Recalls, emotions and customer requirements

By Guest Author on 27 March 2018

In some situations in life we have a fight or flight reaction - even in business and our professional life. And then there is the Listeriosis saga in our industry. Interesting times. We want to protect our end consumer and brand name at nearly all costs... so then we recall.

Global recalls

International food poisoning cases are regularly reported. We can learn from their experiences. Some of the most recent ones will be discussed in this article with the emphasis on the impact on brands and the control of outsourced processing. Figures published by the Food Standard (New Zealand & Australia) reported that 187 recalls were performed due to the presence of pathogens in the period 2007 to 2016; in 82 of this Listeria monocytogenes was to blame.


From the 1505 processed meat recall records studied by the University of Illinois (as published by Gordon & Stasiewicz, March 2017) Listeria was one of the three top causes. On 28 Dec 2017 when most of us were taking a break, horse and pork saveloy was recalled in France due to Listeria monocytogenes presence reported. A count of 180 cfu/g was reported on this ready to eat processed meat product. Morrisons also recalled a processed meat product “Peppered Beef Slices” earlier last year. Was this cause of these insufficient hygiene practices and cleaning? After a processed meat recall in Trinidad (2003) this was the reasons given by microbiologists who conducted a thorough investigation. I do suspect that in some cases, also in South Africa, infestations into the processing facilities caused the cross contamination.


The recall of ice cream products was announced by the FDA in Jan 2018. These products were manufactured by Fieldbrook Foods Company during March and August 2017. More than one batch number recalled; these were announced more than once. One can now ask whether the verification by laboratory analyses were adequately planned? Blue Bell and other brand names ice cream products were recalled during Sept 2016. Interesting, that the government officials warned the manufacturer Aspen Hills during Jan 2017 that Listeria was detected on swabs taken in the production facility which was closed since. Possible the source? The same brand names were implicated in an outbreak in 2015. Lessons learnt?


Freshpak Co offer in the USA sliced apples (single or in combination with other fruit) as a ready to eat snack. The FDA announced a voluntary recall due to potential Listeria monocytogenes hazard as informed by their packer, jack Brown Produce. Perhaps high care not in place? On 19 and 20 December 2017 respectively, Apple Ridge and Meijer announced recalls on sliced apples ready to eat products. Not the first time recall of sliced apples was reported; no lessons learnt? No information on the possible causes was to be found. One can only speculate that the sanitation step and high car practices was not adequately implemented.


In 2016 a major recall on frozen food product took place in the USA. Listeriosis incidents reported was connected to product packed by CRF Frozen foods. They initiated the recall of 358 products which were followed up with a series of recalls downstream involving 98 other products. A major loss to the packer in terms of monies and image. The health authorities could connect the pathogen detected in the facility to that reported in ill patients by genome serotyping. Production was ceased until the problem was sorted out. Several it not all the products recalled carried the labelled as organic grown. Was the source of the pathogen possible from farming operations?


On 19 October 2017 Mann Packing announced a voluntary recall of minimal processed vegetables in reaction to a positive result reported by Canadian Food Inspection Agency. This actioned 12 other recalls by Mann Packing’s customers. The control measures not effectively implemented impact thus on several other brand names. In an interview with the director of corporate marketing it was communicated that the source of the pathogen was not known thus a wide range of products were included in the recall incident. Can one assume that supplier assessments were not adequately addressed?


Dairy products manufactured from unpasteurised milk is also related to Listeria recalled products. Deutsche Kase House announced a recall of several cheese types in Feb 2017. This snowballed and more than a dozen recalls by their customers followed. Guggisberg Cheese, which owns Deutsch Kase Haus, recalled a dozen products, mostly cheese available at deli counters; while Sara Lee recalled 734 cases of two types of cheese that were distributed to food retailers in Alabama, California, Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Taylor Farms recalled 6,630 pounds of chicken and pork salad products made using cheese supplied by Sargento (which originated from Deutsch Kase Haus). Country Fresh recalled more than 2,500 cases of various kinds of stuffed mushrooms and other snacks. It was believed that the origin of the organism was a Amish milk farm in Indiana. Raw milk was implicated.


Errington Cheese Ltd recalled Dunsyre Blue Cheese just before Christmas on 21 Dec 2017.


It is a well-known fact that cold smoked fish is one of the product linked to Listeria monocytogenes incidents. Listed on the FDA website is a recall announced by Nodine’s Smokehouse in Connecticut; dated 13, 19, 21 & 22 Dec 2017. A similar recall was announced on 21 Dec 2017 by Springfield Smoked Fish. These might be related to the cause.


Some “new” food groups were added to the list. During September 2017 the FDA reported that T. Marzetti Company voluntary recalled raw frozen biscuit dough from retail due to suspected presence of Listeria monocytogenes; 23 different types were listed in the activity. This pathogen can survive the freezing conditions. And whom of do not eat some raw dough whilst working with it? According to social media another recall was actioned in Jan 2018. No evidence could be found in any other websites. Thus, social media might be right or not but in any case, the brand name was damaged in the process. Not good. During Jan 2018 Mary B’s also reported a similar recall; most properly product packed by T. Marzetti. One can now understand the importance of effective control measures for outsourced processes. A similar recall was also actioned in Oct 2016 by Blue Bell thus this was not the first surprise from a not so familiar source.


Sainsbury in the UK recalled several ready to eat lines from the shelves due to Listeria monocytogenes being detected. This recalled actioned in June 2017



From the above it seems like one can start with the review of supplier assessments, receiving practices, control of outsourced processes and the hazard reasonably to occur in the products handled on site to prevent Listeria infestations.


Rika Le Roux Kemp