Food recalls and illness; Sanitization in kitchens; Assisted living licensing change; Visiting our office update

food digest

September 29, 2021

In this issue

Food recalls and illness


Grocery stores aren't the only ones who need to stay up-to-date on food recalls - restaurants, businesses that sell or make food, and consumers also need to be aware.

What is a food recall?

Contamination to our food can occur at any point during the cultivation, production, or distribution of these goods; some contaminants could cause illness or even death when consumed. A food recall is a voluntary action by a food producer or distributor to protect consumers from ingesting a poor quality or misbranded product. The goal of the recall is to remove these questionable products and protect consumers from negative health effects. Food product recalls can be initiated by the food producer, food business, OR requested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).


Situations that could prompt a food recall include:

  • Illness, injury, or allergic reaction consumer reports to local and state health departments (1-800-FOOD-ILL in Minnesota) or to federal agencies (FDA, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)). If certain pathogens are detected in a medical lab facility from an ill consumer, the lab is mandated to report it.
  • Routine sample testing by the food producer reveals physical, chemical, or biological contamination in the food. This can happen from physical contamination from metal shards falling into food, chemical contamination from highly concentrated cleaning product residue, or biological contamination from an employee ill with Salmonella.
  • Manufacturing malfunctions or deviations from regular procedures are detected by the food facility which could result in ill effects for the consumer. An example of this would be low-acid canned foods not receiving adequate heat processing as this could result in botulism if the product is consumed.


Why should I/we care?

Serious illness and even death can result from consuming food products contaminated with chemicals or pathogens (microorganisms that can cause disease). When two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated product, the event is called a foodborne illness outbreak or FBI; FBIs can frequently result in an even larger outbreak as any of these pathogens can also be transmitted person to person.  

Specific allergen labeling is required in Minnesota and across the U.S. for packaged food products that contain any of the eight major food allergens: peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, eggs, milk, soy, and wheat. Millions of Americans have food allergies - if a product is presented to consumers without the allergen stated on the label, the results can be extremely harmful to those individuals. Major food allergen mislabeling is one of the most frequent reasons food recalls are issued.


Who should I report suspect products to?

As always, call 911 first for any health emergencies related to food consumption (or anything else). 

In Minnesota: The Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s (MDA) “Food and Feed Safety Division's Information Desk” is available for questions or complaints on food and feed safety. Call 651-201-6064, Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4:30 pm. After hours, you may call 651-201-6027, leave a message, and someone will return your call. If you prefer, you may use the online form to register your complaint.

***If your complaint is a food emergency, please contact the State Duty Officer at 1-800-422-0798***

Across the U.S.: The Report a Problem with Food  table on the official site provides contact information as the delegated agency may vary depending on the suspect food item. When in doubt call your local or state health department.


Where can I go for more information?

If a recalled food item “presents a serious health hazard”, a public warning would be issued from the FDA. Public warnings are reserved for urgent situations where other means of preventing use of the recalled product appear inadequate. When this occurs, the FDA utilizes all possible communication pathways – websites/online resources, press releases to news outlets, social media campaigns, email blasts, etc.; these are the incidents that make the national news.

For more local and/or less critical recalls, the Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) Food Recalls - Food Safety - Minnesota Dept. of Health ( website is a great place to start. You can see a list of current recalls affecting Minnesota and the U.S., sign up for food recall email alerts, and find additional links and resources. The MDA’s Food Recalls and Consumer Advisories in Minnesota site is another great source of current recall information; an online Food & Feed Quality Complaint Form is also available. For an overview of current food recalls and alerts across the U.S., visit the FDA’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts and the CDC’s List of Selected Multistate Foodborne Outbreak Investigations.



Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration,, 21 CFR Part 7 subp. C

Sanitized or just disguised?

Cleaning and sanitizing are some of the most important tools we have in preventing foodborne illness. When done correctly and frequently, cleaning and sanitizing greatly reduce the presence of pathogens that may otherwise be able to spread and lead to a foodborne illness outbreak.  

So how do you make sure you are cleaning and sanitizing correctly 

First, decide how you will be cleaning and sanitizing. Here is a flow chart of your options:


*Other approved chemical sanitizers by the FDA listed under 21 CFR 178.1010; those approved by the EPA can be found under 40 CFR 180.940 or listed in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 31

Once you have chosen your dishwashing method, how will you know if you are sanitizing properly? 

Chemical sanitizing

Test strips for chemical sanitizing solutions allow you to check that your chemical concentrations are in range for proper sanitizing. The test strips do this by turning a color associated with a particular parts per million (ppm) range. If your test strip is not turning the color of the correct range for your chemical, you will need to either recalibrate your dispenser or modify your instructions for mixing.  

Hot water sanitizing

While many dish machines have exterior thermometers, they may not always be accurate. You may think you were sanitizing your dishes, only to discover your exterior thermometer readings were wrong and none of your dishes were actually sanitized. To prevent this, you will need a testing method for hot water sanitizing. There are a few options to choose from: 

  • Hot water sanitizing thermometer
    • Not to be confused with a regular thermometer you check food temps with. This thermometer is designed for measuring hot water temperatures and is either waterproof or comes with a waterproof case. You run it through the dish cycle as you would your dishes and it records the highest temperature. 
  • Hot water sanitizing dish plate
    • This is also a thermometer, but in the form of a disc that can be put in your machine like a regular plate. You run it through the dish cycle, and it records the highest temperature. 
  • Hot water sanitizing thermometer test strips
    • These are stickers that you put on a dish while you run it through the dish machine. The sticker will turn black (or some other color depending on the type of sticker) if temperatures were hot enough to sanitize on the surface of the dish. 

Testing hot water sanitizing dish machines should ideally be done before using the machine each day.

If your test method for either chemical or hot water sanitizing is showing the requirements are being met, your dishes are being sanitized.  


Additional resources: 

Cleaning and Sanitizing ( 

Assisted living licensing change

As of August 1, 2021, Hennepin County Environmental Health is no longer licensing housing with services facilities, such as assisted living facilities. These facilities will be licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health's Health Regulation Division. For questions, please contact or 651-201-4200.

Notice about visiting our office in Hopkins

Our walk-up window located on the second floor of 1011 1st St. S. Hopkins, MN 55343 has been closed to the public since April 2020.

The best way to get in touch with our office is to call our main line at 612-543-5200 Monday-Friday between 8am-4:30pm. There is a secure drop box in the main hallway on the second floor to drop off applications, payments, and other forms. Do not go to the first floor drop box, go up to the second floor via the elevator and you will see our drop box. If you have any questions, please call 612-543-5200. 

Web resources

Visit for information on:

  • General environmental health 
  • Basic food safety classes 
  • Temporary food stand licensing 
  • Food license information, categories, and fee schedule 
  • New construction or remodeling application 

Radon information and test kits 

Septic system requirements and procedures

Body art licensing information (tattooing and piercing) 

Beaches in Hennepin County

Public swimming pool regulations

About us

Food Digest is a quarterly newsletter written by inspectors from Hennepin
County Public Health Department and is designed to support and educate Hennepin County food facility owners and operators. Articles focus on food
safety and requirements from the Minnesota Food Code and Hennepin County food ordinance.


1011 First Street S, Suite 215
Hopkins, MN 55343-9413

8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


Past issues

Previous issues of Food digest available in our archive.

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Hannah Marschinke


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