Dominican Republic resort visitor awarded five-figure settlement following salmonellosis

In 2004 I visited the Dominican Republic, a popular Caribbean destination for Canadians attempting to escape the winter cold, wet and grey.  Dani and I took advantage of her spring break and Millennium Scholarship (probably not what they were meant for) and spent a week sitting on the beach, eating buffets and playing scrabble. It was pretty fun. My food paranoia was focused on ice cubes, foods held at the wrong temperature and fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t think I ate anything that wasn’t fried and stuck to beer all week. Dani wasn’t nearly as ridiculous as I was (she rarely is) and she tried lots of stuff.
The week was a success; not only did we get some Vitamin D, neither of us had any foodborne illness symptoms.100B8930
According to Express and Star, Tracey Middleton was not as lucky as we were. In 2011 she visited the Casa Marina Reef Resort in the Dominican Republic with her husband, Keirnan and was felled with salmonellosis.
But on her return home, she was admitted to Staffordshire Hospital for four days after becoming severely dehydrated due to sickness and diarrhoea and she was diagnosed with salmonella, which has left her with on-going symptoms.
 
The couple instructed lawyers to investigate the cause of Tracy’s illness and they have secured a five-figure settlement for Tracy to cover the pain and suffering caused by her illness on the Thomas Cook holiday.
Mrs Middleton, aged 50, said: “Kieran and I were shocked at the conditions at the hotel, as we expected them to be of a high standard as it was supposed to be a luxury resort. We noticed that on occasions that food was being left uncovered for prolonged periods of time and some food was reheated and served with fresh food. We sometimes found the restaurant cutlery to be dirty and we noticed on occasions that some of the food served was undercooked. On occasions we also saw birds in the restaurant area.
 
“This nightmare has put me off travelling to the Dominican Republic again. I feel as though I’m more cautious about what I eat and what I do now. The illness and health problems have had a significant impact on my life.
 
Nearly three years on from the holiday, she still experiences painful stomach cramps and muscle pains on her sides. Her stomach swells from time to time especially after she has eaten and she now has to avoid foods such as bread, pasta and wine.
 
A Thomas Cook spokeswoman said: “Thomas Cook is sorry that Mrs Middleton fell ill while on holiday in the Dominican Republic in October 2011. We have extended our apologies to the party, while reaching an agreement with their legal representatives.
 
“We would like to assure customers that incidents of this type are rare, as Thomas Cook closely audits all the properties to which it operates to ensure that only the very highest hygiene standards are maintained.
 
Audits and inspections are never enough. Evaluating the tools that the resort provides to staff, or how they evaluate their suppliers is just the beginning – evaluating whether the behaviors to adhere to standards is more important.

Should kids be allowed to wash hands at school? Or is sanitizer enough?

Someone wrote me this morning and said at their U.S. elementary school, the 5th graders are not permitted to wash hands after mandatory bathroom times and the teacher stands outside of the bathroom with hand sanitizer squirting it as each child leaves the bathroom. The hand dryers are too loud and the teachers don’t want wet hands because there’s no paper towel.

jon.stewart.handwashing.2002This as UN deputy secretary general, Jan Eliasson, warned the world’s lack of progress in building toilets and ending open defecation is having a “staggering” effect on the health, safety, education, prosperity and dignity of 2.5 billion people.

They may not be related, but proper sanitation requires access to proper tools.

In Denmark, nearly one-quarter of foodborne illness outbreaks from 2005 to 2011 were caused by asymptomatic food handlers, according to researchers from the Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen.

“Symptoms compatible with norovirus infection among household members, especially children, of food handlers should be taken into account, as mechanical transfer of virus particles from private homes to industrial kitchens appears to be an important cause of outbreaks,” the researchers wrote in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. “Existing guidelines recommend exclusion of symptomatic and post-symptomatic food handlers and strict hand hygiene, when household members are ill with gastroenteritis.”

handwashing.junk.apr.13A study in Finland concluded Noroviruses are easily transferred to ready-to-eat foods via foodservice workers’ handling.

Researchers at the Finnish Food Safety Authority and the University of Helsinki confirm virus-free food ingredients and good hand hygiene are needed to prevent contamination of prepared foods.

Promote hand hygiene, but the tools have to be there.

Bacterial occurrence in kitchen hand towels

People don’t use dryers much in Brisbane. It hardly rains, so people use clotheslines, and electricity is expensive.

And it’s so natural.

tea.towelMy clothsline can usually be found with an abundance of hand (or tea) towels.

I use them all the time when cooking and am fastidious about washing them.

I also wonder how often those cook aprons are washed.

Gerba et al. report the common occurrence of enteric bacteria in kitchen sponges and dishcloths suggests that they can play a role in the cross-contamination of foods, fomites and hands by foodborne pathogens. This study investigated the occurrence of bacteria in kitchen towels often used to dry dishes, hands and other surfaces in the domestic kitchen. A total of 82 kitchen hand towels were collected from households in five major cities in the United States and Canada and the numbers of heterotrophic bacteria, coliform bacteria, and Escherichia coli in each towel were determined. In addition, identification of the enteric bacteria was performed on selected towels. Coliform bacteria were detected in 89.0% and E. coli in 25.6% of towels. The presence of E. coli was related to the frequency of washing.

Raw and risky: do rewards outweigh risks?

U.S. President Obama may want to think again about those burger outings he does.

five.guys.obamaObama likes Five Brothers Burgers and Fries, where, “kitchen rules include no timers in the kitchen (because good cooks know when food is done).

Maybe use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer?

Misti Crane of The Columbus Dispatch writes that those who run kitchens commonly run afoul of food-safety sticklers when it comes time to eat.

Most chefs will likely tell you that a burger cooked to a safe temperature is a burger they would rather not order. And they probably aren’t pushing themselves away from the bar when an icy tray of fresh-shucked oysters arrives.

Food-safety experts shake their heads at such culinary daredevils, but the risk-takers shake their heads right back. Food is pleasure, they say, and rules can stand in the way.

“I like my meat running around the block,” said Columbus restaurateur Tasi Rigsby. “I eat everything. I ate sushi when I was pregnant.”

Mike Suclescy, who co-owns the Thurman Cafe, said most of the burger lovers who visit his German Village restaurant prefer theirs cooked below 160 degrees, the temperature at which E. coli bacteria are killed, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines.

Most people go for medium or medium-rare, he said.

“I don’t think a whole lot of people worry about it here at our place,” he said, adding that a 12-ounce Thurmanator takes a good eight minutes per side to cook to well-done.

Doug Powell, a former food-safety professor and publisher of the website barfblog.com, worries a lot about the safety of children and said he doesn’t take any food-safety risks when it comes to him or his daughters.

barfblog.Stick It InMany people who routinely eat raw shellfish or rare beef are quick to point out that they’ve never been harmed in a lifetime of dining.

“You could play the numbers game, and I hear these arguments all the time,” Powell said. “But if it happens to you, the numbers become irrelevant because the only number is one. These illnesses can cause lifelong damage.”

In the case of oysters, for instance, reported illnesses are relatively rare but can be deadly.

Last year in the United States, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded 12 outbreaks linked or possibly linked to oysters — 52 people were sickened, and three were hospitalized. The CDC database does not include individual illnesses or deaths linked to oysters, nor does it include those who are sickened and never seek medical care.

The CDC estimates that there are 3,000 food-related deaths per year in the United States and that 128,000 people are hospitalized.

“It’s up to the consumer, but they just have to be knowledgeable and be educated and understand that they are potentially at risk,” said Carol Zubovich, a specialist in the food-protection program at Columbus Public Health.

Restaurants that serve foods considered risky, including undercooked or raw meats, fish and shellfish, have the highest level of scrutiny by food inspectors, she said.

Rigsby said she’s especially selective about the meat, seafood and eggs she eats, and she and her husband, Kent Rigsby, are discriminating about whom they buy from and how they prepare their food.

The beef is all grass-fed, for instance. And the oysters are shipped in fresh from the East Coast and shucked to order. Neither of those things guarantees safety, experts caution, but it gives many people greater peace of mind.

Powell said he doesn’t buy the safe-sourcing argument.

“I know there’s a lot of food porn out there that says if you source it from the right place, it will be safer, but I don’t have any microbiological evidence of that,” he said. “I will not eat raw sprouts. I will not drink unpasteurized juice; and I generally cook my seafood, meat or protein. I wouldn’t touch raw dairy.”

Columbus Public Health’s Zubovich doesn’t go for potentially risky foods, either, and she mostly dines at home, she said. “Since getting into this line of work, I don’t eat out at a lot of restaurants.”

China arrests six from OSI unit in food scandal

Chinese authorities have formally arrested six employees from a unit of US food supplier OSI Group, the parent company over a scandal involving expired meat sold to fast food giants.

transparency-300x199Authorities have previously announced the detention by police of six officials of Shanghai Husi Food Co, a subsidiary of OSI which operated a factory shut down by the city in July for mixing out-of-date meat with fresh products. OSI’s clients in China previously included McDonald’s and KFC.

“OSI Group confirms that 6 employees of Shanghai Husi have now been arrested following detention by authorities,” the company said in a statement provided to media. “OSI Group will continue to cooperate fully and in good faith with the authorities,” it said, but did not identify the six. 

Sprouts still suck, even with social amplification

I know lots about the social amplification of risk as promoted by Kasperson, et al., but I’m not sure the author a new paper examining that theory in Germany’s 2011 E. coli O104 outbreak involving sprouts does.

sprout.santa.barf.xmasLots of risk communication background, not much in the way of what to do. But, you can decide.

The social amplification of risk framework highlights the role which the news media play in risk communication by interacting with other agents in amplifying risk. However, the precise ways in which the media and other social agents actually amplify risks in public debates are unclear. In this article we draw on insights from the sociology of news to examine whether and to what extent social agents and news media amplify an emerging health risk. We use the debate about the Escherichia coli outbreak in Germany in 2011 to examine three issues: the amount of risk reporting by news media and social agents in their function as news sources; their evaluation of risk; and how they contribute to the escalation of risk, also known as ripple effects. In this article we draw on data from a content analysis of press releases from public health authorities and affected stakeholders and of news items in leading German news media. We found that the affected stakeholders were amplifying the risk to the greatest extent. We also found that there was a shift over time in the use of dominant frames. At the start of the debate the risk was framed as a public health issue and linked to medical-scientific progress. As the debate developed, more attention was given to political and economic consequences of the outbreak and the original health risk event was layered by other risk-related events.

Social agents and news media as risk amplifiers: a case study on the public debate about the E. coli outbreak in Germany 2011

Health, Risk & Society, August 20, 2014

Juliana Raupp

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13698575.2014.950203

jimmy.john's.sproutsWe did our own take on the sprout-related literature a couple of years ago and concluded:

• raw sprouts are a well-documented source of foodborne illness;

• risk communication about raw sprouts has been inconsistent; and,

• continued outbreaks question effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance.

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.

Sprouts present a unique food safety challenge compared to other fresh produce, as the sprouting process provides optimal conditions for the growth and proliferation of pathogenic bacteria. The sprout industry, regulatory agencies, and the academic community have been collaborating to improve the microbiological safety of raw sprouts, including the implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), establishing guidelines for safe sprout production, and chemical disinfection of seed prior to sprouting. However, guidelines and best practices are only as good as their implementation. The consumption of raw sprouts is considered high-risk, especially for young, elderly and immuno-compromised persons.

From November 2010 into 2011, an outbreak linked to raw sprouts in the U.S. and involving sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s sickened 140 people. This was the third sprout related outbreak involving this franchise, yet the owner of the Montana Jimmy John’s outlet, Dan Stevens, expressed confidence in his sprouts claiming that because the sprouts were locally grown they would not be contaminated. By the end of December 2010 a sprout supplier, Tiny Greens Farm, was implicated in the outbreak. Jimmy John’s owner, John Liautaud, responded by stating the sandwich chain would replace alfalfa sprouts with clover sprouts since they were allegedly easier to clean. However, a week earlier a separate outbreak had been identified in Washington and Oregon in which eight people were infected with Salmonella after eating sandwiches containing clover sprouts from a Jimmy John’s restaurant. This retailer was apparently not aware of the risks associated with sprouts, or even outbreaks associated with his franchisees.

In late December, 2011, less than one year after making the switch to clover sprouts, Jimmy John’s was linked to another sprout related outbreak, this time it was E.coli O26 in clover sprouts. In February 2012, sandwich franchise Jimmy John’s announced they were permanently removing raw clover sprouts from their menus. As of April 2012, the outbreak had affected 29 people across 11 states. Founder and chief executive, John Liautaud, attempted to appease upset customers through Facebook stating, “a lot of folks dig my sprouts, but I will only serve the best of the best. Sprouts were inconsistent and inconsistency does not equal the best.” He also informed them the franchise was testing snow pea shoots in a Campaign, Illinois store, although there is no mention regarding the “consistency” or safety of this choice.

sprout.apple.aug.14Despite the frequent need for sprout-based risk communication, messaging with industry and public stakeholders has been limited in effectiveness. In spite of widespread media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks, improved production guidelines, and public health enforcement actions, awareness of risk remains low. Producers, food service and government agencies need to provide consistent, evidence-based messages and, more importantly, actions. Information regarding sprout-related risks and food safety concerns should be available and accurately presented to producers, retailers and consumers in a manner that relies on scientific data and clear communications.

Erdozain, M.S., Allen, K.J., Morley, K.A. and Powell, D.A. 2012. Failures in sprouts-related risk communication. Food Control. 10.1016/j.foodcont.2012.08.022

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004707?v=s5

Abstract

Nutritional and perceived health benefits have contributed to the increasing popularity of raw sprouted seed products. In the past two decades, sprouted seeds have been arecurring food safety concern, with at least 55 documented foodborne outbreaks affecting more than 15,000 people. A compilation of selected publications was used to yield an analysis of the evolving safety and risk communication related to raw sprouts, including microbiological safety, efforts to improve production practices, and effectiveness of communication prior to, during, and after sprout-related outbreaks. Scientific investigation and media coverage of sprout-related outbreaks has led to improved production guidelines and public health enforcement actions, yet continued outbreaks call into question the effectiveness of risk management strategies and producer compliance. Raw sprouts remain a high-risk product and avoidance or thorough cooking are the only ways that consumers can reduce risk; even thorough cooking messages fail to acknowledge the risk of cross-contamination. Risk communication messages have been inconsistent over time with Canadian and U.S. governments finally aligning their messages in the past five years, telling consumers to avoid sprouts. Yet consumer and industry awareness of risk remains low. To minimize health risks linked to the consumption of sprout products, local and national public health agencies, restaurants, retailers and producers need validated, consistent and repeated risk messaging through a variety of sources.

41 sickened with Salmonella at Michigan festival

Reading Summer Festival Days lasted from July 31 to Aug. 3, but the outbreak came from one event.

Reading Summer Festival Days“There were eight laboratory-confirmed cases and 33 probable cases” among the more than 250 people who attended an alumni reunion dinner Aug. 2, CHA health officer Steve Todd said. After being notified of the illnesses on Aug. 11 Todd put his department to work to contact attendees.

The community invited back all those who had attended Reading schools from across the state and country. Two members of the class of 1942 were present.

About 150 were found and interviewed by phone. “Several of the individuals either had been seen by a doctors or were hospitalized,” Todd said.

Many were in their 70s.

Because notification came nine days after the event there was little food to test. 

Fail: Frozen food trucks in Taiwan

The Consumer Protection Committee (CPC) under the Executive Yuan said yesterday that 73 percent of frozen food trucks failed to meet standards based on the result of random inspections of logistics companies.

taiwan-food-11This situation was first discovered in July, when the temperature in one frozen food truck reached 33 degrees Celsius, which is grossly in violation of food safety laws. Therefore, the CPC decided to cooperate with local health and transportation authorities to inspect additional logistics companies.

The CPC inspected 35 companies and 80 vehicles including 48 frozen food trucks. The results revealed 35 out of 48 frozen food trucks did not keep sufficiently low temperatures during transportation.