Category Archives: Listeriosis

Food inspection grades: A – B – C , easy as 1 – 2 – 3 … or is it?

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EatBy hilarykaraszkc
Public Health Insider: Behind-the-scenes of the agency protecting the health and well-being of all people in Seattle & King County

New York City has them, so does L.A. Even Toronto has them. So why aren’t there food safety inspection grades posted outside of restaurants in King County?

The answer? Food safety performance placarding is coming, and when it does, it will give patrons and establishments alike information that is meaningful, clear, and motivating.

Diners need to know actual risk

There’s a lot on the line: Studies show that restaurant placards influence consumer behavior. But research on the systems that give A-B-C grades shows that A-B-C placards don’t communicate what consumers are expect. Continue reading

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Grilling tips from the Department of Health

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State officials advise: be known for great grilling, not making people sick

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski

Photo by Michal Zacharzewski

Food safety experts from the Department of Health want people to know how to protect themselves and their loved ones from foodborne illnesses, especially when preparing foods for picnics and barbecues during warm weather.

“Bacteria in or on food can multiply quickly in warm weather,” explains State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. “By making sure food is prepared, cooked, and served properly you can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses and be well-known for great barbecues and picnics instead of for making people sick.”

Safeguards can be taken when preparing foods to be eaten outdoors, such as using a food thermometer to make sure that meat and poultry are cooked at the correct temperature. Continue reading

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Keep germs off the guest list at holiday meals

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Uncooked turkey in a pot

Keep all your guests healthy by following these food safety tips from the Snohomish Health District.

Proper planning.

Make sure your kitchen has everything you need for safe food handling, including two cutting boards (one for raw meats and seafood and the other for ready-to-eat foods), a food thermometer, shallow containers for cooling and storage, paper towels and soap.

Store foods in the refrigerator at 41°F or below or in the freezer at 0°F or below. Check the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer with a refrigerator thermometer.

Safe shopping. 

At the grocery store, bag raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods like fruit, vegetables and bread. Don’t buy bruised or damaged produce, or canned goods that are dented, leaking, bulging or rusted, as these may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Buy cold foods last and bring foods directly home from the store.

Always refrigerate perishable foods, such as raw meat or poultry, within two hours. Thaw frozen turkey in the refrigerator or under cold-running water. Never defrost the turkey at room temperature.

Working in the kitchen. 

Got extra helpers in the kitchen? Make sure everyone washes their hands thoroughly with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food, visiting the restroom, or changing a baby’s diapers. Keep all work surfaces sanitized, too. Spray or wipe on a solution of 1 tsp of unscented bleach per gallon of cold water.

When baking holiday treats, remember that no one should eat raw cookie dough or brownie batter containing raw eggs. Make eggnog with pasteurized eggs and pasteurized milk, or simply buy it ready-made with those ingredients.

Adding a nip of brandy or whiskey will not kill the germs. When making homemade eggnog, be sure to cook the mixture to 165°F, then refrigerate.

Cook. 

Food is safely cooked when it reaches a high enough internal temperature to kill the

harmful bacteria that cause illness. Cook your turkey to a minimum of 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, including the stuffing.

The healthiest method is to prepare and cook the stuffing separately – outside the bird. Test the bird’s temp in the thickest part of the thigh, the breast, and the inside. Don’t let the tip of the thermometer rest against bone.

Potluck contributions. 

Remember to keep hot foods hot (135°F or higher) and cold foods cold (41°F or below). To help keep foods hot wrap dishes in foil, cover them in heavy towels, or put them in insulated containers designed to keep food hot.

For cold foods, put them in a cooler with ice or freezer packs, or use an insulated container with a cold pack so they remain at 41°F or lower, especially if traveling for more than half an hour.

Buffet, anyone? 

If you set up food in a buffet line, take care to put spoons in each dish for self-service, and assist children in filling their plates. No fingers allowed!

Wrap it up! 

Throw away all perishable foods, such as meat, poultry, eggs and casseroles, left at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate or freeze other leftovers in shallow, air-tight containers and label with the date it was prepared. Reheat leftovers to 165°F.

Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator. Keeping a constant refrigerator temperature of 41°F or below is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of an at-home food-borne illness.

Eat cooked turkey and stuffing within 3-4 days and gravy in 1-2 days. Cooked turkey keeps up to 4 months in the freezer. Reheat leftovers to 165°F as measured with a food thermometer, and bring gravy and sauces to a boil before serving. Microwaved leftovers shouldn’t have cold spots (bacteria can survive). Cover food, stir and rotate for even cooking.

Following these food safety steps at your house will make the meal a happy memory for everyone. Happy, healthy holidays from the Snohomish Health District!

Additional resources:

Free kit

The Holiday Food Safety Success Kit at www.holidayfoodsafety.org provides food safety advice and meal planning in one convenient location.

The kit includes information on purchasing, thawing and cooking a turkey; a holiday planner with menus, timelines, and shopping lists; and dozens of delicious (and food-safe) recipes. ]

The kit also has arts and crafts activities and downloads for kids so they can join the holiday fun.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration

1-888-SAFEFOOD: For questions about safe handling of the many foods that go into a delicious holiday meal, including eggs, dairy, fresh produce and seafood.

Escherichia Coli_NIAID E Coli BacteriaNothing can ruin a party quite like food poisoning. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 31 pathogens known to cause food-borne illness.

Every year there are an estimated 48 million cases of illness, 128,000 hospitalizations, and 3,000 deaths in the United States due to food-borne diseases.

Typical symptoms of food-borne illness are vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps which can start hours to days after contaminated food or drinks are consumed.

The symptoms usually are not long-lasting in healthy people—a few hours or a few days—and usually go away without medical treatment.

But food-borne illness can be severe and even life-threatening to anyone, especially those most at risk such as infants and young children, pregnant women, older adults, people with HIV/AIDS, cancer or any condition or medication that weakens the immune system.

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Don’t let foodborne illness ruin your summer picnic or barbecue – Department of Health

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hamburgerHot summer temperatures and meals served outside can be a recipe for illness if outdoor chefs don’t follow a few basic guidelines to keep outside eating healthy and safe.

“It’s harder to keep food at safe temperatures when it’s hot outside and we eat food away from home,” said Food Safety Program Manager Dave Gifford. “If you plan your picnic or barbecue so that food is stored and cooked at the correct temperatures and served safely, you can avoid food-related illnesses.”

Foodborne illnesses can range from mild nausea to a serious condition that requires medical attention.

Young children, the elderly, and people who have a weakened immune system are at higher risk to get severely ill.

Making sure you wash your hands thoroughly and often during food preparation is one of many ways to ensure that foods served outdoors are safe to eat.

State health officials also recommend storing ready-to-eat foods separately from raw meat to prevent contamination, preparing meat for barbecues at home using clean utensils, and washing fruits and vegetables before slicing and serving.

When packing for an outdoor picnic or barbecue, make sure to bring a food thermometer to ensure meats are cooked to a safe temperature; a cooler with plenty of ice to keep cold foods cold; and disposable wet-wipes, paper towels, and garbage bags for cleaning up.

Barbecued meat might look done, but only a food thermometer can show you if the food is safe. Recommended cooking temperatures:

  • Ground beef and hamburger – 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Hot dogs – 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Steaks and roasts – 145 Fahrenheit
  • Chicken breasts – 165 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Fish – 145 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Pork – 160 degrees Fahrenheit

Food that has been kept chilled at 41 degrees or below and whole fruits, bakery items, chips, and unopened drinks can be used later. Throw away prepared food such as barbecued meat, salad, melon, and sandwiches that have been sitting out for more than two hours.

Extra food should be kept cold in a cooler that’s stored in the shade. Food left in a car, on a table, or in a picnic basket for more than two hours should be thrown out.

More barbecue and picnic food safety tips are available online.

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Healthy Monday Tip: Suds up for food safety

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healthy red cherry tomatoes with green stalkWashing fruits and vegetables before eating them reduces the risk of foodborne illness.

If fruits and veggies have a ridged or uneven skin, use a scrub brush to remove dirt from the grooves.

Remember, even produce with inedible skin should still be washed as a first step.

This week, get into the habit of washing all produce thoroughly before serving.

Be sure to start with clean hands and a sanitary work station.

 

About the Monday Campaigns:

The Healthy Monday Tips is produced by a national health promotion initiative called the Monday Campaigns.

The thinking behind the initiative derives from two studies done at the Center for a Liveable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health by Jullian Fry and Roni Neff.

In one study, they reviewed the scientific studies that looked at ways to get people to adopt healthy habits.

In that review, they found that one of the most effective ways to keep people on track is simply to remind them from time to time to stick to it.

But when would be the best time send those reminders?

Fry and Neff decided to look at Monday, which many of us consider the start of our week.

To better understand how we thought and felt about Monday, they reviewed the scientific literature as well as cultural references to Monday in movies, songs, books and other forms of art and literature, even video games.

They noted that a number of scientific studies have found that we may suffer more health problems on Monday. For example, a number of studies find that Americans have more heart attacks and strokes on Monday.

There is also evidence that we have more on-the-job injuries on Monday, perhaps because we are not quite back into the swing of things, or are still recovering from our weekend.

Fry and Neff also found that while many of us, facing the return to work, may dread Mondays, Monday is also seen as a day for making a fresh start.

Fry and Neff concluded that Monday might be a good day for promoting healthy habits. Calling attention to the health problems linked to the first day of the work week, such as heart attacks and on-the-job injuries, makes Monday a natural day to highlight the importance of prevention.

And the Monday’s reputation as a day to make a fresh start offers the opportunity to help people to renew their efforts to adopt healthier habits.

Fry and Neff’s findings are put into practice by the Monday Campaigns, which helps individuals and organizations use Monday as a focus for their health promotion efforts, providing free research, literature and artwork, and other support.

To learn more about Healthy Mondays:

 

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More than 24,000 Snohomish County residents earn food worker certification online

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At signA record 24,000 Snohomish County residents earned a food worker card through online training in 2012, compared to less than 5,000 who earned their cards in a classroom, Snohomish County health officials report.

A food worker card is required for anyone who:

  • Works with unpackaged food, such as in a restaurant or bar
  • Touches food equipment, such as washing dishes
  • Works at any surface where people put unwrapped food, including grocery store cashiers

The county began to offer the food worker card classes online in the spring of last year. The online course takes about one hour to go through the curriculum and take the test.

The popularity of the online course has reduced the need for in-person classes, officials said, so the Snohomish Health District plans to reduce the number of in-person classes to four a month in English and to one a month in Spanish next year. .

Starting January 1, Health District will offer four classes a month in English and one in Spanish at the Snohomish Health District auditorium in the Rucker Building, 3020 Rucker Ave., Everett.

  • The in-person classes in English will be offered the first and third Thursday of each month at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
  • The in-person classes in Spanish will be offered the first Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m.
  • In-person classes will no longer be offered in Lynnwood.

The online training program also provides instruction in Korean, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Closed Caption

The cost of the training and test for a food worker card remains at $10.

Food worker cards are good for three years and are valid anywhere in Washington state.

The Health District accepts cash only for the in-person classes, and Visa or MasterCard only for online classes.

Find details at http://www.snohd.org/Shd_EH/Eh_FLE/FoodWorker.aspx#foodOnline

To learn more about food safety classes and the food safety program, visit www.snohd.org, keyword search “Food Class.” Optionally, call 425.339.5260 to hear a list of class dates.

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Thanksgiving food safety tips from Public Health – Seattle & King County

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Uncooked turkey in a potFood safety for Thanksgiving goes beyond the proper preparation and cooking of turkey, says Dr. David Fleming, Director and Health Officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County: cross-contamination and improper preparation and storage of other foods are other common causes of food-borne illnesses during the holiday season.

To protect yourself, your family and guests from Salmonella, E. Coli and other food-borne illnesses, follow these key food safety tips”

Wash your hands

  • Wash your hands for about 20 seconds with warm water and soap to get rid of the germs that can get into food and make people sick.
  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom, after touching raw meat, fish or poultry, and after taking out the garbage, sneezing, or coughing.

Keep foods safe from cross contamination

  • Avoid cross contamination, which occurs when germs from raw foods get onto foods that will not be cooked or fully reheated to 165º F before eating.
  • Put raw poultry, meat and fish in the “meat” drawer of the refrigerator, or put them on the bottom shelf in the refrigerator so the juices don’t drip on foods that won’t be cooked.
  • Use a hard cutting surface with no splits or holes in it.
  • Wash, rinse and sanitize the cutting surface and utensils after cutting raw poultry, meat, and fish, as well as melons. Make a sanitizer with 1 teaspoon of household bleach for each gallon of cool water.

Heat foods to their proper temperature

  • In order to kill all bacteria, cook turkey, dressing containing turkey parts, other poultry and wild game to at least 165º F, ground beef and ground pork to 155º F, and fish, shellfish, lamb, other pork, other beef, and eggs to 145º F. (Most people will prefer turkey that has been cooked to an even higher temperature).
  • Cold foods should be kept cold (lower than 41º F), and hot foods should be held hot (above 140º F).

Cool and reheat foods properly

  • Cool food properly by placing it in uncovered shallow pans in the refrigerator.
  • If you are taking prepared food to share with others, be certain that you keep it hot (above 140º F) or cold (41º F or below) during the trip and until it is served.
  • If food has been sitting at room temperature for not more than 2 hours, refrigerate it or reheat it. If food has been sitting out for longer than 2 hours, throw it out.
  • Take care with leftovers. Be sure the food has been cooled properly, then kept cold on the journey home.

Vegetables and fruit

  • Wash and scrub fruits and vegetables under cold running water.
  • Scrub the exterior of melons before cutting them, and then keep them cold at 41º F or below.
  • Keep “starchy foods” like cooked beans (legumes), rice, potatoes and pasta at 140º F or above, or cold at 41º F or below. Be sure to refrigerate within 2 hours after the meal.
  • Keep tofu and other plant protein foods hot (140º F or above) or cold (41º F or below).
  • Sprouts must be kept at 41º F or below until used.

Donated foods

Meal programs and food banks see a large amount of food donated around the holidays, and this Thanksgiving is no exception. Public Health encourages your generous food donations, and stresses that the biggest need is for high quality canned protein foods, fruits and vegetables.

If you are donating fresh produce or a perishable food that has been kept continuously refrigerated at 41º F or less, call the donor agency before delivering to make sure that they have refrigerator or freezer space, and that they can accept what you would like to donate.

For additional information on food safety, please visit:

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Photo by the QFamily

How to protect your family from Listeria — FDA Update

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Photo by the QFamily

If you eat food contaminated with bacteria called Listeria, you could get so sick that you have to be hospitalized. And for certain vulnerable people, the illness could be fatal.

Unlike most bacteria, Listeria germs can grow and spread in the refrigerator. So if you unknowingly refrigerate Listeria-contaminated food, the germs could contaminate your refrigerator and spread to other foods there and increase the likelihood that you and your family will become sick.

Those most at risk for listeriosis—the illness caused by Listeria monocytogenes—include pregnant women, older adults and people with compromised immune systems and certain chronic medical conditions (such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, and transplant patients).

In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and serious illness or death in newborn babies.

Recently, a multi-state outbreak of listeriosis tied to contaminated cantaloupes has caused illnesses and deaths. Listeria has also been linked to a variety of ready-to-eat foods, including unpasteurized milk and dairy products, Mexican-style or soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, processed deli meats, hot dogs, smoked seafood and store-prepared deli-salads.

Listeria monocytogenes

Donald Zink, Ph.D, senior science advisor at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, says FDA is aware of cases of foodborne illness caused by bacteria that can live in the kitchen and spread to foods.

Consumers are advised to wash all fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating, cutting or cooking, even if you plan to peel the produce first. Scrub firm produce such as melons and cucumbers with a clean produce brush.

To further protect yourself and your family from Listeria, follow these steps:

Keep Refrigerated Foods Cold

Chilling food properly is an important way of reducing risk of Listeria infection. Although Listeria can grow at refrigeration temperatures, it grows more slowly at refrigerator temperatures of 40 degrees F or less.

  • Keep your refrigerator at 40 degrees F or lower and the freezer at 0 degrees F or lower.
  • Wrap or cover foods with a sheet of plastic wrap or foil or put foods in plastic bags or clean covered containers before you place them in the refrigerator. Make certain foods do not leak juices onto other foods.
  • Place an appliance thermometer, such as a refrigerator thermometer, in the refrigerator, and check the temperature periodically.  Adjust the refrigerator temperature control, if necessary, to keep foods as cold as possible without causing them to freeze. Place a second thermometer in the freezer to check the temperature there.
  • Use precooked and ready-to-eat foods as soon as you can. The longer they are stored in the refrigerator, the more chance Listeria has to grow.

“If you have leftovers in your refrigerator, it’s best to throw them out after three days, just to be sure,” says Zink. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Clean Refrigerator Regularly

Listeria can contaminate other food through spills in the refrigerator.

  • Clean up all spills in your refrigerator right away—especially juices from hot dog and lunch meat packages, raw meat, and raw poultry. Consider using paper towels to avoid transferring germs from a cloth towel.
  • Clean the inside walls and shelves of your refrigerator with warm water and liquid soap, then rinse. As an added measure of caution, you can sanitize your refrigerator monthly using the same procedures described below for kitchen surfaces.

Clean Hands and Kitchen Surfaces Often

Listeria can spread from one surface to another.

  • Thoroughly wash food preparation surfaces with warm, soapy water. As an added precaution you should sanitize clean surfaces by using any of the kitchen surface sanitizer products available from grocery stores, being careful to follow label directions.

You can make your own sanitizer by combining 1 teaspoon of unscented bleach to one 1 quart of water, flooding the surface and letting it stand for 10 minutes.  Then rinse with clean water.  Let surfaces air dry or pat them dry with fresh paper towels.  Bleach solutions get less effective with time, so discard unused portions daily.

  • A cutting board should be washed with warm, soapy water after each use. Nonporous acrylic, plastic, or glass boards can be washed in a dishwasher.
  • Dish cloths, towels and cloth grocery bags should be washed often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • It’s also important, to wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Posted September 30, 2011

PHOTO CREDIT: Cantalope by the QFamily.

Related Consumer Updates 

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Cheese

Del Bueno Queso Fresco Casero Cheese recalled because of possible health risk

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Del Bueno of Grandview, WA is recalling all 16oz. size packages of Queso Fresco Casero Fresh Cheese with a date stamp of Sept 14, 2011 because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes, the company announced today.

Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others 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, the company said.

Queso Fresco Casero Fresh Cheese was sold in retail markets in Washington and at the Pasco, WA flea market.

The cheese is packaged in round clear plastic 16oz. packages, and is stamped on the back with a code date of “Sep 14 2011”.

This recall is the result of a routine sampling program by Washington State Department of Agriculture which revealed that the cheese is contaminated with Listeria.

The company will be notifying their customers and requesting that they stop sales of this product. Del Bueno is working with FDA to conduct their recall.

Consumers who have purchased Del Bueno brand Queso Fresco are urged to return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact the company at 425-503-3823 between 8:00am and 4:00pm Pacific time.

 

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Charcoal grill

Barbecue Bliss: Keeping bacteria at bay

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Summer brings out barbecue grills—and bacteria, which multiply in food faster in warm weather and can cause foodborne illness (also known as food poisoning). Following a few simple guidelines can prevent an unpleasant experienc

Wash your hands

Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. If you’re eating where there’s no source of clean water, bring water, soap, and paper towels or have disposable wipes/hand sanitizer available.

Marinate food in the refrigerator

Don’t marinate on the counter—marinate in the refrigerator. If you want to use marinade as a sauce on cooked food, save a separate portion in the refrigerator. Do not reuse marinade that contacted raw meat, poultry, or seafood on cooked food unless you bring it to a boil first.

Keep raw food separate

Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood in a separate cooler or securely wrapped at the bottom of a cooler so their juices won’t contaminate already prepared foods or raw produce. Don’t use a plate or utensils that previously held raw meat, poultry, or seafood for anything else unless you wash them first in hot, soapy water. Have a clean platter and utensils ready at grill-side for serving.

Cook food thoroughly

Use a food thermometer to make sure food is cooked thoroughly to destroy harmful bacteria. Refer to the Safe Minimum Temperatures chart for safe internal temperatures for foods. Partial precooking in the microwave oven or on the stove is a good way to reduce grilling time—just make sure the food goes immediately on the preheated grill to finish cooking.

Keep hot food hot and cold food cold

Keep hot food at 140°F or above until served. Keep cooked meats hot by setting them to the side of the grill, or wrap well and place in an insulated container.

Keep cold food at 40°F or below until served. Keep cold perishable food in a cooler until serving time. Keep coolers out of direct sun and avoid opening the lid often.

Cold foods can be placed directly on ice or in a shallow container set in a pan of ice. Drain off water as ice melts and replace ice frequently.

Don’t let hot or cold perishables sit out for longer than two hours, or one hour if the outdoor temperature is above 90°F. When reheating fully cooked meats, grill to 165°F or until steaming hot.

Transport food in the passenger compartment of the car where it’s cooler—not in the trunk.

Put these items on your list

These non-food items are indispensable for a safe barbecue.

  • Food thermometer
  • Several coolers: one for beverages (which will be opened frequently), one for raw meats, poultry, and seafood, and another for cooked foods and raw produce
  • Ice or frozen gel packs for coolers
  • Jug of water, soap, and paper towels for washing hands
  • Enough plates and utensils to keep raw and cooked foods separate
  • Foil or other wrap for leftovers

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

June 27, 2011

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Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

Raw milk may pose health risk, warns FDA

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But increasingly, consumers are seeing “raw” milk—and cheeses, yogurts, and other products made from it—in specialty shops, farmers’ markets, and stores.

That’s partly because many Americans have adopted a “back to nature” philosophy about the foods they eat, embracing the idea that locally produced and minimally processed foods are more nutritious.

But in the case of raw milk, FDA says that’s not true.

 

 

 

Photo by Maciej Lewandowski

FDA Consumer Update on the safety of raw milk

What’s a building block in the food pyramid that’s important for building and maintaining bone mass? It’s milk.

Whether it’s from cows, goats, sheep, or another mammal, milk and milk products are an important source of calcium throughout a person’s life.

Most of the milk sold in the United States is pasteurized, a process during which the milk is heated to 161 degrees and kept there for 15 seconds. Pasteurization kills harmful bacteria—including salmonella, E. coli, and listeria—that can contaminate milk before it gets to your table.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention recommend pasteurization for all milk consumed by people in the United States.

Pasteurization Reduces Illness

Pasteurization of milk is an effective means of preventing outbreaks of foodborne illness, including tuberculosis, brucellosis, salmonellosis, scarlet fever, and listeriosis. It was first used in the United States more than 100 years ago and has been widely used for more than a half-century, says John Sheehan, an FDA expert on the safety of dairy products.

But increasingly, consumers are seeing “raw” milk—and cheeses, yogurts, and other products made from it—in specialty shops, farmers’ markets, and stores. That’s partly because many Americans have adopted a “back to nature” philosophy about the foods they eat, embracing the idea that locally produced and minimally processed foods are more nutritious.

But in the case of raw milk, FDA says that’s not true. Although the heating process slightly affects a few of the vitamins—thiamine, vitamin B6 and folic acid within the B-complex, and vitamin C, the changes are not significant.

Meanwhile, there is a risk that milk could be contaminated by environmental factors such as soil or animal feces, animal diseases, or bacteria on an animal’s skin.

Consumers are also seeing more raw milk products because of the growth of the artisanal cheese industry, Sheehan says. These cheeses are made by hand using what are considered to be traditional methods—often on the farm where the milk is produced. Some of these cheese makers use pasteurized milk in their products, but others use raw milk that could contain disease-causing bacteria.

Some people believe cheese made from raw milk is better for you, but Sheehan says there is no scientific evidence to support that belief.

In countries where pasteurization of milk is less common, outbreaks of foodborne illness attributed to tainted milk or milk products occur more frequently than they do in the United States. In France, for example, the rate of foodborne illness attributed to milk and milk products was reported to be roughly three times what it is in the U.S., says Sheehan, citing a 2001 study by researcher Marie-Laure De Buyser and other French scientists.

When in Doubt—Ask!

Federal law prohibits dairies from distributing raw milk across state lines if it has been packaged for consumers. This means raw milk can only be distributed between states if it’s going to plants to be pasteurized or used to make aged cheese before being sold to consumers. Experts have long believed that aging cheese for 60 days or longer killed disease-causing bacteria. FDA is now reviewing the scientific basis for that belief.

Each state makes its own laws about selling raw milk within the borders of the state. About half of states allow some form of raw milk to be sold to consumers.

Consumers should be alert when they buy milk or milk products. To avoid raw milk, here are a few things you can do:

  • Read the label on milk or milk products before you buy them. Many companies put the word “pasteurized” right on the label—but, Sheehan says, it is not required.
  • Ask store employees if specific brands are pasteurized.
  • At farm stands or farmers’ markets, ask if the milk and cream being sold have been pasteurized. If the market sells yogurt, ice cream, or cheese, ask if they were made with pasteurized milk.

Symptoms of Foodborne Illness

Not all raw milk and products made from it contain harmful bacteria. But if they do, the bacteria could be especially dangerous to pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. While most healthy people recover from a foodborne illness in a short time, some people may develop symptoms that are chronic, severe, or even life-threatening.

Symptoms of foodborne illness may include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • abdominal pain
  • fever
  • headache
  • body aches

If you think you might have become ill from drinking raw milk—or eating yogurt, cheese, or a product made from it—see your health care provider immediately.

This article appears on FDA’s Consumer Updates page, which features the latest on all FDA-regulated products.

Posted March 8, 2011

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Cheeses sold at Whole Foods recalled

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Whole Foods Market has issued an alert to its customers that several cheese products it sells in Washington and other states have been recalled.

The recall was issued after it was found that the plant of the cheese supplier, Bravo Farms of Traver, California, was contaminated with the bacteria Listeria and E. coli, both of which can cause serious illnesses.

The products included in the recall are:

  • Sage Cheddar
  • Silver Mountain Cheddar
  • Chipotle Cheddar
  • Premium Block Cheddar
  • Premium White Chunk Cheddar
  • Chipotle Chunk Cheddar
  • White Black Wax Cheddar

Consumers with questions may contact Whole Foods Market at 512-542-0878.

Here is the full text of the alert from Whole Food Markets:

Bravo Farms announces cheese recall, some products sold under Whole Foods Market label in 5 Western states

Whole Foods Market announces that one of its suppliers, Bravo Farms of Traver, California, has issued a voluntary recall due to evidence of Listeria and E. coli contamination at their plant.

Bravo’s products at Whole Foods Market stores in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington are part of this recall since they were cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap and sold with a “Distributed by Whole Foods Market” sticker.

All of the following products are included in this recall:

  • Sage Cheddar
  • Silver Mountain Cheddar
  • Chipotle Cheddar
  • Premium Block Cheddar
  • Premium White Chunk Cheddar
  • Chipotle Chunk Cheddar
  • White Black Wax Cheddar

Signage is posted in Whole Foods Market stores to notify customers of this recall.

No illnesses have been reported to date.

Consumers who have purchased any of the listed products from Whole Foods Market may return them to the store for a full refund.

Consumers with questions may contact Whole Foods Market at 512-542-0878.

E. coli O157:H7 causes diarrhea illness often with bloody stools. Although most healthy adults can recover completely within a week, some people can develop a form of kidney failure. Young children and the elderly are most susceptible to serious complications and even death. Listeria can cause listeriosis among at risk people, including pregnant women, newborns, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, and sometimes nausea or diarrhea. If infection spreads to the nervous system, symptoms such as headache and stiff neck can occur. Infected pregnant women may experience only a mild, flu like illness; however, infections during pregnancy can lead to more serious problems for the fetus. Consumers should seek immediate medical care if they develop these symptoms.

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Listeria monocytogenes

FDA cautions consumers about Estrella Family Creamery cheeses

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Listeria monocytogenes

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued the following warning about Estrella Family Creamery cheeses produced by the Estrella Family Creamery in Montesano, Washington:

FDA Advisory:

FDA cautions consumers about Estrella Family Creamery cheeses

All Estrella cheeses put consumers at risk for Listeria monocytogenes

Fast Facts

  • This advisory affects all lots of Estrella Family Creamery cheeses, including cheeses identified as soft, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard.
  • The cheeses have the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono) and may cause serious illness.
  • L. mono is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.
  • Listeria infections can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.
  • Healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea.
  • Consumers who have the cheeses should throw them away.
  • Consumers with symptoms of Listeria should consult their health care professionals.

What is the Problem?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers to discard cheeses from Estrella Family Creamery of Montesano, Wash., because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Environmental samples and one product sample collected by the FDA during an August 2010 inspection at the facility have tested positive for L. mono.

The company had previously recalled cheeses due to L. mono contamination, but resumed marketing in May 2010.  Previous recall notices for Estrella products:

What are the Symptoms of Illness/Injury?

Listeria monocytogenes is an organism, which ca cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others 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 infections can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

For more information on Listeria: http://www.foodsafety.gov/poisoning/causes/bacteriaviruses/listeria.html

Who is at Risk?

All individuals are at risk. However, unborn babies, young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.

What Do Consumers Need To Do?

Consumers should discard the cheeses in the trash in a sealed container so that children and animals, such as wildlife, cannot access them.Consumers who are concerned about illness from L. mono should consult their healthcare professionals.

What Does the Product Look Like?

Estrella manufactures at least 18 varieties of soft ripened, semi-soft, semi-hard and hard cheeses made from raw cow or goat milk and aged 60 days or longer. The cheeses are sold in wheels or cut to order for retail markets, and do not contain lot codes. While a complete product list is not available, some of the varieties that have been produced by Estrella include:

  • Black Creek Buttery
  • Dominoes
  • Guapier
  • Grisdale Goat
  • Subblime
  • Partly Sunny
  • Wynoochee River Blue
  • Caldwell Crik Chevrette
  • Old Apple Tree Tomme
  • Valentina
  • Vineyard Tomme
  • Brewleggio
  • Red Darla
  • Reposée
  • Bea Truffled
  • Jalapeño Buttery
  • Weebles

[Editor’s Note: Pictures of many of the Estrella Family Creamery products are available on the company’s website. The company has also posted a statement about the FDA’s advisory here.]

Where is it Distributed?

Estrella cheeses are sold at specialty cheese shops, farmers markets, the company’s farm store in Montesano, Wash., and through the internet. The company also sells to restaurants and takes part in cheese contests where its products are sold.

What is Being Done about the Problem?

FDA will continue its investigation, working with state and local officials, and will consider taking any further action that may be necessary.

Who Should be Contacted?

Consumers who have experienced symptoms of illness from the consumption of Estrella cheeses should contact their health care professionals.

Consumers may also contact their local FDA complaint coordinator in their state or call 888-INFO-FDA to report problems or illnesses related to the cheese.

The information in this press release reflects FDA’s best efforts to communicate what the manufacturer has reported to FDA.

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Listeria infection linked to soft Mexican-style cheese products from Yakima

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Washington state health officials are warning consumers not to eat three soft Mexican-style cheese products made by the Yakima-based company Queseria Bendita, after cheese from the company was linked to a listeria infection in a pregnant King County woman.

The company has issued a voluntary recall of the three products:

  • Queso Fresco
  • Panela
  • Requeson

Here is the full text of the advisory from the Washington State Department of Health in English and in Spanish.

Yakima-made cheese products linked to illnesses: consumers shouldn’t eat it

Listeria found in soft Mexican cheeses — manufacturer issues product recall

OLYMPIA  – State health officials are warning against eating soft Mexican cheese products made by a Yakima company after a Washington resident was confirmed with listeriosis.

The affected products made by the Yakima-based Queseria Bendita are subject to a voluntary recall.

Health officials linked the illness of a pregnant woman in King County to cheese products contaminated with Listeria. Samples taken from stores and from the plant confirmed the bacteria.

Listeria monocytogenes

The woman was ill in January and has since recovered.

The baby was delivered without complications; however, the disease caused by Listeria monocytogenes can be very serious.

Healthy people infected with Listeria may have diarrhea or flu-like illness — fever, headache, muscle aches. It can result in bloodstream infection or meningitis.

People with weak immune systems or other health conditions are at higher risk.

Women who are infected during pregnancy may pass it to their babies. This can result in early delivery or stillbirth.

Pregnant women and their newborns are 20 times more likely than healthy adults to get a Listeria infection.

Queseria Bendita has announced the recall of three different types of cheeses (www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm201350.htm)

  • Queso Fresco
  • Panela
  • Requeson

These products are sold in stores, and also supplied to many restaurants in the Pacific Northwest (www.oregon.gov/DHS/news/2010news/2010-0219a.pdf).

Health officials urge anyone who has these products not to eat them (www.doh.wa.gov/Publicat/2010_news/QuesBendList-sp.pdf).

Listeriosis (www.doh.wa.gov/ehsphl/factsheet/listeriosis.htm) is mostly a foodborne infection caused by Listeria bacteria.

Listeria is often found in soft cheeses, including feta, Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, bleu, and Mexican–style cheeses.

It’s commonly found in raw milk and other ready-to-eat foods — smoked fish, vegetables, salads, and items purchased at store delis. The bacteria may also be found in hot dogs and other processed meats.

There are some steps everyone can take to reduce the risk of acquiring a Listeria infection:

  • Avoid unpasteurized milk or foods made from unpasteurized milk (including cheese).
  • ·Wash raw vegetables thoroughly before eatingThoroughly cook raw food from animal sources, such as beef, pork, or poultry.
  • Keep uncooked meats separate from vegetables and cooked or ready-to-eat foods.
  • Wash hands, knives, and cutting boards after handling uncooked foods.
  • Consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible.

The Department of Health recommends people avoid eating certain foods and practice safe food handling.

Information on food safety (www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/food/safetytips.html) is on the state health department’s Web site.

Online, there are several other tips on how to avoid listeriosis:

(www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/communicable/diseases/listeriosis.aspx).

Spanish text:

Productos de queso hechos en Yakima asociados con enfermedades: los clientes no deberían comerlo

Se encontró listeria en quesos blandos de México – El fabricante solicita que se retire el producto

OLYMPIA – Los representantes estatales de la salud advierten a los residentes que no coman productos de queso blando tipo Mexicano hechos por una compañía de Yakima, después de que se confirmó listeriosis en un residente de Washington.

Los representantes de la salud encontraron que la enfermedad de una mujer embarazada en el condado de King fue asociado con productos de queso contaminado con la Listeria. Pruebas recolectadas de las tiendas y la compañía confirmaron la bacteria. La mujer estuvo enferma en enero y se ha recuperado desde entonces. El bebé nació sin complicaciones; sin embargo, la enfermedad causada por Listeria monocytogenes puede ser muy seria.

Las personas sanas infectadas con listeria pueden tener diarrea o síntomas parecidos a la gripe — fiebre, dolor de cabeza, dolores musculares. Puede resultar en una infección del flujo sanguíneo o la meningitis. Las personas con el sistema inmune comprometido u otras condiciones de salud también corren mayor riesgo. Las mujeres que se infectan durante el embarazo pueden transmitir la infección a sus bebés. El resultado puede ser nacimiento precoz o parto donde nace muerto el bebé. Las mujeres embarazadas y sus recién nacidos tienen 20 veces más la probabilidad de contraer una infección de listeria que los adultos sanos.

La Queseria Bendita ha anunciado que se retire el producto de tres tipos diferentes de quesos (www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm201350.htm) — Queso Fresco, Queso Panela y Requeson. Estos productos se venden en las tiendas y también son distribuidos a muchos restaurantes en el Noroeste del Pacífico (www.oregon.gov/DHS/news/2010news/2010-0219a-sp.pdf). El Departamento de Salud recomienda con urgencia que quien tenga estos productos no lo consuma.

Listeriosis (http://www.nia.nih.gov/Espanol/Publicaciones/FDA/listeria.htm) principalmente es una infección alimenticia causada por la bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. La listeria se encuentra muchas veces en los quesos blandos, que incluyen el queso tipo feta, Brie, Camembert, Roquefort, azul y los quesos al estilo Mexicano como el queso no pasteurizado fresco y queso blanco. Es común encontrarlo en la leche cruda y otros alimentos preparados listos para comer — como el pescado ahumado, verduras, ensaladas y en los productos que se compran en la sección Deli de las tiendas o supermercados. También se puede encontrar la bacteria en los perros calientes y otras carnes procesadas.

Hay algunas cosas que usted puede hacer para reducir el riesgo de infección por listeria:

Evite el consumo de leche no pasteurizada ó alimentos hechos con leche no pasteurizada (incluyendo el queso)

Lave las verduras crudas con suficiente agua antes de comerlas.

Cocine por completo los alimentos crudos de fuentes animales, tales como la carne, el cerdo o el pollo.

Mantenga las carnes no cocidas separadas de las verduras y alimentos cocidos o listos para comer.

Lávese las manos, los cuchillos y los utensilios para cortar después de que haya tocado alimentos no cocidos.

Consuma los alimentos que se dañan rápido y los alimentos listos para comer lo antes posible.

El Departamento de Salud recomienda http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/news/2010news/2010-0219a.pdf (www.doh.wa.gov/Publicat/2010_news/QuesBendList-sp.pdf) que las personas eviten el consumo de ciertos alimentos y practiquen medidas seguras en la manipulación de los alimentos. La información acerca de la seguridad de los alimentos en food safety (www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/food/safetytips.html) se encuentra en la red de la página del Departamento de Salud. En la red se encuentra más información sobre formas de como evitar la infección por listeriosis how to avoid listeriosis (www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/communicable/diseases/listeriosis.aspx).

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  • Evite el consumo de leche no pasteurizada ó alimentos hechos con leche no pasteurizada (incluyendo el queso)
  • Evite el consumo de leche no pasteurizada ó alimentos hechos con leche no pasteurizada (incluyendo el queso)
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    Unpasteurized Mexican-style cheese may be linked to Listeria infections in Washington state

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    listeria-largeWashington state health officials are warning residents not to eat unpasteurized cheese products because they may be contaminated with a bacteria called Listeria monocytogenes, the cause of a potentially dangerous infection called Listeriosis.

    Officials issued the warning after receiving reports of several cases of Listeriosis in Yakima, Klickitat and King Counties.

    Unpasteurized Mexican-style cheese are the suspected sources of the infections.

    “Among the adult illnesses, four were pregnant women; the illnesses were all serious. Listeriosis can be fatal, and some of the women lost their babies. These cases have been among Hispanics,” the Department of Health said

    Listeriosis can cause a range of symptoms, health officials said in a health advisory:

    Healthy people may have diarrhea or flu-like illness — fever, headache, muscle aches. It can result in bloodstream infection or meningitis.

    People with weak immune systems or other health conditions are also at higher risk. Women who are infected during pregnancy may pass it to their babies.

    This can result in early delivery or stillbirth. Pregnant women and their newborns are 20 times more likely than healthy adults to get a Listeria infection.

    To learn more:

    PHOTO CREDIT: CDC/Dr Balasubr and Peggy Hayes

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