Tuesday, February 28, 2017


I was researching Listeria recalls on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Website just now when I came across a recall of Trader Joe’s apple sauce in British Columbia, Canada. They had found pieces of glass. I immediately checked to see if there was also a recall in the United States. This is a product I eat. So it was no longer research. It was personal.

And yes, there was a recall. For some reason I had missed it in my mailbox (I am on the FDA recall mailing list). So I checked the jar of Organic Unsweetened Apple Sauce I had sitting in my kitchen – not yet opened – and sure enough it had been recalled.

I really need to do a better job of reading my mail.

Anyway, three types of apple sauce are being recalled in the U.S. In Canada, it’s just the first two:

• Trader Joe's First Crush Unsweetened Gravenstein Apple Sauce with a barcode of 00015905 and best before date of Aug. 8, 2018.
• Trader Joe's Organic Unsweetened Apple Sauce with a barcode of 00194877 and a best before date of Oct. 6, 2018.
• Trader Joe's All Natural Unsweetened Apple Sauce with a barcode of 00014359 and a best before date of Dec. 16, 2018. This brand of applesauce is not sold in Michigan.

So will you die if you have eaten some glass-laced applesauce? Ground glass has been used as the murder weapon in any number of mysteries. This method of murdering your enemies (or, your unwanted relatives) dates way back, at least 500 years. No doubt it's even longer since glass has been made for some 3,500 years.

But relax. Apparently it doesn’t work well. If it is ground too finely, it will do nothing to you, and if it is too coarse, you’ll probably notice it before you swallow. A cut in your mouth can be painful, but it won't be lethal. But if it does get into your GI tract, you might have a bit of bleeding, and in the worst case, anemia, but not much else. Getting the glass just right is very, very, difficult. So stick to arsenic or something more reliable if you want to do away with your mother-in-law.

But all the same, don’t eat that applesauce. Take it back to Trader Joe’s or Pirate Joe’s and complain.


Friday, February 24, 2017


No, this isn’t the case yet, at least as far as I know. Though it could be. He is a senior – and therefore in a high risk group. The fact that he is overweight – verging on obese – puts him at even greater risk for food poisoning. Research suggests that being seriously overweight is linked to a weakened immune system, which means he would have less protection against dangerous foodborne illness.

And I know this sounds mean, but I am kind of wishing for an outbreak of food poisoning at Mar-a-Lago, particularly at a time when he was entertaining a head of state there (hopefully President Putin of Russia, or Kim Jong-un of North Korea) which would really ensure that it hit the global news.

I think a first-hand experience is the only way President Trump will understand the importance of food safety, and hopefully begin to grasp the importance of regulations and inspections of our food. True, such regulations will never eliminate food risks completely, but at least they will reduce them.

Today, when announcing the drastic scaling back of federal regulations – something he had been threatening to do for months – he paved the way for exposing the American consumers to even more outbreaks of food poisoning than we are already having.

Even if regulations are not completely eliminated, Trump and Congress can financially starve the Federal food safety agencies from doing anything much to protect our food supply. Want to bet it will happen?



Brace yourself for more deadly chemicals, metals, bacteria, viruses, parasites and molds in your food. You might as well add bits of glass, metal and other debris as well to that list.

Today President Trump signed an executive action aimed at eliminating “costly” regulations so he can generate some savings for building his dream wall. He said that the United States does not need "75 percent of the repetitive, horrible regulations that hurt companies, hurt jobs." Big food companies, chemical companies, lobbyists and restaurants and are delighted. But what about ordinary consumers like you and me?

As Scott Horsley wrote on NPR website “Of course, one person's job-killing regulation is another's lifesaving rule.” The corporations are in the driver’s seat. Not us.

Each Federal agency has to set up a task force to identify which regulations get the axe. That includes the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which are trying to make our food as safe as they can. Alright, they are not perfect and at times contaminated food still slips through. The task is huge, and food safety has been chronically underfunded.

Do you really think this won't happen? That Trump really cares about our food? This is the man who is overweight and has high cholesterol from eating too much junk food ( but had his doctor lie about all this).

And don’t forget that, during his campaign, Trump also threatened to get rid of the FDA’s “food police” with their “inspections overkill.” Of course, he quickly retracted that statement. Hum, hum…What else is new?


Sunday, February 19, 2017


I really think I need to see my doctor about my blood pressure. It rises every time I read a food company recall with that sentence "No illnesses have been reported" particularly when Listeria bacteria are suspected. I wish that the government food safety agencies would insist that the sentence be following by something like: "However, symptoms of Listeriosis may appear as late as a month after eating contaminated food."

In fact, appearance of symptoms can range from a few days to 70 days, and occasionally even longer. Or, you may have Listeriosis but not really feel sick at all. So what should you be on the lookout for?

If you are a relatively healthy adult, who is not pregnant, you may come down with fever, nausea, stiff neck, weakness, diarrhea and muscle aches. You may not have all these symptoms and you could dismiss it a case of the flu. In fact symptoms of a Listeria infection can be so mild that you won't notice them at all. That is the case if you are pregnant. Sadly, the baby may die before birth or come down with a life-threatening infection soon after birth. The symptoms in a newborn may be quite mild too and easily confused with some other problem. Perhaps nothing more than a little irritability, fever, little interest in feeding and some vomiting.

While most Listeria infections in adults tend to be very mild, they can get serious for older people or those with a weakened immune system, leading to complications such as septicemia or meningitis. So do be careful, particularly if you are in a high risk group. Right now, you should be checking any cheeses in your refrigerator against those that are being recalled (press the Recall link on this blog).


Friday, February 17, 2017


Well, here we go again. In the U.S. we are seeing recalls of all kinds of cheeses and products made with cheese. Large, snowballing recalls of contaminated cheese have occurred on a pretty regular basis over the years. The usual culprit is that nasty little bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes, that I mentioned in connection with Ruth’s spreads a couple of blogs ago.

I am sure we have not reached the end of this particular wave of cheese and related product recalls yet. Cheese is a food product commonly used in a number of snacking and cooking products and in prepared foods of all kinds.

Here are a few of the companies issuing recalls “out of an abundance of caution” as some of them so self-righteously note (I hate that phrase). Deutsch Kase Haus, LLC of Middlebury, Ind. Is recalling its Colby cheeses that it supplied to a number of other companies. Sargento Cheese Company is recalling select Sargento branded cheeses (which it apparently got from Deutsche Kase Haus). Guggisberg Cheese Inc. is recalling various types of Colby type cheeses. Meijer is announcing a recall of its Meijer Brand Colby Cheese and Colby Jack Cheese, sold at deli counters.

And then there are companies such as MDS Foods Inc., of Massillon, Ohio, which is recalling multiple products because it unfortunately got the Colby cheeses it used in them from Deutsch Kase Haus and Choice Farms LLC which is conducting a small recall of stuffed mushrooms.

Press on the recall button on this blog and you will get more recalls. New ones are coming out all the time.

Yes, you may have kept these foods you bought in the refrigerator. Unfortunately, that won’t do you much good. Listeria can grow and multiply at those cold temperatures.

And if you are older, or have a weakened immune system, you are more vulnerable - along with young children and pregnant women (who may suffer miscarriages or stillbirths).


Friday, February 10, 2017


The previous post was about a recall by Ruth's Salads of one lot of 7 ounce containers of Pimento Spread in 5 states in the U.S. Well, no surprise. The recall has now expanded to many more of Ruth's products and to 8 states. So what else is new? After all, this is the usual pattern. Many food recalls start small but expand, and keep expanding.

That is why I keep warning readers to stop eating ANY similar products as soon as you learn of a recall. Living a few days without your favorite spread is not going to kill you. But a case of food poisoning just could do that, especially if you are a senior or someone else with a weakened immune system, or a pregnant woman (in that case, it would be your unborn child who is in danger).

And don't sit back and relax when you read that "no illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem." That phrase always sends my blood pressure up. If the tiny bacterium Listeria monocytogenes is to blame - as it is in this case - it could take up to 70 days for symptoms to develop. Dah....

So keep a watch out for any high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, especially if you are older. And while it is fresh in your mind, write down exactly what you ate and when, and keep the container if you still have it. In fact, you might be wise to give your doctor a call just in case.

And don't eat any of the below, or even anything similar, since we still don't know what ingredient in these or similar products was the contaminated one.

Ruth’s Original Pimento Spread 74952-00005 7 oz.
Ruth’s Original Pimento Spread 74952-12023 12 oz.
Ruth’s Original Pimento Spread 74952-24023 24 oz.
Ruth’s Old Fashion Pimento Spread74952-15005 16 oz.
Ruth’s Jalapeno Pimento Spread 74952-12014 12 oz.
Ruth’s Lite Pimento Spread 74952-12000 12 oz.
Ruth’s Cream Cheese w/Pineapple-Pecans
74952-12008 12 oz.


Saturday, February 4, 2017


If you have read The Safe Food Handbook (my book, not this blog) you will probably guess that one of my favorite agents of food poisoning is the tiny bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. It is believed to be the third leading cause of death from food poisoning in the United States.

Listeria turns up on a regular basis in our processed foods and in restaurant meals. Recently, it was suspected in Ruth's Pimento Spread, which is distributed in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

This blog has often highlighted how dangerous the Listeria bacterium is for pregnant women, that is, for their unborn child (causing miscarriages and stillbirths). But today I want to touch on how dangerous it is for older adults and anyone else with a weakened immune system (such as those receiving cancer therapy).

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, more than half of all Listeria infections occur in people age 65 and older. Why? The CDC points to the fact that as we age our immune system and organs aren’t as good at recognizing and ridding our body of harmful germs as they used to be. Chronic conditions such as diabetes and cancer also tend to occur more in people who are older and also weaken the immune system. Add to this the fact that as we age, our whole body, including our digestive system, tends to become more sluggish and ineffective, allowing pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes to multiply and cause us more harm.

I suspect it also had something to do with the fact that older people who still live independently tend to eat more processed "easy" foods such as Ruth's Pimento Spread, which is a typical place for this nasty bacterium to hide.