Issue #74 | Go Directly to Jail (Infant Formula Makers Scrutinised) | Misleading PFAS Info? (You Decide) | A Free Tour |
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Infant Formula Makers Investigated by the Department of Justice (Jail Time Please!)
Save the Date: Say Hello at our First Live Event!
How to Get the Most of Your Subscription - a Quick Tour of The Rotten Apple online
Listeria in Ice Cream Company Slugged with Massive $$$ Settlement
Update on PFAS: Fish Contamination Reports are “Misleading”?
Food Safety News and Resources from the past week
Food fraud news, emerging issues and recent incidents
Audio is available for paying subscribers. Find the link at the bottom of the page 🎧
Hello, Food Champion,
Welcome to Issue #74 of The Rotten Apple. If you are new here, and a student or academic, we have ‘scholarships’ (free access to our paywalled content), thanks to the generosity of our wonderful Good Apple subscribers. Write to me at email@example.com or reply to this email if you would like a scholarship.
🍷 Do you love wine? I do! 🍷 On the weekend I stumbled upon a fabulous podcast episode about wine, specifically its flavour chemistry and the interactions of our senses as we taste wine - for example, if you change its colour, its perceived flavour changes too. If you are a food scientist and are into wine definitely have a listen to the episode. I promise you will learn something, and enjoy yourself in the process. Click here to listen (100% safe for work!) Why Wine Tastes Good (Dec 2022) by The Infinite Monkey Cage.
Last week we learned that a criminal investigation has started at the Abbott site which made contaminated baby formula and sparked the Cronobacter recall and subsequent formula crisis in the USA last year. I’m totally getting Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) vibes here! The PCA guys got serious jail time for covering up food safety problems and allowing ongoing massive sanitation fails. In this week’s issue, I revisit the PCA story and share what an Abbott whistleblower said about dire practices at their factory in Michigan.
Save the date! As promised, we’re launching live events this year, and our first event is next month. Read on to get the details. Also this week, I’ve made a video tour of our online publication - you can read past issues, search for previous topics, access special supplements and manage your subscription preferences online.
Updates to two recent stories are included this week - the Big Olaf Listeria ice cream failure factory got a massive financial blow and the PFAS fish contamination issue I wrote about last is declared to be ‘misleading’ - you decide.
Finally, as always we have food safety news for everyone and food fraud updates for paying subscribers, with some interesting incidents this week, including waste fraud that resulted in a consumer being injured by a product that was (supposed to be) securely destroyed.
Have great week and thank you for being a part of this community,
P.S. Paid subscriptions help support my efforts to bring you interesting, helpful food safety news without promotional fluff or advertisements. Please consider supporting this publication with a paid subscription.
Cover image: Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash
Go to Jail, Go Directly to Jail
A story that dominated food safety news in 2022 – the Abbott infant formula Cronobacter linked recall and fallout – is showing signs of becoming food fraud news, as the US Department of Justice gets involved.
Is anyone else getting Peanut Corporation of America vibes here?
Reminder: the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) caused a massive Salmonella outbreak in 2008 and 2009 with at least 714 illnesses and nine deaths. It resulted in the largest US food recall at the time, affecting 360 other food manufacturers, and almost 4,000 different products that contained PCA-sourced ingredients.
PCA had a history of failing customer audits and was famous in the industry for its serious sanitation problems. After the outbreak, the FBI and the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations got involved and discovered that managers were deliberately concealing food safety problems from customers and the FDA, including shipping products they knew were contaminated and faking micro test results. The owner of the company was sentenced to 28 years in prison, his brother to 20 years and the quality assurance manager to 5 years. The plant managers got 3 years and 6 years each. Read more about the PCA story (and get sources) in Issue #40 of The Rotten Apple.
Abbott Laboratories Inc., the company at the centre of the USA infant formula problems in 2022, is being investigated by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ is probing the link between the infant formula produced at Abbott’s food manufacturing facility in Sturgis Michigan and illnesses and deaths in babies from bacterial infections.
There are allegations that senior managers at the plant covered up laboratory test results which showed there was Cronobacter sakazakii in their product. A former quality systems employee at the facility described “lax practices” and “regulatory violations” that were consistently overlooked by management.
The quality employee said he observed:
Abbott employees falsifying records,
the release of untested infant formula,
Abbott staff hiding poor microbiological results from FDA auditors,
poor cleaning in place (CIP) practices,
deficient testing procedures,
traceability problems and
difficulties in “retracing” product that needed to be returned to the facility.
Find a link to the former employee’s disclosure in Issue #36 of The Rotten Apple.
It is heartening to know that the United States justice system is taking this case seriously, and I will provide updates as the investigation progresses. As we learned from the PCA, it is not just the company itself that faces criminal prosecution, but individual decision-makers. If the DOJ finds evidence that food safety problems were covered up, prison time for senior managers and quality assurance staff is a distinct possibility.
🍏 Don’t let food safety problems in your company become food fraud problems. 🍏 Falsifying documents like microbiological test reports and concealing information from food regulators is food fraud. If the company you work for covers up food safety problems you could be charged with fraud-related crimes such as mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and the introduction of adulterated food into commerce with the intent to defraud.
Save the Date
Say hello! Online Meetup 16th /17th March, 2023
Save the date for our first live event, an informal online meetup. This is a chance to say ‘hi’ and chat with fellow food professionals.
Topic: The food safety industry in your country – Challenges? Wins? Trends?
Thursday March 16th at UTC 21:00 (Friday 17th for Australia and Asia). Click here to convert to your local time . Duration one hour.
Our informal meetup times will alternate between times friendly to the UK, Europe and South Africa and times better suited to Australia, Asia and USA. This first meetup is late evening for Europe/Africa, but our next one will be earlier in the day.
More information will follow next week.
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News and Resources
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Update: Listeria in Ice Cream Failures
I wrote about the shocking failures of Big Olaf Creamery in Issue #70, with their ice cream being linked to Listeriosis in at least twenty-eight people. At least one person died and one miscarriage was recorded. Authorities found Listeria in 16 of 17 samples of their product. It has been alleged that the company knew of the initial illnesses but continued to sell the ice cream. The first recall began more than one-and-a-half years later.
In a wrongful death suit against the food company, a US court heard that Big Olaf Creamery “engaged in conduct that was so reckless and wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, health and safety of individuals,”. The judge agreed, awarding a victim’s husband $4 million in damages including $1 million in punitive damages.
Four million dollars is a pretty big sum. But I wonder how much money the company earned by selling allegedly contaminated ice cream in the 18 months between the first linked illness and the start of their recall? Was it more than $4 million dollars? [sigh]
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Update: PFAS in Freshwater Fish Reports Misleading?
The American Chemistry Council* has declared that reports about the alarming levels of PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) in freshwater fish (in last week’s issue) are misleading.
The organisation accuses media outlets of taking one example of PFAS detection – the high levels in freshwater fish from some American waterways - and “expanding it exponentially into an overly broad indictment of hundreds of chemistries that benefit our lives every day”.
They do not dispute the results of the study that reported the high levels or nor do they refute the study’s authors’ assertion that the consumption of freshwater fish is a potentially significant source of exposure to perfluorinated compounds (PFAS).
The Chemistry Council states that PFAS “chemistries” (is “chemical” such a bad word that even the American Chemistry Council won’t use it?!?) offer “tremendous benefits”. And they say there is disagreement between the US EPA and the World Health Organisation about their health effects. They also provide data about falling human blood levels of one particular PFAS that was phased out of production years ago, but do not mention that blood levels of other potentially harmful PFAS chemicals are rising.
*The American Chemistry Council is an industry group that represents “the leading companies engaged in the multibillion-dollar business of chemistry”. [‘nuff said].
Below for paying subscribers: Food fraud news, incident reports, and emerging issues, plus an 🎧 audio version 🎧 so you can give your eyes a rest
📌 Food Fraud News 📌
This week’s food fraud news includes:
Dietary supplements and health products have new expectations for truth-in-advertising in the USA
Potential emerging issue with palm oil
Not-really artisanal breads discovered in multiple bakeries
A waste disposal company was found to be selling harmful food products that it had promised to destroy. The company was providing declarations of destruction which were false. Affected foods include
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