(Photo credits: http://www.mercurynews.com/health/ci_28995979/update-dozens-sickened-12-intensive-care-after-eating; KGO ABC 7 News.)
What is Shigella?
Shigellosis is an infection caused by Shigella bacteria. Symptoms usually appear within 1-2 days after infection.
How Bad Is It?
How Does It Spread?
- Direct contact with an infected person. This is the most common way it is spread.
- Unsanitary food handling (indirect contact) by an infected person.
- Imported produce that may be contaminated with polluted water.
How is It Treated?
Diarrhea can cause dehydration, which can be treated with fluids. Serious cases may require additional medical treatment such as antibiotics.
Why Should I Worry About It?
Shigella is prevalent, causing about 500,000 cases annually in the U.S.
Shigella bacteria are also developing resistance to many common antibiotics, which makes the condition harder to treat and more likely to spread.
What Can I Do About It?
Shigella victim Greg Meissner filed a lawsuit against the restaurant. Given the number of people infected, more will likely follow.
Recent news stories illustrate that bacterial food poisoning is a recurring, high cost, sickening (and in some cases, deadly) problem that requires investing in prevention.
Today’s Washington Post includes an online article about how salmonella infections have increased “by 10 percent in recent years.” (The longitudinal data regarding the total number of U.S. cases from 1996 to 2009 can be found here.)
Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2009 salmonella incidence rate was 15.19 cases per 100,000 population, which is more than twice the National Health Objective of 6.8 cases per 100,000.
Elizabeth Hagen, the Undersecretary for Food Safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, noted that the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 infections has decreased, demonstrating that more stringent regulation and efforts by meat processing companies in particular have lowered contamination at the slaughterhouse level. However, as the recent outbreak in Germany of the world’s deadliest E. coli tragically illustrates, “new and ‘highly infectious and toxic‘” E. coli strains are emerging from a source(s) that is still unknown.
Compounding the human tragedy, some businesses that sell fresh produce have seen their sales fall 35 percent since the outbreak began. EU farmers’ losses are estimated at $611 million per week. Former FDA Commissioner David Acheson has opined that an outbreak like the current one could happen in the U.S.
Michael R. Taylor, the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods, provided sound advice for the food industry: “investing in prevention is, ultimately, the only way to provide the protection that consumers expect.”
On April 28, 2011, the FDA gave notice that it had updated and implemented guidance standards for fish that “support and complement FDA’s regulations for the safe and sanitary processing and importing of fish and fishery products using hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) methods.” According to the Federal Register, the FDA implemented the new standards immediately, without public comment, to promote consumer safety and “provide important recommendations for conducting a hazard analysis and implementing a HACCP plan.”
A .pdf copy of the guide can be downloaded here.
The 476-page document provides an organized and comprehensive overview of how to identify potential hazards, determine whether they are significant, identify critical control points to reduce the hazard, and develop a control strategy (which includes setting critical limits, establishing monitoring procedures, establishing corrective action protocols, record-keeping, and verification procedures).
On March 26, the makers of Toxic Waste candy recalled their “Toxic Waste® Short Circuits™ Bubble Gum” for excessive lead content. This is the second Toxic Waste candy product recalled in 2011 for excessive lead levels.
The gum was distributed between January 4, 2011 and March 18, 2011. This raises the question of the extent to which the recalled product may already have been consumed. Time is of the essence for food recalls, and managing a food recall is easier for both the manfacturer and consumer when a product is recalled sooner than later.
As with the January 2011 recall of the company”s “nuclear sludge” candy, the recalled candy at issue here was imported. Although non-chocolate candy accounted for only 7.3 percent of FDA food import violations from 1998 to 2004, it is difficult to find specific data regarding the scope of these violations. However, the FDA provides information about how it monitors and regulates food importation. Additionally, while candy manufacturers are not at this time required to develop and implement HACCP plans, companies may want to consider doing so sooner than later to manage their risk of food recalls.
Food Processing Companies, Restaurants, and Foodservice Providers: Do You Have a Current Food Defense Plan?
Is your company implementing plans to protect its products from intentional harm? Reducing this risk helps protect your customers, your employees, and your business.
What is a Food Defense Plan?
Why is a Food Defense Plan Necessary?
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has determined that the food and agriculture industry is one of the nation’s most critical elements of infrastructure. This trillion-plus dollar industry may be vulnerable to attack.
How Can My Business Develop a Food Defense Plan?
Preparing a Food Defense Plan requires identifying potential vulnerabilities, preparing a written plan to minimize them, and verifying the effectiveness of the food defense measures. The FDA and USDA have free food defense plan development and training resources available.
The FDA has published this quick-and-easy four-step guide to food safety while preparing food for your Super Bowl party. First, wash your hands. (I know, this seems so obvious, but the problems that are literally right in front of your face are the ones that so many people overlook.) Second, keep raw and ready-to-eat foods separate to prevent cross-contamination. Third, cook foods thoroughly. Finally, keep in mind that it’s always better to prevent problems than to respond to them. (Perhaps the FDA should have put this step first.) The site includes other food safety links to help address specific food safety questions.
In any event, enjoy the game.
The latest reminder that restaurants and grocers can benefit from implementing food recall risk management plans: two customers of Safeway grocery stores filed a class-action lawsuit contending that store should have used Safeway Club Card contact information to notify consumers sooner about recalled food they purchased.
The lawsuit does not contend that the plaintiffs suffered any illness. However, plaintiffs apparently request that Safeway implement a system to notify Club Card customers of food recalls sooner. It also apparently requests that Safeway refund its customers the cost of the recalled food purchased. (Note: plaintiffs did not need to sue Safeway to get their money back. The company’s website notes that customers may return recalled products to their local store for a full refund.)
Just two days ago, I noted that some stores were still selling contaminated food after a recall, and that they could lower their liability risks by signing up for free recall notifications. (Here, apparently the plaintiffs purchased their food before it was recalled; at this time I am not aware of any allegation that Safeway sold recalled food.) However, Costco took the next step, and at least two years ago, it started telephoning its members about food recalls for previously-purchased items.
Although no known authority (under California or federal law) requires a store to use loyalty card contact information to notify customers of recalls by phone or email, as the capability to warn customers about recalled food expands, so will customers’ expectations. Why wait until your company is a defendant facing trial in a court of law (or the court of public opinion) to try and minimize the risk of litigation?
Thankfully, the lawsuit against Safeway does not claim that anyone suffered injury, but one in six Americans suffers food poisoning every year, and about 3,000 die from it. The more your company can show it implemented best practices to minimize the risk of personal injury, the less likely a jury (or the public) will find it did something wrong.