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Archive for the category: Tainted food
  • 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…]

  • 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.

  • FDA Issues Results of 10-Year Study into Retail Food Establishments

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently issued a report setting forth the findings of its 10-year study tracking the retail food industry’s efforts to reduce certain key risk factors.  Based on the study’s findings, the FDA’s report called for increased efforts to improve food safety practices in retail food establishments, specifically with respect to poor personal hygiene, improper holding of food, and contamination of surfaces and equipment.  The FDA also cited a need for the presence of certified food safety managers to oversee safety practices.  The FDA plans to work closely with state and local governments and restaurants, grocers and other foodservice establishments to prevent illness from contaminating food. According to FDA Deputy Food Commissioner for Foods Michael A. Taylor, the data indicates that having a certified food protection manager on the job “makes a difference” and the FDA “think[s] it should become common practice” for retail food establishments to employ certified food protection managers.  Specifically, the study revealed that the presence of a certified food protection manager was correlated with statistically significant higher compliance levels with food safety. Taylor also stated that the FDA urges the uniform and complete adoption of the FDA Model Food Code by state, local and tribal regulatory agencies responsible for establishing and inspecting food safety standards and the uniform adoption of the FDA’s National Retail Food Regulatory Food Program Standards by those government agencies responsible for enforcing the Food Code. The FDA’s 10-year study examined more than 800 retail food establishments from nine different categories – hospitals, nursing homes, elementary schools, fast food restaurants, full-service restaurants, deli departments/stores, meat and poultry markets, seafood markets and produce markets – with compliance data collected in 1998, 2003 and again in 2008. The purpose of the study was to collect data at the three designated intervals in order to obtain an accurate picture of the extent to which foodservice and retail food establishments have active managerial control over the various factors that contribute to foodborne illnesses.  The study specifically looked at the following five risk factors: (1) food from unsafe sources, (2) poor personal hygiene, (3) inadequate cooking, (4) improper holding of food, and (5) contaminated food surfaces and equipment. Over the course of the ten-year study period, the FDA found that overall compliance improved in all nine of the categories of retail food establishments included in the study, but that improvements were particularly significant[READ MORE…]

  • Legal trends to watch in 2011

    Image via Wikipedia 2010 is drawing to a close and it’s been an interesting year. In a few weeks, we’ll review some of the more notable highlights from 2010 in the legal world.  In the meantime, here’s our prediction of few personal injury trends to keep an eye on in the upcoming year. First, debate will continue about banks financing personal injury lawsuits. As explained in this recent New York Times article: Large banks, hedge funds and private investors hungry for new and lucrative opportunities are bankrolling other people’s lawsuits, pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into medical malpractice claims, divorce battles and class actions against corporations — all in the hope of sharing in the potential winnings. The banks are making loans to both attorneys–to help them with costs related to litigating the claim–and to the litigants themselves. There are rising concerns that the practice will lead to abuses, including high interest rates that ultimately reduce the final monetary judgment–in some cases resulting in much smaller recoveries for the injured plaintiff. The banks are profiting greatly and because of the potential for abuse, many jurisdictions are enacting laws regarding this practice, such as the proposed Illinois legislation discussed in this article. Although the outcome is unclear, one thing is certain–you can expect much more debate on this issue in 2011. Another trend to watch for is an increasing backlash against fast food, particularly when marketing it to children. Rising childhood obesity is a huge problem in this country and fast food has long been blamed for contributing to this epidemic. For that reason, San Francisco recently banned McDonald’s Happy Meals, as explained in this Los Angeles Times article: San Francisco’s board of supervisors has voted, by a veto-proof margin, to ban most of McDonald’s Happy Meals as they are now served in the restaurants. The measure will make San Francisco the first major city in the country to forbid restaurants from offering a free toy with meals that contain more than set levels of calories, sugar and fat. Along the same vein, Overlawyered recently reported that Flagstaff, Arizona schools will begin to weigh all students and send home warning notes to the parents of children found to be overweight. The obesity backlash will undoubtedly continue well into 2011, as more jurisdictions address this issue by passing creative legislation intended to curb what is perceived to be a looming health[READ MORE…]

  • Much Needed Food Regulations May be on the Way

    Image via Wikipedia Recalls of tainted food seem to be an ever increasing phenomenon. In January there was a massive recall of ground beef products.  As reported in USA Today, a California meat-packing company recalled 864,000 pounds of beef due to fears it had been contaminated with E. coli. In another case, as reported by ABC News, there was a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened  people across 40 states. The outbreak is believed to be linked to contaminated pepper that coated the salami. In late January, Daniele International, the company that manufactured the salami, recalled over 1.2 million pounds of the product. Also in January, a Minnesota company, Parker’s Inc., recalled “peanut butter, cheese, salsa, and other foods from a long list of major food retailers” due to listeria contamination (via WebMD). Fortunately, more protection for consumers is just around the corner.  As Walter Olson aptly notes at over at Point of Law, the upcoming year will likely prove to be significant in the area of food liability and regulatory changes. Ken Odza at the Food Liability Blog predicts that Congress will pass a new food safety legislation: Nobody doubts that we’re in the midst of the most significant legislative and regulatory changes in food safety in generations. Most believe that Congress will pass some form of food safety legislation (e.g., S 510 or HR 2749) in the new year. It will likely include the most comprehensive food safety reform in decades. Among other things, this legislation is likely to give FDA mandatory recall power and great authority for risk-based inspections, and require FDA to create a traceability program. The number of recent recalls of tainted food products is evidence that this is an ever-increasing problem.  Consumers deserve to be protected from tainted food products and stronger governmental oversight of our food supply only makes sense.

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