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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Listeria bacteria ..... recall (not that of Bob Taylor) but of 'ice-creams'

A couple of decades ago,  in front of every school would be a two-wheeled vehicle selling ‘ice-cream’-  kuchi ice [ice stick] and another variant ‘paal ice’ [milky one] – it was 5 paise for the rock-solid flavoured one  [10 paise for milked one].  Some of the names that were written on those vehicles were ‘Rita / Flamingo / Magnolia’... they were quite a hit, with students longing to buy them everyday.  When you savour a lick of your favorite ice cream enjoying its taste and drip, one never expected to be placing  life in the line.

It was test no. 874 –  titled Centenary test at Bombay  – England were tottering at 58/5 – Gooch, Larkins, Gower, Boycott, Brearly were all back – a few runs after Bob Taylor was given out caught behind……………………….  the rest is history.  Indian Captain Gundappa Vishwanath recalled the batsman though Umpire had given him out – caught behind.    At Trentbridge on the 3rd day of play (31st July 2011) it was close to tea and the ground was filled with English supporters.    It was the last ball of the 65th over,  Ishant was bowling faster – Morgan flicked the delivery to deep square – Praveenkumar made an ungainly attempt at saving the ball – he did succeed in preventing it from touching the rope.  The batsmen assumed it was four – still hesitantly Bell attempted another run – Morgan was not interested.  Throw homed in, found Bell yards away – Abhinav Mukund collected the throw, off came the bails – Indians went on appeal and the Umpires gave Bell out. There were replays and the board flashed Bell out.  The famous English crowd which repeatedly had been hailed by their own press as knowledgeable but always displays partisan attitude jeered at the Indians.  We have been told all along that the decision of the Umpire is to be accepted !! Bell went to the fourth Umpire Tim Robinson stating that he had heard the Umpires calling ‘over’.   There are also reports that Strauss and Flower went to Indian dressing room at tea asking Dhoni whether he would withdraw his appeal.  -  eventually, the suave Dhoni allowed the ‘recall’!!!

Away from Cricket – there are ‘recalls’ of products – of cars and many other products.  

Recently, IKEA recalled pressure-mounted safety gates due to fall hazard.   A product recall is a request to return a product after the discovery of safety issues or product defects that might endanger the consumer or put the maker/seller at risk of legal action.  In Western World, there is liability arising out of such mistakes and obviously the manufacturers would like to take remedial action sooner and avoid any possible liability.  The recall is an effort to limit liability for corporate negligence which can cause significant legal costs and limit ruination of the corporate image. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to determine how costly can be releasing to the consumer a product that could endanger someone's life and the economic loss resulting from unwanted publicity. Recalls are costly having to handle the recalled product, replacing it and possibly being held financially responsible for the consequences of the recalled product.

This post is something on ‘ice-cream recall’- while  peanut butter and cantaloupe made big news in recent years, ice cream is now the latest item to be pulled off grocery store shelves due to food-borne-illness concerns.  Tasting of ice-cream spelled trouble, as this month's massive recalls of food that may have been contaminated with the deadly bacteria ‘Listeria monocytogenes’ suggest that it could imperil people. 

First, Virginia-based Sabra Dipping Company recalled 30,000 cases of its Classic Hummus after samples tested positive for the bacteria. Then, Texas-based Blue Bell Creamery, the third largest maker of ice cream in the United States, recalled all of its products from more than 20 states after reports of three deaths and several illnesses in Kansas, Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma were linked to listeria in its popular frozen confections. Most recently, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams of Ohio recalled all of its products and closed its scoop shops when Listeria was detected in samples.

Listeria is a genus of bacteria that contains 10 species, each containing two subspecies. Named after the English pioneer of sterile surgery Joseph Lister, the genus received its current name in 1940. Listeria species are facultatively anaerobic, non-spore formingbacilli. The major human pathogen in the Listeria genus is L. monocytogenes. It is usually the causative agent of the relatively rare bacterial disease, listeriosis, a serious infection caused by eating food contaminated with the bacteria. The disease affects primarily pregnant women, newborns, adults with weakened immune systems, and the elderly.  Listeria can cause bacterial meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord that causes headaches, confusion and convulsions. It kills about one in six of those infected.

The recalls could be seen as more evidence of the dysfunction of the  food safety system prevalent in US.  The recalls are uncommon: Listeria isn't usually found in ice cream, since the bacteria can't grow at freezing temperatures. A spokesman for the Food and Drug Administration said the agency has no evidence, for now, that the listeria found in Jeni's ice cream and the listeria found in Blue Bell ice cream are connected.

According to US FDA, as of Apr 2015,  a total of ten patients infected with several strains of Listeria monocytogenes were reported from four states: Arizona (1), Kansas (5), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (3). Illness onset dates ranged from January 2010 through January 2015. All ten patients were hospitalized. Three deaths were reported from Kansas. The CDC and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment report that there are five patients who were treated in a single hospital in Kansas and who were infected with one of four rare strains of Listeria monocytogenes. Three of these strains, which are highly similar, have also been found in products manufactured one  production facility in Brenham, Texas.  The Texas Department of State Health Services subsequently collected product samples from that facility. These samples yielded Listeria monocytogenes from the same products tested by South Carolina.  According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, hospital records available for four patients show that all were served ice cream from  one company’s  prepackaged, single-serving products and milkshakes made from these products.

Then in Mar 2015 came the product recall, whereby the affected ice cream products from the market were recalled by picking it up directly from the retailers and hospital settings it serves. The company has also shut down the production line where the products were made.

The ice-cream manufacturer  hasn’t released estimates on what the recall will cost the company but another Company, which also found listeria linked to its product, has stated that it planned to recall retail products and close ice cream shops in six states. The company announced plans to destroy 265 tons of ice cream valued at more than $2.5 million. Typically the company on the hook financially for a recall is the company that manufactured the product, it is stated.

~and the icing is that most of these liabilities are picked-up by their Insurers !!

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
13th May 2015.
News collated from various sources including :  www.fda.gov/Food/RecallsOutbreaksEmergencies

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