“Bugs” and a Distinguished “Bug” Fighter

CutterThis week, as is often the case, we have both good news and bad news to report from the world of food science. Shelf Life Advice is especially happy to relate this good news: one of  the members of our site’s Advisory Board—Dr. Catherine Cutter--is  being honored as the recipient of the 2011 American Meat Science Association (AMSA) Distinguished Extension-Industry Service Award, richly deserved because her  research and extension programs  have helped the meat industry provide us with safer products. 


The bad news is that bugs and superbugs continue to contaminate produce and cheese and thereby threaten public health in the U.S. and European countries. 


Dr. Cutter’s Impressive Career


Dr. Cutter is an associate professor in the Department of Food Science at Pennsylvania State University.  She has created and conducted many workshops related to meat safety including Training for Meat Processors, Food  Microbiology and  Sanitation, and Venison 101 (a program for deer hunters and custom processors to make them aware of  sanitary meat handling practices).  Says Thomas Powell (executive director of AMSA) “Dr. Cutter’s extension and educational programs provide training and information to small and large processors as well as the general public.”


In addition to the extension programs, Dr. Cutter supervises a very productive research laboratory which is focused on solving problems of concern to meat processors. 


The press release announcing her selection for the 2011 award concludes with this tribute: “Dr. Cutter is an enthusiastic and dedicated educator and researcher serving the meat industry. Her meat industry perspective, her unparalleled technical expertise in microbiology and her exceptional skills and enthusiasm as a communicator combine to make her one of the most effective Meat Extension specialists in the United States today.”


A Superbug on the Loose: E. coli 0104:H4


The June 20, 2011 issue of Time magazine devoted a major article to E. coli 0104: H4, an especially virulent and rare form of E.coli that has become a global threat.   It was first detected in Hamburg, Germany in mid-May of this year.  The infection then spread to a dozen countries, sickening more than 2,600 people and causing 25 deaths. The source is still not known for certain, but it is probably a vegetable that is commonly eaten raw, possibly cucumber or sprouts.  (Note: Shelf Life Advice has warned readers repeatedly of the risk of consuming raw sprouts. For more information on this topic, click here: http://shelflifeadvice.com/content/raw-sprouts-nutritious-and dangerous.)   


Time says, “U.S. consumers are holding their breath, knowing that an increasingly globalized food market means that E.coli in Hamburg could be just a single transatlantic shipment away from becoming E. coli in Houston or Harrisburg.”  Russia’s reaction to this scare has been to ban all imports of European Union produce.


Two Recent Cheese Recalls


Check your fridge to be sure that these recalled products are not lurking in your cheese bin:


Queso Fresco Cheese: New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel Aubertine today warned consumers not to consume certain Queso Fresco “Fresh Cheese” made by Quesos CentroAmericano Corp. at 35 Hansen Avenue, Freeport, New York due to possible Staphylococcus aureus contamination.


The recalled fresh Spanish-style cheese is sold in 5-pound foil tray packages with a plant number of 36-9845 and a product lot code of 05/31/11 affixed to the bottom of the package.  The manufacturer named on the package is Quesos CentroAmericano Corp.   The product was distributed to stores, delis and restaurants on Long Island.


Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that usually causes rapid food poisoning symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, retching, and abdominal cramping.  Recovery generally takes two days.  Death is very rare; however, such cases have occurred among the elderly, infants, and severely debilitated persons.


Royal Blue Stilton Cheese: One 8-9 lb wheel of “Royal Blue Stilton” cheese contained in a master case with batch code B038 has been recalled by Atalanta Corporation, an Elizabeth, New Jersey food distributor, because the product has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes (an organism which can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems). Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.


This product is routinely cut at retail from the bulk wheel and sold in random weight cuts. The retail labels could read “Product of England,” “Keep Refrigerated,” “Royal Blue Stilton,” and “English Semi-Hard Cheese.” This label is also distinguishable by a small circular English flag in the upper left, the logo of the exporter “Coombe Castle International,” in the upper center. The affected lot is marked B038 on the original case cartons.


All remaining inventory of the affected product has been quarantined and will be destroyed under FDA supervision.  




psu.edu “Cutter recipient of 2011 American Meat Science Association (AMSA) Distinguished Extension-Industry Service Award”


fda.gov “Staphylococcus Aureus in Queso Fresco Cheese”


fda.gov “Atalanta Corp. Recalls 9 pounds of “Royal Blue Stilton” cheese…”


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