Sam’s Club bakery supplier denies it is endangering consumers

Orange Bakery Inc., whose customers include Whole Foods Market and Sam’s Club, this week denied claims in a federal civil case that allege the company stopped required food safety testing and has been forging third-party certifications for more than a year.

The bakery company, based in Irvine, CA, has several facilities across the U.S. It supplies fresh and frozen baked goods and dough to retailers and distributors nationwide, including Rich Foods, Orange Bakery Inc. logo with croissantKroger’s banner Ralph’s Grocery, US Foods Service and Sysco, according to the complaint. The latter two companies are the nation’s largest foodservice suppliers, with customers that include thousands of schools, restaurants, hotels, hospitals and other foodservice operations.

The case against Orange Bakery, originally filed May 19 in North Carolina’s state court system, involves activity at the company’s manufacturing facility in Huntersville, NC.

Plaintiffs Chris Herr and Lisa Soler want the court to order the bakery company to comply with the federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). They also seek unspecified damages for harassment, retaliation and abuse by officers of Orange Bakery. They are represented by attorney Christopher R. Strianese of Charlotte, NC.

Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Orange Bakery executives decided to stop using Silliker Inc. for sample testing — including testing for E. coli and Listeria — and certifying documents required by FSMA. It also alleges that the company administration somehow obtained Silliker “Certification of Analysis” forms and circulated them among staff with handwritten directions on how to forge them.

“Defendants’ outrageous conduct was not the result of mistake, error or inadvertence; it was willful and intentional,” according to the complaint. “… it is often difficult when people become sick from bacteria or other foodborne illnesses for them to identify the product that caused their illness.

“Accordingly, it may be that members of the public have been made sick by the defendants’ products and have not yet identified (those) products as the cause of their illness.”

The self-described “whistleblowers” — Herr, a salesman hired in 2007 who has been demoted, and Soler, who resigned her position as SQF practitioner and quality control employee a few months after joining Orange Bakery in January 2015 — also described “filthy” conditions at the production plant and expressed concern for consumers.

“Orange Bakery has a massive platform for its food products and, as a result, the ability to foist its dangerous products on an unsuspecting public,” the lawsuit states.

Orange Bakery denies wrongdoing; files counterclaim

whistleblower illustrationThis week, in a response to the complaint and other documents filed in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, attorneys for Orange Bakery denied all allegations of wrongdoing and asked Judge Frank D. Whitney to gag Herr, his attorney and anyone acting on his behalf with a restraining order.

Stating that the corporation will eventually prevail in the case, the motion for a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction specifically seeks to keep Herr, his agents and attorney “from communicating with any of defendant Orange Bakery Inc.’s customers except as authorized by defendant Orange Bakery or further order of the court.”

The corporation contends in a counterclaim against Herr that he is in possession of Orange Bakery property, specifically confidential customer information and documents. The company asked the court to order Herr to return the materials and demanded a jury trial to recover damages from him.

Also filed this week was a request from Herr and Soler that the case be remanded to North Carolina’s state court system. They also want Orange Bakery to pay their attorney fees involved in removing the case from the state court.

Herr and Soler contend the move to the federal court system is an attempt by the corporation to force them to incur excessive legal fees so they will abandon their case.

FSA says research shows UK consumers support chicken clean-up campaign

Britain’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) on Thursday announced research showing that consumers want the food industry to continue action to tackle Campylobacter in chickens — the biggest cause of food poisoning in the United Kingdom.

The new findings show that 68 precent of UK consumers think the industry should continue to reduce Campylobacter levels beyond the agreed current target of less than 10 percent of chickens at the most highly contaminated level.

rawchicken_406x250Retailers should also be telling customers what proportion of chickens are at this highest level of contamination, according to 75 percent of those questioned.

The research has been released to coincide with the resumption this month of FSA’s Campylobacter survey, part of an ongoing effort to reduce the high levels of food poisoning caused by the bug. Testing was suspended in April so FSA could update the way the survey was carried out to ensure results continued to be robust, the agency stated.

“Publishing surveillance data on Campylobacter has prompted action from retailers and processors and we are now seeing progress,” FSA’s policy director Steve Wearne said in the announcement.

“Our campaign has also raised awareness of Campylobacter amongst the public and it is good to see from our research that it is customers, and not just the FSA, demanding action and information from retailers. We have always said that consumer power will ultimately push industry action.

“Many retailers and processors should be commended for the action they have taken so far. The majority signed up to the pledge to ensure that Campylobacter in chicken ceases to be a significant public health issue, and continued action will be needed to deliver this.”

FSA’s research shows that 76 percent of people questioned want retailers to be more proactive in telling them what actions are being taken to reduce Campylobacter levels on the raw chicken being sold in the marketplace. More than half the people asked, 53 percent, said that they would start buying chicken from another retailer if their usual shop was found to sell more than the industry average of “high risk” chicken.

With the goal of reducing the number Campylobacter illnesses, FSA in 2010 agreed with industry to target “high risk” chickens, meaning those with more than 1,000 colony-forming units per gram of chicken neck skin, at the end of the slaughter process to bring the number contaminated down to 10 percent from 27 percent by the end of 2015.

This is said to be the equivalent of 7 percent of raw chickens sold at retail. It takes into account the natural decline in Campylobacter levels from the end of the slaughter line to the chill chain. The 7 percent is FSA’s target for its retail surveys that test Campylobacter levels on chickens sold by a wide variety of UK retailers, including major chain stores.

FDA confirms Hepatitis A in scallops; multi-state recall begins

Federal officials have confirmed Hepatitis A in frozen, imported scallops that have been linked to an outbreak in Hawaii and are working with Sea Port Products Corp. to recall the shellfish from three states.

None of the implicated scallops were sold direct to consumers, according to a notice posted today by the Food and Drug Administration, but they were distributed restaurants and retailers in California, Hawaii and Nevada.

The scallops were produced by De Oro Resources Inc., located in Suba Basbas, Philippines, according to the Hawaii State Department of Health

recalled Sea Port Products Corp. scallopsAs of Wednesday, 206 people had been confirmed with Hepatitis A infections. All victims are adults and about one in four have required hospitalization, Hawaii health officials said in their weekly update.

About 70 percent of the victims reported eating at Genki Sushi restaurants on Oahu and Kauai before becoming sick. Monday evening the Hawaii State Department of Health ordered the chain to close those 11 restaurants, which it did.

“On Aug. 17, FDA laboratory analysis of two scallop samples, which were collected on Aug. 11, were confirmed positive for Hepatitis A. These samples were imported by Sea Port Products Corp.,” according to FDA’s outbreak notice.

The frozen bay scallops, which Genki Sushi restaurants served raw, were produced in the Philippines on Nov. 23 and 24, 2015.

“FDA advises consumers not to eat the recalled bay scallops. Consumers should ask the restaurant or retailer where their scallops came from to make sure they do not eat recalled bay scallops from Sea Port Products Corp.,” the outbreak notice states.

FDA warned company in 2006
Sea Port Products Corp., which has offices in California and Washington, received a warning letter from FDA in November 2006 related to its imported seafood.

FDA inspectors visited the company’s San Mateo, CA, facility in September 2006 and found a “significant violation” related to frozen mahimahi fish. The name of the company that produced the mahimahi was redacted from the warning letter that is posted online.

“You must implement an affirmative step which ensures that the fish and fishery products you import are processed in accordance with the seafood HACCP regulation, to comply with (U.S. laws),” the warning letter states.

“We may take further action if you do not promptly correct these violations. For instance, we may-take further action to refuse admission of your imported fish or fishery products … including placing them on ‘detention without physical examination,’ seize your products and/or enjoin your firm from further violating the (law).”

As is standard with FDA, Sea Port Products had 15 days to respond to the 2006 warning letter in writing. Neither that response nor an FDA close-out letter had been posted by the agency as of this afternoon.

Steps for restaurants and retailers
Because of the robust nature of the Hepatitis A virus — which can survive long periods in fresh and sea water, as well as freezing temperatures for long periods of time — FDA is advising businesses that received the recalled scallops to take special precautions.

Those precautions include:

  • Washing and sanitizing display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored;
  • Washing and sanitizing cutting boards, surfaces and utensils used to prepare, serve or store potentially contaminated products, and
  • Ensuring that employees wash their hands with hot water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.

Water, shellfish, and salads are the most frequent foodborne sources of Hepatitis A, according to FDA. Thorough cooking kills the virus in foods.

Hepatitis A can also be transmitted from person to person. Proper hand-washing is considered crucial to avoid transmission, which usually occurs via the fecal-oral route. People should always thoroughly wash their hands before preparing food and after using the bathroom or changing diapers.

3 brands of frozen corn recalled in 15 states because of Listeria

A Pennsylvania company is recalling three brands of its frozen corn that were distributed to 15 states because a package sampled from a retail store tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

Cambridge Farms LLC of Lancaster, PA, has ceased the production and distribution of the frozen corn and is working with the Food and Drug Administration to find out what caused the problem, according to the recall notice posted early this evening.

recalled Cambridge Farms Laura Lynn cornThree brands — Laura Lynn, Key Food and Better Valu — are included in the recall. There is concern that consumers may have the product in their home freezers because of its long shelf life, which reaches well into 2018.

The recalled corn can be identified by specific information on the back of retail packages.

Laura Lynn frozen cut corn in 16-ounce plastic bags with the UPC number 8685401734 and any of the following codes:

  • SWFF/R10312, Best by 4/11/18
  • SWFFR/10452, Best by 5/09/18
  • SWFF/R10609, Best by 6/6/18

recalled Cambridge Farms frozen cornLaura Lynn frozen cut corn in 32-ounce plastic bags with the UPC number 8685401717 and code SWFF/R 10482, Best by 5/10/18

Key Food frozen cut corn in 16-ounce plastic bags with the UPC number 7329607091 and either of the following codes:

  • SWFF/R10320, Best by 4/11/18
  • SWFF/R10405, Best by 5/2/18

Better Valu frozen cut corn in 14-ounce plastic bags with the UPC number 7980124561 and code SWFF/R10308, Best by 4/11/18

The recalled corn was distributed to 15 states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland and Florida.

Cambridge Farms initiated the recall after receiving results from a routine sampling program by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture that  revealed that the finished product they sampled from a retail store contained the bacteria.

“Consumers who have purchased any of the above items are urged to not consume it and to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund,” according to the recall notice. “Consumers with questions may contact the company at 717-945-5178.”

Listeria monocytogenes is a microscopic organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and people with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

Egg safety is out of mind until the next outbreak

Think of it this way: There is a bathtub and it’s always filled with two inches of water. One day, however, there suddenly are four inches of water in the bathtub.

That example was used in 2010 by one of the experts at the Food and Drug Administration or the Centers for Disease Control to explain to this thick skull how they knew there was a huge outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) occurring in the country, sickening thousands.

That outbreak, meaning the difference between two and four inches in our imaginary bathtub, was traced back to two giant Iowa egg farms owned by Austin “Jack” DeCoster’s Quality Egg LLC and run by its chief operating officer, his son Peter DeCoster. The two QE farms would end up recalling more than half-a-billion shell eggs.

eggsovereasy_406x250By allowing those adulterated eggs reach the market, Jack and Peter DeCoster were, for a time, responsible for doubling the incidence of SE in the country. Salmonella-contaminated eggs do reach the market every day, and if you are one who likes your eggs over easy or soft-boiled, you risk becoming sick and becoming part of that first two inches of background SE.

Now, especially if you do like over-easy and barely boiled eggs, the best thing you can do is to buy pasteurized eggs for use in your home kitchen and seek out restaurants that only serve pasteurized eggs. Be careful to make sure that all eggs they use in menu items such as Caesar salad are pasteurized.

Among the 231 million cases, or 83 billion individual eggs, produced in the U.S. last year, two-thirds went to retailers and restaurants. About 30 percent went to manufacturers for further processing, and the rest were exported.

Egg-associated salmonellosis remains a public health problem. The SE bacterium can be inside perfectly normal-appearing eggs, and if the eggs are eaten raw or undercooked, the bacterium can cause illness.

Those SE illnesses come with abdominal cramps, along with fever and diarrhea, within 12 to 72 hours after exposure via the contaminated food. SE illness usually last four to seven days and most people recover without antibiotic treatment, but the diarrhea can linger.

Estimates show that one egg in 50 might be a danger to human health. That may not sound like much until it’s translated into something like 830,000 contaminated eggs reaching the market every year. We can hope these are among the eggs that are hard-boiled or pasteurized, or that we are making progress with the improved egg safety rules.

Jack and Peter DeCoster pleaded guilty over the half-a-billion shell eggs they allowed to enter the market because some were contaminated. They and Quality Egg LLC paid $7 million in fines. They’ve withdrawn from the egg industry, and each might still have to go to jail for three months.

But their incident involved only enough eggs to keep McDonald’s going for three months. Who among the retailers and restaurants that buy two-thirds of those 83 million eggs has stepped forward as a leader in egg safety?

I’ve come to the sad conclusion that food safety is not really something the corporate marketing guys want the CEO talking about.

Another example of that came this past week when Fortune magazine did a long, long article on the McDonald’s CEO deciding to make egg purchases only from “cage-free” egg producers at some point in the future, with nary a mention about egg safety. And writer Beth Kowitt reports that science was not the “deciding factor,” but “consumer sentiment.”

We cannot even say if housing types are an important factor from an egg safety perspective. It’s been troubling to see Salmonella outbreaks involving some of these fancy backyard henhouses, often to the dismay of their well-intentioned, but reality-challenged, owners.

We do think it’s time for USDA and FDA to move from the sidelines to the center of the housing debate with scientifically drawn criteria. The cost — estimated by Fortune at $7 billion — of building “cage-free” hen housing should also be weighed against egg safety improvements, including more pasteurization capacity.

And CEOs who do not put egg safety first should be prepared to trade places with Jack and Peter DeCoster..

Fish oil vs. lard: Why some fat can help or hinder your diet

Consuming fish oil instead of lard makes a significant difference in brain function. New research shows that brain function remains normal and manages to restrain from eating more than necessary when this type of fat is consumed.

A diet high in saturated fat can make your brain struggle to control what you eat, says a new study in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience.

If people are looking to lose weight, stay clear of saturated fat. Consuming these types of fatty food affects a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, which helps regulate hunger.

The fat causes inflammation that impedes the brain to control the food intake. In other words, people struggle to control how much they eat, when to stop and what type of food to eat — symptoms seen in obesity.

The study found, through tests in rats, that a meal rich in saturated fat, reduces a person’s cognitive function that make it more difficult to control eating habits.

“These days, great attention is dedicated to the influence of the diet on people’s wellbeing. Although the effects of high fat diet on metabolism have been widely studied, little is known about the effects on the brain;” explained Professor Marianna Crispino and Professor Maria Pina Mollica from the University of Naples Federico II.

A diet rich in fat can take different forms and in fact, there are different types of fats. Saturated fats are found in lard, butter or fried food. Unsaturated fats are rich in food such as fish, avocado or olive oil.

Consuming fish oil instead of lard makes a significant difference. The research shows that brain function remains normal and manages to restrain from eating more than necessary.

“The difference was very clear and we were amazed to establish the impact of a fatty diet onto the brain. Our results suggest that being more aware about the type of fat consumed with the diet may reduce the risk of obesity and prevent several metabolic diseases,” concludes Professor Crispino.

New chili pathogens discovered in Australia

Scientists have identified four new pathogens previously not found in Australian chillies, raising the stakes for the country’s quarantine and disease resistance efforts.

The pathogens, all part of the Colletotrichum species, cause a fungal disease called anthracnose, which lowers yield and produces large, sunken black spots on a variety of fruits and vegetables.

While anthracnose already exists in Australia, the discovery of four new pathogens in chillies raises important new questions about how to better protect Australia’s horticultural industry.

The pathogens have a broad host range, meaning they are able to infect other fruits and vegetables, but particularly tropical fruits such as papayas and mangoes.

Professor Paul Taylor, from the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, said the discovery highlights the need for an effective and efficient diagnostic quarantine system in Australia.

“Before this study, there were only two species of Colletotrichum thought to exist In chilli here,” he said.

“The identification of four new ones suggests we need to keep a closer eye on the status of existing pathogens, otherwise our billion-dollar agriculture export industry is at risk.”

Professor Taylor and his PhD student Ms Dilani de Silva, analysed infected chilli fruits from southeast Asia and Queensland, which is the hub of production in Australia.

The state produces about 40,000 tonnes of chilli and capsicum over 1,722 hectares a year.

Using molecular techniques and classical taxonomy, the research team identified three Colletotrichum species not found before in Australian chillies (but previously in avocados and papayas) and another never before identified.

The new species is C. cairnsense, while the three new to chilli fruit are: C. siamense, C. simmondsii and C. queenslandicum.

At the moment, growers in Australia manage anthracnose with fungicides, but the identification of the new pathogens will contribute to efforts to build disease resistance in chilli plants.

“This disease is particularly hard to control because of the number of pathogens that make it up,” Professor Taylor said.

“On the positive side, our analysis did not detect C. scovillei, which has caused major problems in southeast Asia and has spread heavily throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan.

“With further research we can hopefully prevent the incursion of new exoticColletotrichum species into Australia.”

Professor Taylor would like to see more expansive surveying of chillies to allow for the identification of pathogens, as well as the development of tests that will make diagnoses even easier.

“Identification and monitoring of pathogens is the only way to mitigate chilli disease in Australia,” he said.

“There is a real lack of tools available right now to industry and quarantine personal that we need to address.”