Israel – Food Safety Travel Alert

Anyone who has stayed in one of the high-end Israeli hotels will know instantly what is  meant by an “Israeli breakfast.” At it’s best, it is opulent and can fuel an entire day’s tourist activities. Even modest Israeli hotel breakfasts put to shame the ‘complimentary’ breakfasts offered by hotel chains in the USA and Canada.

When my husband and I applied to renew our US passports several weeks ago, we decided that our first trip with the new documents would be to Israel. As soon as the passports arrived in the mail, we solidified our plans.

Our only previous visit to Israel was twenty-three years ago, and I could still recall the sight, smell and taste of those Israeli hotel breakfasts, complete with several choices of egg dishes, a variety of salads, sweet melons and juicy oranges, freshly baked breads and rolls, and decadent breakfast pastries.

We landed at Ben Gurion Airport on the evening of October 3rd, and took a taxi directly to the Orchid Okeanos Boutique Hotel, situated right by the beach in Hertzliya. Following an abbreviated night of sleep, we arose, eager to begin the day with one of those amazing breakfasts.

The offerings at the Orchid were neither opulent nor decadent by Israeli hotel standards. Nevertheless, we partook of freshly squeezed orange juice, freshly baked rolls and croissants, smoked salmon, halvah, and fresh melon. I drank cappuccino and my husband, who is not partial to coffee, opted for soy milk.

We decided to work off some of the calorie intake by walking to the car rental agency offices, some twenty minutes away. An hour or so after breakfast, while we were waiting our turn at the car rental desk, my husband became violently ill. Volunteer first responders from the Magen David Edom arrived at the scene with incredible speed, followed a few minutes later by an ambulance.

We spent the rest of the morning at the ER of the closest hospital. Fortunately, the doctors could find nothing organically wrong, and my husband recovered quickly. As we rode our taxi back to the hotel, I began to suspect he had been the victim of Bacillus cereus food poisoning.

Bacillus cereus (B. cereus for short) is a multi-talented, spore-forming microbe. One of its talents is the production of an enterotoxin – a heat-stable protein that can trigger vomiting in as little as thirty minutes after ingestion.

For the microbe to multiply in a food sample and produce its toxin, the food must be held at room temperature for several hours. But the soy milk – the most likely culprit – was kept in a small refrigerator in the breakfast room. Might the refrigerator have been defective?

We had our answer the next morning when I reached into the refrigerator and discovered it to be at room temperature. The LED status display on the front of the unit was flashing “OFF” in bright red letters.

With Israel’s reputation as a world leader in so many areas of medicine, science, and technology, it is easy to forget that this is still a third-world country in other respects. I have since learned from a reliable source that Israel is not equipped to test food for bacterial toxins. Test kits for these toxins are readily available and are relatively easy to use. This is not rocket science.

We allowed ourselves to forget that we were in the Middle East. I let down the food-safety guard I always have maintained during our travels to places such as Myanmar, Thailand and Bora Bora. And my husband suffered the consequences.

Don’t make the same mistake we did. Follow these safety rules whenever you travel, especially to third world countries.

1. Do not drink the water or use ice in your drinks;

2. Never eat food purchased from street vendors;

3. Avoid raw salads;

4. Be very cautious about the food you select from a buffet; and

5. Be watchful of holding temperatures for perishable foods.

By following these rules, you will miss some interesting taste experiences, but you will be more likely to remain healthy to enjoy the rest of your trip.

Recalls and Alerts: February 1, 2013

Here is today’s list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals, allergy alerts and miscellaneous compliance issues. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.

If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the sidebar link.

United States

  • Food Safety Enforcement Action: Green Hope LLC, dba Rosewood Products agrees to a consent decree of permanent injunction for violations of FDA food safety regulations, after several FDA inspections found persistent violations involving insanitary conditions at the facility, leading to possible contamination of food. Under the decree, Green Hope must stop operations until FDA approves the steps taken to bring those operations into full compliance with the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and relevant food safety regulations.
  • Food Safety Recall: Whole Foods Market recalls Cold smoked salmon lox trim (PLU 97629), Bagel Half with Lox Cream Cheese w/Capers (PLU 92811), Whole Bagel with Lox Cream Cheese with Capers (PLU 98437) and Gravlox Cream Cheese Spread (PLU 95307), made with Circle Sea Salmon Lox Trim because the products may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. The recalled products were sold before Jan 29, 2013 in all Whole Foods Market stores in Washington and Oregon.
  • Outbreak Alert: Contra Costa County (California) environmental health officials have closed the North Park Deli (Concord, CA) after two employees at the deli tested positive for norovirus. The investigation was initiated after 15 people who attended an event catered by the deli became ill.

Canada

  • Allergy Alert: Riverbend Plantation Inc. expands an earlier recall to include the following additional products, due to undeclared milk and hazelnuts (second lot code added): Riverbend Plantation Brand Saskatoon Berry Chocolate Hearts (1 piece, 65g, 130g, 16 pieces & 32 pieces; Lot #211). The recalled products were distributed in Saskatchewan.
  • Allergy Alert: E. Bourdon et fils inc. (Montreal, QC) recalls the following products, due to undeclared wheat, eggs, soy, crab, and/or mustard: Tournedos saumon et goberge, Tournedos truite et goberge, Rôti de porc cuit tranché, Rôti de boeuf cuit tranché, Bifteck épices int. rond reg, Biftec épices int. ronde fam, and Tournedos bifteck épices.

Europe

Australia and New Zealand

  • Allergy Alert (New Zealand): Natural Field Enterprises Ltd. recalls Greenfarm brand Vegetarian BBQ Bun, frozen (570g pkgs; Barcode 9555250500011; Product code TS001/18-001; All expiry dates), due to undecalred wheat, sesame oil, sesame seeds and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Food Safety Recall (Australia): Calendar Cheese Company recalls Mauri Bonta’zola Gorgonzola DOP Blue Cheese (Product of Italy; Random weight pkgs between 1.3kg and 1.5kg; Best before 17/01/13 and 21/02/13) due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The recalled cheeses were supplied to Thomas Dux Grocer, David Jones and Coles Supermarkets in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Queensland, South Australia and Tasmania.

Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket’s recall website.

*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains, listed on the Kroger corporate home page.
**Includes Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs and Pak N’ Save.

Recalls and Alerts – Europe, et cetera: January 4-12, 2013

Here is today’s list of food safety recalls, product withdrawals, allergy alerts and miscellaneous compliance issues. The live links will take you directly to the official recall notices and company news releases that contain detailed information for each recall and alert.

If you would like to receive automatic email alerts for all new articles posted on eFoodAlert, please submit your request using the sidebar link.

Europe

  • Allergy Alert: Asda withdraws Asda Great Stuff Minced Beef Hotpot (200g; all date codes), because the product contains wheat/gluten, which is mentioned on the label but not in the allergen advice box.
  • Allergy Alert (Ireland): The Food Safety Authority of Ireland warns consumers that Rose Snowcreams (300g box Family Pack box; Best before 19/11/2013) contains undeclared egg, milk, soy and nuts, and should not be consumed by individuals who are allergic or intolerant to any of those ingredients.
  • Food Safety Recall (Belgium): Carrefour alerts its customers to the recall by Jan Dupont of all lots of the following cheeses, manufactured by la Fromagerie de Jussac (France) due to Listeria monocytogenes contamination: Reflets de France Brique du Forez au lait de brebis (200g; UPC 3245390064578), Reflets de France Brique du Forez au lait de vache (200g; UPC 3245390226419), Reflets de France Brique du Forez au lait de chevre (200g; UPC 3245390064585), Carrefour Brique lait de chevre (200g; UPC 3270190215226), and Carrefour Brique lait de vache (250g; UPC 3270190215219). All recalled cheeses bear expiration dates between 28/12/12 and 19/02/13.
  • Food Safety Recall (Germany): Andechser Molkerei Scheitz GmbH recalls BIO Real Whipped Cream, 32% fat due to the presence of a small residue of a disinfectant.
  • Food Safety Recall (Greece): Lidl Hellas recalls Goldessa Cottage Cheese and Linessa Cottage Cheese (200g packs; Batch #A0068; Expiration date 17/01/2013; Manufactured by Naabtaler Milchwerke GmbH & Co.KG., Germany), due to mold growth.
  • Food Safety Recall (Scotland, UK): Snax 4 U (Glasgow) recalls all varieties of Snax 4 U branded Sandwiches, baguettes, wraps and rolls made with various fillings (Use by dates up to and including 14 January 2013), because the items were produced in premises served with a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice due to food hygiene contraventions involving rodent infestation.
  • Food Safety Recall (Scotland, UK): Snax 4 U (Glasgow) recalls Burns Bakers pre-packed bakery products (postcode G21 1HS on label) and Highlands Foods pre-packed bakery products (postcode G21 1HS on label), because the products were produced in premises served with a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice due to rodent infestation.
  • Food Safety Alert (UK): The Food Standards Agency warns the public that the following products, originating in China via The Netherlands, should not be consumed, as they are contaminated with high levels of Bacillus cereus: Koon Yick Wah Kee – Rose Bean Curd Tofu (454g; Best before 30 December 2013; Lot #023424) and Koon Yick Wah Kee – Chilli Bean Curd Tofu (454g; Best before 30 December 2013; Lot #023421). No distribution details are available.
  • Contact Lens Safety Recall (Italy): Johnson & Johnson Vision Care recalls 1-Day ACUVUE® MOIST® Contact Lenses (Lot #2054890521, 2054895620) and ACUVUE® ADVANCE® with HYDRACLEAR® Contact Lenses (Lot #B00DJPQ), due to incomplete seal welds in a limited number of packages. The weld defects could result in the loss or spillage of preservation solution in which the lenses are immersed and may compromise product sterility.
  • Food Safety Notification Update (EU #2012.1742): Bacillus cereus and high counts of yeasts in Koon Yick Wah Kee brand tofu in sesame oil with chilli in glass jar from China, via The Netherlands; distributed to Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden and United Kingdom.
  • Food Safety Notification Update (EU #2012.1774): Listeria monocytogenes in various Fromagerie de Jussac goat, sheep and cow milk cheeses from France; distributed to Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, French Polynesia, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Vietnam.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0010): Salmonella in frozen ravioli with poultry from France; distributed to Belgium and France.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0011): Oxamyl in string bean from Morocco; distributed to Belgium.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0013): Listeria monocytogenes in chilled smoked turkey from Belgium; distributed to Belgium and the Netherlands.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0014): Salmonella in frozen minced beef from Ireland; distributed to France.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0015): Listeria monocytogenes in frozen cooked meat product sliced in straight strips from Poland; distributed to Germany.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0017): Cadmium in purple dye murex from Italy; distributed to Hungary and Italy.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0018 & #2013.0019): Ochratoxin A in dried figs from Turkey; distributed to Germany.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0020): Salmonella London in frozen mechanically separated pork meat from the Netherlands; distributed to Sweden.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0021): Aflatoxins in salted peanuts from the United Kingdom, with raw material from Argentina; distributed to Ireland and the United Kingdom.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0022): Benzo(a)pyrene in canned smoked fish from Côte d’Ivoire; distributed to Belgium.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0023): Salmonella Kentucky and Salmonella Newport in black tiger shrimp from Vietnam; distributed to Norway.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0024): Mercury in chilled swordfish from the United States; distributed to Switzerland.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0028): Aflatoxins in chili powder from Pakistan; distributed to France.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0029): Aflatoxins in dried fig cubes from Turkey; distributed to Belgium and Germany.

Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands

  • Food Safety Recall (Israel): Shamir Salads recalls Tahini Salad (350g; Expiry 01/18/13), Tahini Salad (700g; Expiry 02/24/13), Egg Salad (350g; Expiry 10/01/13), Tahini Salad (400g; Expiry 18/01/13), Milling (500g; Expiry 02/24/13) and Milling ‘Almost Free’ (700g; Expiry 02/24/13), due to potential Listeria monocytogenes contamination.
  • Food Safety Notification Update (EU #2012.1774): Listeria monocytogenes in various Fromagerie de Jussac goat, sheep and cow milk cheeses from France; distributed to Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, French Polynesia, Georgia, Germany, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and Vietnam.
  • Outbreak Alert (French Polynesia): Fifty-two children and two adults participating in a sailing workshop at Arue developed food poisoning after consuming sandwiches containing chicken and mayonnaise.
  • Outbreak Alert (Hong Kong): The Centre for Health Protection is investigating a suspected food poisoning outbreak involving four men and six women who became ill about 12 to 70 hours after eating at a restaurant in Happy Valley the evening of January 4th.

Some supermarket chains post recall notices on their web sites for the convenience of customers. To see whether a recalled food was carried by your favorite supermarket, follow the live link to the supermarket’s recall website.

*The Kroger umbrella encompasses numerous supermarket, marketplace and convenience store chains, listed on the Kroger corporate home page.
**Includes Safeway, Vons, Pavilions, Dominick’s, Genuardi’s, Randalls, Tom Thumb, Carrs and Pak N’ Save.