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Archive for the category: Food Poisoning
  • Cantaloupe Listeria Outbreak Takes the Lives of 29

    A nationwide listeria outbreak in contaminated cantaloupe has gripped the country.  Claiming 29 lives, the cantaloupe listeria outbreak is among the deadliest food poisoning outbreaks since 1924.  Thousands of pounds of Jensen Farms and Carol’s Cuts cantaloupes have been recalled due to concerns about listeria contamination. Specifically, the recalls include several hundred pounds of fresh-cut cantaloupe shipped from Carol’s Cuts LLC in Kansas City.  The cantaloupe was sold in 5-pound trays as chunks and as an ingredient in 8-ounce containers of mixed fruit medley between August 26, 2011 and September 12, 2011 to institutional food customers, including restaurants in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. In September 2011, Jensen Farms in Colorado recalled whole Rocky Ford cantaloupes.  Jensen Farms ceased production and distribution of its cantaloupes while an investigation was conducted by the company and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) into the cause of the contamination.  The FDA determined that the listeria contamination was caused by poor sanitary practices at a packing facility. The recalled Jensen Farms cantaloupes were shipped between July 29, 2011 and September 10, 2011, and distributed to a variety of states, including Illinois.  The cantaloupes have a green and white sticker that reads: “Product of USA- Frontera Produce-Colorado Fresh-Rocky Ford-Cantaloupe” or a gray, yellow, and green sticker that reads: “Jensen Farms-Sweet Rocky Fords. Even though the contaminated cantaloupes have been recalled for nearly two months now, illnesses and deaths continue to rise due to the fact that listeria, a foodborne illness that can cause stillbirths, illness and death, can live in the body for several weeks before causing a person to become ill.  To date, the listeria outbreak has been blamed for at least 139 illnesses and 29 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of listeria include muscle aches, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, severe headaches and fever. Listeria infections can be diagnosed by blood tests and are treated with antibiotics. Food Safety Recommendations The FDA recommends that consumers follow the following food safety tips: Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops and sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water.  Use a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used to dry the surfaces. Immediately clean[READ MORE…]

  • Turkey Salmonella Outbreak

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working with public health officials across the country and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA-FSIS) to determine the cause of a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Heidelberg infections that is likely caused by eating ground turkey.  To date, 77 persons from 26 states, including 7 persons from Illinois, have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg between March 1 and August 1, 2011.  Because the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg is resistant to many commonly prescribed antibiotics, the risk of hospitalization or treatment failure may be increased. Who Has Been Infected? The illnesses reported to date began on or after March 9, 2011 and those infected with the Salmonella Heidelberg strain range in age from less than one year to 88 years old, with a median age of 23 years.  Nearly half (48%) are female and, of the 58 infected persons with available information, 22 (38%) have been hospitalized and one death has been reported. Those that became ill in the past 2-3 weeks may not be reported yet due to the lag time between a person becoming ill and the time that the illness is reported. How Is the Outbreak Being Investigated? The CDC believes that the Salmonella Heidelberg outbreak strain has been caused by ground turkey because nearly 50% of the ill persons for whom there is available information have reported eating ground turkey, a percentage that is significantly higher than the results from a survey of healthy persons. In addition, cultures of four ground turkey samples purchased from four retail locations between March 7 and June 27, 2001 indicated the presence of the outbreak strain of Salmonella Heidelberg.  Preliminary information has shown that three of these samples originated from the same production facility, with the fourth sample still under investigation. In order to determine the specific cause of the outbreak strain, the CDC and public health investigators are using DNA “fingerprints” of Salmonella bacteria to identify cases of illness that may be part of this outbreak. They are also examining data collected from a network of state and local public health laboratories and federal food regulatory laboratories that perform molecular surveillance of foodborne infections.  Product information, such as the date and location of purchase, is also being collected from ill persons to help with the public health agencies’ investigations. What Are[READ MORE…]

  • What Regulates Gluten-Free Labeling?

    During the past decade gluten-free has become a $2.6 billion dollar industry. The problem is that many of the products that are labeled gluten-free vary greatly with the amount of gluten actually present. The 2004 Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act mandated that the agency designate a federal standard for the term by 2008. The deadline has come and gone, and no standard has been set by the FDA. Many consumers have taken the path to go gluten-free not only because of dietary restrictions but also because of the many benefits associated with a gluten-free diet.  However, although there has been a movement towards gluten-free diets, our legislation both in Illinois and federally, has not taken a substantive stance as to what qualifies something as gluten-free. In the state of Illinois, the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act governs the labeling of food products however, it does not specifically govern the labeling of gluten-free products.  410 ILCS 620/11.  Under this statute, a food item is misbranded if its labeling is false or misleading in any way.  Because the FDA and the Illinois Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act has not set actual guidelines for how gluten-free products need to be marked, it seems possible that if a food is not gluten-free and a consumer has a bad experience with it, they may be able to recover damages under this statute. However, since there is no standard governing what gluten-free food is, it is difficult to predict how food falling under this category would be handled by a court. Internationally, the Codex Alimentarius has set standards for what qualifies as gluten free, and has pressured the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to finally define legislation.  However, the FDA has yet to establish any legislation to govern the labeling of gluten-free foods. The growing popularity for a gluten-free diet and pressure for federal legislation means it is only a matter of time before gluten-free foods are more closely regulated.    

  • FDA’s Special Report on Product Safety and Quality

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a special report on product safety and quality designed to meet the challenges imposed by the increasing number of FDA-regulated imports and a complex global supply chain.  The special report, entitled “Pathway to Product Safety and Quality,” reports that between 10 and 15% of all food consumed by households in the United States is imported from abroad, with nearly 2/3 of all fruits and vegetables and nearly 80% of all seafood consumed in the U.S. imported from abroad. Due to the expansion of food imports and globalization of the food supply chain, the FDA has expanded its regulatory capabilities and oversight functions through legislation such as the Food Safety Modernization Act. For example, the FDA has opened additional offices overseas in key international locations and increased the number of inspections of international drug manufacturers.  Because of the challenges brought about by a global food supply, the FDA seeks to take additional actions with respect to product safety and quality. Key Challenges of Today’s Global Supply Chain The FDA’s special report cites several challenges facing the global supply chain today, including the following: Demographic shifts among emerging markets Tension between resource consumption and environmental sustainability Increased pressure on companies to reduce prices and increase productivity Increased risks of fraud and economic adulteration of food and medical products due to pressures to maintain lower prices and changes to the global product flow Movement of companies to production facilities overseas in order to reduce production expenses Increased safety and quality risks due to flow of products through complex multi-step supply chain before reaching the U.S. market How the FDA Plans to Overcome These Challenges The FDA states in its special report that it is “committed to addressing its challenges and those of the future by implementing a strategy to enhance global product safety and quality, and in doing so more effectively fulfill its mission.”  In order to fulfill these goals, the FDA plans to “engage all stakeholders” in a transformation and reform process that will take several years and require “boldness, creativity, and patience.” The “Pathway” report cites four core building blocks upon which the FDA plans to implement changes in order to effectively meet the challenges of today’s global marketplace: Assemble global regulatory coalitions that are dedicated to expand and strengthen product safety around the world. Develop a global data information system and[READ MORE…]

  • Congress Passes New Food Safety Bill

    Chicago Personal Injury Attorney Illinois Food Safety Attorney The Food Safety Modernization Act was recently passed by Congress at the end of December 2010 in an effort to reduce the number of people that are sick, hospitalized or die from foodborne illnesses each year.  According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “about 48 million people (1 in 6 Americans) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne illnesses.” Under the new bill, the FDA hopes that by holding everyone in “today’s global food chain” responsible and accountable for controlling hazards that can cause foodborne illnesses, foodborne illness can be prevented and reduced. Enhanced Authority Granted to FDA Under the new law, the FDA has the legislative authority to require comprehensive, preventative controls throughout the food supply chain and the power to order food recalls (currently the FDA can only request food recalls).  The FDA will also have a heightened ability to oversee the millions of food products that are imported into the United States from other countries each year through a comprehensive tracing system that will track the movement of food products from farm to point of sale or service.  The FDA is required to conduct more frequent inspections of food processing plans in the United States and overseas. Additional Obligations of Manufacturers The Food Safety Modernization Act requires that food manufacturing facilities: Develop and implement written safety plans evaluating hazards that could affect the safety of food; Identify, implement and monitor preventive controls; and Maintain records of preventive controls monitoring. Additional Components of the New Bill The new bill also requires that designated imported foods be certified by a third party with expertise in food safety and under the oversight of the FDA.  The Secretary of Health and Human Services must identify and determine the most significant foodborne contaminants and develop science-based guidance to assist food producers.   When Do the New Requirements Take Effect? The FDA acknowledges that establishing a process of enhanced food safety will take time.  Some provisions of the bill, including the mandatory food recall provision, go into effect immediately, while others will not go into effect until the FDA has prepared and issued regulations and documents providing guidance on the implementation. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

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