Articles Posted in Food Contamination

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The number of individuals who have been affected by the recent outbreak of Hepatitis A in Hawaii continues. The outbreak has been linked to a seafood importer and a sushi chain. A class action lawsuit has been filed against both entities, alleging various claims against them. According to the Hawaiian state health departments, the number of individuals who have contracted Hepatitis A as a result of the outbreak has climbed to 228. Based on this and other information regarding the outbreak, the estimated number of individuals who could end up contracting Hepatitis A or who have been exposed to Hepatitis A could reach 10,000.

The restaurant chain involved in the incident is called Genki Sushi, while the distributors involved include Koha Foods and Sea Port Products Corp. According to the Food and Drug Administration, scallops provided by the distributor and served by the restaurant were contaminated with Hepatitis A. The federal food safety agency has advised anyone who has eaten at Genki Sushi or who may have come into contact with an employee or someone related to the restaurant to seek medical care as soon as possible.

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Recently, many reports have amassed indicating that consumers in Hawaii have become seriously ill as a result of coming into contact with Hepatitis A. One resident in Oahu dined at a sushi establishment called Genki Sushi Restaurant. The man has filed a lawsuit against the restaurant and a supplier, Koha Foods, which provided imported scallops to the sushi restaurant. According to some reports, these scallops are believed to be the source of the Hepatitis A outbreak. Nearly 170 people have fallen ill with the disease, requiring over 45 hospitalizations starting in June 2016. Although the overwhelming majority of these cases are on Oahu, some of them have also occurred on Kauai, Maui, and Hawaii. Many tourists visiting Hawaii became ill during their stay and then traveled to other locations.

The State of Hawaii has put an embargo on the scallops and any distributors that use them. There are some 10 restaurants in the Genki Sushi chain that may be providing and serving the infected scallops. The scallops were diced and served raw with mayonnaise alongside a rice ball that was wrapped in seaweed. At these sushi restaurants, the fare was served on a conveyor belt, and customers then pull the items off the conveyor belt as they travel past them.

Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that targets the liver and can cause serious illnesses and complications. Typically, Hepatitis A spreads through contaminated food or drinks or when the victim comes into close contact with someone who is a carrier of the virus. The symptoms giving signs that an individual has contracted the disease may not manifest for several weeks after the individual has been exposed. These symptoms often include nausea, fatigue, stomach pain, joint pain, jaundice, and dark urine.

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A nine-year-old boy in Maine has become seriously ill as a result of consuming ground beef contaminated with E. Coli O157:H7. The boy’s mother purchased PT Farm beef sometime in June 2016 and prepared it to serve to her family. Roughly five days after the family ate the meat, the boy began exhibiting signs of a serious illness. Common symptoms associated with E. Coli infections are diarrhea, fever, and vomiting. After the boy’s symptoms did not improve, his mother took him to the hospital, where he was admitted for several days.

The child is only one of about 14 individuals who have become ill as a result of consuming contaminated beef from PT Farm. The victims are located in a wide swath of states, including Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. The illnesses have been recorded as occurring between June 15 and July 10, 2016.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service, along with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, have been actively involved in investigating the source of the outbreak. On July 26, the public entities announced that they had identified E. Coli in raw beef provided by PT Farm. They initiated a recall that covered some 8,800 pounds of the raw beef. Some of the brand names under which PT Farms beef is sold include Chestnut Farms, Robie Farm, Miles Smith Farm, and PT Farm. Some of the product may come frozen.

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When we patronize restaurants, we expect that the people in charge have taken appropriate steps to ensure that the food we consume will be safe and free of adulterants. What fewer patrons realize, however, is that these safety measures extend to ensuring that the employees and servers who prepare and deliver our food are free of diseases and infections that could easily contaminate us and our families. Recent reports have indicated that there are at least 135 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A outbreaks in Hawaii, according to the Hawaii State Department of Health. This represents over 40 additional cases since the department issued an update during the last week of July.

According to this recent update, one of the affected victims in the rampant and ongoing outbreak of the dangerous Hepatitis A virus includes an employee who works at a Chili’s restaurant location in Oahu. Another employee includes a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant. Both of these employees have had substantial exposure to the general public. Also, considering that Hawaii is a popular tourist destination, it is highly likely that someone who has come into contact with these two affected individuals or another carrier of the virus has since returned home and come into contact with countless other individuals. According to a Hawaii State Epidemiologist, neither the employee at Chili’s nor the flight attendant have been linked to any additional outbreaks, and neither outlet is being deemed a source of the outbreak.

Another restaurant, however, was not so lucky. Employees at Baskin-Robbins, a Taco Bell location, Cosco Bakery, and a sushi restaurant were also identified as carrying Hepatitis A. Nearly 25 employees at the sushi restaurant, Sushi Shiono, tested positive as carriers of Hepatitis A.

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The Food Safety Inspection Service, which is the administrative arm of the USDA responsible for regulating food safety in the majority of food products containing meat, has issued a recall covering 8,800 pounds of ground beef from PT Farm, a New Hampshire-based operation. The ground beef is believed to be contaminated with the dangerous and potentially deadly pathogen E. coli. The recall covers products produced between June 6 and June 16, 2016. It was at this time that the first case of E. coli linked to the beef products was identified. Just last week, another individual was confirmed to be ill as a result of consuming E. coli-infected beef products.

E. coli symptoms can manifest in a variety of situations. For many people, fevers are common, along with gastrointestinal or stomach issues. Although affected individuals typically recover within five to seven days, there are some instances in which the individual must be admitted to the hospital. This is especially true for individuals with compromised immune systems, pregnant women, children, and the elderly. If you believe that you have consumed a food product that is contaminated with E. coli, it is critical that you contact a medical professional immediately to receive a proper diagnosis and medical attention.

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Hot dogs are a hallmark of summertime and an essential at seasonal barbecues. When we purchase hot dogs and other products at the market, the last thing we expect is for them to make us ill. Recently, the Oklahoma-based food manufacturer Bar-S Foods, Co. recalled over 372,000 pounds of pork and chicken hot dogs and corn dog products over fears that the products have been contaminated with listeria monocytogenes.

Affected groups and lot numbers or products were manufactured on July 10th through 13th. Consumers can also determine whether they’ve purchased a potentially affected batch of hot dogs or corn dogs by looking for the establishment number EST. P-81A on the packaging USDA mark of inspection. The manufacturer first informed the Food Safety Inspection Service, the branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture that is responsible for food safety in most meat products, of the potential contamination on July 19, 2016. So far, there have not been any reports of illnesses associated with the consumption of contaminated hot dogs or corn dog products from the company.

Listerosis is a serious infection that can cause a whole host of painful, debilitating, inconvenient, and even deadly symptoms. Common examples of the symptoms that infected individuals experience include stiff neck, muscle aches, fever, headache, loss of balance, gastrointestinal symptoms, and vertigo. In cases that affect the elderly, children, or individuals with compromised immune systems, the infection can be deadly if it is not treated promptly and effectively. Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to infections from listeria, and they can suffer serious consequences like stillbirths, premature delivery, and infections. If you have purchased a package of Bar S hot dogs or corn dogs, do not consume them, and check the manufacturer’s website to find more information on returning the potentially dangerous goods back to the producer.

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The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has recently issued a new warning instructing consumers to avoid eating raw cookie dough or any other batter, even if it does not contain eggs. The agency first expressed its concern about consumers’ tendency to chew on raw dough before cooking it in 2009, when an E. coli outbreak affected raw dough products. The investigation following the outbreak revealed that a number of consumers were not aware of the dangers that can result from consuming uncooked dough products.

Now, the main event prompting the FDA’s new warning involves the recent recall of 10 million pounds of flour produced by major international food product manufacturer General Mills. Sold under the brand names of Signature Kitchens, Gold Medal, and Gold Medal Wondra, these flours may contain the Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) O121 virus. At least 42 individuals have become ill across 21 different states as a result of consuming the contaminated flour products. There have been at least 11 hospitalizations, but there have not been any reports of individuals developing hemolytic uremic syndrome, which is a common kidney-related condition that results from E. coli infections.

The FDA first discovered the presence of the potentially deadly bacterium in the flour products in late June 2016, when it collected samples from homes of ill patients located in Oklahoma and Arizona. Although E. coli O121 can be neutralized and killed through heat treatments like sauteing, boiling, frying, or baking, it can still contaminate individuals if it is transferred to countertops, utensils, or other cooking implements. Early signs of contamination include fever, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Although the infection can be treated in most cases, it is particularly life-threatening in vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, and individuals who have a weakened immune system.

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Consumers across the country should be aware of two recent events involving dangerous, contaminated, and inappropriately labeled food products. First, only a few weeks after school was dismissed for the summer season, nearly 50 different varieties of pre-packaged sandwiches have been recalled from almost 40 different school districts after reports surfaced that the sandwiches may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The company that makes the sandwiches, Let’s Do Lunch, attempted to describe the event as a minor threat due to the summer holiday, stating that any residual product can simply be discarded. The outbreak came to light after the USDA inspected the facility where the sandwiches were packaged, and tests from the inspection came back positive for Listeriosis.

The affected school districts cover 29 states across the nation and many major cities, including Sacramento, Houston, Portland, Albuquerque, and Indianapolis. The FDA initiated a recall of the affected products, which includes a complete list of the affected states and school districts. The company has expressed its intention to work closely with the school districts to ensure that any potentially affected products are pulled from distribution and not served to students.

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Health food stores are becoming increasingly popular as consumers’ preferences for different categories of food products have shifted. Perhaps one of the most popular health food chains in the U.S. is Whole Foods Market, a specialty store offering a variety of alternative products, including organics, gluten-free, and vegan. On June 8, 2016, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency responsible for overseeing food safety and labeling for the vast majority of our food system, issued a warning letter to Whole Foods Market, identifying a number of “serious violations” it found after completing an inspection of one of its stores in Everett, Massachusetts, in February 2016.

Among the violations identified, Whole Foods Market failed to manufacture, package, and store foods under conditions that would reduce the growth or introduction of potential contaminants. For example, the inspectors observed that the company was preparing ready-to-eat pasta products under areas where moisture from ceiling joints above was dripping onto the counter space below.

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A new study released this month concluded that some strains of E. coli bacteria, a deadly pathogen found in a number of food products like ground beef, can survive the cooking process. The study prepared foods to certain temperatures and discovered that some pathogens were still alive past 160 degrees F, the recommended temperature for cooking meat products in order to kill the bacteria. There are many different strains of the pathogen E. coli. Not all of them pose a serious health risk, but some like O157 can cause kidney failure and have even led to death in some instances.

The team of microbiologists who conducted the study hailed from China’s Huazhong Agricultural University, as well as an institution in Alberta, Canada. Information suggesting that some pathogens may survive high cooking temperatures has been available for nearly a decade, but it was not until recently that the subject was explored specifically and in greater depth.

The next phase of research for the team will involve exploring how commonly pathogens survive the cooking process and which strains of E. coli may be particularly impervious to heat. They will also look at other pathogens to see whether this issue is happening in other contexts. Another avenue of research will involve identifying other food ingredients that may help kill the pathogen.

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