63 sick with Salmonella; sprouts strike again

I spent a few hours yesterday cooking 100 burgers and prepping food for kids at Sorenne’s school. Afterwards, one of the other volunteers got me talking about food safety and asked me about raw sprouts. I said, never at this school as long as I’m here.

wonton.foods.bean.sproutsAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, as of November 21, 2014, a total of 63 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Enteritidis have been reported from 10 states.

• 26 percent of ill persons have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

  • Collaborative investigation efforts of state, local, and federal public health and regulatory agencies indicate that bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. are the likely source of this outbreak.

• In interviews, 29 (78%) of 37 ill persons reported eating bean sprouts or menu items containing bean sprouts in the week before becoming ill.

  • The information available to date indicates that bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. may be contaminated with Salmonella and are not safe to eat. As of November 21, 2014, the firm has verbally agreed to voluntarily stop the production and sale of their bean sprouts.

• CDC recommends that restaurants and other retailers do not sell or serve bean sprouts produced by Wonton Foods, Inc. at this time.

• The firm is cooperating with public health and agriculture officials and has reported that their last shipment of bean sprouts was on November 18, 2014. 

  • This ongoing investigation is rapidly evolving, and CDC will update the public when more information becomes available.

We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-8-1-14.xlsx

I always go to the gas station for a sandwich: Detroit-based company distributing tainted sandwiches

The U.S. government wants to stop a Detroit company from distributing ready-to-eat sandwiches which, the government says, are tainted and could be a health hazard to those who eat them.

Scotty-s-Foods-sandwich-jpgA civil complaint has been filed on behalf of the FDA claiming Scotty’s Incorporated’s sandwiches are manufactured “under insanitary conditions.”

“Moreover, the company has failed to implement a written Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan for handling seafood and minimizing the potential for harmful contamination in the company’s ready-to-eat tuna sandwiches,” reads a statement from the Justice Department.

The sandwiches can be purchased in vending machines and at gas stations or convenience stores.

The FDA inspected Scotty’s facilities at 3426 Junction Street in Detroit, where the company prepares, packs, holds, and distributes ready-to-eat sandwiches, and also processes seafood, specifically tuna for tuna sandwiches. According to the complaint, the inspection between Jan. 14 and Feb. 6, 2014 found the sandwiches “have been prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth or rendered injurious to health.”

View: PDF of civil complaint against Scotty’s

Louisiana: school credits handwashing stations with drop in absences

Pink eye, stomach bugs, flu, strep throat: the list can go on and on with reasons students miss school.  When one local school took a deeper look at absences from the previous school year, they incorporated a simple action plan to minimize school germs. 

handwash_south_park(2)Throughout the school day, two handwashing stations at Immaculate Conception Cathedral School in Lake Charles are put to use.  It is all in an effort to reduce the spread of germs at the root of many absences, says ICCS Director of Development, Erin Lang.  “In order to best educate them, we need them here and well,” said Lang.

When Lang and other school administrators reviewed absentee data from the previous school year, they knew something more needed to be done to keep students at their prime.  “If a good number of students are absent from a class, a teacher is unable to continue with a lesson,” said Lang, “it can slow down the learning process, it makes it difficult for those students who are out for an extended period of time.”

Dr. Tyson Green with Imperial Health has two children who attend school ICCS.  He says the spread of germs is rapid on school campuses.  “Whether it’s bacterial or viral, you start talking about the flu, you start talking about stomach viruses and things like that,” said Dr. Green.  “They’re going to get these with cross-contamination if they don’t wash their hands.”

The solution came through handwashing stations.  “What we found as the best way to protect our faculty and our students was basic handwashing with plain soap and water,” said Lang.

The biggest procedural change for students this school year is that as soon they walk into the school building, they go straight to the handwashing stations.  That’s the first wash of the day.  Then every bathroom break gets another hand wash, along with every entrance and exit from the school’s cafeteria.

Lang says the absentee numbers are already showing the success of the additional scrubbing.  “We have looked at our absentee rates from last year to this year, from the start of school through November, and we are already down 12 percent,” said Lang.

Canadian researchers rank Canada’s food safety system as world’s best; Chapman ranks himself as top-5 hockey player in NC

And I’m the best goalie in Australia (not).

ITALY-G8-G5-AGRICULTURE-FARMPress release before publishing – and peer review – reached new depths as academics at the University of Guelph proclaimed Canada’s food safety system the best in the world, in a report released today by the Conference Board of Canada.

“Canada has one of the safest and healthiest food systems in the world as confirmed by this study,” said Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health. “Our Government remains committed to our continuing efforts to further strengthen Canada’s food system to ensure that Canadian families can continue to have confidence in the food they buy and eat.”

According to the executive summary (you have to sign up to get the report) “food safety data segmentation and limitations hamper the world’s ability to select, build up, monitor, and evaluate food safety performance. Currently, there is no metric that captures the entire food safety system, and performance data are not collected strategically on a global scale. Therefore, benchmarking is essential not only to help monitor ongoing food safety performance but also to inform continued food safety system design, adoption, and implementation toward more efficient and effective food safety preparedness, responsiveness, and accountability.”

south.park.canadaAnd what academic report would be complete without a call for “funding future food safety data collection is recommended, as is hosting a food safety summit for nations to find consensus on common robust food safety performance measurements, drawing on metrics from this study, among others.”

Canada, striving for mediocracy.

Step away from the turkey II: bad advice from experts?

Thanksgiving brings a flurry of turkey tips, but the folks at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Extension seem to have some conflicting advice.

More-doctors-smoke-Camels-than-any-other-cigaretteUniversity of Illinois Extension says, “Wash the turkey inside and out and pat skin dry with paper towels,” yet most other Extension advice is, don’t wash the damn bird, you’ll have bacteria flying everywhere.

And, if smoking is allowed inside, provide guests with deep ashtrays After the guests leave, check inside, under upholstery and in trash cans for smoldering cigarette butts.

Proper handwashing, pooping require proper tools: Dirty school bathrooms give students diarrhea in Vietnam

And it’s not just Vietnam.

Dirty toilets and bathrooms gave 40 per cent of Ho Chi Minh City students diarrhea, according to UNICEF Viet Nam.

dirty.bathroomLast month, the city’s Health Department reported that 220 students at District 12′s Nguyen Khuyen Elementary School were unable to go to school, as they suffered a digestion-related disease caused by unclean school toilets. Two children in the southern city died in July from a similar condition.

The Ministry of Health reported 3,719 diarrhea cases in HCM City in the first six months of 2014 out of 301,570 nationwide in the first eight months.

School bathrooms and toilets in urban areas of the city are often in poor condition due to the large number of students and teachers that use them, as well as the lack of soap and fresh water for cleaning.

vietnam.ToiletThe problem is even worse in rural areas of HCM City, where schools have no bathrooms at all. In those areas, 27 per cent of children have to go to the toilet outside the school.

Enterotoxigenic E. coli worldwide are closely related

The strains of enterotoxigenic Escherichia coli (ETEC) that infect adults and children in Asia, Africa, and the Americas, have notably similar toxins and virulence factors, according to research published ahead of print in the Journal of Bacteriology. That bodes well for vaccine development, says corresponding author Åsa Sjöling, now of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. ETEC infects 400 million people annually, or 5.3 percent of the world’s population, killing 400,000.

Holding-sick-belly-25-per-centIn the study, Sjöling et al. set out to determine whether the heat labile toxin (LT) had become more toxic over time, and whether the bacterium had evolved to secrete more of it. LT causes the “travelers’ diarrhea” that so frequently afflicts Americans abroad, and that plagues residents of many low and middle income countries. But they found that over the 30 year period from which they had isolates, the two most potent toxin types, LT1 and LT2, had changed little but had spread globally.

“When new ETEC strains acquire either LT1 or LT2 they seem to have a much better chance to persist and spread,” says Sjöling. Colonization factors, the compounds the bacterium uses to adhere to the lining of the human got, also remained conserved over time, and the most common colonization factors identified globally were often associated with LT1 and LT2.

The research results from a collaboration between the University of Gothenburg (where Sjöling did this research), which has the world’s largest collection of ETEC strains, and sequencing experts at the Sanger Institute, Cambridge, UK. “We soon saw that strains with similar toxin variants and colonization factor profiles often remained closely related despite having been isolated on different continents, with time spans between those isolations ranging up to 30 years,” says Sjöling.

The paper is published concurrently with a paper in Nature Genetics by many of the same authors. In that paper, investigators developed whole-genome sequence data for 362 ETEC strains over 30 years, in 20 countries. “This research strengthens our belief that it is possible to target a broad range of ETEC groups with one vaccine,” says Gordon Dougan of the Sanger Institute, a coauthor of both papers.

“We believe that the vaccine developed at the University of Gothenburg will be protective and useful globally since this vaccine is based on the toxin types and colonization factors we found to be most successful worldwide,” says Sjöling.

While ETEC was believed to vary widely from place to place, the Nature Genetics investigators traced many of the 21 lineages to an individual bacterium that acquired the genetic information needed to infect humans between 51 and 174 years ago, and then spread. That, in turn, suggests that the bacterium is stable, and that it is unlikely to become vaccine-resistant, and that the vaccine will be effective worldwide in both children and adults, says Sjöling. 

Outbreaks associated with cantaloupe, watermelon, and honeydew in the United States, 1973–2011

Fresh fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. Melons have been associated with enteric infections. We reviewed outbreaks reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System during 1973–2011 in which the implicated food was a single melon type. We also reviewed published literature and records obtained from investigating agencies.

melon.berriesDuring 1973–2011, 34 outbreaks caused by a single melon type were reported, resulting in 3602 illnesses, 322 hospitalizations, 46 deaths, and 3 fetal losses. Cantaloupes accounted for 19 outbreaks (56%), followed by watermelons (13, 38%) and honeydew (2, 6%). Melon-associated outbreaks increased from 0.5 outbreaks per year during 1973–1991 to 1.3 during 1992–2011. Salmonella was the most common etiology reported (19, 56%), followed by norovirus (5, 15%).

Among 13 outbreaks with information available, melons imported from Mexico and Central America were implicated in 9 outbreaks (69%) and domestically grown melons were implicated in 4 outbreaks (31%). The point of contamination was known for 20 outbreaks; contamination occurred most commonly during growth, harvesting, processing, or packaging (13, 65%). Preventive measures focused on reducing bacterial contamination of melons both domestically and internationally could decrease the number and severity of melon-associated outbreaks.

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease [ahead of print]

Walsh Kelly A., Bennett Sarah D., Mahovic Michael, and Gould L. Hannah

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/fpd.2014.1812

How would a cafe crawling with adorable kittens pass a D.C. health inspection?

Washington, D.C. learned this week that it could be getting a cat cafe by next year, and Twitter got more excited than a kitten chasing a laser pointer’s red dot. The concept combines a coffee shop and a feline petting zoo; they’re big in Asia, and cat cafes have opened stateside in the Bay Area and New York. But with cats come fur, hairballs and litter boxes. So how does all of this work in an establishment that also offers food service?

catsUnder the current D.C. health code, only service animals are permitted in food establishments. But Crumbs and Whiskers founder Kanchan Singh has been in talks with the D.C. Department of Health as she looks for a space for her business, and thinks she’s worked out a reasonable arrangement.

“Basically, after a couple of months of convincing, what the DOH and I agreed on is that the cat area must be completely sectioned off from the cafe area,” Singh said.

That means that the cat cafe could actually be two separate but adjacent storefronts: One with a kitchen dishing out cake, ice cream and tea, and the other, a jungle gym for cats. Another option is to have a common entrance that leads to both businesses, but with completely segregated entrances to both.

Cross-contamination?

An oral history of the poop emoji (this is barfblog)

I’m not cool or hip at all and emojis have not been part of my personal communication toolbox.

I only see them when I get texts from Schaffner. img-thing

But this is barfblog and we like all things puke, vomit and poop, so here you go:  Lauren Schwartzberg’s, The oral history of the poop emoji (or, how Google brought poop to America).

My favorite excerpt:

“How many millions of occasions are there when [the poop] is the perfect response to whatever anybody says? In a world where you can only like, star, or plus-one something, don’t you just wish that you could put a pile of poop on things? Sometimes it feels so right.”

Just don’t eat it. At least the uncooked kind.