major industry trade associations including the National Pork Producers Council and American Farm Bureau Federation. “Ten years ago, consumers saw an outbreak or recall as a food-safety aberration, but now they believe these problems are the norm. Our survey shows that Americans are more concerned about food safety than they are about the war in Iraq.” (Meat & Poultry, Oct. 24, 2008)

The Center for Food Integrity, based in Kansas City, Mo., conducted a survey last July of 2,000 American adults. The findings? After being asked to rate the statement “I am confident in the safety of the food I eat” people responded with a mean score of 5.70 out of a possible 10, with 0 being the lowest rating on the scale. Even worse, although hardly surprising given the disasters in food safety over the past couple of years, the mean score dropped even lower – to 4.68 – with the statement “Government food safety agencies are doing a good job ensuring the safety of the food we eat.”

According to the survey, Americans are far more trusting of individuals – hence the rising popularity of the locavore movement and CSA farms – than they are of corporate entities.

For the complete article, and more telling statistics, click here (You’ll need to register to read it, but registration is free).

Obama expected to bring changes to FDA

November 10, 2008

Following two years of laissez-faire management, President-elect Barak Obama and the Democratic-dominated Congress are expected to significantly increase the Food and Drug Administration’s role in monitoring food and drug imports. reported Friday that the beleaguered agency may receive increased authority and oversight through efforts by Senate Democrats. The FDA has faced severe criticism from consumer groups for its lax handling of several food contamination incidents over the past couple of years, including poor responses to salmonella tainted spinach from California two years ago and a completely disorganized effort to track down the source of E.coli contaminated jalapeño peppers earlier this year.

Obama is also being encouraged to appoint a new commissioner to the agency; supposedly, more than half a dozen people are under consideration for the position. To read the full story, click here.

August 22, 2008
FDA permits irradiation of produce

After years of consumer wrangling and wariness over food irradiation, the United States Food and Drug Administration has OKed the irradiation of lettuce and spinach. The Associated Press quotes the FDA’s chief of food additive safety, Dr. Laura Tarantino, as saying “What this does is give producers and processors one more tool in the toolbox to make these commodities safer and protect public health.”

Irradiation is the treatment of food products with gamma rays, X rays, or high-voltage electrons to kill potentially harmful pathogens such as e.coli, and increase shelf life. While highly controversial, irradiation has actually been in place for several years now. Meat and spices are among the items that can be subjected to the process, but food producers have long resisted demands to label foods that have been irradiated, wary of consumer suspicions. Foods that meet USDA organic standards, however, cannot be irradiated.

This latest move is a response by the FDA to counter recent outbreaks of e.coli which essentially shut down the California spinach growing industry in 2006 and resulted in a painfully confused effort by the federal agency to track down another outbreak in Mexican-grown jalapeño peppers in July.

“FDA regulations still require that irradiated lettuce and spinach sold in retail stores be labeled as ‘Treated by radiation’and display the Radura symbol [Dislayed at right] at the point of sale,” according to the Organic Consumers Association, “although irradiated greens served in restaurants, schools, hospitals, and nursing home would not have to be labeled.”

The OCA has been highly critical of irradiation and reporting by other organizations, such as NaturalNews, has been vitriolic to say the least. Nonetheless, concerns about the impact of irradiation on the health value of food are strong, and NaturalNews calls the drive toward irradiation a plot by Big Pharma to destroy the nutritional value of the nation’s food supply in an effort to increase public dependence upon their medications, thereby increasing their profits.

August 11, 2008

Whole Foods Recalls Beef
E. coli tainted beef linked to Nebraska Beef Ltd.

Whole Foods, the upscale national chain of grocery stores specializing in organic and natural foods, announced Friday a voluntary recall of ground beef from its Nebraska-based supplier Coleman Natural Beef because of contamination by E. coli 0157:H7. The problem can, apparently, be traced back to earlier problems with Nebraska Beef Ltd.

The recall comes after the Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a warning to residents of that state not to eat ground beef purchased from Whole Foods between June 2 and Aug. 6, 2008. Seven people in Massachusetts were infected and five were hospitalized with E. coli from the tainted beef, according to the Boston Globe. In a press release, Whole Foods pledged to “continue to work with state and federal authorities as this investigation progresses”.

So far, more than 50 people have been infected in nine states including – most recently – Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Michigan and Ohio have been particularly hard hit with more than 40 cases between them. The recall follows an earlier recall in July of beef from Nebraska Beef Ltd., from whom Coleman apparently received the beef which was later sent to Whole Foods.

“While Coleman Natural Beef is a relatively small supplier for Whole Foods Market, we are extremely disappointed that we must now question Coleman’s assurances,” said Edmund Lamacchia, global vice president of procurement in the Whole Foods release.

As of Aug. 10, no information about the recall was available on the Coleman Natural web site.

Nebraska Beef Ltd., a privately held company based in Omaha, Neb., has been struggling with repeated recalls of its products since May. The company recalled 5.3 million pounds of beef produced between May 16 and June 26. According to the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, Nebraska Beef utilizes unsanitary production practices.

“FSIS has concluded that the production practices employed by Nebraska Beef, Ltd. are insufficient to effectively control E. coli O157:H7 in their beef products that are intended for grinding,” FSIS said in a press release issued July 3. “The products subject to recall may have been produced under insanitary conditions.

“The products subject to recall were further processed into ground beef at other firms, and will likely not bear the establishment number ‘EST 19336’ on products made available for direct consumer purchase.” [Emphasis mine]

It’s this distribution of Nebraska Beef’s product to other companies without any sort of source identification that has caused problems for Whole Foods and Coleman’s.