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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has published the results of its investigation into an outbreak of E. coli in November and December 2019 caused by romaine lettuce and other leafy greens from the Salinas Valley area of California. FDA found that nearby land used for cattle grazing was the most likely contributing factor associated with three outbreaks that stemmed from three distinctly different strains of E. coli.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. will pay $25 million and enter a deferred prosecution agreement to resolve criminal charges related to foodborne illness outbreaks that occurred between 2015 and 2018. The deferred prosecution agreement will require Chipotle to comply with an improved food safety program for three years to avoid conviction. “This case highlights why it is important for restaurants and members of the food services industry to ensure that managers and employees consistently follow food safety policies,” a DOJ attorney stated in a press release. “The Department of Justice will vigorously enforce food safety laws in order to protect public health.”

By Partner Lindsey Heinz and Associate Zac Parker The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to Jimmy John’s Franchise, LLC and its supplier Sprouts Unlimited Inc. regarding food safety practices after the agency traced an outbreak of E. coli to Jimmy John’s produce, which had previously caused outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. In the letter to Jimmy John’s, FDA focused on the company's prior sales of adulterated products, its misrepresentations to FDA regarding the sourcing of its sprouts, and the need for Jimmy John’s to demonstrate “long-term, sustainable corrections” that would prevent these outbreaks in the future. It comes as no surprise that letters like these make headlines and risk hurting a food supplier’s reputation. In light of these warning letters and the concerns raised by potential outbreaks of the new coronavirus COVID-19, food manufacturers must be vigilant about supply chain management, whether at the growing, transporting, processing or…

A U.S. federal court entered a consent decree of permanent injunction prohibiting Home Style Foods, Inc., and its owner and quality manager from selling food products until the company complies with federal regulations. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspections reportedly found Listeria monocytogenes in the company's food preparation area and documented violations of seafood safety regulations. “After repeated food safety violations, the FDA worked with the U.S. Department of Justice to obtain this injunction in order to prevent potentially contaminated food from reaching consumers. The company failed to take the appropriate corrective actions resulting in this action,” an FDA official said in a press release. “When a company fails to follow the law, the government will take action to protect the food supply."

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) urging the agency to "adopt a policy of greater transparency with respect to the microbiological testing" that the agency collects from meat slaughter and processing establishments. The letter cites a Salmonella outbreak in ground beef announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and notes that investigators "have not identified a single, common supplier" for the affected meat. DeLauro and Gillibrand urge USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service to provide data on the samples it collects to "allow companies, government researchers and members of the scientific community to identify links between pathogenic strains" found in meat samples and in patients identified as affected by the Salmonella outbreak. The Congress members request answers to four questions before December 13, 2019, including an identification of which establishments had samples that resulted…

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) have released a report on Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) and the foods that tend to host it. Researchers analyzed data from foodborne outbreak investigations globally, finding 957 outbreaks in 27 countries. The data identified that 16% of outbreaks were attributed to beef, 15% to produce and 6% to dairy, while the sources for 57% of the outbreaks could not be identified. "Prioritizing interventions for control on beef supply chains may provide the largest return on investment when implementing strategies for STEC control," the report recommended.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that Memet Beqiri had pleaded guilty to "a charge related to his meat processing business's falsification of numerous E. coli test results," according to a press release. Beqiri, owner and general manager of New England Meat Packing LLC, allegedly prepared and submitted falsified documents indicating that the company had sent carcass swabs and ground beef samples to a certified laboratory, which purportedly had found no E. coli. "In fact, none of the 52 carcass swabs and samples had been submitted or tested by the identified laboratory, or any other laboratory, and the 36 documents were fraudulently prepared using laboratory letterhead obtained from previous testing that New England Meat Packing had conducted with that laboratory," the press release states. The charge carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years; Beqiri will be sentenced in November 2019.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking to identify the poultry-production plants associated with an outbreak of Salmonella. CSPI requested that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) deliver information on the "name, address, establishment number, and date of positive sample(s)" for poultry products that "tested positive for the outbreak strain of Salmonella Infantis" in raw chicken and "Salmonella Reading" in raw turkey. "In addition to granting the current FOIA request, which may be done by delivering the data to CSPI directly or posting it on the USDA website, CSPI also requests that the USDA develop a practice for reporting this information publicly in all similar multi-source outbreaks moving forward," the request states.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released several reports and guidance documents on food-related issues, including draft guidance on reasonable serving sizes and a report on foodborne illnesses in restaurants. Food Labeling: Serving Sizes of Foods That Can Reasonably Be Consumed At One Eating Occasion, Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed, Serving Size-Related Issues, Dual-Column Labeling, and Miscellaneous Topics. This draft guidance details how food companies determine reasonable serving sizes for the nutritional panels on their products. Comments submitted before January 4, 2019, will be considered before FDA begins working on the final version of the guidance. Nutrition and Supplement Facts Labels: Questions and Answers Related to the Compliance Date, Added Sugars, and Declaration of Quantitative Amounts of Vitamins and Minerals; Guidance for Industry. FDA has provided a series of questions and answers on quantifying added sugars, vitamins and minerals. Several questions focus specifically on calculating added sugars in fruit juices…

U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has issued a statement on testing for Cyclospora as a foodborne pathogen. The statement noted that the testing methods allowed the agency to identify Cyclospora in cilantro, marking the first time it found the parasite in domestically grown produce. "We must continue to put in place science-based measures to prevent microbial contamination from occurring, and work with our state and foreign partners to implement the Produce Safety Rule," Gottlieb stated. "We’ve been working closely with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and our state partners to, among other things, train federal and state regulators who will conduct inspections slated to begin next spring, develop inventories of farms that are covered by the rule, put in place the Produce Safety Network to support the states and their farming communities regionally, conduct On Farm Readiness Reviews to help farmers assess their…

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