CHICAGO -- Foodborne pathogens including salmonella, cyclospora and listeria have all made headlines in recent weeks. After reports of a series of incidents, it might seem as though food illness-outbreaks are on the rise; however, stricter guidelines and advanced technology are helping to detect potential contamination sooner. This year food purveyors began to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, which focuses on prevention rather than reaction. The rule also gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to mandate recalls when companies do not do so voluntarily. Whole genome sequencing of pathogens also has helped accelerate action plans and understanding of an outbreak, according to the World Health Organization.
"We are not seeing an increase in the number or scope of recalls,” FDA spokesperson Peter Cassell told KSHB. “Our tools for detecting them are much better, and our policies for how and when we alert the public lean in the direction of more and earlier communication.”
Read on for three outbreaks that convenience-store foodservice teams should know about …
1. Del Monte vegetable trays
In June, Kwik Trip Inc. pulled Del Monte vegetable trays from stores after more than a dozen customers reported illnesses in Wisconsin and Minnesota. A parasite called cyclospora is to blame for the outbreak, according to investigations by the Wisconsin Department of Health, the Minnesota Department of Health and other local health departments.
Two types of Del Monte vegetable trays have been linked to the infections. Patients have reported purchasing Del Monte’s 6- or 12-ounce vegetable trays containing broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and dill dip.
Cyclospora is a parasite common in developing countries. The disease is spread by ingesting food or water contaminated by feces, and it causes flu-like symptoms in humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Signs of the illness can take up to a week to present themselves in infected individuals.
2. McDonald's salads
McDonald’s voluntarily pulled salads from 3,000 units in 13 states in July. The FDA suspects the Chicago-based quick-service chain’s salads sickened about 400 people. Earlier in August, the agency confirmed that it found cyclospora parasites in McDonald’s Fresh Express salad mix. Officials did not find any connection between the contaminated Del Monte vegetable trays and the salads.
3. Lipari Foods turkey sandwiches
Lipari Foods LLC has recalled two brands of sub sandwiches from sister company JLM. The Warren, Mich.-based company voluntarily recalled its Premo Brand and FreshGrab turkey and Swiss sandwiches over a potential listeria contamination.
Listeria monocytogenes can cause serious and life-threatening illnesses in children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems; however, healthy individuals can also become ill. Stores in Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin and West Virginia received the sandwiches, which were produced on July 17. No illness had been reported as of July 19.
A salmonella outbreak in raw turkey has sickened nearly 100 people in 26 states, according to the CDC. Officials linked the raw turkey involved in the illnesses to multiple sources. The agency does not discourage the consumption of fully cooked turkey, as long as consumers properly wash their hands, cook raw turkey thoroughly and don’t spread germs from the raw turkey to other foodservice preparation areas.