Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I thought I should blog turkey food safety, in honor of U.S. Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, and the nation's favorite dinner.

Actually, we don't have that many publicized incidents of contaminated whole turkey - fresh or frozen. There are more recalls of deli turkey and ground turkey, some of these quite large (like that Cargill turkey one in 2011). But that doesn't mean that raw whole turkey can't carry bacteria. In fact, tests conducted on turkeys show anywhere between 28% to 98% of turkey to carry Campylobacter bacteria ( a common cause of food poisoning). Salmonella bacteria have been found as well by several tests, as well as other dangerous bugs.

But remember - the actual numbers of bacteria may be too small to make you seriously ill, and, even if they are more numerous, proper cooking and handling will keep you and your family and guests safe.

There is no point my repeating these safety precautions, since I already did so in my post of 11/23/11 - "Have a Safe Thanksgiving Day." While you are looking this up, you may also want to check the next post on 11/24/11 -
Safe Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers."

To your good health,

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I always wonder what happens to contaminated food products that have been recalled and are not allowed to be sold. The law in the U.S. requires that such food be destroyed. But yes, there have been all kinds of other stories. Reports exist of some being recycled into dog and cat or other pet food. Some also find their way back into the human food supply system, occasionally in error and sometimes on purpose. I remember blogging one instance where recalled contaminated peanuts were repackaged and relabelled - under a particularly healthy-sounding name - and out they went to the stores again. But I do not recall any like the current tahini one.

What happened is that Tony’s Imports and Exports of Clovis CA, was told by the FDA to recall and not sell any more of its imported (from Lebanon) AL-RABIH Tahineh (Sesame Paste). Tests had turned up Salmonella bacteria. The product came in big 40lb white plastic pails (probably most of it going to food processors and food distributors).

This was back in June, 2012. The importing company was supposed to hold the product until the FDA turned up to supervise destruction. When the FDA finally got around to doing so - yes, only recently - the 141 pails could not be found. The company claimed they had been stolen. Frankly, I have a hard time believing this. Yes, sesame paste is expensive (I buy it myself in much smaller containers to make tahini). But can you see a thief lugging out 141 heavy pails of the stuff? I suspect an "inside job" - stolen or not.

But the FDA seems to have swallowed the story. Perhaps we should get Inspector Poirot on the case to help the Clovis Police Department.

I was feeling lazy, so I bought some ready-made (Trader Joe's) tahini a few days ago instead of making my own. Now I am wondering whether I should throw it out. Did the food processor that manufactured this for Trader Joe's use this contaminated "stolen" product? Oh..oh. So many decisions...

To your good health,


Saturday, November 10, 2012


I haven't done much blogging this week because I have been overwhelmed with work. But I did notice, among other recalls ( of foods such as beef tongues and NESQUIX chocolate mix ), another one for bagged spinach.

So a lot of people reading this blog have been pulling up my old posts, especially the one for April 7, 2011 entitled "Another Recall of Bagged Spinach Because of Salmonella." And, the title - as well as the discussion, work just as well for this week's one. Fresh Express again, bagged fresh produce again, Salmonella bacteria again...And, the recall alert came out on November 7 - the day the product's "Best By" date expired - in other words, after most people had eaten it. Nothing new.

If you are wondering whether washing it would help make you safer - read my last year's post.

Nestle's recall of NESQUIX Chocolate Powder (November 9) because of a possible Salmonella-contaminated ingredient (calcium carbonate) being used in making it, is more interesting and unusual. Yes, this bacteria can survive for months in dry conditions. Remember, Salmonella occasionally turns up in spices as well.

To your good health,

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Spinach Mix and Carrot Chips Recalled

What sounds healthy isn't always healthy. Let's face it - you are not going to feel so great if you get a dose of nasty bacteria such as the worst kind of E.coli or Salmonella - yes, even if it is from spinach or carrots.

A couple of current recalls in the U.S. highlight the point. Both are bagged, ready-to-eat products which The Safe Food Handbook warns against. One involves Organic Spinach and Spring Mix Blend. Yes, organic. It was sold to Wegman's supermarket chain by State Garden, Inc. of Chelsea, Massachusetts. This product has been linked to 16 reported illnesses from E.coli O157 H:7 in New York State. Unless you keep these products way past their best-by dates, if you bought it, you would have eaten it by now. But remember - it could take as long as 10 days after eating for you to become ill.

Poor New York. In addition to being hit by that Superstorm Sandy, it has been hit by this particularly dangerous E.coli. Special caution for children and the elderly. This could send you to intensive care in the hospital with Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). By the way, I wonder who else State Garden sold it to.

And then there is a recall involving Bolthouse Farms carrots - another bagged raw veggie. Bolthouse is recalling some of its Bolthouse Farms® 16-ounce Carrot Chips because routine sampling by a North Carolina health official turned up Salmonella bacteria. The product is labelled as Bolthouse Farms Carrot Chips, Safeway Farms Carrot Chips, or Farm Stand Carrot Chips. No reports of linked illnesses yet.

To your good health,

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Yes, I should have written this before. But, better late than never. Here are my thoughts on how you can eat reasonably well and avoid food poisoning if a superstorm or hurricane like Sandy decides to arrive in your area.

First, to be prepared, assume that you will have power outages, and, may have no potable water. Secondly, assume that restaurants in your area may be closed, or, if they are operating, may not be the safest places to eat. So, it's up to you.

Here are some things you may want to buy: a cooler and ice packs, an appliance thermometer (to check the frig temperature) - and if you have electric cooking appliances - a good thermos and a small camp stove (you can get a one-burner stove for less than $20). Also make sure you have tin foil and a working can opener (if you don't usually eat out of cans), as well as matches for lighting the stove.

As for food, choose food and drink that does not have to be refrigerated - at least for a few days - and is quick to cook or can be eaten uncooked. For instance: lots of bottled water, single-pack/small tin juices, tinned milk, energy bars or fiber bars that appeal to you, fresh fruit such as apples, oranges, bananas, pineapple, lemons, avocados. Vegetables that keep well, and that you can eat raw, such as carrots, celery, cabbage, cauliflower. Canned chicken, tuna, sardines, meat, tinned cheese (if you can find it), beans and soups (if you can warm them up). And then there are also those good things such as nuts, raisins, dried figs and other fruit and...of course, chocolate (personally, I can't live without it. You may need something nice and comforting during that nasty storm, and they will also give you quick energy. And don't forget your pet's food.

If you know that the storm is a few hours away, you may want to quickly roast a chicken or cook some other dish that will keep a few hours to the next meal, freeze your ice packs, turn the refrigerator down to about 35 degrees so it gets extra cold and can stay that way longer after a power outage, fill the thermos with hot coffee, hot chocolate (or, whatever you like), and batten down the hatches.

And final advice - if food looks off, don't eat it (also read my previous post). It's better to go hungry.

To your good health,

Monday, October 29, 2012


I have always found hurricanes rather frightening. Superstorm Sandy (Hurricane, cum storm, with blizzards tagged on in some areas) is ravaging the East Coast of the United States as I write. It is going to affect a lot of people for a long time. One of the immediate effects is power outages for millions (8.1 million was the latest number I saw). This means no refrigeration and maybe no cooking for many. Unless you are careful, this also means more risk of eating bad food and getting food poisoning.

My son lives in Lower Manhattan (just outside the original top priority evacuation area) and he is presently without electricity. For how long, no-one knows. I tried to talk to him about being prepared, including for eating safely. But I am not sure he paid any attention. So what else is new? At least I can blog about it.

In this sort of situation, it is best to stock foods such as dates, raisins, nuts, carrots, cabbage, apples, oranges, pineapple, lemons, avocado, celery, cucumbers, bananas, and if they are on your diet - hard aged cheese, tinned light tuna (try it with chives or oregano and lemon juice instead of mayo), sardines, spam, beans and chick peas. Add a few crackers or some bread (while it lasts) and you can survive on this without refrigeration for a few days.

As for the refrigerator - the best idea is to stock it with only a few essentials and turn down the temperature a bit lower than usual while you still have electricity. Take out anything like bottled drinks and vegetables and fruit such as those above, as this will help you avoid opening the refrigerator door too often when power is off. That will give you a few extra hours with that roast chicken or whatever is in there.

But, forget the "best by" dates. Use your nose, eyes and common sense instead. Anything that is left for a few days in the non-operating refrigerator or has melted in the freezer is suspect, even if you haven't opened the door. If you are in doubt, toss it out. Having a case of food poisoning with roads and pharmacies closed and emergency rooms in overload, is not something you want. I just hope my son remembers that.

To your good health,

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Every once in a while I am tempted to cover pet food on this blog as well as human food. There is quite a bit of overlap. In fact, I have a half-finished book on safe dog food - a sort of follow up to The Safe Food Handbook, but for our pets. Whether I will ever finish it is another matter.

Anyway, one of the most common health risks for dog owners, and especially for children, is to get Salmonellosis (caused by pathogenic Salmonella bacteria) from handling contaminated dog treats. Washing hands well immediately afterwards would help, but how many of us do that all the time?

If you think I am exaggerating the whole thing, below is a summary of suspected Salmonella-contaminated dog food that has been recalled in less than two months in the U.S.(Note - most recalls involve treats). The source is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) - a thorougly reliable one.

08/31/2012 Milk replacer - Brands: Quality Feed, Inc., Dairy Princess, Peachey's or Yo-momma, made by Quality Feed, Inc.

09/11/2012 Natural Lamb Meal & Brown Rice Adult Dog Formula Breeder's Choice - Brands: Breeder's Choice, AvoDerm, made by Breeder's Choice Pet Food

09/21/2012 Pet treat - Brand: Boots & Barkley, made by Kasel Assoc. Industries.

09/24/2012 Dog food - Brand: Dogsbutter - Made by Sunland Inc.

10/02/2012 Chicken Jerky Dog Treats - Brand: Nature's Deli, made by
Kasel Associated Industries

10/04/2012 Flavored butters, spreads and more - Brands: American Choice, Archer Farms, Arrowhead Mills etc., made by Sunland Inc.

10/10/2012 Pet treat - Brand: Yoghund, made by TBD Brands, LLC

10/13/2012 Pet treat - Brand: Nature's Recipe, made by Del Monte Foods

10/17/2012 Pet treats - Brand: Boots & Barkley, made by Kasel Assoc. Industries

Food poisoning second hand, is just as bad as getting it directly from our own food! Take precautions.

To your good health,

Monday, October 22, 2012


The Safe Food Handbook calls ground beef the riskiest meat to eat. Yet it remains very popular in the American diet and is used in all kinds of dishes - not just everybody's favorite hamburgers. But yes, we have recalls of ground beef all the time. Usually it is because of E.coli bacteria being found in the product.

And two more recalls have just been announced today.

Higa Meat & Pork Market, of Honolulu, Hawaii, is recalling approximately 4,100 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. This beef was only sent to restaurants in the Oahu, Hawaii, so people elsewhere need not worry.

The other recall is by Main Street Quality Meats, of Salt Lake City, Utah. It is recalling approximately 2,310 pounds of ground beef bulk and ground beef patties that may also be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. They too were distributed to restaurants, this time in Utah.

Even though these are area-restricted recalls, far apart geographically, one does wonder if they are linked through a common restaurant supplier. I can guess..but don't want to commit myself yet. And, I wonder if more recalls will follow.

So back to the question: Is ground beef safe to eat? Yes. All you have to do is handle it carefully and cook it well. Therefore, if you eat it at home, you can be pretty safe. As for eating it out...well, don't forget those magic words if you order a hamburger: "well done please." And let's just hope that whoever handles the raw meat doesn't contaminate your lettuce leaf, or slice of onion or that tasteless tomato while they are at it.

To your good health,

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


This has not been a good six months for Dole Food Co: four bagged salad recalls! It hasn't been good for people who eat bagged salads either. That is, if they want to stay healthy.

In April, 2012, Dole issued a recall on 756 cases of bagged salad, because of possible contamination with Salmonella bacteria. The recall included bagged Seven Lettuces salads distributed in 15 states.

Soon after, in July, it had a bagged romaine lettuce recall. Some 2,600 cases of bagged Hearts of Romaine that had been distributed to several states had to be recalled because of possible Listeria contamination.

And then in August, Dole Italian Blend bagged salads had to be being recalled because testing turned up Listeria bacteria again. Some 1,039 cases of bagged salad had to be recalled.

I may have missed some. But, look, that's enough bacterial contamination in six months even for a big company with huge production. So much for safety! And by the way, there have been other Dole product recalls as well recently, such as for mangoes, because of Salmonella.

Now there is a fourth Dole bagged salad recall: it is recalling some of its bagged salads because of Listeria being found. This time it's Dole American Blend salad in 12 oz. bags, coded A275208A or B, with Use-by date of October 17 and UPC 7143000933.

Maybe Dole should take a look at its plants and processes. And maybe - as my book, The Safe Food Handbook argues, bagged fresh produce is not all that safe after all. Even triple washing doesn't always work. Somtimes it may even add contaminants. But how many of us make salads totally from scratch any more? Perhaps it is time we went back to "vintage salads." (You may also want to glance at my Feb. 2011 post on: "What's Really in Bagged Salads.")

To your good health,

Sunday, October 14, 2012


It was just a matter of time. The Sunland, Inc. recall in the U.S. has steadily grown from a small start in late September (with a recall of the Trader Joe's Valencia Creamy Peanut Butter made by Sunland) to include multiple other peanut, nut and seed butters. Now it has expanded again: Sunland is recalling its peanuts as well.

The reason: tests have shown that the raw peanuts being used by Sunland are contaminated. The processing environment at the plant has turned up positive for Salmonella bacteria as well. But we are still waiting final test results which would show if these match the type of Salmonella that is causing the current outbreak. I have been wondering when this would happen. (Remember the hugs outbreaks caused by (different) Salmonella bacteria in peanuts in 2007 and 2008- 2009? Read about them in my book - The Safe Food Handbook which also explains why peanuts are often contaminated and outbreaks spread so fast).

Yesterday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released the news that Sunland Inc.'s latest expansion of recalled products now extends to include raw and roasted peanuts, both in-shell and shelled, organic and non-organic, big bags and little bags. Anything processed in its Peanut Processing Plant located in Portales, New Mexico, and which are within their current shelf life or have no stated expiration date.

That adds some 70 additional products (if I counted correctly) that are sold in stores and the internet. Or, they may be sitting in your home. All are now considered unsafe for us to eat because there is a risk of their carrying Salmonella bredeney bacteria which so far has made at least 35 people in 19 states very ill indeed.(Multiply that by ten and you'll get a number closer to the real one).

For a complete list of both the peanut products, go to:

Sunland Inc. has stopped the production and distribution of anything it made at both its nut butter facility and its peanut processing facility. But, I checked. They are still being sold on the Internet - including on the Sunland site!

To your good health,

UPDATE: Since this post, there have been several more peanut recalls.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Today's trivia question: what do small turles, mangoes, cantaloupes, peanut butter, tuna, ground beef, dry dog food, live chickens, hedgehogs and raw scraped ground tuna have in common?

The answer- they have all been linked to outbreaks caused by different Salmonella bacteria just in the last 3 months in the United States. No, we can't only blame our food supply. It can also be our pets. And in fact, touching your pet turtle or hedgehog or chicken may prove to be just as dangerous as eating that bad cantaloupe or ground beef!

In case you don't believe me, here are the facts, summarized from information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC. Remember that these are not the final figures for many of these outbreaks as they are still ongoing:

Peanut Butter – 35 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 19 States, 8 hospitalizations, 0 deaths

Hedgehogs – 14 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 6 states, 3 hospitalizations, 0 deaths.

Mangoes – 121 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 15 states, 25 hospitalizations, 0 deaths.

Cantaloupes – 261 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 24 states, 94 hospitalizations, 3 deaths

Ground Beef - 46 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 9 states, 12 hospitalizations, 0 deaths

Live Poultry - 3 outbreaks in the past 3 months, involving 5 different kinds of Salmonella – total of 276 illnesses in 11, 22 and 26 states, with a total of 58 hospitalizations and 3 deaths.

Dry Dog Food - 49 Salmonella-caused illnesses in 20 states, with 10 hospitalizations, 0 deaths (caused by people touching the dog food - not eating it!).

Raw Scraped Ground Tuna Product - 425 Salmonella-caused illnesses, in 28 states, 55 hospitalizations, 0 deaths.

Small Turtles - 3 different Salmonella bacteria causing 196 illnesses in 31 states, 36 hospitalizations, 0 deaths.

To your good health,

Friday, October 5, 2012


Well, we have yet another expansion of the Sunland, Inc. Peanut Plant nationwide recall in the U.S.(which also includes other nut and seed butters). Can you believe it: from 101 products to 240 products, dating back to March 1, 2010. Doesn't our industrialized food system make your mind boggle?

Some of these recalled products have expired dates and others may still be sitting in you home storage, refrigerator or cupboard, opened or unopened. The products were distributed under the Company’s own label and under other brand names, including Trader Joe's, Archer Farms, American Choice, Kirkland, Natural Value, Arrowhead Mills, Cadia, Serious Food,Sun Harvest, Harry and David, Sunland, and more. They were sold by grocery and retail chains,such as Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Target, Fresh & Easy, and many other stores. They were also available for purchase on the internet (including

For products added read the FDA-published recall:

For the old list try the Sunland website:

Look - let's just play it safe: until we find out the cause, avoid any nut or seed butters (including in processed products, such as crackers, cookies, ice- cream, chocolates, candies, prepared foods....)no matter what the brand. Who wants this nasty Salmonella bacteria?

To your good health,

UPDATE: Now that around 70 raw and roasted peanut products have also been recalled, the total number must be over 300! Will Sunland survive this?

Thursday, October 4, 2012


Whole Foods Market prides itself on its healthy food products and concern about its customers' health and wellbeing. Wonderful. But then, why doesn't it post ongoing product recalls on its website? Store notices are not enough.

I spent about 10 minutes looking for the current ones. All I found when I searched was recalls back in 2009 and earlier. Ancient history. That doesn't do me - or, all my friends who shop at Whole Foods Market - any good.

Here are four ongoing recalls I think it should publicize:

Cookie Recall: Whole Foods Market recall of 3oz peanut butter cookies and 3oz peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies sold in its self-serve pastry case, and mini peanut butter cookies sold in 12-pack paper bags. This is due to possible Salmonella contamination in the peanut butter used as an ingredient (from Sunland, Inc.).

Cheeses Recalled: Ricotta Salata, including "Mitica Ricotta Salada,” (that came from Forever Cheese Inc.) and sold in 21 states and Washington, D.C.. The cheese is being recalled because it may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. In WFM stores in two states another cheese has been found to have the same bacteria in it. Whole Foods Market just announced that it is also recalling “Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese KY BL” sold in its Louisville, KY store and “Blue Kentucky Rose Kenny’s” cheese sold in its Nashville, TN store. These cheeses came from Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese of Austin, Kentucky (also now recalling its products).

Prepared Food Recall: Chicken Spring Rolls and Peanut Sesame Noodles, sold in its prepared food department in the grab and go section and at the full service chef’s case (in Houston, Texas). They are being recalled due to possible Salmonella contamination.

Soup Recall: Recall of the Whole Foods Market Kitchens soup, labeled as Roasted Garlic and Eggplant Soup. It is being recalled because the soup is actually Lobster Bisque. The soup was sold in 24oz containers from Whole Foods Market stores in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, between September 29 and October 2, 2012. This mislabelling poses the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if consumed by customers with a shellfish or milk allergy.

To your good health,

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


We don't have popcorn recalls very frequently. The only one I can recall offhand was for rat poop. Now we have one in the U.S. caused by Listeria monocytogenes. That is the bacterium that pregnant women need to avoid at all costs. (See all my previous posts on the subject). Children and frail elderly people or anyone else with a weak immune system should be extra careful too.

Dale and Thomas Popcorn is voluntarily recalling a limited number of ready-to-eat bags of select flavors of Popcorn, Indiana-brand popcorn products because of possible contamination by Listeria monocytogenes.

There are an amazing array of different flavors being recalled: Aged White Cheddar, Almond Biscotti, American Cheese, Bacon Ranch, Apple Crisp, Black & White Drizzle (what's that?), Caramel, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Cinnamon Sugar Drizzle, Dark Fudge Chocolate Chip Drizzle, Dark Fudge Chocolate Chip Drizzle, Kettlecorn, Salt & Pepper, Wasabi Reserve.

Frankly, I didn't know there were so many flavors of popcorn, since I never buy it. There is more information available on the FDA site.

To your good health,


Monday, October 1, 2012


It's only nine days since Trader Joe's recalled its Creamy Salted Valencia peanut Butter because of contamination with Salmonella bacteria. And it's only a week since Sunland, Inc., the manufacturer, then recalled many other products (including ones made with seeds as well as other nuts), because the same equipment had been used.

This is now a large multi-state recall in the U.S. Other brand names involved in this inter-linked recall include Archer Farms, Earth Balance, Fresh & Easy, Late July, Heinen's, Joseph's, Natural Value, Naturally More, Open Nature, Peanut Power Butter, Serious Food, Snaclite Power, Sprouts Farmers Market, Sprout's, Sunland, Dogsbutter and many more small and larger companies which used these products to make cakes, candies, chocolates, ice-cream, sandwiches, and more.

Reportedly the outbreak of illnesses have only been linked to the Trader Joe's peanut butter product - not to these others. Illness onset dates range from June 11, 2012 to September 11, 2012. So far, a total of 30 persons infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Bredeney have been confirmed in 19 states, according to the CDC. Ill persons range in age from less than 1 year to 77 years, with a median age of 7 years. Most of those illnesses have been among children under age 10. Oddly, about two thirds of those who became ill were male (do male children eat more peanut butter?). In all, four of the ill people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Let's hope there won't be any.

Although it looks as though the illnesses have wound down, you may want to follow the CDC advice until the ongoing investigation tells us more. Here it is, quoting:

Consumers who recently purchased recalled peanut butter or other products containing nuts and seeds are advised not to eat them and dispose of any remaining jars of these products or return the jars to the place of purchase.

Be a smart consumer - check your supplies today, including any you may have bought through the internet.

To your good health,

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Food contamination and food recalls often follow the same pattern in industrialized nations. They start small, with a "limited" recall, and then expand to become huge, and even nationwide recalls of different food products and brand name foods. From the first recall to the last linked one, the whole process can take weeks or even months.

That is what is happening with the ongoing peanut and other nut butter recalls in the U.S, and to a lesser extent, with the mango one.

The nut recall started with Trader Joe's recalling its Creamy Salted Valencia Peanut Butter made with sea salt, and Sunland, Inc. which made the product for TJ's, recalling its peanut and almond butter - 2 days later. Over a period of days, this recall has expanded to include other types of nut products made by Sunland, and, to include various retailers and other manufacturers of foods which used them - some of them small businesses. These are simply innocent victims.

This nut butter recall is still very much ongoing. There are now too many products to even list here (check the FDA site) - candies, chocolates, sandwiches, crackers, brownies, crunchies, ice-creams, and so on as well as a multitude of nut butters. Even top (that is, expensive, and supposedly "healthy") stores such as Whole Foods are involved (see Oct. 4 post)- as well as many others.

As for the Mexican Daniella Brand mango recall, this was first announced in the U.S. about a month ago. Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Inc, must have known then that many of its fresh-cut fruit packages contained the same mangoes, and it should recall them. But only now is it getting around to doing so. Their recall includes a long, long list of fresh-packaged fruit items of all kinds (in cups, bowls, packages) that were made with these possibly Salmonella-contaminated mangos. They were distributed to retail outlets such as Walmart and 7-Eleven. This huge corporation which can afford the cost of the recall better than some small family-run company, should know better - and have acted immediately.

As I've said before - don't eat any mango or nut butter products or restaurant foods for a while - no matter what brand name, until all this gets sorted out. (Oops...Did I really eat mango sorbet at that restaurant last night?)

To your good health,


Thursday, September 27, 2012


As expected, the U.S. recalls of snacks, candy and other foods that are made with Sunland Inc. (Salmonella contaminated) peanut butter are growing in number.

A couple of more recent ones:

Several Fresh & Easy nut butters (almond, cashew, peanut and tahini) marked with 'Best Before' dates from May 1, 2013 to September 24, 2013 are now on the recall list because of potential contamination with Salmonella bacteria.

Gretchen’s Shoebox Express in Seattle, Washington, has also initiated a recall of Evolution Fresh Brand Cinnamon Apple & Almond Butter Sandwiches and Almond Butter that contain Almond Butter associated with the Sunland, Inc. recall.

There will be more. You can bet on it.

My suggestion - especially to elderly people and parents of young children: for the next couple of weeks or so, pass on all processed products containing peanut or almond or any other nut butter. Of course, it may not have come from Sunland, but there is no way of knowing. Better to be safe.

To your good health,

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Here we go again. Now the recalls of products made with Sunland peanut butter are starting. No surprise. It is amazing how many things we eat contain peanuts or peanut butter. Remember all those food items that were recalled when we had Salmonella-contaminated peanuts from PCA in Georgia in 2008-2009?

Here are a couple of early starters. More will come.

Falcon Trading Company, Inc./SunRidge Farms of Royal Oaks, California, is recalling some of its Sunridge Candies of various kinds - Energy Nuggets, Peanut Butter Power Chews, and Treasure Trove Snack Mix.

Chattanooga Bakery, Inc., maker of MoonPie® and LookOut!™ branded snacks, has also announced a limited recall of its Peanut Butter Crunch products with “Best By” dates of 02/26/13, 03/25/13, and 04/29/13.

By the way, Sunland Inc. has also expanded its own product recall for the second time. It now not only includes Almond Butter and Peanut Butter, but also its Cashew Butter, Tahini and Roasted Blanched Peanut Products. This is sounding more and more like a factory (equipment?) contamination. But what it will mean is still more spinoff recalls like the ones above.

Stay tuned.

Oh, and once again - avoid all foods containing peanut or almond butter for a while, especially for your children. (I purposely passed on Trader Joe's Crunchy Bars with peanut butter yesterday, and chose the honey ones instead...).

To your good health,



. I notice heavy traffic on my old blog post titled "Can Rice be Contaminated?" (April 10, 2011). No wonder, there has suddenly been a flurry of news reports on arsenic in rice.

It turns out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has known about this possible problem for decades, has suddenly decided to look into it a bit more. Consumer Reports has done its own testing and called for Federal standards for how much arsenic to allow in this popular food.

I wouldn't worry if you just eat rice or rice-based foods (such as rice cereals) once in a while. Certain ethnic groups who eat rice every day have more reason to be concerned. So do mothers of young children - and, in some cases, of older ones. My New York-based son told me a couple of days ago that for health and dietary reason he has started taking his own lunch to work every day instead of buying fattening fast food. That lunch reportedly consists of chicken breast, broccoli - and, yes, - of rice (which he believes to be best because he buys organic rice at Whole Foods). Oh..oh

So here's a bit more information on the issue than I provide in my earlier post (which also covered radiation in rice - an issue in Japan last year). But my book - The Safe Food Handbook (section on Grains, Legumes and Nuts) contains much more. This was a topic I really got into when I wrote it, and contacted leading researchers all over the world. Believe me, a lot of excellent work has been done on arsenic in rice for a long time.

You may not be able to avoid arsenic in rice completely (or, in your drinking water), but if you are a heavy rice eater, you can reduce your chances of getting too much of it by checking where the rice you buy has been grown. Rice from certain parts of the world - and certain parts of the U.S. - is likely to contain higher levels of arsenic than from other areas.

No, organic growing conditions do not guarantee that rice will be free of arsenic.

Oh, and unfortunately, studies show that brown rice - which has higher levels of bran and germ than white rice - is also likely to have higher levels of arsenic.

To your good health,

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Like everyone else, I love to be right - yes, even when I predict bad news. Please don't take that to mean that I want more of the U.S. food supply to be unhealthy or people to become ill. But after following food recalls for years, you get a sense about these things.

So if you read my previous post, you will see that I expected an expansion of the ongoing Trader Joe's peanut butter recall - before any expansion was announced. And, yes, it has happened.

It turns out that the company that makes this product for TJ's is Sunland Inc., which, as I suspected, also make peanut - and almond - butter for other retailers. Now it has had to recall these as well. The recall covers multiple products manufactured between May 1, 2012 and September 24, 2012 because these may be contaminated with the Salmonella bacteria that are making people ill in many U.S. states. There is such a long list of the products, I suggest you check them at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recall site:

You may want to tell your friends and relatives - especially those with young children, or, who are elderly (the population groups most vulnerable to Salmonella illness) about this recall. I did a mini-check yesterday of people who shop at Trader Joe's and buy the recalled peanut butter. It is amazing how many people had not heard of the recall and had not checked their supply.

You may also want to alert anyone you know living overseas at U.S. army bases and diplomatic missions who have access to, and buy U.S. manufactured products. I remember during several past recalls I found that such people may be totally isolated from the recall information alert system - yes, in spite of the internet.

To your good health,

Monday, September 24, 2012


At present there are several widely distributed food products in the U.S. that are being recalled because of contamination with Salmonella bacteria. But Trader Joe's peanut butter recall (contaminated with Salmonella Bredeney) is getting more publicity than most. Why?

Well, for one thing, just about every American household buys peanut butter. The average American child will eat about fifteen hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before he or she graduates from high school. And some of us adults like peanut butter too (one of my personal favorite sandwiches is peanut butter and banana on whole wheat).

And another reason for the concern could be that we remember huge Salmonella-related peanut butter recalls in past years where hundreds have become ill, and some people have died. There was that Peter Pan peanut butter recall in 2007 and another even bigger one in 2008-2009 with at least 714 people - and many dogs - ill in 46 states. This second one involved other peanut products as well, and was traced to the unethical Georgia-based peanut plant with the pompous name - Peanut Corporation of America.

So what about the Trader Joe's recall of Creamy Salted Valencia Peanut Butter made with sea salt which was distributed to Trader Joe's stores nationwide? Well, the store downplayed any proven link to illnesses, but the Centers for Disease control have linked eating this product to 29 illnesses in 18 U.S. states, and 4 hospitalizations (no deaths as yet).

The real issue is what ingredient caused the contamination. If it was the peanuts - as is likely - other companies will be affected as well if they use the same peanuts for the processed foods. I guess we'll find out.

In the meantime - check your cupboard or refrigerator if you shop at Trader Joe's (that is where an opened jar should be kept). In the case of past outbreaks people were sometimes becoming ill as long as a year after the recall, because of the long shelf-life of the product - and not knowing about the recall.

To your good health,

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Cantaloupes are one of my favorite foods - not just for dessert, but as a side dish to fish and even with certain meat. I also like to think of cantaloupe as healthy - a good source of folate (an important B-vitamin micronutrient needed for healthy growth and cell maintenance), of carotenoids, vitamin C and of potassium. But almost every year in the U.S. we have dangerous bacteria turning up in cantaloupes and widespread cantaloupe recalls.

In mid August, Burch Farms recalled the cantaloupes and melons they had distributed because of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria being found. Now DFI Marketing Inc. of Fresno, California, is recalling their cantaloupe products, because testing turned up Salmonella bacteria.

And this is not some tiny recall. These DFI cantaloupes were distributed a week or more ago( primarily to retail customers) in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, in the U.S. and in Mexico. (Presumably they also were grown in Mexico).

The company assumes that most of them have been eaten by now. So, if you have been eating cantaloupe, and have been, or are ill with food poisoning symptoms, this may be the cause.

I was tempted to buy cantaloupe today, but I didn't. As usual, in cases like this, I draw a wide circle around a recalled food item, until we find out if the recall expands...

To your good health,


Monday, September 3, 2012


The mango recall is ongoing and expanding in the U.S. A number of fruit salad and other fresh fruit product manufacturers are recalling their products (see previous post). But this is a case where I think the mango distributor that started the process - Splendid Products - really deserves some praise.

Let me tell you why. First, they immediately recalled their Daniella brand mangoes, even though there was no proof at that point that their mangoes were the ones that were related to cases of Salmonellosis in Canada and the U.S. Secondly, the company publicized the recall on their website and provided useful information to consumers, including a FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) list.

You would be surprised at how few companies acknowledge an ongoing recall publicly. And I have never seen one that goes out of its way to provide this much information. Take a look on:

I hope this company - established in 1976 - survives this recall and does not have to declare bankrupcy like so many others that have had similar experiences.

To your good health,


Saturday, September 1, 2012


It looks as though we are in the middle of mango recall week. These mangoes came from Mexico and are now just about all over the U.S. and Canada. Mexico is the world's fifth mango-producing country (4.2% of all mangoes), and a lot of them are exported to the U.S. and Canada. And yes, this isn't the first time they have been found to be contaminated.

The current recall involves Salmonella braenderup bacteria. Mangoes have been linked to a number of recent cases of salmonellosis in Canada, and may also be the cause of cases in California and perhaps other states.

The recalls started with produce distributor Splendid Products recalling certain lots of Daniella brand mangoes.(By the way, my compliments to Splendid Products, which has done about the most helpful recall I have ever seen - see next post). Some of the mangoes were sold as individual fruit with the sticker brand “Daniella” at various retail stores throughout the U.S. between July 12 and August 29, 2012. The stores include Costco, Save Mart Supermarkets, Food 4 Less, Ralph’s, Topco stores, El Super, Kroger, Giant-Eagle, Stop & Shop, Aldi, Ready-Pac Foods, and some Whole Foods stores. Other stores may also have sold the recalled product. Not all these retailers sold them in all their locations.

But then, as often happens, the mangoes also underwent further processing. For instance, Spokane Produce, Inc., is recalling a small lot run of Pineapple/Mango Pico de Gallo because of having used them. Winn-Dixie has announced an immediate recall of select cut fruit produced by Renaissance Food Group which contained the mangoes. Pacific Coast Fruit Company, of Portland, Oregon has had to recall multiple types of fresh cut processed items based on the potential contamination of Salmonella Braenderup. I bet this isn't the end of the list either.

What I suggest - sad though it be - is that if you live in Canada or the U.S. you avoid all mangoes and mango-containing fresh fruit salads or cut up fruit for a while.

To your good health,


UPDATE: 9/2/2012. And yes, I was right. There have been several more recalls of fruit products using the Daniella mangoes, for instance, by F&S Produce company, Pacific Coast Fruit Company, and more...

Monday, August 27, 2012


While I was doing research for The Safe Food Handbook: How to Make Smart Choices about Risky Food, I became convinced that the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes was a potentially huge risk in our industrialized food supply.

The people most in danger are pregnant women and those with weak immune systems. Such people need to think increasingly carefully about what they eat. I have done so many posts on this topic, including just a few days ago on it being found in cantaloupes, honeydew melons and white mushrooms (See the post for August 19th). Here's some additional more recent Listeria-linked recalls in the U.S., all just from the past 5 days .
Spence & Co Ltd, Brockton MA, a smoked salmon company is recalling Wellsley Farms brand 16oz Nova Lot: 6704701 and Spence & Co brand 8oz Smoked Trim Lot: 6704701 because of possible contamination by Listeria monocytogenes. The recalled product was distributed through Bj's Wholesale Club, Kroger's and King Soopers in a combined total of 15 states.

Dole Fresh Vegetables is recalling 1,039 cases of bagged salad for the same reason. The product being recalled is 10 oz. Dole Italian Blend coded 0049N2202008, with a Use-By date of August 20 (now expired). At present the recall of this product is limited to 8 U.S. states.

Fresh Express Incorporated has also just recalled a limited quantity of 10 oz. Hearts of Romaine salad with the expired Use-by Date of August 23, 2012 because of L.monocytogenes. As in the case of Dole (above), the recall came after the product was likely to have been already eaten. (A lot of good that does us!). It was distributed in 19 States. Fresh Express is a huge company, and has had many similar recalls in past years.

And remember, those who follow my blog but live overseas - The Listeria monocytogenes bacterium is not just a U.S. problem. It can be anywhere.

To your good health,

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I notice that my old post on lead in candy is being read by a lot of people right now. No wonder. There is another warning out for U.S. licorice lovers (including my husband). This time it is high levels of lead in licorice twists.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently had some bad news for American Licorice Company of Union City, California. This company is now recalling 16 oz. Red Vines® Black Licorice Twists due to elevated levels of lead. At the present time, the recall and alert are only for the one pound bag (16 oz.) of Red Vines® Black Licorice Twists with "Best Before Date" of 020413. But as we know by now, these recalls often expand. And who knows what other companies will become involved.

Most at risk are pregnant women, small children, and particularly infants. The fetus is especially vulnerable, which is why I would suggest pregnant women avoid all licorice, at least for the present time. It just isn't worth it.

For more information, including symptoms of lead poisoning, read my earlier post of January 28, 2011, "Why is Lead in Candy." See also "Lead in Costco Licorice" which is more recent (August 10 of this year).

To your good health,

Monday, August 20, 2012


I have written a number of blogs on L. monocytogenes, as I believe it to be one of the greatest food threats of our age. This bacterium can turn up anywhere since it is frequently present in the soil and can be on animals. It is also carried by an important percentage of food plant workers, and can hide in machinery used for food processing.

Several of my earlier posts have talked about which foods to avoid if you are in a high risk category (see previous post) - as in the case of pregnant women and some other people with weakened immune systems.

Below is an "avoid" list from Australia ( the NSW Government) which I think is pretty good (I am quoting except for some slight editing). But I am getting the feeling that no list is really complete (for instance, this one does not have whole melons on it).

Generally speaking anyone at high risk of listeriosis should not eat:

• pre-packed cold salads including coleslaw and fresh fruit salad
• pre-cut fruit
• pre-cooked cold chicken
• cold delicatessen meats
• paté
• raw seafood
• smoked seafood (for example, smoked salmon)
• unpasteurised milk or milk products
• soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, ricotta, or blue-vein (unless cooked and eaten whilst hot)
• sprouted seeds
• raw mushrooms

To your good health,


Sunday, August 19, 2012


Listeria monocytogenes is a weird bacterium. It may barely affect some people but can kill others. It is also unusual in another way: symptoms are likely to turn up anywhere from three to 70 days after you are exposed (some estimates say one to 90 days!). The third way it is atypical is the symptoms of illness themselves are more like the 'flu than what one would expect from food poisoning. That makes Listeriosis (the disease caused) not only selectively dangerous but very difficult to diagnose.

During the last few weeks, this tricky bacterium has been found in several foods in the U.S. Yes, it has turned up in some cheeses, which is fairly common. But it has also been found in foods such as cantaloupes, honeydew melons and white mushrooms (and prepared foods made with these mushrooms)which is far less usual. In fact, it is becoming very difficult to avoid it.

So who should be most worried? Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems (for example: people on cancer treatment or steroids and people with diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease and HIV infection). In the case of pregnant women, eating food contaminated with a sufficient number of these bacteria can cause miscarriages and still births.

If you belong to one of these groups, you need to be extra careful in what you eat and how you prepare your food, not just during outbreaks, but all the time (see next post for some guidance).

To your good health,


Tuesday, August 14, 2012


It's about time. We have had so many incidents of Listeria monocytogenes in our U.S. food supply lately and some Salmonella bacteria as well, one began to wonder if E.coli had disappeared off the scene. It hasn't.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced today that Dale T. Smith and Sons Meat Packing, of Draper, Utah, is recalling approximately 38,200 pounds of beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. They were distributed to retail and wholesale establishments in Salt Lake City and in California, and have probably been reprocessed, so goodness knows what label they are being sold under. The authorities suspect that a refrigerator malfunction caused the contamination.

The safety rules: 1) be careful when handling raw beef - especially ground meat- and simply assume that it is contaminated, and 2) cook it well. Don't eat your beef underdone.

To your good health,

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Having followed food product contamination and recalls for many years, I am aware that recalls are fluid: they often change over time. The first announcement about a contaminated food product is frequently an understatement. It is not unusual for the recall to expand over a period of days or weeks. And, sometimes even the wrong product is identified. So much for keeping us safe!

Take the case of the current melon recall by Burch Equipment LLC, North Carolina in the U.S. The first recall announcements on July 28 and August 2, 2012 said that the Athena variety of cantaloupes were likely to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Then, on August 3, it was announced that it was the Caribbean Gold variety of cantaloupes that were being recalled. The Athena variety were fine. Now, on August 10, honeydew melons were added to the list. What's next?

As for the size of the recall - it started with 580 cases of melons. Then another 13888 cases (9 melons each) plus 581 bins (110 cantaloupes each) were added. Plus all these honeydew melons (I don't know how many). I tried to calculate the number of melons, but either the FDA's math is wrong or mine is. Either way, the recall has shown a huge expansion. It may now also be a nationwide recall.

The cantaloupes and honeydew melons were sold to distributors between June 23rd and July 27th, in the following states: FL, GA, IL, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, SC, and VA, VT and WV. But, the company and the FDA acknowledge that the melons may have further been distributed to retail stores, restaurants and food service facilities in other states as well.

Now you can see why I always suggest you draw a wide "avoid" circle around a food product being recalled, until things are sorted out. (After writing this, I think I am going to toss out the two cantaloupes I bought today in California - just in case).

To your good health,


As with grape tomatoes (see previous post), we seem to be having at least one recall of cilantro a year in the United States. So now, here's one for 2012.

Fresco Green Farms Inc. of Winchester, CA is recalling 1,643 cases of Cilantro harvested from July 18th 2012 to July 27th 2012, because of Salmonella bacteria. The cilantro was sold in stores in California and Minnesota beginning July 19, 2012 and likely sold or removed from sale before August 6, 2012. The cilantro did not have any labels or numbers. It was bunched and tied together with a brown rubber band. Each bunch has the following dimensions; 10 inches of length and 1 ¼ width. That just about describes every bunch of cilantro I have seen in California stores, except that some have blue rubber bands!

In case you have forgotten - according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and just about every other authority - Salmonella bacteria "can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis." In other words, not much fun.

To your good health,


Friday, August 10, 2012


I can't make up my mind about whether I like or dislike licorice. But my husband loves it - particularly the soft "Aussie style" that has just been recalled. The reason: too much lead in it.

Lucky Country Inc. of Lincolnton, North Carolina in the U.S. is recalling Lot A3057 of Lucky Country Aussie Style Soft Gourmet Black Licorice with Natural Ingredients ("natural ingredients?" - including "natural" lead?). It is sold at Costco and Smart & Final stores located in California, Arizona, and Utah. I notice that Amazon also sells this product on line, although I am not sure if it is carrying the same lot number.

This is not the first time candy, including licorice, has been found to have dangerous levels of lead. These levels would probably not affect my husband much, but they could affect children.

On thinking about it, I think I will stick to chocolate for my "guilt" sweets. Oh oh. I have just remembered that some chocolate has also been found to have dangerous levels of lead......

To your good health,



Grape tomatoes seem to have been much safer this year than they were in 2011. If you remember, we had three outbreaks last year: one in May, in grape tomatoes originating in Florida, one in September in organic grape tomatoes from Mexico, and one in December, in grape tomatoes from Texas. I did a number of posts on each (some 17 in total).

But now we have a grape tomato recall for this year too. Menno Beachy of Cresco, Iowa, is recalling one pint containers of Certified Organic Grape Tomatoes. The cause is the same as it was for the three recalls of 2012 - Salmonella bacteria. These tomatoes were distributed to retail stores in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan between 7/26/12-8/6/12.

This is a quote from one of my last year's posts entitled "2011 is Grape Tomato Recall Year:"What is it about grape tomatoes, rather than plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, globe (beefsteak) tomatoes, roma tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes...or strawberry tomatoes..... that makes them more risky?" I still don't have the answer. But I do know one thing: I am not going to eat any for a while. I want to enjoy the summer instead of suffering from a bad case of Salmonella food poisoning.

To your good health,


Thursday, August 9, 2012


I am just back from a short vacation, including from the Internet. So I am catching up on everything. That includes the food product recalls that have taken place during the last few days. In general, I notice that food poisoning is not taking a summer break. At least, not in the United States. It usually doesn't. In fact, the summer months are normally the most risky for those of us that eat. That is, for everyone.

As I kept on saying in The Safe Food Handbook (the published book - not the blog) , ready-to-eat (RTE) foods are the most risky, especially for pregnant women. That is because of the frequent incidence of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in such food.

Gill's Onions are still causing new recalls (for instance, Busch’s Fresh Food Market today is announcing the voluntary recall of several RTE products - burritos, enchiladas, soups, lasagnas, potato cakes and more. Too many to list.

But there are other Listeria-related recalls as well. Tomales Bay Foods, Inc., Petaluma, CA, is recalling all partial wheels of two cheeses they distributed because of contamination by Listeria monocytogenes. Reichel Foods, of Rochester, Minn. is recalling approximately 15,880 pounds of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products because of the same bacterium. The Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) is advising consumers that they should not eat certain foods from the Market Pantry and Archer Farms Deli Salad lines that are sold at Target stores, because they may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

In fact, it is almost a relief to find a recall because of just bits of "foreign material" in meat patties. Kenosha Beef International, Ltd., of Kenosha, Wisconsin. is recalling some 37,600 pounds of frozen bacon cheeseburger patties because they may contain pieces of gasket material. I am not in the habit of nibbling on gaskets, but overall, I think I'd rather do that than risk getting Listeriosis.

To your good health,

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Much of the food recall focus has been on onions for the last few days. But other food contamination problems are popping up as well, including foods that are contaminated with the same dangerous Listeria monocytogenes bactria (see previous 4 posts).

Now it's cantaloupes. Last saturday Burch Farms of North Carolina announced a recall of Athena cantaloupes because Listeria monocytogenes had been found in them. Now Hannaford Supermarkets, which is based in Scarborough, Maine, and operates 181 stores in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont is also issuing a recall because they sold this item. The PLU sticker number is 4319. By the way, if you remember your PLU numbers, those beginning with "4" (or with 3) means they are conventionally grown - not organic.

And don't be surprised that dangerous bacteria can turns up in healthy cataloupes. This isn't the first time by any means. Although it is much more common to find Salmonella, Listeria did crop up in cataloupes (from Jensen Farms, Colorado) last year. They triggered what the CDC termed the deadliest outbreak of foodborne illness in the U.S in 10 years. Illnesses occurred in 28 states and the death toll was close to 30.

Let's hope this one will not be as bad. Anyone who is older, has a weak immune system, or is pregnant should avoid those wonderful delicious cantaloupes for a while, even those from other farms or stores, just to be safe. As we know by now, these types of outbreaks have a nasty habit of expanding.

To your good health,

UPDATE: This recall has been expanded.
UPDATE: Burch Farms has issued a correction: the type of canteloupe being recalled is not the Athena variety as earlier stated, but the the Caribbean Gold variety.


As I predicted in an earlier blog, the Gills Onions recall is affecting more and more food retailers and producers who have used and these onion products for making a variety of food items. It just goes to show what a popular ingredient onions are. And, it also shows how most food producers hate that nasty task of chopping onions. Much easier to buy them already cleaned, chopped or sliced in huge, ready-to-use bags. Except, of course, when the onions turn out to be contaminated, in which case there are all kinds of problems.

Because these widely used Gills onions were found to carry the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes, pregnant women are at particular risk. If you are pregnant, you are about 20 times more susceptible to getting Listeriosis than someone who is not. If you do become ill, you may just think it is the flu. And another problem is that symptoms may show up anywhere between 2 to 30 days after you have eaten Listeria-contaminated food. As a result, it may not be correctly diagnosed right away, even though a simple blood test can confirm the infection.

In the worst case, the risks of Listeriosis while pregnant, include miscarriage, premature delivery, infection of the newborn and even death to the newborn. In about 22% of cases, perinatal listeriosis will result in stillbirth or neonatal death.

However, the good news is that not all babies will be affected if their mothers have Listeriosis, My advice to pregnant women: don't eat any ready-to-eat foods for at least 2 weeks, until we know more. That includes sandwiches, soups, salads, sauces, salsas - everything. If you have eaten any recalled foods, or even any ready-to-eat foods with onions that have not been recalled, you may want to keep a careful eye on your health. Should you start having flu symptoms, don't waste time getting to a doctor, and ask him to test you.

To your good health,

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Yes, I said there would be more food recalls because of Listeria-contaminated chopped-up onions (see previous two posts and the next). And yes, I was right. The new product recalls include more problems for Trader Joe's, which has already had to recall its barbeque chicken salads because of these onions.

Now Simmering Soup, Inc., of Atlanta, GA is initiating a recall of Trader Joe’s brand of Salsa and Balela because the products contain these suspect onions. They were shipped between July 25 -26, 2012 to Trader Joe’s stores in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Southern region of Virginia.

This recall also gives us yet another example of how our industrialized food production system works. Some farmer (or farmers) obviously grew these onions. Then they were sent to Gills Onions, LLC, in California for processing, bagging and further distribution. In this case FreshPoint Atlanta, bought whole peeled onions from Gills. They then processed them into diced onions. These diced onions were then purchased by Simmering Soup Atlanta which made them into the Salsa and Balela products for sale at Trader Joe's stores in 6 states.

Are you sure you want to keep on eating those processed products?

To your good health,

TSF (off to drive past Trader Joe's to shop at the farmers' market)

UPDATE: An additional onion-linked recall has been announced for Trader Joe's stores in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington of Trader Joe's Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Wheatberry Salad. It was made by Huxtable's Kitchen.


Whole Foods Market - whose motto is "Selling the highest quality natural and organic products" - has now joined the Gills onion triggered food recalls. It is recalling certain fresh food items sold in the prepared foods departments, and one item sold in seafood departments, of its 17 Florida stores.

Prepared foods in other stores such as Trader Joe's and Wegmans have already been pulled from store shelves and destroyed. They all used recalled cut-up onions from Gills Onions, LLC, of California, which were later found to carry Listeria monocytogenes bacteria (see previous post and the next one). So you assumed that Whole Foods would chop its own nice whole locally-grown organic onions on the premises instead of using those same mass produced, already chopped up products in huge bags that travelled thousands of miles from California?

The Safe Food Handbook (now in its second edition) argues for eating whole foods and avoiding prepared foods - especially fresh ready-to-eat prepared foods. But it is not an argument for shopping at Whole Foods. In spite of its super-healthy image - and, in my opinion, a highly inflated stock price - it has sold more than its fair share of contaminated foods over the years. They run the gammut - cheeses, chocolate, tuna, produce, baked goods and more (see for example, my earlier post on "A Bad Year for Whole Foods").

To your good health,


Saturday, July 28, 2012


Mass produced food, can also create massive and widespread problems. This is particularly the case when an ingredient used by a number of food producers turns out to be contaminated. The currently ongoing recall of diced onions and foods made with those onions is a case in point.

It started with Gills Onions, of Oxnard, CA. The company's diced, slivered and whole peeled onions and diced onion/celery mix were found to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria (remember - this is the one that is so dangerous to pregnant women and anyone with a weakened immune system).

A number of other currently ongoing recalls have had to take place as a result. Enslin & Son Packing Company, a Hattiesburg, Miss. establishment, is recalling approximately 314 pounds of sausage products. Huxtable's Kitchen, a Vernon, Calif. establishment, is recalling approximately 5,610 pounds of barbeque chicken salads - sold at Trader Joe's (see photo). Some Wegmans Food Markets in Pennsylvania are recalling a number of prepared foods such as chilled stew with red and white beans, Wegmans Veggie Pizzas, Wingless Buffalo blue cheese dip and Crab-Pepper Jack (most sold and eaten by now) that were made with these onions. Cool Creations, LLC of North Kansas City, Missouri are recalling a long list of platters, and dips and bowls and medleys for the same reason.

Nor is this the end. There are bound to be more in the next few days, especially since the original onion recall has now been expanded to include other products.

My advice to anyone at high risk for Listeriosis: avoid prepared foods, at least for a couple of weeks, until all the contaminated food is recalled - that is, if it hasn't been already eaten.

To your good health,

Monday, July 23, 2012


Even the most careful food manufacturing practices can sometimes fail. This is particularly tragic when the food item involved is made for vulnerable babies. Wellements LLC has had to issue a recall of Baby Move™ Prune Concentrate liquid dietary supplement. Unfortunately, one of its ingredient suppliers informed them that the ingredient may be contaminated with Salmonella bacteria.

And yes, they do use "Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP)." Wellments products are manufactured in a plant that is complaint with FDA's requirements for this label. Among other things, it checks all incoming raw materials "for identity." Presumably that means it makes sure that something labelled "prunes" are indeed prunes and not grapes or apples. And it does do bacterial testing on all finished products before they are released to the warehouse. Nevertheless, accidents can happen and "pure" isn't sometimes pure.

Mothers be careful!

Monday, July 16, 2012


Needles in turkey sandwiches served on four Delta Airlines flights! Yes, that is the latest food horror story to hit the news . All originated in Amsterdam and were prepared by the same catering company. Here's another reason for packing your own on-board lunch.

But that's not all the weird things turning up in food this week. Morgan Foods, Inc., of Austin, Indiana in the U.S. had to recall almost 100,000 pounds of corn chowder soup products because two consumers found pieces of a marker pen in their soup. The recalled soups were distributed to retailers in Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Personally, I find the idea of chewing on marker pens a lot less scary than biting into a needle. But you certainly don't need this extra flavoring.

Such odd things turn up all the time (see my previous post on "foreign bodies" in food - 6/14/12). There are basically two ways they get there: by accident or because they were planted in the food. I would guess that the marker pen belonged to the first (accident) group. As for sewing needles? I bet they were put there on purpose in order to cause harm. No, not a nice thought.

To your good health,

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Listeria in Fresh Cheese - Again

There is yet another recall of fresh cheese in the U.S. because of the usual reason - contamination by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. That's the same bacteria that is the cause of the current Dole bagged romaine lettuce recall. And, it's the bacteria that pregnant women have to make every effort to avoid.

The cheese was made by Mexicali Cheese Corp. located in Woodhaven, New York and is packaged in a rigid 14 oz. plastic tub with the plant number 36-0128 and a code of 071512. As often happens these days, the product was sold under a number of different names: Mexicali Queso Fresco Mexicano, Mexican Style Fresh Cheese; or Acatlan Queso Fresco, Fresh Cheese.

This is a special alert fOr consumers in the metropolitan New York area, including Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn. As far as we know at present, it was not distributed anywhere else.

To your good health,

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Every time I get bored with blogging alfalfa and other sprout recalls, I remind myself of what happened in Europe a little more than a year ago. Remember that widespread sprout outbreak, originating in Hamburg, that left thousands seriously ill and scores dead?

What we usually have in the U.S. , is not contamination by E.coli bacteria, but by Salmonella - which is normally less deadly. I blogged the Leasa Industries alfalfa recall earlier this month. Now we have another one caused by this bacterium.

Banner Mountain Sprouts is recalling organic sprouts under the following names: 4oz. zesty greens, 5oz. sprout salad, 4oz. clover, 2lb. clover, 4oz. alfalfa/broccoli, 4oz. alfalfa sprouts, and 1lb. & 2lb. alfalfa sprouts because of a finding of Salmonella. The sprouts were distributed through retail stores and wholesalers in California in plastic, clamshell containers and 1lb. or 2lb. ziplock bags with a sell by date from 6/17/12 to 7/6/12.

Avoid them!

Monday, June 25, 2012


Yes, we have yet another recall of bagged fresh salads because of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

This time the recalling company is Dole Fresh Vegetables. The products were sold at Kroger and Walmart stores in Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Here are the ones recalled at the present time (remember, these types of recalls often expand):
Kroger Fresh Selections Greener Supreme with Use-by date of June 19, Kroger Fresh Selections Leafy Romaine with Use-by date of June 19, and Wal Mart Marketside Leafy Romaine with Use-by date of June19.

As usual, whenever Listeria monocytogenes is the food contaminant, pregnant women, and anyone with a weak immune system take special note. Avoid these salads. In fact, for good measure, avoid all bagged salads, at least for a while, until we see whether more are recalled.

To your good health,

Saturday, June 23, 2012


There is food poisoning, and then there is food poisoning. One of the worst kind of food poisoning is botulism. The bacteria that cause it may be hiding in some wonderful California carrot juice right now (see previous post).

And what if you drank what could be Clostridium botulinum contaminated Liquid Gold Carrot Juice? Don't panic. There is always a chance that a failure in temperature control of the juice did not occur at the plant, but actually occurred in a store, or, even in homes. That is probably what happened in a similar incident in 2006, with carrot juice also originating in California (but a different company - Bolthouse Farms).

But if you are nervous, here are the kinds of symptoms you may want to watch out for: general weakness, dizziness, double-vision, trouble with speaking, breathing and swallowing. Sometimes you also get weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension and constipation. Yes, the symptoms are quite different from most other types of food poisoning.

By the way, keep your carrot juice below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. And don't leave it sitting around in a hot car while you do other shopping.

To your good health,


A potent neurotoxin in your healthy carrot juice is the last thing you want. But it happens. Why? Because carrot juice has to be properly refrigerated. If it isn't, you may get Clostridium botulinum bacteria growing in it. The result can be a case of botulism. And botulism can be fatal.

So Californians watch out since contaminated juice may be in your stores. Healthy Choice Island Blends, Inc. of Los Angeles, CA, is recalling all sizes of LIQUID GOLD CARROT JUICE, because it may be contain this deadly bacterium. The juice was sold in plastic see-through containers in gallon, half-gallon, and quart sizes.

By the way, this is not the first recall of California carrot juice because of this bacterium, and it well may not be the last.

If you have bought it, throw it out even if it smells and looks fine. If you or a family member has drunk it recently, watch carefully for symptoms (see next post) and get help immediately.

To your good health,

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Today's editorial by Jeff Leach in the New York Times - title: " Dirtying up Our Diets" - makes some useful points. Yes, the good bacteria in our gut play an important role in protecting us from the bad ones. Yes, antibiotics are overprescribed and tend to wipe them out.

But no, America does not have "the safest food supply in human history." I would argue that that honor goes to some European countries instead. And no, we cannot cure our autoimmune disease issues by eating Farmers Market food.

Really! Does Leach think that most of us never wash our Farmers Markets carrots, but eat them dirt and all? I would bet most of us triple washed them, and if we can't get that dirt off, then we scrub them. I mean, who wants to crunch on soil? If you have ever done it, you don't want to do it again.

And, if you want bacteria, you may well get a worse dose from those squaky clean, triple-washed, safe-to-eat, bagged greens and other produce. But of course, it will not be the kind of nice safe bacteria that your gut needs.

To your good health,


Of all the foods you should maybe give up, surely alfalfa sprouts (or other sprouted seeds) are one of the easiest. (I would have a much harder time giving up chocolate, for instance). Yes, when they are not contaminated with disease-causing bacteria, they may be nutritionally beneficial. But the trouble is, that the downside may well outweigh such benefits.

Here's yet another recall of alfalfa sprouts. Leasa Industries Co., Inc. of Miami, Florida, is recalling 433 cases of LEASA Living Alfalfa Sprouts with use by date 7/2/12, because Salmonella bacteria have been found. The affected product is in 6 oz. clear plastic containers. Winn Dixie is among the stores that sells them.

And in case you think Salmonella just means a few miserable days of diarrhea and vomiting, stomach cramps and such, let me quote from the recall notice (more details on this in The Safe Food Handbook):

Salmonella is an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.... In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

To your good health,

Friday, June 15, 2012


Recently, there have been a number of recalls of popular commercial dog food because of contamination by Salmonella bacteria. The same thing happened in 2011, and occurs almost every year. Should this worry us?

I have to admit that on and off I have wondered about just how dangerous these bacteria in dog food are for our pets. After all, my dog, like most others, eats a variety of rather nasty and often contaminated or otherwise dangerous things - like socks, cell phones, oriental rugs, wild mushrooms (that could be poisonous), a variety of plants - and occasionally, poop. Luckily, it doesn't chew on gravel or rocks, as do a friend of mine's dogs. So what's a little contaminated food compared to all this? My guess is that risks would be much higher for indoor dogs who live protected existances and a more restricted exposure to bacteria on a daily basis.

What I do know is that pet owners, and particularly children, can become ill from Salmonella contaminated dog food. No, not eating it, but touching it and then, without washing their hands, touching their mouth or their own food. Pet treats are the riskiest in those terms. Remember this when feeding your pets.

To your good health,