Friday, December 30, 2011

The Imported Canadian Cheese Recall Spreads in the U.S.

Now we have an expanding cheese recall in Massachussetts, U.S.A. It is linked to the earlier Cedar Market (located in Norwood, MA)recall. This market imported Canadian cheese and on-sold it to Bahnan’s located in Worcester, MA. Since this cheese has turned out to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, Bahnan's is also having to issue a recall. As a result a much wider range of cheese products with the brand name "Fromagerie Marie Kade” are being considered dangerous and should not be eaten. All have the establishment number 1874, but different "best by" dates.

Akawi Cheese Best Before 08 MAR 2012
Baladi Cheese Best Before 08 FEB 2012.
Shinglish Cheese Best Before 07 NOV 2012
Tresse Cheese Best Before 10 NOV 2012
Vachekaval Cheese Best Before 10 MAR 2012
Halloom Best Before 01 MAY 2012
Moujadale Best Before 04 MAY 2012

Our food certainly travels around these days. And so do the contaminants.

Stay tuned..

To your good health,


Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Green Cedar Dairy of Dearborn, Michigan, has now announced the recall of their All Natural Ackawi Cheese and All Natural Chives Cheese with a sell by date up to July 1, 2012. The reason: they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria and at least two illnesses have been linked to eating these cheeses.

The products were distributed to bakeries and retail stores in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties of Michigan. In other words, a relatively small geographic area.

What puzzles me is that both this cheese and the Canadian cheese recall I blogged yesterday (see previous post) do not only have Listeriosis risk in common - which is nothing unusual - but also something else. They both have "cedar" in the name and a green cedar tree on the label. The trees look somewhat different (the Canadian cheese package has a more artistic cedar tree) but there they are. What an odd coincidence.

Ah - the mysteries of our food supply.

To your good health,


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Canadian Cheese Recalled in the U.S.

Just a little over a year ago, my post of 12/22/10 was titled "Is Cheese our most Dangerous Food?" Compared to 2010, and particularly the last six months of that year, 2011 has not been such a bad one for cheese recalls in the U.S. But all the same, we have had quite a few. Most of them, as usual, were due to Listeria monocytogenes bacteria turning up in the cheese. And, as usual, raw cheeses proved to be the riskiest.

Over the holiday period we had another cheese recall. Kradjian Imp Co, Glendale, CA is recalling 231 Cases, 22Lb / Cs of Cedar brand Tresse Cheese, 16 oz and Cedar brand Shinglish cheese, 16 oz because of Listeria monocytogenes.

These two cheeses were imported by Kradjian from Canada from a supplier named Fromagerie Marie Kade of Quebec. The cheeses were made with pasteurized milk - not raw milk this time.

Check your cheeses especially if you live in Southern California and tend to shop at Mediterranean speciality markets. Both cheeses are vacuum packed and bear the picture of a green cedar tree (see illustration).

Again - a special caution for pregnant women and anyone else with a seriously weakened immune system. This bacteria has a high fatality rate.

To your good health,


update 1/22/12: This outbreak is still very much ongoing and expanding. The geographic area has also expanded to include: Southern California, Northern California, Washington State, Minnesota, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee,Arizona and Michigan.


Mead Johnson Nutrition Co., which manufactures Enfamil Premium Newborn infant formula, is publicly stressing that the company's laboratory testing has found no trace of Cronobacter sakazakii - the bacteria that caused the death of a baby in Missouri, USA, and tanked the company's stock price last week.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Missouri Department of Health are doing their own testing of formula samples. Federal officials said that these test results won't be available until later this week. Either the government testing is more thorough than that of Mead Johnson (although the company says it has used the same methology), probably meaning they are giving the bacteria plenty of time to grow in artificial media, or, it could simply mean that staff went on holiday leave and simply weren't available to push this urgent testing through.
In the meantime, National retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Walgreen Co., Kroger Co. and Safeway Inc. have pulled the powdered infant formula from their shelves. Consumers would be wise to avoid this product until testing is complete. Newborns are too vulnerable to take any risks.

To your good health,


Sunday, December 25, 2011

E.coli 0157 Found in Fresh Spinach

Avon Heights Fresh is recalling certain packages of fresh packaged spinach. The brands include Krisp Pak 10oz bags, Better Brand 10oz.bags, and Avon Heights 4-2.51b bags. Yes, here we go with another bagged fresh produce recall.

What happened is that during routine sampling for the commonly occurring bacteria in food, one package of Better Brand 10oz spinach tested positive for E.coli 0157 - a very dangerous bacteria.

The company has decided to be careful and recall all the packages of spinach that were produced at their plant on that particular day. This privately owned company prides itself on the safety of its products, but unfortunately, such problems can happen in spite of safety measures. Here's a quote from their website (

We pride ourselves on keeping our facilities clean and efficient - food safety is one of the foremost cornerstones of the Avon Heights Fresh brand, and we work hard to make sure that our customers are taking only the healthiest, safest product possible into their kitchens.

All the packages have codes DP 340 and T691 and a "best if used by" date of December 16 - that is, over a week ago. What this means is that most of it has been already eaten. Nothing new there. Unfortunately, food recalls often come too late to do us poor consumers much good.

Don't panic if you think you ate some of the recalled product. It is very unlikely that every package would be contaminated. But if you do get food poisoning symptoms (incubation period is 3-9 days), or, already have them, be sure to tell your doctor about eating this product.

To your good health,


Saturday, December 24, 2011


In the last few days, Salmonella bacteria seem to be making up for lost time. Or else, food testing has just got lucky and caught more cases. I won't have time to blog them all, but here are some U.S. instances from the past few days, and one from the U.K.

These cases show the variety of situations in which Salmonella can crop up. The first two - peppers and alfalfa sprouts are quite common, and have occurred previously many times. The last two - in spice and in dietary supplements - are rarer but not unheard of either, as this bacterium is very good at surviving under dry conditions, and can do so for months. There have been several large spice recalls in the U.S. over the last few years, and of course, the very recent one in celery seeds (see earlier posts).

In peppers: Cal Fresco, LLC (“Cal Fresco”) of California is recalling some 18,500 pounds of fresh JalapeƱo and Serrano chili peppers (imported from Mexico, by the way) because of contamination with Salmonella. They were shipped in cases under both the Cal Fresco (10 and 25 pound cases) and Grower Alliance (40 pound case) labels. This lot was distributed to retail stores within California, Oregon, Washington, Texas and Canada between December 3 and December 5, 2011 (I bought some, but luckily cooked them well).

In alfalfa sprouts: Green Valley Food Corp. of is recalling 650 cases of “Let’s Grow Healthy Together!” Alfalfa Sprouts 5 oz. containers, because the results showed to be contaminated with Salmonella. If you read this blog regularly you'll know that I view sprouted seeds as one of the riskiest foods you can eat (see previous posts).

In dietary supplements: Eclectic Institute, Sandy, Oregon is recalling specific lots of its freeze-dried capsules containing Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) and Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) capsules because of potential Salmonella contamination.

In dry spices: In the U.K. the Food Standards agency reports that Natco Foods Ltd. is recalling certain batches of its own ground cumin due to the presence of Salmonella bacteria.

To your good health,


Friday, December 23, 2011

Cargill is Back Producing Ground Turkey

This post may interest those consumers who want to know more about what happens after a large food product recall in the U.S.

If the inspectors find contamination in the processing plant, and large amounts of product have to be recalled, it can mean the end of a small company. Larger ones can usually weather the storm - and the expense and negative publicity involved. Part of that expense is cleanup of the plant, as required by government regulators. Production of the recalled product, and sometimes of others as well, will have to be stopped until food safety is improved.
Cargill (Cargill Meat Solutions Corp.) provides an example. In August and September of this year (end of the summer, 2011) this huge company had a large ground turkey recall because of Salmonella contamination. The turkey had been processed at their Springdale, Arkansas facility. Several brands were affected: including Honeysuckle White, Shady Brook Farms, Riverside, Aldi Fit & Active, Giant Eagle, HEB, Kroger and Safeway.

After discovery of Salmonella at the plant, ground turkey production was suspended (another one in Virginia kept making it). Over the next few months, the company undertook a thorough cleanup and set up new and better quality and testing standards, including:

Addition of more bacteria reduction steps, including before the turkey is ground.
• Improvement of the process control monitoring system
• Increase of the number and frequency of tests for Salmonella.
• Establishment of high pressure processing, to further reduce numbers of Salmonella.

Training of workers in the new procedures.

Cargill now says that their new safety measures at the Springdale plant are the best in the industry. Cargill food safety specialists and USDA inspectors are also reportedly present for each and every shift at the plant.

So why didn't they have these measures before the outbreak which would have avoided a lot of misery to consumers - and, to the company? You know the answer: they cost money.

Cargill expects their turkey to be back in the stores soon. And, my guess is that at least part of the cost of increased safety will be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

To your good health,


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Walmart Removes Enfamil Newborn Formula from Stores

I am glad I did not buy Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. (MJN) shares. They fell like a rock today - down 10%. The reason: Walmart removed this company's Enfamil Newborn formula from all Walmart shelves after it was found that an infant who died was given that brand. Reportedly, about half of all Walmart stores carry the formula, and thousands of stores and many times more cans are involved.

Several infants have become ill. The formula has not yet been proved to be the cause, but is suspected to be the culprit. Another unidentified formula is suspected as well, which suggests that they may have a common contaminated ingredient.

The bacteria involved is Cronobacter sakazakii. Never heard of it? You are not alone. There are huge numbers of bacteria present in our environment that the public never hears of. Some are harmless, others harmful. For a newborn, bacteria like these can cause serious illness or even death. Fatality rate is estimated at 40-80 percent, which is very high.

Yes, of course the infant formula was tested by the company before being released into the marketplace, and this lot tested negative. But contaminants are frequently missed for a variety of reasons.

If the link is proven, this is likely to be the start of a national recall. And of course, a lot of lawsuits.

Mothers beware! If you recently bought this formula, don't give it to your newborn.

To your good health,



I have been suspecting that the recalled celery seed (see previous 3 posts) is imported. But I guessed India. Now I have changed my mind. I think it all the recalled seeds had a common origin in Egypt.

Here's why: the latest recall is by Starwest Botanicals. Read the label:

If you check the company's website, you will also find that their celery seed in jars states that the source is Egypt (I didn't find a listing for the pouches). They are not likely to import this item from two different countries.

By the way, do you recall that this year's huge and deadly E.coli 0104:H4 outbreak was eventually - after many false turns - traced to fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt? Yes, Egypt is the source of a lot of imported herbs and spices all over the world, and clearly not all of them are sanitary.

To your good health,



Well,as I expected, there is yet another recall of celery seed. This time it is by Starwest Botanicals. This California company is recalling Starwest Organic Celery Seed (Whole) packaged in Mylar 1lb and 2 oz pouches (it also sells it in jars, and I am wondering why these are not included in the recall).

The cause is the same as in the case of the other recalls: discovery of contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.
We are seeing once more how interlinked our food system is. We may think we are buying some wonderful unique product, and instead, it is part of a huge production lot, masquerading under various names.

I hope you took my earlier advice and stopped eating all celery seed when the first recall came out. Let's wait until the FDA investigators find out the cause, and hopefully, fix it. And that could take a while - weeks, maybe even months.

Remember, in a small percentage of cases, Salmonella can be veru dangerous.

To your good health,

Sunday, December 18, 2011


My post of earlier today focused on the celery seed recall issued by Safeway stores. Another one has been announced as well. It is linked to the Safeway stores recall through a common supplier - B&M Inc.

Swanson Health Products is recalling Swanson Organic Celery Seed (Whole) which is packaged in plastic bottles with a net weight of 1.4 oz. (40 grams) because it may be contaminated with Salmonella. Reportedly the product was sold in several ways - on line, through mail order, through the Swanson Health Products retail store in North Dakota, or, held for pickup at the company's headquarters.

I don't know B&M's supplier for the celery seeds, but a quick research shows that among the countries from which the U.S. imports this product are India, France - and, China. Could this be yet another contaminated Chinese import?

The ironic thing is, of course, that celery seed is considered to be a "health product." It is not well known in Western herbal medicine, but has been used for thousands of years in India. Today, it is mainly used as a diuretic. But these small seeds have also been linked (including by a few research studies) to improving conditions such as high blood pressure, arthritis, gout, kidney stones, muscle cramps, pain, anxiety, and even to prevention of cancer. My grandmother, who was a traditional herbalist, believed celery seeds would cure all these problems and more.

If you don't feel like coming down with a case of Salmonellosis for the holidays, I would suggest you avoid all celery seeds until we find out the source of this problems. That is, unless you cook them very well which would kill the bacteria (pouring hot water on them to make tea is not enough).

To your good health,



Seeds, as well as our food, can be contaminated with bacteria, even though they are dry. That also goes for organic seeds. Salmonella bacteria are the most common, in part because they can tolerate dry conditions very well.

So that is what we have turning up now in a Safeway recall. The product is organic celery seeds. The contaminant, Salmonella bacteria. Remember - although in most cases, getting a sufficient number of these bacteria in your food will only give you a few very miserable days of food poisoning, occasionally it can get into your bloodstream, and lead to more serious illness and long-term health problems.

Here are the basic facts: B&M, Inc. of Mount Vernon, Missouri is voluntarily recalling O Organics Organic Celery Seed sold at all Safeway-owned stores. That includes Safeway, Carrs, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Pak ‘N Save, Pavilions, Randalls, Tom Thumb and Vons. Presumably, this product was distributed nationwide in the U.S. as one or other of these stores is almost everywhere.

The seeds come in a 1.8oz (51g) glass bottle (see photo). It is marked with a UPC code of 0-7989341124-8 (if you have bought it, look for this code on the bottom of the bottle). The product was sold at stores from May 25, 2011, through December 16, 2011.

Be careful - "healthy" seeds are not healthy in this case.

To your good health,


Friday, December 16, 2011


We have another very common type of food contamination in the U.S. - E.coli bacteria in ground beef. This is one of several similar recalls in 2011, but hopefully, will be the last (after all, we only have a couple of weeks left in the year). But don't bet on it. And the recall could also grow in size, as often is the case.

Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Tyson Fresh Meats Inc., of Nebraska, is recalling some 40,948 pounds of fine-ground ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

The beef is known to have been shipped in big 10lb "chubs" to institutions and distributors in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. If it is sold in stores, it will have been repackaged under who knows what label.

And it wasn't the company which discovered it: the bacteria was found in the meat by routine government testing. Lucky it caught this one.

Cook your meat well, and be very careful handling it. I have taken to wearing disposable gloves, and of course, am very careful not to let the meat, or the wrap it came in, or any juices drip onto anything.

To your good health,


Sunday, December 11, 2011


Now we are back to the usual outbreaks in food. Salmonella bacteria in fresh cilantro herbs is quite common. In the U.S. we usually have at least one such outbreak a year, often with spinoffs to prepared fresh foods (such as salza, salads) that have used the contaminated cilantro.

This year we had a cilantro recall in April because of Salmonella. The recall was by Satur Farms of Long Island, which produces specialty salad greens, edible flowers, and herbs for greeenmarket shoppers and up-scale restaurants.

The current recall is by Pacific International Marketing (“Pacific”) of Salinas, California. The cilantro was distributed by Pacific International Marketing in cartons of 60 bunches, 30 bunches and 20- 3 bunched sleeves to retailers in California, Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Indiana, South Carolina, and Missouri. The product has “Pacific” printed on the twist tie and the UPC code, which is 33383 80104.

Consumers have been asked to return any cilantro they purchased between November 16th and December 10th. Well, let me tell you FDA, most of us consumers who bought fresh cilantro a few weeks ago have already eaten it - including me. Unfortunately, my dog ate the cilantro I am growing in the garden, so had to resort to commercial stuff. And, I fed the food I made with the fresh cilantro to a lot of other people...Ugh!

To your good health,

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I just finished ordering several gift boxes to be sent to people for the holidays. I did look at ones that had pears, cheese, crackers and foods like that, but in the end, decided to send chocolates to everyone. Just as well. I could have been sending a case of Listeriosis to my friends, my doctor and to my agent.

One of the latest instances of widespread food contamination in the United States involves a variety of cheeses. Fair Oaks Dairy Products, LLC, Fair Oaks, Indiana today issued a voluntary recall of quite a range of one half pound retail packaged cheeses and cheese gift boxes produced under the Fair Oaks Farms Fine Cheese label. The cheeses were sold at the Fair Oaks Dairy store in Northwest Indiana, to other stores directly, and through distributors primarily in Northern and Central Indiana and Northeast Illinois. Who knows where they went from there.

Here's the list of cheese types: Asiago, Butterkase, Gouda, Aged Gouda, Smoked Gouda, Havarti, Pepper Havarti, Habanero Havarti, Onion Havarti, Veggie Havarti, Havarti Dill, Sweet Swiss, Smoked Sweet Swiss, Emmentaler, Calico, Mozzarella, Farmers, Cheese Curds, Muenster, Provolone, Lacy Swiss, Cheddar, Cheddar Mild, 1 yr. Cheddar, 2 yr. Cheddar, 3 yr. Cheddar, 4 yr. Cheddar, and 5 yr. Cheddar. Each variety is identified on the label. There are no identifying dates or UPCs on the packages.
The photo shows the kind of packaging used, but remember, it varies with the type cheese. And check any gift boxes of food you receive.

If you go to Fair Oaks Dairy website to do an on-line order, you will find this sad message:

Due to issues beyond our control,
we will suspend all online sales
including gift boxes until after Jan. 1, 2012.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused to our valued customers.

To your good health,

Sunday, December 4, 2011


I was surprised today to find a recall of butter because of Listeria monocytogenes being found in it. Anyone who reads this blog, or has read The Safe Food Handbook, knows that these bacteria are quite common in processed foods, including in dairy products, and especially in cheeses. But offhand, I could not recall any instances of it being found in butter in the U.S.

Out of curiosity, I checked back on some of the recall data bases. As I suspected, there have been very few cases of butter being contaminated with anything in the U.S. I located three butter recalls in the last fifteen years - one in Illinois, one in California and one in Nevada. In two out of three of these instances it was the very common Norovirus which was involved. In one, it was Staphylococcus aureus bacteria (which usually gives you a much worse case of food poisoning than does Norovirus).

And in at least two of these cases, the contamination occurred in banquet or restaurant food, which would make you suspect food handlers or poor storage. In other words, they were localized outbreaks, probably not originating at the point where the butter was produced. However, I do know of a sizeable outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in butter in the UK in 2003.

So, back to the recent unusual instance in the U.S. Golden Glen Creamery of Bow, WA has had to recall butter produced on November 2, 2011 because it may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. And - here goes another recall for Whole Foods Market. It always seems to have at least one about this time of the year. But apparently, the 4 oz. packages of Herbes de Provence Butter were only sold at the Whole Foods Market in Redmond, WA. and 4 oz. packages of NW Mushroom Trio Butter were sold at Whole Foods Market in Redmond, WA, and at various Metropolitan Market locations in Washington. Products were distributed between 11/7/11 and 11/28/11.

So never say "never" in food safety. As soon as you do, it will happen. Beware pregnant women, and anyone else who has a poor immune system. This bacterium can be deadly.

To your good health,

Friday, December 2, 2011


Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention to the issue, but I don't remember another year when there have been so many grape tomato recalls in the U.S. And all because of Salmonella bacteria. What is it about grape tomatoes, rather than plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, globe (beefsteak) tomatoes, roma tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes...or strawberry tomatoes (a new one I found at Berkeley Bowl a couple of days ago) that makes them more risky? I would never make a good lawyer, as I am asking a question to which I don't know the answer. But I do have some theories.

There was a recall in early May of this year of grape tomatoes that originated in Florida, but were distributed all over the place (including to Canada). I did about 5 posts on that one. Then in September, there was a recall of organic grape tomatoes that were grown in Mexico, but distributed in the U.S. by a California-based company (I covered that one too).

Now, we have another recall of grape tomatoes, although hopefully, just a small one. This time they apparently originated in Texas. Front Row Produce of St. Louis MO is recalling its 10oz pint and 10lb bulk grape tomatoes supplied by Rio Queen Citrus, Mission TX. The recalled 10oz pint and 10lb bulk grape tomatoes were distributed throughout Missouri and Illinois to foodservice distributors and retail stores.

There were no lot numbers on the clear plastic packages sold in the stores (oh..oh). Yes, they were on the cardboard case they came in, but that doesn't help us consumers. Anyway, from now on this company's grape tomatoes will have green stickers on the bottom of the plastic package with a seven-digit lot number. That should make future recalls easier. Better late than never.

That reminds me, I bought some grape tomatoes yesterday in clear plastic packages to serve (along with other things) to the 40 or more people coming over on Sunday. Thank goodness I don't live in Illinois or Missouri, or I could just have collaborated in an outbreak of Salmonellosis. But I am concerned anyway. Where will the next grape tomato outbreak occur? Maybe I should have bought the strawberry tomatoes instead....

To your good health,

Thursday, December 1, 2011


My previous post (the one before last) discussed the case of pigs in China being fed with a carconigenic chemical to make the meat leaner, so they could fetch a better price. According to news reports, the production and marketing of the chemical concerned - clenbuterol hydrochloride - had been ongoing for about 4 years (2007-2011) before this frightening practice was discovered.

At least 36 pork producers in eight provinces were caught using it and charged. But there are food safety professionals in China who suggest that there were many more - maybe even the majority of pig farmers who were using it.

And it wasn't government inspectors or officials who blew the whistle. According to China Central Television (CCTV) the clenbuterol was detected by a subsidiary company of Shuanghui Group, China's largest meat processor. This company paid a heavy price for the discovery - losses of about 100 million yuan a day after the reports surfaced. In some regions of China the group's products were taken off the shelves and elsewhere, customers stopped buying them for a while.

But this company also exports frozen food all over the world - various pork products, other meats, and frozen fruit and vegetables (check its website). Because of the huge scale of its operations, it most likely sources its pork from several suppliers, not all of which may do such good testing. Also, the practice of the company prior to this scandal (now changed) was to only require inspection of pigs at random - not every single pig it accepted for processing. This means that many got through without being caught.

What we don't know then, is whether some of this "carcinogenic pork" has been exported during the last four years, and may, in fact, have landed on our table if we bought Shuanghui frozen pork products, though through no fault of the company itself. There was no way we ourselves could have known by looking at or smelling the products.

To your good health,