Despite public and private efforts to counteract the proliferation of foodborne illness, including landmark food safety legislation and increased oversight, cases of widespread foodborne illnesses and related concerns continue to surface. In many instances, these cases span multiple states and originate from various sources, from broccoli and peppers to dairy products and lettuce.
Each outbreak gives rise to further public concerns and criticisms. At times, a complicated relationship exists between public and private interests — a relationship that has left a measureable impact upon food safety officials, the general public and others. Additionally, contaminated food is not the only food safety issue impacting the industry.
This article examines three of the more recent food safety cases, including causes, effects and potential future developments, when available.
Roland Foods, LLC: Glass Fragments
The New York City subsidiary of Roland Foods, LLC recently issued a voluntary recall of “Roland Fire Roasted Red Pepper Strips,” citing the possible presence of fragments of glass in the product. Understanding this situation to be a potential public safety hazard, the company collaborated with its manufacturing base in Peru to execute the recall.
The company’s recall includes more than 21,000 cans of the product, and was initiated after customers reported the presence of glass fragments. Products shipped to U.S. and Canadian food distributors during the month of March, 2016, are said to be the primary targets of the recall.
According to the company website, no illnesses or injuries have been reported. Due to the very recent nature of the development, government officials are withholding statements pending a complete and thorough investigation.
Oak Leaf Dairy: E. coli Outbreak
According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH), a goat farm is responsible for an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7. Victims are said to have come into physical contact with animals carrying the illness.
In addition to producing and selling goat soap and cheese, the establishment’s owners regularly allow the public to visit the premises and pet the animals. After state officials notified the owners, the proprietors voluntarily ceased public operations.
Identification of the outbreak on March 24, 2016, was later confirmed by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. Victims reportedly acquired the illness via contact with potentially contaminated livestock. Health officials issued a public advisory, urging those that visited Oak Leaf Farm in March, 2016 and who may be experiencing the symptoms of E. coli to contact government health officials.
A DPH statement reads, in part: “Oak Leaf Farm remains closed to the public and its owners are cooperating with the investigation. The Connecticut Department of Agriculture advices anyone who recently purchased goats from Oak Leaf Farm to consult with their livestock veterinarians.”
To date, 34 victims have been confirmed, with 28 being children ranging from 10 months to 14 years of age. Of these 28 children, 18 are younger than the age of five. Nine of the victims have been hospitalized, while three have been diagnosed with hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), a serious health condition that can damage the kidneys and cause clotting problems.
However, similar to the Roland Foods case, the overall magnitude of this health concern is yet to be determined. City officials, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Department of Agriculture, expect the investigation to span a period of several weeks.
Dole Food Company: Listeria Outbreak
Stemming from a listeria outbreak at a salad production facility beginning in May 2015, some allege that government officials continue to remain quiet despite insistence from the public. Officials at the Dole Corporation and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have been accused of being scant with details, as well.
Listeriosis infections of 19 different victims spanning nine states have been confirmed to be the result of contaminated bagged salads. The FDA reportedly collected contaminated samples at various retail locations, according to the CDC report. All 19 victims required hospitalization for Listeria monocytogenes infection, and one individual died. Three Canadian citizens also died from the illness.
Public concerns have continued to swell, due to what some have determined to be a dereliction of duty by government officials. Citing the January 27, 2016 recall involving the entirety of Dole’s potentially-contaminated products, critics state that nothing of substance has been released despite ample time to conduct initial investigations and complete preliminary tests.
Further, some are accusing the FDA of failing to release a report on inspections of Dole’s plant in Springfield, Illinois, from which the contaminated food originated. Confirmations of the outbreaks originating location was also reported by the Ohio Department of Agriculture, FDA, CDC, and was later confirmed by Dole officials.
According to FDA sources, as of March 31, 2016, the outbreak “appears to be over.” Canadian health officials are reporting the same, stating “the outbreak investigation coordinating committee has been deactivated and the investigation is coming to a close.” CDC officials also reported similar conclusions.