Shigellosis Outbreak Linked to Walmart Cafeteria

The Arkansas Department of Health has traced an outbreak of Shigellosis affecting dozens of people to a cafeteria at Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, AR. Officials indicated the likely source was Salsarita’s, a Mexican food bar operated by Eurest. “So far that does seem to be where most people say that they had eaten before they became ill,” said Cathy Flanagin of the state health department. Salsarita’s was reportedly closed for a time while Walmart and the Benton County Health Department investigated the situation. The entire cafeteria was disinfected, including all kitchen and dining areas. Shigellosis is a highly contagious bacterial infection typically transmitted by people who don’t wash their hands after using the restroom or changing diapers. Symptoms include diarrhea (often bloody), fever and stomach cramps which appear within a day or two of exposure. The symptoms usually resolve within five to seven days, and those infected are rarely hospitalized.

Food Safety News
By: News Desk | February

A settlement was recently reached between 66 victims of the 2011 Listeria outbreak linked to Jensen Brothers cantaloupe and some of the 20 defendants. The terms of the settlement are confidential, said Williams Marler of Seattle-based Marler Clark, a food-safety law firm. “The matter was resolved by mutual agreement of the parties,” Marler said. (Marler Clark underwrites Food Safety News, and Marler is publisher of the site.) Marler represented the plaintiffs in their lawsuits against Kroger, which sold some of the cantaloupe at its retail stores, a cantaloupe broker, and a third-party auditing company, among others. Walmart, another defendant, had already settled.Will Steele, president of Frontera, Edinburg, Texas, said the company is “focused on strengthening the industry’s traceability efforts.”“The matter is in the process of being resolved,” Steele said.“Settlement documents have been exchanged with the plaintiffs, and the parties anticipate that those documents will be signed by all the required parties. However, the settlement isn’t officially concluded until that occurs. We believe a final settlement of all claims will be reached soon.”

Steele said the settlement will not effect Frontera’s ongoing business.

“While some predicted or assumed that Frontera Produce would be bankrupted by the past three years of litigation, that is not the case,” Steele said. “Frontera had substantial insurance money, which is being used to cover claims.”

The Listeria outbreak linked to Jensen Brothers cantaloupe is one the deadliest outbreaks in U.S. history. It sickened 147 people in 28 states, resulting in the deaths of 33 people and another 10 who died later. One woman pregnant when she was sickened suffered a miscarriage.

During an inspection of the Jensen Farms packing facility near Holly, CO, in September 2011, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Colorado state health officials took multiple samples of whole cantaloupes and environmental samples from within the facility.

Of 39 environmental samples, FDA stated that 13 were positive for Listeria monocytogenes, and cantaloupe from the firm’s cold storage was also confirmed positive for L. monocytogenes.

Brothers Eric and Ryan Jensen pleaded guilty to six federal misdemeanors in October 2013, including introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce and criminal aiding and abetting. They were each sentenced to five years probation and six months home detention, $150,000 in restitution and 100 hours of community service. The farm operation filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

IOA Conference and Exhibition Valencia, Spain – October 29 – 31, 2007, Albert Canut, Andrés Pascual

Cleaning and disinfection operations are of great importance within the food processing industries for food safety reasons but they produce a significant environmental impact in terms of water consumption and wastewater production.

Most care areas in food industries rely on a range of chemicals such as chlorine, quaternary ammonium compounds, bromine or iodine products, among others, however, health and environmental concerns are supporting the need for alternative sanitation technologies.

Ozone might play an advantageous role in Cleaning in Place operations as an alternative to other sanitizers with several potential environmental advantages. This paper describes the progress made in a Life funded demonstration project with the objective to obtain data that demonstrates the environmental advantages of replacing some conventional sanitizers by ozone concerning cleaning in place systems.

An analysis of the different factors involved in an ozone based CIP system is commented, comments in relation to Best Available Technology concerning to cleaning and disinfection are presented, environmental data related to current cleaning operations obtained in collaborating industries of the winery and dairy sectors is shown and a pilot plant designed to perform the demonstration trials is described, finally the potential environmental advantages and the necessary performance indicators are discussed.

To read the full study, please click here.

Research Association on Food Industry (ainia). Quality, food safety and environment department. Parc Tecnològic de València, C. Benjamin Franklin, 5-11. E-46980 Paterna (Valencia). Phone: +34 961366090; Fax: +34 961318008. E-mail: acanut@ainia.es

Athena Papa, United Kingdom (European Food Information Council)

air-purifier-vs-1Ozone (O3) is a strong antimicrobial agent with several potential applications in the food industry. Its high reactivity, penetrability, and natural decomposition to a harmless product (O2) make ozone a practical disinfectant for ensuring the microbiological safety of food products without leaving chemical residues.

The gas is useful in reducing levels of some mycotoxins and pesticide residues from some agricultural products. The potential benefit of ozone use in the food industry lies within the fact that ozone is 52% stronger than chlorine (another frequently used antimicrobial agent) and has been shown to be effective over a much wider spectrum of microorganisms than chlorine or other disinfectants. Relatively low concentrations of ozone and short contact time are sufficient to inactivate bacteria, moulds, yeasts, parasites and viruses.

Ozone is used in the food industry mostly for decontamination of product surfaces and for water treatment. Ozone has been used to inactivate contaminant microflora on meat, poultry, eggs, fish, fruits, vegetables, and dry foods during storage and transport. The gas also is useful in detoxification and elimination of mycotoxins and pesticide residues from some agricultural products. The efficacy of ozone is also dependent on other factors as time of exposure, temperature etc. therefore an general statement can’t be made. Excessive use of ozone, however, may cause oxidation of some ingredients. This usually results in discoloration and deterioration of food flavour.

Kevin T. Higgins, Managing Editor, Food Processing

2000px-Electron_shell_017_Chlorine_-_no_label.svgChlorine is the traditional go-to option for sanitation in food plants because of its effectiveness and low cost and despite chlorine’s potential health risks. Handling any powerful oxidizer requires care, however, and that discourages many food processors to explore alternatives such as aqueous ozone and ozone gas.

Ozone is widely used in municipal wastewater treatment, but it was off limits for food processors after the Food Additive Amendment of 1958 failed to include it in a list of approved chemicals. The omission was an oversight, ozone proponents maintain, and extensive research and lobbying was needed before federal regulators allowed its use, first for food-surface sanitation, then in direct contact with food.

Suppliers of ozone generators were euphoric in June 2001 when FDA lifted restrictions on ozone’s use. The decision was a response to a petition led by the Electric Power Research Institute, which liked the idea of a sanitizer that requires consumption of electricity.

But manufacturers are reluctant to change processes that work, and most ozone vendors came and went to pursue more promising avenues, such as swimming pool disinfection. Misapplication also retarded acceptance: Overdosing of water for equipment cleaning generated complaints of pitting of stainless steel, and poultry processors seeking high log reductions on chicken carcasses discovered oxidation could react with lipids and create rancidity issues.

fda-food-qualityBecause the U.S. Department of Commerce oversees seafood processing, ozone’s use in direct contact with fish predates FDA’s approval. Knocking down spoilage organisms and bacteria is essential if fish is to have a realistic shelf life. While U.S. firms have used ozonated water to accomplish that for at least 15 years, their counterparts to the north only recently have had that option. The first Canadian seafood processor to do so was Albion Fisheries Ltd., Richmond, British Columbia.

Ozonated water is applied to fish at Albion Fisheries prior to packaging and frozen distribution.

Albion used a portable ozone generator to create sanitizing water for cleaning equipment and food-contact surfaces in its old processing plant in British Columbia. Managers wanted to include a centralized system for direct contact when they built a 70,000-sq.-ft. facility in Richmond. Health Canada had not considered expanding ozone applications until it received a petition from Ozone International LLC, Albion’s Bainbridge Island, Wash., system supplier.

“It took two years and was a long time coming, and it was a bit frustrating for Canadian processors,” relates Mark Dennis, the firm’s vice president of sales. Worker safety issues and unreliable controls that produced spotty results plagued ozone applications throughout North America in years past, giving ozone a black eye with many food companies. “All they remember is that ozone didn’t work,” Dennis remarks.

Health Canada gave its blessing in time for the December 2012 opening of Albion’s new plant, where ozone-resistant piping delivers treated water to 20 rooms used for processing, receiving, storage and other operations.

“High loads of bacteria will destroy the fish before they go to the freezing plant,” notes Musleh Uddin, Albion’s director of corporate quality assurance. “There were some worker concerns about off-gassing, but if you explain ozone is eco-friendly and better than chemicals, you can get past those concerns. After nine months of use, the concern is gone.”

Ozone-molecule-whiteOzone is inherently unstable, with the three oxygen elements seeking stability by attaching to carbon, hydrogen and other atoms. Albion’s system generates ozone at a 1.5 ppm ratio; when it reaches the point of use, the concentration is 1.2 ppm, and within 30 seconds it completely dissipates, according to Uddin. Residual amounts become airborne at less than 0.3 ppm, enough to knock out any yeast and mold but not enough to affect human health. “It’s almost like a sterilized plant,” he adds. “Health inspectors have commented that there is no fish smell in the building.”

Albion’s product portfolio includes a line of sushi. “We cannot stop the lipid deterioration with normal freezing, and if fat oxidizes, you get bad odors,” comments Uddin. “Any food intended for raw consumption requires -30 degrees Celsius.” Choosing to err on the side of caution, the firm holds sushi at -70 degrees C/-94 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now that Albion has blazed the ozone trail, many more Canadian processors are likely to follow. They will join a roster of ozone users that includes bottled water companies and most fresh-cut produce suppliers.

Strickland Produce Inc., Nashville, Tenn., was an early champion of ozone. CEO Walter Strickland says the company began rigorous study of ozone in combination with chlorine in 1998. “You get an improved flavor from fruits and vegetables, and it is very beneficial in extending shelf life,” he says.

In a detailed study Strickland conducted and provided to the International Ozone Assn., he calculated a commercial system for washing and packaging fresh-cut salads produced a 21-month payback from a 60 percent reduction in water use and $112,320 in annual labor costs. Additional savings in reduced maintenance and reduced downtime for water changes also accrued.

A skid-mounted ozone metering and monitoring system was included in a hydro-chilling system for refrigerated side dishes manufactured by Kettle Creations in Lima, Ohio, when the facility was built in 2009 (the company was acquired in 2012 by Bob Evans Farms Inc. and is undergoing major expansion). Ozone purifies recirculated water that is sprayed on trays and pouches of mashed potatoes and other dishes as they are conveyed 2,700 ft. through a spiral cooler.

“Chlorine is the old standby” for similar systems,” and most food companies opt for chlorine treatment. notes Ken Soper, production manager at Coastline Equipment Inc., the Bellingham, Wash., supplier that fabricated Kettle Creations’ cooler. “But companies that really look at their costs are inclined to choose ozone,” he says.

Don’t fix what’s not broken is a guiding principle in process industries, and even small changes are approached with considerable caution. As the efficacy and cost advantages of ozone become more widely understood, the technology’s role in plant hygiene will grow.