FOOD SAFETY SCAN: Outbreak-related peanut plant violations, cattle-linked salmonellosis, food safety research awards

Nov 15, 2012

Outbreak peanut company has history of violations, Salmonella in nut products
The company responsible for a peanut butter-linked multistate Salmonella outbreak that has sickened at least 41 people this year shipped 21 lots of peanut and almond butters since 2009 after they tested positive for Salmonella and has a history of sanitation problems dating to 2003, Food Safety News (FSN) reported yesterday. In addition, post-outbreak inspections by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found Salmonella in four samples of peanut butter and one sample of shelled raw peanuts at Sunland Inc.'s Portales, N.M., plant, ground zero for this year's outbreak. Two of those samples contained Salmonella Bredeney, the outbreak strain, while tests on the other three samples are pending, according to FDA reports released yesterday. The FDA also found multiple Salmonella strains in 23 samples taken from processing equipment and floors in the plant. Inspectors also noted 10 food safety violations, including improper cleaning and storage, lack of employee hygiene steps, and failure to keep pests away from food products. The post-outbreak inspections were conducted from Sep 17 to Oct 16.
Nov 14 FSN story
Most recent FDA inspection report

Cattle exposure cited as risk factor in some Salmonella infections
Salmonella infections are usually associated with contaminated food, but when it comes to bovine-associated Salmonella strains, contact with farm animals may be a more common risk factor than previously supposed, according to a study in Emerging Infectious Diseases. Researchers compared animal exposures of patients infected with bovine-associated strains and of patients infected with non-bovine–associated strains, using 2 years' worth of salmonellosis data collected in New York and Washington states. After controlling for consumption of undercooked ground beef and unpasteurized milk, they found that contact with farm animals during the 5 days before illness onset was significantly associated with being a case-patient (odds ratio, 3.2; P = .0008). Contact with cattle specifically was even more strongly associated with illness (odds ratio, 7.4; P = .0002), after food exposures were controlled for. "More cases of bovine-associated salmonellosis in humans might result from direct contact with cattle, as opposed to ingestion of foods of bovine origin, than previously recognized," the report says. "Efforts to control salmonellosis should include a focus on transmission routes other than foodborne."
Nov 14 Emerg Infect Dis report

USDA awards $15 million in food safety research grants
The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has collectively awarded nearly $15 million for 17 food safety research projects run by academic groups across the country, the agency said in a release. “In addition to producing new knowledge about food-borne pathogens, these grants include extension and education programs to inform food service workers and consumers about proper food handling procedures, said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. NIFA made the awards through a program whose goal is to protect consumers from microbial and chemical contaminants at all stages of the food chain. This year the program focused on control and prevention of Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry flocks and poultry products, including eggs, but also addressed other food safety hazards. Four institutions garnered the lion's share of the awards with grants of around $2.5 million each: the University of Arizona, Iowa State, North Carolina State, and Tennessee State.
Nov 13 USDA news release

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