Again, people get sick eating at Jimmy John’s sandwich shops. Customers in Washington and Idaho are sick because they ate sandwiches with E. coli contaminated sprouts. This is the seventh time since 2008, sprouts from Jimmy Johns have made people sick. After incident five in 2012, Jimmy John bans sprouts from his sandwich shops. He brings them back in 2013, in November people get sick and now again.
389 sick from Salmonella linked to Foster Farms chicken. No recall announcement from Foster Farms. Is there a magic number where concern for their customers’ well being kicks in and Foster Farms does the right thing. A recall and full disclosure are hallmarks of concern and integrity.
Foster Farms did comply with the USDA’s request to fix issues at three central California plants. There was really no choice. However there was a choice early on, Foster Farms could have announced a recall, provided the production codes and distribution information and been known as a company that had made some mistakes but was doing their best to fix the situation.
Six times in five years people get sick eating at Jimmy John’s sandwich shops. The latest incident involves 8 people and 3 sandwich shops in the Denver area. The E. coli coming from a still unnamed produce product put on the eight’s sandwiches.
Jimmy John has had his problems with produce, particularly sprouts. In 2008, then in 2009 and again in 2010 people got sick from alfalfa sprouts on their Jimmy John’s sandwiches. Not giving up on sprouts, the food safety expert, Jimmy John, switches to clover sprouts and makes people sick later in 2010 and then in February 2012. After the 2012 incident, Jimmy John said he was tired of the bad press and banned all sprouts from his sandwich shops forever. Evidently forever is nine months because sprouts were back in October.
The Food Safety Modernization Act gave the FDA the power to mandate recalls. In the past the FDA would go to the company whose product was making people sick and try to cajole, threaten or shame them into doing the right thing.
Now with the power which for years they begged, the FDA fails to do the right thing. In early May, a berry mix from Townsend Farms was identified as the source of a Hepatitis A outbreak. At the time it seemed like all of the parties involved were moving in slow motion. Neither Townsend Farms nor the two retailers involved, Costco and Harris Teeter were doing anything. This was the perfect time for the FDA to do their job, to protect American consumers from food-borne illness, but they do nothing.
On June 4th, Townsend Farms finally issues a voluntary recall. As of today, ninety-nine people are or were sick with Hepatitis A. This number might be significantly lower if the FDA had done their job and used their power to mandate recalls given them by FSMA.
At the beginning of the last century, there was the Pure Food and Drug Act. The Food Safety Modernization Act was supposed to be this century’s building on the legacy. Instead we see the FDA floundering and FSMA bogged down in fights over funding.
PrimusLabs’ audit shows a Superior rating for Jensen Farms. Listeria monocytogenes from the Jensen cantaloupes caused the deaths of 37 and made 147 others sick, resulting in millions in medical bills.
When the FDA investigates they find a “smoking gun”. The Jensens are using a used potato washer to wash their cantaloupes. The washer is not designed for this task and just doesn’t do a good job. To make matters worse, no sanitizers are added to the wash water.
Looking further into the audit we find that PrimusLabs had sub-contracted it to Bio Food Safety. Earlier acting as a consultant, Bio Food Safety had pointed out to the Jensens the problem with the washer. Bio Food Safety as the auditor found no problems.
Representing 44 of those that were sicken or lost love ones due to Jensen cantaloupes, the attorney, Bill Marler is going after the auditor. A win by Marler will set legal precedent. Although he is the very best at what he does, Marler will be facing an uphill battle. The auditor did not contract to Marler’s 44 to do the audit. Because of this, the auditor will argue that they are not responsible to the 44 for the food safety issues missed by the audit.
In 2008 in Canada, listeria from Maple Leaf Foods’ lunchmeat sickens 57, resulting in 23 deaths. In the U.S., every year, there are about 1,850 serious illnesses and 425 deaths related to listeria, 85% from lunchmeat. The CDC is warning older people to heat lunchmeat. I grew up poor in the South, now at 65 I’m going to have to go back to the fried baloney sandwiches of my childhood.
What really got me thinking about listeria and lunchmeat was the visit to my daughter’s a few weeks ago. She is expecting her second child and was going through with me all the foods she could not eat during her pregnancy. Lebanon bologna, one of her favorites, becomes a big no-no. Her obstetrician had given her a warning about lunchmeat and listeria. As a part of my job I give food safety training and talk about the organisms of concern like Listeria monocytogenes. I tell of its insidious nature, the unsuspecting pregnant woman thinks she has the flu, and then she loses the baby she is carrying. Without obstetricians getting the word out, that unsuspecting pregnant woman could have been my daughter and that baby my precious granddaughter.
Yesterday’s post by Bill Marler really brought home the idea that failing to do the right thing could kill somebody. The attorney and food safety advocate made the connection between the death of a tiny baby boy and someone at a cheese company not doing their job. The baby had died from the complications of his extremely premature birth. The premature birth was induced by his mother’s listeriosis infection. She had eaten listeria contaminated cheese.
When you read the FDA or CFIA report following a food safety disaster you find that somebody just didn’t do their job. The FDA finds cantaloupes are left sitting in dirty water at Jensen Farms and hens and their eggs are surrounded by salmonella laden feces at Wright County Egg. In Canada at Maple Leaf Foods, CFIA finds a slicer coated with listeria. The procedure called for the frequent cleaning of this slicer. Unfortunately no one was checking to see if this was being done and even worse no one knew how to take the slicer apart.
Never in these investigations does it turn out to be one employee or a small group, it’s always the company’s management’s failure to do the right thing – to put in systems to assure proper cleaning, systems to assure that equipment is properly inspected, systems to assure employees are trained properly.
During the investigation the FDA or CFIA investigator asks to see the person that is in charge of food safety and then a middle aged, middle manager degreed in food science or one of the natural sciences is pushed out. The only people, he or she has authority over is the small team of technicians they manage. Never when the question is asked does the CEO step up and say I’m the one that is responsible for food safety her. I’m the one that if they don’t lead this company in the right way it could make a product that kills somebody.