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Recalls announced on two flour brands for possible E. coli contamination

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced two voluntary recalls of flour due to possible E. coli contamination.

UNFI voluntarily recalled five-pound bags of its Wild Harvest Organic All-Purpose Flour, unbleached. During routine FDA sampling of the five-pound bag product, results were found to be positive for E. coli.

To date, UNFI has not received any direct consumer reports of confirmed illnesses related to this product. This recall is being issued out of an abundance of care.

This recall only affects the following code date of Wild Harvest® Organic All-Purpose Flour, Unbleached five-pound bags currently in stores or consumers’ pantries. No other types of Wild Harvest® Flour are affected by this recall.

Wild Harvest® Organic All-Purpose Flour, Unbleached Package UPC: 711535509158 Best if Used by Date: 010820 CC 15:58

Consumers are asked to check their pantries and dispose of the product affected by this recall. Consumers with questions may contact UNFI at 855-423-2630 (customer support is available seven days-a-week between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., CST).

Hodgson Mill of Effingham, IL, announced a voluntary national recall of specific lots of its Unbleached All-Purpose White Wheat Flour (five pound)

They are taking this voluntary precautionary step because of the potential presence of pathogenic E. coli which was discovered through sampling raw uncooked flour. Hodgson Mill has not received any confirmed reports of illnesses related to this product.

The only product affected by this voluntary recall is: Unbleached All-Purpose White Wheat Flour (five pound) UPC 0-71518-05009-2. Best by Date 10-01-2020 and 10-02-2020 with lot codes listed Lot# 001042 & 005517.

Use By and Lot Code information can be found on the bottom back panel of the five-pound Bag. Used by Date and Lot Code, along with their location on the bag, must all match in order to represent flour affected by this recall.

Consumers who have purchased five-pound packages of Unbleached All-Purpose White Wheat Flour with specific lot codes are urged to stop using the product immediately and return them to the place of purchase for a full refund. Consumers with questions may contact the company customer service Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 1-888-417-9343 x 1.

Any consumers concerned about an illness should contact a physician.

E. coli can cause serious and sometimes life-threatening infections in infants, older people, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. The most common symptoms of E. coli are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea and vomiting, which develop within three or four days of eating contaminated food. The illness usually lasts about a week, and most people recover without treatment.

Guidance from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control continues to warn that consumers should refrain from consuming any raw products made with flour and that all surfaces, hands and utensils should be properly cleaned after contact with flour or dough.

E. coli is killed by heat through baking, frying, sautéing or boiling products made with flour.

For more information, visit the CDC website.

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It’s not too late to prevent the flu

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If you haven’t gotten a flu vaccine this year, it’s not too late.

Mississippi is seeing one of the highest incidences of flu in the U.S. this year, along with several other southern states.

The flu is no joke. During the last flu season, nearly 1 million people in the U.S. were hospitalized, and about 56,000 people died from the virus, including 186 children. The folks at highest risk of death from flu are people 65 and older.

Source: CDC

The Mississippi State Department of Heath continues to offer low-cost vaccines to children and qualifying adults without health insurance at county health departments. The Warren County Health Department is located at 807 Monroe St. in Vicksburg.

Shots are also available at most pharmacies and retail centers, and at your doctor’s office.

With very few exceptions, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu shot for everyone six months of age and over.

Everyone can also take some commonsense precautions to prevent contracting or spreading the flu:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
  • If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. If you have flu symptoms, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

The most recent data for the week ending Nov 30, 2019, shows that flu continues to spread rapidly. Twelve states (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington) and Puerto Rico now seeing high levels of flu, up from eight the previous week, according to the CDC.

For more information, visit the CDC website or the MSDH website.

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Public health alert issued for E coli risk in romaine lettuce from Salinas, Calif.

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On Friday, Nov. 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service issued a public health alert due to illnesses caused by E. coli associated with romaine lettuce from the Salinas, Calif., growing region.

FSIS warns against consuming any wraps, sandwiches, prepackaged salad, salad kits or other product containing romaine lettuce harvested from the region.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration also advised consumers, retailers and restaurants not to eat or sell any romaine lettuce harvested from the Salinas, Calif., growing region.

Additionally, consumers should not eat any salad products identified in a Missa Bay, LLC, recall announced by FSIS Nov. 21, 2019.

At retail, most romaine lettuce products are labeled with a harvest location showing where they were grown. CDC and the FDA are advising that if this voluntary label indicates that the romaine lettuce was grown in “Salinas” (whether alone or with the name of another location) do not eat it. If the romaine does not have information about harvest region or does not indicate that it has been grown indoors (i.e. hydroponically- and greenhouse-grown), throw it away or return it to the place of purchase.

FSIS-regulated establishments are advised not to serve, ship or sell these products. This advice includes all types of romaine lettuce from the Salinas region, such as whole heads of romaine, hearts of romaine and packages of pre-cut lettuce and salad mixes that contain romaine, including baby romaine, spring mix, and Caesar salad. If you do not know the source of your romaine lettuce, and if you cannot obtain that information from your supplier, you should not serve, ship or sell the product.

Anyone concerned about an illness should contact a healthcare provider. E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps two to eight days (three to four days, on average) after exposure to the organism.

While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome. This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

Consumers with food safety questions can call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or live chat via Ask USDA from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Consumers can also browse food safety messages at Ask USDA or send a question via email to MPHotline@usda.gov. For consumers that need to report a problem with a meat, poultry, or egg product, the online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at https://foodcomplaint.fsis.usda.gov/eCCF/.

 

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Two more doctors plead guilty in massive Mississippi health-care fraud case

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Two doctors pleaded guilty, Nov. 21, in federal court to conspiring to commit health care fraud and mail fraud.

The doctors, Shahjahan Sultan, 37, of Madison, Miss., and Thomas Edward Sturdavant, 56, of Kingsport, Tenn., were part of a multi-million dollar web of fraud and deceit that has, so far, seen more than a dozen formerly well-respected members of their communities charged with fraud over two years including former Vicksburg resident Wade Walters.

In all, the fraud schemes have been responsible for nearly $1 billion in fraudulent health-care activity centered in the Hattiesburg, Miss., area since 2012, according to reports in the Clarion Ledger and the Hattiesburg American newspapers.

“These doctors violated their oaths and harmed our military, our veterans, and every American taxpayer by defrauding TRICARE,” U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst said in a statement about Sultan and Sturdavant. “I want to commend our law enforcement partners, DOJ trial attorneys, and our federal prosecutors for bringing these criminals to justice. We will continue to aggressively pursue criminals who pilfer our national treasury and do all that we can to protect victims of these crimes,”.

In May 2014, Sultan entered into a contract with a pharmacy located in Jackson County, Miss. Sultan agreed to prescribe expensive compound medications to individuals in exchange for the pharmacy paying him 35 percent of the reimbursements it received for the prescriptions. Health care benefit programs, including TRICARE, were billed for the compounded medications.

Sultan employed others who identified individuals in places like Jones County, who had insurance which covered the expensive compounded medications. Sultan met with the insured individuals over telemedicine video-chat sessions. However, during the meetings, he did not perform thorough examinations of the individuals and did not determine the medical necessity of the compounded medications he prescribed. Sultan knew that some of the added ingredients in the compounded medication were not effective and were added solely to increase the reimbursement value. On occasion, Sultan and Sturdavant even called in compounded medications for individuals they had never previously examined.

Sultan hired Sturdavant in September 2014 and agreed to pay him $900,000 annually to perform telemedicine services and to prescribe the compounded medications dispensed by the pharmacy. From May 2014 through October 2014, health care benefit programs, including TRICARE, reimbursed the pharmacy more than $5,000,000 based on claims submitted by the pharmacy in connection with the expensive compounded medications ordered by Sultan and Sturdavant.

Sultan and Sturdavant will be sentenced Feb. 26, 2020 in Hattiesburg. They each face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

Two nurses connected with this aspect of the case, Freda Covington and Fallon Deneem Page, have also pleaded guilty.

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