Big Spike in Food Recalls During Third Quarter

Food recalls occurred at a four-per-day clip during the third quarter, reaching their highest levels in two years, according to data produced by Indianapolis-based Stericycle ExpertRECALL.

The rise in recall activity involved nearly 8.5 million units of food and beverages, a 57 percent increase over the previous quarter.

Food recalls in the third quarter reached 414 separate incidents, according to the ExpertRECALL™ Index, which is complied from U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Enforcement Reports. There were 2.5 times the number of food recalls in the third quarter of 2012 than the second quarter.

“The number of recalls we saw during the third quarter if troubling,” said Mike Rozembajgier, vice president of recalls for Stericycle ExpertRECALL. “But as we enter the holiday season, its even more worrisome to know that nearly one-quarter of the food and beverage companies that faced a recall in the third quarter has more than one event.”

“As consumers are bombarded with advertisments and messages from manufacturers and retailers during the holiday season, it will be much more difficult for companies to cut through the clutter and connect with consumers on recalls,” Rozembajgier added. “This is why both these groups need to do their part to ensure that the food served during holiday parties to family and friends is safe.”

Stericycle ExpertRECALL is a third party recall company that manages consumer products, drugs, medical devices, juvenile products and food and beverage recalls.

During the third quarter, 189 food and beverage companies recalled at least one product, and 44 were involved in two or more recalls. According to index, 9 food and beverage companies were linked to 10 or more recalls during the period.

One recall involved 500,000 to 1 million units, and two were for between 1 and 5 million units.

Among the 414 food-related incidents, FDA Enforcement Reports show that 58 percent were Class I recalls, meaning they were in the category of problems that pose the greatest threat to public health. Another 38 percent were Class II recalls and 4 percent were Class III.

More than 55 percent of the recalled food and beverage units were from Class I recalls.

Of the 414 recalls during during the period, 359 involved only specific states in the U.S. Another 30 recalls involved the entire U.S. Nineteen involved recalls involved both U.S. and foreign customers, while six involved only international customers.

Salmonella and Listeria concerns drove the recall numbers during the third quarter, reaching the highest level in the last ten quarters.

Source: © Food Safety News



Indiana Moving to Adopt Outdoor Stage Rules, Governor Says

By Rick Callahan | April 25, 2012

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels told an entertainment industry group pushing for safer outdoor events that the state has learned from last year’s deadly State Fair stage collapse and is moving to approve emergency rules for outdoor stages.

But Daniels conceded Indiana still has much to learn from the Event Safety Alliance, an ad hoc group, that is urging the music and live events industry to adopt established best practices for protecting people at outdoor events.

On April 23, the group brought its campaign to Indianapolis, where about 100 people — including state officials — attended the meeting at the state’s government complex. Daniels told the gathering they would find “no more avid and attentive and receptive a student” than the state of Indiana in light of the Aug. 13, 2011, stage rigging collapse that killed seven people and injured dozens more before a scheduled Sugarland concert.

“We’re going to go to school on those things you have to tell us and we’ll try to master them and learn them and apply them as well as any jurisdiction anywhere,” the governor said.

Jim Digby, the executive director and co-founder of the Event Safety Alliance, said August’s tragedy reflects a global problem. He noted that three other fatal accidents marred outdoor events last summer, including the deaths of five people in Belgium who were killed when tents and scaffolding toppled during a music festival just days after the Indiana incident.

“Make no mistake, this is the single most important issue facing our industry,” said Digby, the production manager for rock band Linkin Park.

Digby said the alliance has been granted use of an event safety guide that’s been in place in the United Kingdom for about 20 years that’s commonly called “The Purple Guide,” and members are working to adopt and refine that document’s accumulated knowledge into a U.S. version to help guide the wide-ranging American entertainment industry to create “a multi-lateral culture of safety first.”

“It’s very clear that a single-source document would allow for a common language between all responsible entities,” he said.

The first version of the U.K. safety planning guide was drafted following a 1989 double fatality at a concert, said Tim Roberts, who helped create the best practice rules. Roberts, the director and safety advisor for Event Safety Shop Ltd., said the guide has been updated twice and continues to evolve.

“I can’t say that the U.K. has got this absolutely right — there’s always stuff to learn. And I think the pain that was felt here in Indianapolis was shared around the world. The international production community is a very small community,” he said.

Two investigative reports released this month on the Indiana tragedy found that the stage rigging that collapsed in high winds did not meet industry safety standards and that fair officials lacked a fully developed emergency plan.

Daniels said the Indiana Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission will meet May 2 to discuss proposed emergency rules for outdoor stage rigging and related structures — rules required under legislation he signed into law last month.

Homeland Security Executive Director Joe Wainscott said it’s unclear whether the commission will vote to approve those rules or if the panel’s members might seek changes and approve the rules at their next meeting. But, he said, he expects the board will move quickly given that fair and festival season has arrived.

“I think they understand that there are events coming up for the summer and we need these rules,” Wainscott said.

Daniels said state fire and building inspection officials aren’t waiting for the new rules and are actively canvassing venues around the state to assess stage rigging setups. Local emergency officials have also been advised to conduct their own assessments.

“As far as we’re concerned, we are on full and maximum alert now, knowing what we know now,” Daniels said.

Source: AP

UPDATE: IOSHA Cites 3 Employers Following Investigation Into Fatal Stage Collapse in August, 2011

UPDATE: IOSHA cites 3 employers following investigations after fatal injuries at 2011 Indiana State Fair

Indiana OSHA has cited three organizations involved in the Indiana State Fair accident on August 13, 2011 that resulted in fatal injuries of two workers. Fifty-eight people were injured and 7 were killed when a gust of wind toppled stage equipment just before the band Sugarland was scheduled to perform.

IOSHA cited the Indiana State Fair Commission with one serious violation for failure to conduct a life safety evaluation and cited Local 30 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees for 3 serious violations. Violations included failure to consider soil conditions when placing cable anchor points for the grandstand stage; failure to provide fall protection for workers 4 feet or more above ground level; and, failure to conduct a personal protective equipment hazard assessment of the worksite to determine the personal protective equipment required while erecting the load bearing roof and the grandstand.

IOSHA also cited Mid-America Sound Corporation for 3 knowing violations, including failure to develop and implement an Operations Management Plan, failure to develop a risk assessment plan, failure to maintain and use current engineering calculations and documentation, and failure to provide appropriate, qualified supervision. See the news release* for more information.


Indiana State Agencies Probe Stage Collapse at the Indiana State Fair on August 13, 2011, Killing 6 and Injuring Up to 40

A stage collapsed during a powerful storm at the Indiana State Fair on Saturday, sending steel scaffolding into the terrified crowd below and killing at least four people among fans awaiting a performance by the country band Sugarland.

The collapse came moments after an announcer warned of the advancing storm and gave instructions on what to do in event of an evacuation. Witnesses said a wall of dirt, dust and rain blew up quickly as a gust of high wind toppled the rigging. People ran amid screams and shouts, desperate to get out of the way.

Hundreds of concert-goers rushed afterward amid the chaos to tend to the injured, many with upraised arms seeking to lift heavy beams, lights and other equipment that blew down onto the crowd. Many of the injured were in the VIP section closest to the stage. Emergency crews set up a triage center in a tunnel below the grandstand at the Indianapolis fairgrounds.

About 40 people were injured, including at least one child, WTHR reported. Witnesses reported seeing many people with head and neck injuries and broken bones.

Todd Harper, spokesman for Wishard Memorial Hospital in the city, said later Sunday that at least 18 patients were brought in. He said their problems ranged from head injuries and bone fractures to lacerations and other cuts and bruises. He said those injuries were not life-threatening and conditions ranged from fair to critical.

One was a 7-year-old child, he said, but didn’t elaborate further.

“We set up a command center and a page was sent out to staff to call the command center,” he said, adding the hospital hadn’t seen such a sudden influx of patients since a tornado outbreak in 2000. “This was unusual. We can’t think of an incident that compared to this mass of people” arriving.

Indiana State Police 1st Sgt. Dave Bursten said the number of injured could rise because some people may have taken themselves to hospitals.

Bursten said the injuries ranged from cuts and scrapes to “very serious injuries” and that it was a “very likely possibility” that the death toll could also climb.

Emergency crews continued to search the fairgrounds early Sunday to ensure there were no other injured concert-goers who might have wandered off after the collapse, Bursten said.

Fair officials canceled all activities Sunday. The fair, which runs through Aug. 21, was expected to resume Monday with a service honoring the victims, he said.

Bursten said emergency personnel and fair officials were monitoring the weather because a severe storm had been expected to hit the area around 9:15 p.m. But the storm hit shortly before 9 p.m.

He said preparations were being made to evacuate the facility but that the “significant gust of wind” struck the stage rigging that holds lights and other equipment before the evacuation plan was activated.

“As we all know, weather can change in a very rapid period of time,” he said.

Concert-goers said the opening act by Sara Bareilles had finished and the crowd was waiting for Sugarland to take the stage. They said an announcer had alerted them that severe weather was possible and gave instructions on what to do if an evacuation was necessary. But the same announcer said concert organizers hoped the show would go on, and many fans stayed put.

The wind that toppled the rigging came just minutes after that announcement, fans said.

“It was like it was in slow motion,” concert-goer Amy Weathers told the Indianapolis Star. “You couldn’t believe it was actually happening.”

Associated Press photographer Darron Cummings was in the audience attending the concert as a fan shortly before the collapse. He said he and his companions sought shelter in a nearby barn after seeing the weather radar and eyeing dark clouds approaching.

“Then we heard screams. We heard people just come running,” Cummings told the AP. “When you see dark clouds like that if there’s going to be bad weather, there’s going to be mass chaos on leaving.”

Witnesses told WTHR that some of the injured were in a VIP section in front of the stage known as the “Sugar Pit.” The witnesses said the dirt, dust, rain and wind came up the main thoroughfare of the fairgrounds just before the collapse.

“Panic kicked in when they seen the dust bowl coming in from the Midway,” concert-goer Darryl Cox told the television station.

Another person at the concert, Emily Davis, told the station that there was lightning and the sky had gotten dark but it wasn’t raining when the wind suddenly toppled the rigging.

“It was horrible, people were running and going crazy,” she said.

Jessica Alsman told the AP the towering, metal stage scaffolding “kind of wobbled at first.” Then pandemonium set in as it fell.

“As soon as we saw the wind gust, the wind was in our faces,” Alsman said. She said and three friends grabbed each other and formed a chain.

You can’t imagine – we just thought it was going to rain or something,” Alsman said.

Sugarland tweeted about the incident about an hour after it happened.

“We are all right. We are praying for our fans, and the people of Indianapolis. We hope you’ll join us. They need your strength,” the band said.

Indiana’s position in the Midwest has long made it prone to volatile changes in weather. But even Wishard Memorial Hospital’s spokesman, Harper, said he was surprised how things blew up without warning.

“I was at home watching a movie and I looked outside and all of a sudden the wind picked up. It had been a beautiful day up until then and then it started raining – and then I started getting calls on the pager.”

In April 2006, tornado-force winds hit Indianapolis just after thousands of people left a free outdoor concert by John Mellencamp held as part of the NCAA men’s Final Four basketball tournament.

And in May 2004, a tornado touched down south of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, delaying the start of the Indianapolis 500 and forcing a nearly two-hour interruption in the race.

Associated Press writer Caitlin R. King in Nashville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

IOSHA – Indiana: Shootings Could Lead to Safety Rules at Convenience Stores

By John Tuohy

For nearly three years, Tim Rico winced each time he heard about a holdup at a convenience store.

When one happened Oct. 21, he prayed.

That was the night Marcella Birnell, 45, was shot and critically injured while working as a clerk at a Village Pantry.

“It just brought back all the drama,” said Rico, 38, Beech Grove. “It raises all the questions I had from the beginning about safety at these stores.”

Rico’s mother, Rebecca “Becky” Hough, 61, was shot and killed at a Village Pantry in November 2009.

Like Birnell, Hough was shot in the head by a robber while working alone on the overnight shift in a store that had been robbed several times.

Now, the tragedies, on opposite sides of Marion County, could lead to industry wide security improvements in Indiana.

Convenience store trade groups have agreed to discuss safety upgrades with police and state officials at a summit in January. Possible improvements include more security cameras, bulletproof glass, alarms and improved lighting.

The conference was arranged at the urging of Rico and Birnell’s brother-in-law, Perry Tole. Rico had posted condolences on a website for Birnell, and Tole contacted him. Together they enlisted the help of state Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, himself a shooting victim.

“They were just outraged at the lack of protection and at the number of robberies and wanted to know what they could do,” said DeLaney, who represents the district that includes the store where Birnell was shot.

Hough was killed at the store at 1402 S. Meridian St., and Birnell was critically injured during a heist at 1415 W. 86th St. in October.

She is recovering at an undisclosed rehabilitation clinic, and a 15-year-old high school student is awaiting trial in connection with her shooting.

“I don’t want this happening to anyone else. It’s too much for a family to take,” Rico said. “My mother was making $9 an hour (and) . . . risking her life every day. Enough is enough.”

Hough’s store had been robbed 32 times since 2000, and Birnell’s had been robbed eight times since 2008. Birnell was the clerk on duty for six of those robberies.

The FBI reported that 22,642 convenience stores and gas stations were robbed across the country in 2009, the most recent year numbers were compiled.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department has recorded more than 200 robberies at convenience stores and gas stations this year, but that number includes robberies outside the businesses.

Even before Birnell was shot, the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration had been working with Village Pantry to make its stores safer.

The agency, which investigates all workplace fatalities, fined Village Pantry $67,500 after Hough was shot. Its investigation found that store employees “were exposed to hazards, including but not limited to robberies with weapons, threats of violence and assaults,” according to the Safety Order and Notification of Penalty.

The company “did not establish and maintain conditions of work which were reasonably safe and healthful for employees.”

In addition to the fine, IOSHA required immediate improvements at Hough’s store, such as updating surveillance equipment.

Indiana Department of Labor spokesman Bob Dittmer said the corporation then “approached us and said let’s work something out” that included changes at all stores. The department oversees IOSHA.

“In exchange, we reduced the fine to $7, 000,” Dittmer said.

Under an agreement with IOSHA, Village Pantry has until 2014 to make improvements at 134 Indiana stores and must file quarterly progress reports.

The first report was submitted in October. Village Pantry said it spent $59,900 on new security cameras and security gates at six stores.

“We have expended considerable time and expense to make our stores as safe as possible for employees and are on track to finish well ahead of the three-year timeline,” according to the report.

Village Pantry was founded by Marsh Supermarkets but is now owned by the VPS Convenience Store Group in North Carolina. The group operates 400 stores nationwide under various names.

A representative of VPS declined to comment, as did Robert Foos Jr., the Indianapolis attorney representing the company in the IOSHA case.

Dittmer said the improvements VPS is making, and those that will be discussed industry wide in January, will vary from store to store.

“There are no specific across-the-board measures that we would require or would fit every store,” he said. “What may work at one location isn’t necessarily needed at another.”

In addition, Dittmer said, the agency does not want to place requirements on the stores that are so costly it would force them to close.

“In some neighborhoods, they are the only thriving business for miles,” he said. “You don’t want to price them out of business. That won’t be good for anyone.”

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that 167 homicides were committed in retail stores in 2007, representing 27 percent of all workplace homicides. Of those, 39 were at convenience stores, 32 were at gas stations and seven were at liquor stores.

In a 2009 report, OSHA cited the leading risk factors as employees working alone; isolated store locations; poorly lit stores; the exchange of money; and lack of staff training in recognizing potential trouble.

“Given that late-night retail businesses are prone to robberies, employees should seek to reduce their risk by improving visibility and surveillance, controlling customers’ access and limiting the availability of cash,” OSHA recommended.

The meeting in January will include the Indiana Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association; the Indiana Grocery and Convenience Store Association; the Indiana Retail Council; law enforcement officials; DeLaney; and Indiana Department of Labor officials.

The goal is for the groups to voluntarily come up with safety improvements for stores statewide. DeLaney also does not rule out proposing a new state law.

At least two states, Washington and New Mexico, require specific safety measures for stores operating all night.

One of the measures the families want is a requirement that at least two employees work overnight shifts. But that also may be one of the most difficult to get the industry to agree to and the state to require because of the cost.

“There’s an argument that it could make it more dangerous for employees and others because now you have two workers at risk,” said Scot Imus, executive director of the petroleum marketers group. “There have been cases in which robbers killed everyone working there.”

In 1993, in Palatine, Ill., robbers herded seven employees into a freezer at closing time at a Brown’s Chicken and fatally shot all of them.

Imus said even bulletproof glass at the counter could be hazardous.

“Will the gunman take a customer hostage until he gets what he wants?” he said.

Joe Lackey, president of the state’s Grocery and Convenience Store Association, said some stores already require two employees overnight, but that’s because they are large.

“I applaud the Department of Labor for trying to do something, but I don’t know how much will come of this,” he said. “Most stores are doing all they can, and FBI statistics show robberies are down.”

But Rico said something more is needed.

“I’m tired of these stores looking at their bottom dollar before human life,” he said.

Better security would mean better business, Rico argued.

“Some of these stores, customers are scared to go into them because they don’t know what’s going to happen in there, and people don’t want to work there because they are too dangerous,” he said. “You boost security and you’ll get more business and better employees.”

Call Indianapolis Star reporter John Tuohy at (317) 444-6303.

Update: Indiana State Fair Tragedy – Inspections Are Not Required For Outdoor Stages In Indiana

No Indiana agency appears to be responsible for regulation of massive rigging.

Written by

John Russell, Tim Evans and Heather Gillers


The rigging for the Indiana State Fair Grandstand stage lay crumpled Monday. / Danese Kenon / The Star

If you’re wondering which Indiana agency regulates the massive stage rigging at the State Fairgrounds, the answer is apparently none of them.

If you’re wondering how often the structures are inspected by the government, the answer is apparently never.

The Indiana Department of Homeland Security, which inspects buildings, elevators and amusement park rides, does not regulate outdoor stages and did not inspect the stage at the Indiana State Fair before heavy winds toppled the heavy structure onto a crowd Saturday night, said John Erickson, a Homeland Security Department spokesman.

Companies that erect outdoor concert stages are not required to obtain a state permit, submit engineering plans or undergo inspections, he said. The department also keeps no files on safety records or complaints.

“There is no permitting process,” Erickson said Monday. “There is no regulation on it. We do not regulate putting up of scaffolding in a business or an entertainment setting or anything of that type.”

Nor, apparently, does the Indiana State Fair, although the state does inspect the rides. State Fair spokesman Andy Klotz said Monday afternoon he was still trying to determine whether anyone looked at the stage rigging before the concert.

“I don’t know who’s responsible, if anyone,” Klotz said. “I’ve had conflicting information on this today.”

At the heart of the matter is how to classify a stage, rigging and roof, the elaborate structure that supports tons of lights, speakers and other heavy equipment high in the air.

Under Indiana Administrative Code, a structure — temporary or permanent — has to meet stringent code requirements, such as being able to withstand winds of up to 90 miles per hour. The winds at the fairgrounds blew less fiercely than that Saturday evening, about 60 to 70 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

But the Indiana Department of Homeland Security said temporary outdoor stages are not, strictly speaking, structures.

“You’re talking about scaffolding and equipment,” Erickson said, “not a structure.”

Saturday’s accident was at least the fourth stage accident since the start of July, The Associated Press reports. Earlier this month, wind blew over a lighting rig at a music festival in Tulsa, Okla., and lightning toppled a stage under assembly near Quebec City. Last month, a summer gale toppled a stage at a music festival in Ottawa, Canada, where the band Cheap Trick was performing. Three people were hospitalized.

Indiana native Paul Harding, a fellow at the American Institute of Architects and partner in a Chicago architectural firm, called the lack of a building permit and inspections “a very serious problem.”

“If something is not permitted, the whole system is short-circuited,” he said. “You don’t have the checks and balances you would normally get with a project.”

He said his first reaction when he saw the photos of the stage before it fell was that it looked “unbelievably flimsy.”

“And after looking at the photographs of (structural pieces) after the collapse,” he said, “they seemed thinner and more delicate than you would expect for a structure like that.”

The owner of the company that provided the rigging, Mid-America Sound Corp. of Greenfield, is launching its own probe. Company officials did not return several phone calls requesting comment.

The company has hired an outside agency, Borshoff, to respond to media questions. The agency said that Mid-America has provided equipment for thousands of artists in hundreds of venues without a safety problem.

Concert industry expert George Strakis wouldn’t speculate on why a gust of wind was able to topple Mid-America’s stage structure at Saturday night’s concert at the Indiana State Fair.

But Strakis, an Indianapolis resident who has toured as Whitney Houston’s sound engineer for 22 years, could recap the deadly accident’s sequence of events.

“For whatever reason, the rigging buckled and weight shifted,” he said. “It went down face forward.”

Rigging for Grandstand concerts is a combination of metal framework that’s left in place throughout the fair, plus equipment added on by individual tours. The framework sits on a permanent concrete slab that acts as the stage floor.

Mid-America owns the superstructure framework. Sugarland’s tour, which visited the fair Saturday, brought its own speakers, lighting and a circular video screen as onstage production elements.

Strakis — who is not affiliated with the fair, Mid-America Sound or Sugarland — said tours of Sugarland’s scope routinely attach 50,000 pounds of gear to overhead trusses.

“I believe everybody that puts up a stage is going to understand they are going to put up a stage that can withstand a 70 to 100 mph blow,” Strakis said.

Strakis said all concert-production rigging is certified to aeronautical specifications, with the idea that aircraft in flight endure more stress than is encountered on the ground.

“This will need a lot of calculation,” he said, “to really understand what happened with this storm and the stage.”

In Chicago, those calculations are required to be submitted to city officials before a temporary stage is even erected. All temporary structures used there — including stages like the one at the fairgrounds — also require a permit, said Bill McCaffrey, spokesman for the city’s Department of Buildings.

In Chicago, the permitting process for stages is identical to that for all permanent buildings and structures, which requires the submission of architectural or structural engineering documentation. Those items are reviewed by professional staff to determine whether a permit can be granted, McCaffrey said.

Stages are then inspected by the department after they are erected, he said, “to make sure they were constructed according to the plan specifications.”

Stage manufacturers typically provide high-wind action plans that lay out steps that must be taken in the event of bad weather or high winds. Typically, he said, outdoor stages are designed to withstand wind speeds of at least 30 to 35 mph.

When wind speeds top a manufacturer’s recommended limits, the plans detail changes that should be taken for safety. For instance, McCaffrey said, stagehands may have to remove curtains or other objects that can be caught by the wind as speeds increase.

In Indianapolis, permits are required for stages used for special events, said Kate Johnson, spokeswoman for the Department of Code Enforcement. However, she said the city regulations do not cover the fairgrounds, which is state-owned, and the city has no jurisdiction over buildings on that property.

Regulations aside, the industry has best-practices standards for outdoor stage rigging.

Those standards are laid out in a 33-page document distributed by the trade association, PLASA, which bills itself as “the worldwide voice of entertainment technologies.” The group advises frequent inspections, particularly for rigging such as that at the Indiana State Fair that is left intact between uses.

Users of the overhead structures are advised to keep on hand an “operation management plan” that includes specific guidelines for wind. And the group recommends bracing the rigging against the wind with mechanisms such as wire guys anchored to ground anchors, diagonal braces and ballast applied to the tower sections.

When the rigging is left intact between events, PLASA advises inspection of cross-bracing cable assemblies and anchorages between each use.

“It would benefit public safety if some of the standards that are out there would be adopted into law,” said Bill Gorlin, a structural engineer and vice president of the entertainment division at McLaren Engineering Group, based in West Nyack, N.Y.

“Everyone wants these events to be safer.”

Several state agencies are investigating the collapse and aftermath, including the Indiana State Police, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Labor.

But there was no information Monday from those investigations. In fact, as of Monday afternoon, no companies had filed incident reports with the Department of Labor over workplace deaths, even though two workers were killed in the accident, said Chetrice Mosley, a spokeswoman for the state department.

Under Indiana law, they are required to notify the state within eight hours.

Star reporter David Lindquist contributed to this story.

Call Star reporter John Russell at (317) 444-6283. Follow him on Twitter @johnrussell99.

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