Saturday, May 26, 2012


Who would have thought that an online supplier of tempeh yeast, based in Rockville, Maryland, USA, could be sending Salmonella bacteria to the far ends of the globe? These days it is possible. Vegetarians beware!

Maryland-based is recalling all packages of "Tempeh Starter Yeast" and "Super Starter Yeast" sold through direct mail orders in 30 gm, 50 gm, 250 gm, and 1000 gm sizes. Reportedly, the tempeh starter was imported from Indonesia. The products were not only sold throughout the U.S. but distributed to countries such as Australia, Canada, Slovenia, New Zealand, Brunei, Poland and Croatia. (The FDA news release also listed " Darussalam" but there is no such country - the full name of Brunei - a country where I spent an interesting few days on my honeymoon years ago, is " Negara Brunei Darussalam". Darussalam meaning "Abode of Peace" in Arabic).

It is suspected that these products have already caused close to 100 illnesses in the U.S. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration as well as food safety authorities in Australia, New Zealand and Canada have warned people not to use them. Don't. Salmonella infections are no joke, especially for the very young, elderly people, and anyone with a weakened immune system.

To your good health,

Friday, May 25, 2012


Back in January this year, orange juice safety hit the news in the U.S. and some other countries as well. The issue was a chemical called carbendazim - a fungicide used to control plant diseases that had been used on orange trees in Brazil, where the frozen orange juice came from (see earlier posts).

Carbendazim is approved for use in some countries but not the U.S.. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not allow even low levels of carbendazim in U.S. food. Now this same unhealthy chemical - plus a couple of others (fluoranthene and pyrene) has been found in shittake mushrooms.

L.A. Link of Cerritos, California is recalling 6 0z plastic jars of Shiitake-Ya brand Gourmet Shiitake Slices with a “SELL BY date” of 04/16/2013. They were sold at COSTCO - that huge grocery store, in California, Oregon and Washington.

If you bought them, throw them out or take them back and get a refund. But if you ate them, don't panick - one meal containing low doses of these chemicals will not kill you.

To your good health,

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Every day this blog is read by pregnant women from around the world who want to know what they should eat and not eat. They are right to be concerned. Good nutrition during pregnancy is important for the baby to grow and develop. But there is also the safety side.

Unsafe, contaminated food can cause birth defects, harm the health of the child and even cause stillbirths and miscarriages. You will very rarely find ready-to-eat, packaged salads on a list of "Foods to Avoid While Pregnant". But I am going to put it there Why? Aren't salads a healthy food? They may be, but there are just too many incidents of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria turning up in those beautiful bagged and clam-shell salads.

For instance, at the present time River Ranch Fresh Foods, LLC of Salinas, CA is recalling retail and foodservice bagged salads, because of this bacteria (see previous post). And the recall is spreading. Pacific Coast Fruit of Portland, Oregon bought and used the salads that were recalled by River Ranch in some of their retail (clamshell style) and food service processed bagged salads. Given past experience, I expect more "spinoff" recalls. Pregnant women would be wise to avoid any brand of prepared salads to avoid Listeriosis.

To your good health,

UPDATE: And - don't forget: it's not just Listeria bacteria that often crop up in prepared salads. At the present time ((11/14/2013) there are ongoing recalls of prepared salads also because of E.coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella bacteria (by different food companies). Pregnant women don't need these bacteria either...

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Yes, fruits and vegetables are healthy, and most of us should eat more of them than we do. But, it is not at all unusual for them to carry bacteria (as well as other contaminants) of one kind or another.

Two of the most common in the United States and Canada - as well as other industrialized nations - are Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes bacteria. Although there are exceptions, a common pattern is for Salmonella to turn up in whole fresh fruits and vegetables, and for L. monocytogenes to turn up in "ready-to-eat" fresh produce (cut, shredded, bagged etc.). A couple of current recalls in the U.S. illustrate this pattern.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found the dangerous Listeria bacteria in bagged salad - something that tends to happen several times each year. River Ranch Fresh Foods of Salinas, California is initiating a recall of both retail and foodservice versions of their bagged salads. Caribe Produce LTD Co. of McAllen, Texas, is recalling 286 cases of fresh papayas that they imported from Mexico because Salmonella bacteria turned up in testing. The papayas are sold individually with a label of “3112 CARIBE√ĎA Papaya MARADOL PRODUCT OF MEXICO."

All this does not mean that you have to stop eating fruits and vegetables. But follow best safety practices, as outlined in The Safe Food Handbook (just published in second edition).

To your good health,

Friday, May 11, 2012


It's always disturbing when a food risk everyone has forgotten about suddenly comes back out of left field. That's what has happened recently with "mad cow disease" (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy - BSE for short) in the U.S. Even CNBC covered it during the business news.

Unlike some other countries, like the U.K, and to a much lesser extent, Canada, the U.S. has considered itself safe from this disease, and its human variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD). Then suddenly, we have this dairy cow in California, that had been "shipped for rendering" - that is, to the slaughterhouse - which is diagnosed with it.

Are Americans now at risk from this fatal neurological disease of cattle, that can leave humans with an incurable brain disease (microscopic holes developing in the brain) if they eat contaminated beef? The answer at the present time is "no." There has only been one case of BSE in recent years (making only four in total in the U.S.) and all the cases of CJD among residents in the U.S. (about three) have been caused by eating contaminated beef overseas. We have pretty good controls set up to reduce incidence of BSE in cattle and to avoid BSE getting into our meat even if cases do occur.

But then there is the fact that USDA's ongoing BSE surveillance program only tests approximately 40,000 high-risk cattle annually with many times more getting through that are not tested for BSE. And while we know that this particular infected cow's meat did not enter the food supply, we don't know if other members of the same herd were also infected and these have made it into our hamburgers or steak (it doesn't get into the milk). More tests are being done.

In the meantime, don't worry. The incubation period for this disease can be as long as seven years, so relax and enjoy your dinner. (I can't resist the black humor). Read the section in The Safe Food Handbook if you want to know more about the issue.

To your good health,

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Well, yet another expansion of a food recall in the U.S.

Remember that Yellow Fin Tuna Nakaochi Scrape Tuna that was recalled about a month ago because of Salmonella contamination, and scared so many of us who eat spicy tuna sushi or sashimi? That recall was put out by Moon Marine USA Corporation (also known as MMI) of Cupertino, California, a U.S. distributor of this imported tuna (see my post of April 15).

Well, it turns out that the scrape tuna came from India. Now, Moon Fishery (India) Pvt. Ltd., the manufacturer of this recalled tuna scrape, is also recalling its 22 pound cases of "Tuna Strips" (frozen tuna fish) that made it to the U.S.

No doubt about it, as the seafood we eat in America increasingly comes from countries where good food safety standards are difficult to enforce, it becomes less and less safe. The Safe Food Handbook has a whole chapter on this issue.

To your good health,

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Organic Cacao Nibs with E.coli O157:H7 Bacteria

So many "healthy" and "organic" foods unfortunately turn out to be unhealthy. Here's another: cacao nibs.

Don't know what they are? I have to confess - I didn't either. But apparently they are a crunchy snack food, high in anti-oxidants as well as other good things. At least some are imported from Ecuador and there are various brands. Even Amazon sells them.

FunFresh Foods, Inc. of San Clemente, California is recalling 6 ounce packages of FunFresh Foods™ World Berries™ Organic “Cacao Nibs” because they may be contaminated with Escherichia coli O157:H7 bacteria (E. Coli O157:H7). Yes, that very dangerous bacterium that can give you bloody diarrhea, send you to the hospital, and even be fatal.

These potentially contaminated products were distributed in the U.S. in the following states to health and natural food retail stores : AK, AR, AZ, CA, CT, FL, GA, ID, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, MS, MT, NC, ND, NH, NJ, NM, OH, OK, OR, SC, SC, TN, TX, WA, WI, and WV between April 12 and 17.

Although only this company is recalling them at present, it would be wise to avoid any brand of cacao nibs for a while until more testing is done. This recall could spread. Some internet sites suggest you buy them for your mother for Mother's Day. Unless you really hate your mother, I suggest that you get her something else - at least this year.

To your good health,

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Usually I only blog food recalls in the United States. But I do keep up with those of some other countries as well. The current one in the U.K. is just too odd not to blog. A nice change from the usual boring contaminated sprouts, deli products and cheeses.

Here are the facts: 277 units of Tropicana Kids (multi-packs of 4) Orange Juice Drink were sent out to stores in the U.K. with nothing but plain water in them - no juice at all (usually it's juice plus water). And it's not even "potable" (drinking quality) water. It's too contaminated with bacteria.

Poor PepsiCo has its corporate hands full. How on earth did this happen? Apparently someone at a PepsiCo plant was doing some testing and accidentally sent out the test packages that were meant to be tossed. It was what a PepsiCo spokesman called "a dispatch error." Oh..oh. I hope this isn't going to be a pattern.

The packages have no batch or data codes. The company and the U.K. Food Safety Agency warns people not to drink the stuff. Who would want to, anyway?

To your good health,

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


While it may be healthier from a nutritional point of view, there is no guarantee that vegetarian food won't contain the same kind of bacteria that are found in non-vegetarian foods. The current recall of tempeh because of possible contamination with Salmonella bacteria is a case in point.

Smiling Hara (meaning "Happy Belly") of Asheville, North Carolina (N.C.) in the United States is recalling 12-ounce packages of unpasteurized tempeh manufactured this year between Jan. 11 and April 11. For those that don't eat this product, it's made out of soybean, and is used in vegetarian cuisine as a substitute for meat.

The N.C. Division of Public Health is working hard to find out whether the Salmonella detected in the tempeh matches the strain found in an outbreak that has sickened 37 people. In the meantime, it is advising people to be careful. Unless, of course, you really want 4 to 7 days of total misery with symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea (that may be bloody), fever and headache.

And, remember - you can also get this bacteria not just from your food, but from physical contact with anyone who is ill, or a carrier of this bug. Use good hygiene.

To your good health,