Recalls and Alerts: February 11, 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 Recall: Food City advises its customers that the manufacturer has recalled Sour Patch Jelly Beans (13 oz bags). Consumers wishing to obtain additional information may contact the manufacturer at 1-800-524-2854.
  • Food Safety Enforcement Action: The Missouri Department of Agriculture halts custom exempt processing operations at Leinbach Custom Processing (Versailles) due to violations related to the business’s use of non-potable water in plant operations.

Canada

  • Allergy Alert: Yum Yum Food (Toronto, ON) recalls Yum Yum Food brand Sui Mai, frozen (228g pkgs; UPC 8 30121 10017 0; All codes) due to undeclared egg and milk. The recalled product was distributed in Ontario.
  • Food Safety News: Canada has appointed an Independent Expert Advisory Panel to review the events and circumstances surrounding the recent XL Foods Inc. E. coli O157:H7 investigation, recalls and outbreak. the Panel members include Dr. Ronald Lewis (Chair), Dr. Ronald Usborne, and Dr. André Corriveau.

Europe

  • Food Safety Recall (Belgium): Carrefour recalls Carrefour (Engagement Qualité Carrefour) and Cultimer oysters due to possible Norovirus contamination. Please refer to the recall notice for additional details.
  • Food Safety Recall (France): The Prefecture of La Manche recalls all shellfish harvested from the Zone de depot de la zone de production No 50-14 Blainville-Gouville, due to norovirus contamination in oysters sampled on January 28, 2013 from the indicated zone.
  • Food Recall (France): Carrefour recalls Carrefour Lasagnes bolognaise, frozen (600g and 1kg), Carrefour Cannelloni bolognaise, frozen (600g), Grand Jury Lasagnes bolognaise, frozen (600g) and Grand Jury Cannelloni bolognaise, frozen (600g) because the products may contain horse meat. Please refer to the recall notice for additional details.
  • Food Recall (France): Findus recalls Findus brand Moussaka (600g; UPC 3599740007969), Lasagne Bolognaise (600g; UPC 3599740004517), Hachis Parmentier (600g; UPC 3599740004500), Lasagnes Bolognaise (1.2kg; UPC 3599740007983) and Hachis Parmentier (1.2kg; UPC 3599740007990), because the products contain horse meat. Please refer to the recall notice for additional details.
  • Food Recall (France): Picard recalls Picard Formule Express Lasagnes à la Bolognaise (300g; Lots #314/12 and 315/12; Code 57376) due to suspicion of the presence of horse meat.
  • Food Recall (Greece): Marinopoulos SA recalls Carrefour Lasagne Bolognese (1kg) and Carrefour Cannelloni Bolognese (600g), due to suspicion of the presence of horse meat.
  • Food Recall (UK): Aldi Stores recalls Aldi Today’s Special Frozen Beef Lasagne (400g; All date codes) and Aldi Today’s Special Frozen Spaghetti Bolognese (400g; All Date codes) due to finding horse meat (between 30% and 100%) in some samples.
  • Food Withdrawal (Ireland): Aldi withdraws Aldi Today’s Special Frozen Beef Lasagna (all batch codes/best before dates) and Aldi Today’s Special Frozen Spaghetti Bolognaise (all batch codes/best before dates) after the company’s tests revealed that some samples contained between 30% and 100% horse meat.
  • Food Recall (Sweden): Axfood withdraws Eldorado Lasagna Bolognese (1kg) Willys Lasagna Bolognese (400g) and Hemköp Lasagna Bolognese (400g) because the products are suspected to contain horse meat.
  • Food Recall (Sweden): Coop withdraws Coop Lasagna (400g) due to a suspicion that the product may contain horse meat.
  • Food Recall (Sweden): ICA recalls ICA brand Basic Lasagne (400g; all best before dates) because the product may contain horse meat.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU 2013.0172): Hepatitis A virus in pitted dates from Algeria, via France; distributed to the Netherlands.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0173): Norovirus in chilled oysters from France; distributed to Italy.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU 2013.0175): Chlorfenapyr in fresh papaya from Brazil; distributed to Italy.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0176): Salmonella Bredeney in frozen beef trimmings from Poland, via the Netherlands and via Germany; distributed to Sweden.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2013.0177): Salmonella in dried green pepper from India, via Germany; distributed to Estonia.

Australia and New Zealand

  • Allergy Alert (New Zealand): Seafood Marketing Ltd. recalls Seastar Samosa (750g pkgs; Best before 20.11.2014) and Seastar Vegetable Spring Rolls (750g pkgs; Best before 20.11.2014) due to undeclared soy.
  • Food Safety Recall (Australia): Fonterra Brands Australia recalls the following CalciYum yoghurt pouches (70g; All Best before dates up to and including 11 MAR 13) due to a potential choking hazard: Disney Princess Strawberry Yoghurt, Ben 10 Vanilla Yoghurt, Toy Story Vanilla Yoghurt, Cars Strawberry Yoghurt, Mickey and Minnie Tropical Yoghurt, and Wiggles Banana Yoghurt. The recalled products were sold in Coles, Woolworths and independent supermarkets nationally.
  • Outbreak Alert Update (Australia): The outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes infections linked to cheeses manufactured by Jindi Cheese Company (Victoria), now stands at 26 illnesses, including a third death – a 68-year old man from New South Wales.

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: November 14, 2012

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.

For current information on retail distribution of peanut butter products recalled due to Salmonella Bredeney, please consult the Trader Joe’s/Sunland Peanut Butter Recalls tab.

For current information on retail distribution of beef products containing Canadian beef recalled due to E. coli O157:H7 contamination please consult the Canada/USA Beef Recall tab.

United States

  • Food Safety Recall: Pinnacle Foods Group LLC (Fort Madison, IA) recalls Armour Vienna Sausage Bourbon BBQ Flavored (24 x 5-oz cans per case; Est P-4247; UPC 54100 93824; Use by Sept 7, 2015), because the product may have been underprocessed. The recalled canned sausage products were processed on Sept 7, 2012 and sold to retail establishments nationwide, including Wal-mart.

Canada

  • Allergy Alert: Loblaw Companies Limited recalls President’s Choice (PC) brand Milk Chocolate Covered Raisins (908g Club Packs; UPC 0 60383 98203 4; Best before 2013 JL 15), because the packages may contain undeclared almonds. The recalled product was distributed nationwide.
  • Food Safety Recall: Metro Ontario Inc. recalls Selection brand Baby Dill with Garlic Pickles (1 L; UPC 0 59749 89777 8; Code MTS PD – 05/20/2012 10:37), because the product may contain glass fragments. The recalled product was sold in Ontario and Quebec.
  • Food Safety Recall: Charcuterie Noël inc (Montreal, QC) recalls a number of preserved products (glass jars; sold up to and including November 5, 2012), because the items were not produced in a manner that would ensure their microbiological safety and were sold without refrigeration. Please refer to the recall notice for a complete list of affected products.
  • Outbreak Alert Update: The Public Health Agency of Canada has confirmed an 18th case of E. coli O157:H7 associated with the consumption of meat from XL Foods Inc. Illnesses were reported from Alberta (8 cases), Newfoundland and Labrador (1 case), Quebec (6 cases), and British Columbia (3 cases, including one visitor to Canada). Six of the 18 outbreak victims were hospitalized; none developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, and all 18 have survived. Ten of the 18 were male; victims’ ages ranged from five to 63 years of age. The earliest reported illness onset date was September 9th, and the most recent was October 15th.

Europe

  • Allergy Alert (UK): Asda withdraws Asda Milk Chocolate Spread (400g; All batch codes; All Best Before dates), because the product contains undeclared hazelnuts.
  • Allergy Alert (UK): Walkers withdraws Walkers Lights Variety 6 Pack (6 x 24g; Best before 12 January 2013 and 19 January 2013), because milk was not mentioned in the list of ingredients.
  • Food Safety Recall (Belgium): Match recalls Cora brand Râpé de poulet (150g; Lot #1243511 and 1243211; Expiry dates 25/11/2012 and 22/11/2012, respectively), because the products may be contaminated with Listeria.
  • Food Safety Recall (Belgium): Match recalls Cora brand Râpé de jambon fumé (150g; All lots; All expiry dates), because the product may be contaminated with Listeria.
  • Food Safety Recall (Denmark): Arla Foods amba Brabrand Dairy recalls Harmonie drinking yogurt with pineapple / elderflower (350 ml; Best before 22/11/2012) and Culture yogurt with raspberries (500g; Best before 19-11-2012), because the products have fermented due to yeast contamination.
  • Food Safety Recall (Denmark): Lidl Denmark K/S recalls Golden Sun Rice Pudding (500g; Best before 290914) due to infestation with beetles.
  • Food Safety Recall (Greece): Katopodi Bros. SA recalls Ntelimari Salami Air Lefkados (225g pkgs; Expiry 04/12/2012), after Listeria monocytogenes is found in the product.
  • Outbreak Alert Update (Northern Ireland): The Public Health Agency reports that the outbreak of E. coli O157 illnesses associated with Flicks restaurant in Cityside Mall, Belfast is now over. As of November 14th, there were 138 confirmed cases and 163 probable cases reported. The investigation into the cause of the outbreak is ongoing.
  • Allergy Alert Notification (EU #2012.1568): Soya in rice crackers from the Netherlands; distributed to Norway.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2012.1570): Methomyl in green papaya from Thailand; distributed to the Netherlands.
  • Food Supplement Safety Notification (EU #2012.1571): Arsenic and lead in clay powder from the USA; distributed to the United Kingdom.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2012.1574): Salmonella Rissen in frozen beef fat from Lithuania; distributed to Italy.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2012.1576): Cadmium in rock snails from Italy; distributed to Hungary and Italy.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2012.1577): Salmonella Ndolo in chilled mussels from Spain; distributed to Italy.
  • Food Supplement Safety Notification (EU #2012.1578): Benzethonium chloride in grapefruit seed extract from Poland; distributed to Latvia.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2012.1579): Glass fragments in frozen cake from Denmark; distributed to Norway.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2012.1580): Listeria monocytogenes in radish sprouts from the Netherlands; distributed to Germany.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2012.1581): Listeria welshimeri and Salmonella group B in alfalfa sprouts from the Netherlands; distributed to Germany.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2012.1582): Salmonella, Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus in frozen shrimps from Panama; distributed to Denmark.
  • Food Safety Notification (EU #2012.1586): Defective packaging of tuna spread from Belgium; distributed to Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

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 web site.

*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.

Investigation: USDA Quietly Eliminated 60 Percent of Foreign Inspections

The following article first appeared on Food Safety News, and is reposted with permission.

Investigation: USDA Quietly Eliminated 60 Percent of Foreign Meat Inspections

Agency also lacks foreign audit transparency

BY HELENA BOTTEMILLER | NOVEMBER 1, 2012

Sending U.S. Department of Agriculture officials overseas to inspect meat and poultry plants whose products are destined for American consumers has long been a bedrock of our modern import safety system, but an investigation by Food Safety News found, the number of countries audited by U.S. officials each year has declined by more than 60 percent since 2008.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has also become less transparent. The agency has failed to make audit reports public in a timely fashion and only revealed which countries have been audited in the past two years this week following multiple inquiries by Food Safety News and a blog post by former Under Secretary for Food Safety Richard Raymond questioning the lack of online records.

With an increasingly global food system – around 17 percent of the U.S. food supply is now imported – U.S. consumers are directly impacted by food safety practices and regulatory systems abroad.

Just last month, a massive E. coli O157:H7 beef recall from XL Foods in Alberta, Canada, affected 2.5 million pounds of beef that had been shipped to U.S. meat processors and grocery chains. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are no known illnesses linked to XL Foods in the United States, but at least 16 Canadians have fallen ill.

The XL Foods recall, the largest in Canadian history, might never have happened if FSIS border inspectors in Sweetgrass, Montana hadn’t found E. coliO157:H7 in multiple samples of the imported beef and raised the issue with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Food safety advocates say the incident highlights the importance of a strong border inspection system, but also raises critical questions about whether FSIS has taken a more hands-off approach in regulating foreign countries sending meat and poultry products to the U.S.

Canadian media reported this month that FSIS was preparing to audit the Canadian meat safety system. The audit had been planned and was not prompted by the XL Foods recall, according to both CFIA and FSIS officials, but the reports noted that FSIS had not audited Canada, a major meat trading partner, since 2009.

Food safety experts and consumer advocates have started wondering: Why aren’t these food safety check-ups happening annually like they used to? Some worry that budgetary pressures are forcing a reduction in the number of audits, or worse, that the reductions are part of an effort to liberalize trade at the expense of public health.

In-country audits are part of what the agency often calls a “triad of protection” for imported meat and poultry. First, USDA must establish “equivalency,” determining that the importing country has a food safety system in place that’s on par with the U.S. system. Once a country is given the go-ahead (only 34 countries are currently approved), the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service continually monitors the safety of imported products through strict re-inspection at the port of entry, by testing for dangerous pathogens, and by conducting “ongoing audits” to ensure the countries are living up to their equivalency designation.

Dr. Richard Raymond, the former Under Secretary for Food Safety, who led FSIS under the Bush administration, went public with his concerns about reducing the frequency of foreign audits this week. In a Meatingplace op-ed published Monday, Raymond questioned whether regular foreign audits were a casualty of tough budgetary times.

“I’ve always considered our foreign inspection program one of the crown jewels of our food safety system,” Raymond told Food Safety News. “Frequent audits are important. Without them, people cut corners – it’s human nature.”

Data show steep drop in foreign inspections

During the Bush administration, in-country audits generally happened annually, but, according to data provided to Food Safety News by FSIS earlier this month (which were posted online Wednesday), the number of in-country audits has dropped dramatically under the Obama administration.

Online documents show that from 2001 to 2008 FSIS inspectors were routinely evaluating, in-person, the foreign plants processing meat for American consumers. The number of countries audited annually, with only one exception (in 2006 there was a large drop in audits), was between 25 and 32, so FSIS was auditing an average of 26.4 countries per year. From 2009 to 2012, however, the number of countries audited annually dropped to between 3 and 20, so FSIS was auditing an average of 9.8 countries per year.

INFOGRAPHIC: A look at country audits conducted by FSIS 2001 to 2012.

The number of foreign countries audited started to decline significantly in 2009, to only 21 audits, but the in-country inspections that year still covered many of the major meat importers, including Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico.

In 2010, FSIS only audited 6 countries – Brazil, China, Honduras, Korea, Spain, and Uruguay – a third of what the agency had done the year before.

By 2011, the number of countries audited by FSIS was down to just 3: Australia, New Zealand and Poland.

So far in 2012, the agency has completed 10 audits, but the agency began auditing Canada on Oct. 22, so presumably that brings the total to 11. FSIS officials would not say how many more audits, if any, were scheduled through the end of the calendar year.

As of Monday, FSIS had not posted audit reports for all of the countries it audited in 2010, nor had it posted any information about which countries were audited in 2011 and 2012, telling Food Safety News that the reports were still under review. Sometime in 2009 the agency also stopped including plant audits in the reports posted online. On Wednesday, the agency updated its foreign audit page to include a handful of draft country audit reports as well as notes about which audit reports are still pending.

One former FSIS employee from the International Affairs Office told Food Safety News they could not imagine why the agency had stopped posting audit reports online in a timely manner.

“In past years, those audit reports would get posted within 60 days,” they said. “I’m surprised that FSIS isn’t being as transparent as we want them to be.”

A new approach to foreign inspection

According to interviews with former and current FSIS officials, the agency has, since 2008, been quietly changing its approach to foreign audits, making in-country visits far less frequent.

Though FSIS officials object to calling the new approach “risk-based” – they refer to the new approach as “systems-based” – internal agency documents obtained by Food Safety News clearly show that FSIS has shifted to a “risk-based” system that relies more heavily on paperwork than annual in-country inspections.

What’s particularly curious about this apparent policy shift, according to several stakeholders and consumer advocates, is that it was never made public.

Laurie Bryant, the executive director of the Meat Import Council of America, for example, told Food Safety News he was not aware that the agency had been reducing the frequency of in-country audits or that there had been a significant change in policy.

“If they’re going to make major changes to our foreign inspection program, the criteria for doing so should be made public,” said Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Food & Water Watch. “They’ve never announced or explained this new approach. We’ve been kept in the dark on this.”

Gary Weber, who used to serve as the director of regulatory affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and now runs his own food safety consulting company, expressed concern about scaling back in-country audits.

“Audits are critical to protecting both consumer confidence and public health,” said Weber. “It’s a privilege to be able to export meat to our country.”

There is no official explanation for the significant policy change, but one official did acknowledge they “dropped the ball” by not announcing it.

Agency officials told Food Safety News they “intended to announce it in a Federal Register notice,” but haven’t because they’ve been busy issuing other policy changes. The agency said it’s “preparing the documentation around this” and intends to explain the new approach.

FSIS officials argue that the new system is more sophisticated and replaces the old “cookie cutter” audits.

The agency now uses a self reporting tool, known as SRT, that allows countries to self-report information to FSIS. Foreign inspectors provide information to the agency on things like preventive controls, microbiological and chemical testing, sanitation and government oversight. The self reporting tool has been supplementing in-country audits since 2010, according to the agency.

“We get more information from countries on an ongoing basis,” said a FSIS official. “We’re going to do less in-country audits.”

“This is more of a document approach,” said one former FSIS official, adding that SRT is more cost-effective than extensive onsite audits. “It doesn’t make sense to keep going back to the countries that don’t have problems.”

The agency is already using a tiered approach to rank countries based on risk – they look at SRT submissions, past problems and the results of FSIS’ re-inspection testing at the ports of entry. The criteria have not been made public.

Budget and transparency concerns

There is some disagreement about what motivated FSIS to adopt a new approach to foreign inspection.

Agency officials insist that budget constraints were not the reason for scaling back in-country visits. House Appropriations Committee staff confirmed that FSIS has received appropriations on par with what they’ve requested.

But a former FSIS official from the Office of International Affairs told Food Safety News that budgetary pressures were a major factor in the change.

“The budget restrictions had pretty much forced the agency to re-evaluate the most cost-effective way to do audits,” they said, noting that the agency is trying to transition to a more risk-based approach across the board.

FSIS said the new approach was suggested by the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI) in August 2008, but consumer advocates dispute the claim.

One of the recommendation documents from the meeting states that the “length of time between audits can be based more on risk and compliance history in the foreign country,” and that “a three-tiered system may be appropriate,” but the documents don’t get much more specific.

“I don’t see anything in the document that says, ‘It’s fine for you to go three years without auditing a country’s system,’” said longtime consumer advocate Carol Tucker-Foreman, who served as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Food and Consumer Services under the Carter administration. “I’ve never seen anything that outlines the grounds for such an approach.”

“FSIS hasn’t provided any data showing that imported meat and poultry products are safer than those made in the U.S,” said Tucker-Foreman. “Perhaps [the White House Office of Management and Budget] wants even more cuts in the FSIS budget; perhaps pleasing our trading partners now trumps public health; perhaps it is a little of both. Whatever the cause, we think it is bad public policy.”

Pat Buck, the director of outreach and education at the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention echoed similar concerns.

“It is concerning that Canada, which is America’s largest supplier of imported beef, is not audited every year. It would seem prudent for USDA to conduct an annual audit for those countries — Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay — that account for the bulk of America’s imported beef products,” said Buck. “It is not clear what caused this policy change.”

The agency insists it has not backed off foreign inspection; it’s just being smarter about targeting audits to where the potential problems are. Plus, FSIS points out, in-country inspections are just one part of the “triad of protection” for imports.

Nevertheless, the agency responded to follow up questions Wednesday by saying it would take a second look at its protocols regarding foreign audits: “FSIS is evaluating our process of updating audits to be more transparent and responsive to requests from our stakeholders.”

Infographic with data from FSIS contributed by James Andrews.