The primary theme in food safety news in October has been Listeria. With the discovery of a new strain, a massive food recall, and the beginning of the associated lawsuits, this is a good time for FSQA managers to review sanitation protocols. These timely reminders of the constant evolution of bacteria and the costly consequences of contamination are strong motivations for staying vigilant and continually evaluating plant sanitation processes.
New Form of Listeria monocytogenes Discovered
According to Food Safety News, researchers have discovered a new, extremely virulent form of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria in a remote region in China. Found in the sheep population after severe outbreaks, the research team claims that it is the most virulent type of this bacteria currently known. According to the scientists on the team, the newly discovered Listeria monocytogenes isolate is unique because it combines the virulent characteristics of other pathogenic strains of the bacteria into a single, hypervirulent strain. Identification of new strains of foodborne pathogens is critical for maintaining food safety, especially with products that cross international borders.
Listeria Linked to Chicken Recall
- Freeze-dried diced chicken
- Cook-in-bag stews, rice, and pasta dishes
- Soup bases
- Chicken salad
- Chicken dip
- Grab-and-go chicken meals
Spanning multiple brands and affecting products that were shipped throughout the U.S. and Canada, the recall was a preventive measure due to possible Listeria contamination. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service discovered the problem after testing products in Canada and finding the presence of Listeria, prompting a recall for certain product codes.
Although not yet specifically linked to the recalled products, the CDC has been investigating a multi-state Listeria outbreak that spans 13 states. Two deaths and 22 hospitalizations have been reported so far.
Listeria Lawsuit Follow Recall
Just weeks after the ready-to-eat chicken recall was issued, the first lawsuit was filed in Minnesota by Minneapolis law firm Pritzker Hageman P.A., which specializes in food safety. Filed on behalf of an individual who was hospitalized after eating a recalled product, the lawsuit is the first of potentially many. Attorney Fred Pritzker has stated, "I think this lawsuit is just the tip of the iceberg. I think many more will occur."
The plaintiff, who now requires a kidney transplant, fell ill and was hospitalized with listeriosis after consuming a premade chicken salad sandwich. The federal lawsuit names four companies as defendants, including the chicken producer, co-packager, ready-to-eat sandwich manufacturer, and the store that sold the product. This lawsuit is just one example of how costly am outbreak of Listeria or any other type of bacteria can be. Legal proceedings are just one component of the overall costs, and they affect more than just the original manufacturer, cascading to the other companies that package and sell affected products.
Focus on Food Safety for Prevention
The Georgia plant that was identified as the source of the outbreak was temporarily closed to undergo a deep clean of the facility by a third party. While this is an appropriate response, a proper sanitation program can help prevent this type of costly recall from occurring in the first place. FSQA managers can take action by reviewing and improving existing protocols, ensuring sanitation crews are properly trained, rotating sanitizing chemicals, and using products like D7 to kill bacteria and biofilms at the DNA level.
To learn more about what you can do to help prevent this type of situation from happening in your facility, read The Busy FSQA Manager’s Guide to Proactive Plant Sanitation.