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.

 

We’re all hosts on a viral planet: Viruses help keep the gut healthy

Drunken graduate student discussions about the role of viruses in human development have taken on new importance now that researchers studying mice have shown that a virus can help maintain and restore a healthy gut in much the same way that friendly bacteria do.

kellysheroes2t1oddballThe work “shows for the first time that a virus can functionally substitute for a bacterium and provide beneficial effects,” says Julie Pfeiffer, a virologist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas who was not involved with the study. “It’s shocking.”

Our bodies are mostly microbes, with each of us hosting a hundred trillion bacteria as our so-called microbiome. These bacteria appear to play a role in everything from our weight to our allergies. But viruses also lurk in and around those bacteria—and they vastly outnumber the microbes.

Like the microbiome, this “virome” may be important for human health. One recent study, for example, found that viruses that are abundant in saliva may weed out harmful bacteria. Kenneth Cadwell, a virologist at New York University School of Medicine in New York City, wanted to know what viruses in the gut might be doing. In particular, he was interested in a group called noroviruses. Although they are notorious for causing epidemics of diarrhea on cruise ships and disease in lab mouse colonies, some noroviruses infect mice with no ill effects.

Reminds of this scene from 1978’s Animal house, but I could only find the clip in this other language.

Gray steaks disposed in Georgia restaurant inspection

Some of the steaks at Nicky’s Diner in east Cobb County were gray and in such poor condition that a health inspector had them discarded during a recent routine inspection.

nicky's.dinerThe inspector also recommended more staff training in food safety for the diner at 4751 Sandy Plains Road, Roswell. Among other code violations, there were open bags of brown gravy, grits, sugar and rice, all subject to contamination.

Nicky’s Diner failed the inspection with a 52/U. The restaurant had previous health scores of 92/A and 80/B.

According to the inspection report, employees were using the wrong thermometers to check the temperature of items on the food line. Probes that measure thin foods were needed, but the restaurant did not have this type of thermometer, the inspector said.

Some hot food items were not being held at safe temperatures.

Imagine if this applied to food reviews: UK hotel guests outraged by fine for leaving bad review

A British budget hotel that fined a couple 100 pounds (AUD$180) for writing a bad review about it online has agreed to pay them back and drop its policy of penalising guests who do that, officials said.

bad.reviewTony and Jan Jenkinson told the BBC they discovered the charge on their credit card shortly after they called the hotel as a “filthy, dirty, rotten, stinking hovel” on the travel website TripAdvisor.

The Jenkinsons said that when they questioned the charge from the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool, a seaside town in north-western England, it pointed out the “no-bad-review policy” in its terms and conditions.

Blackpool Council, which investigated the case, said the hotel has now complied with its request to remove the policy.

Evaluation? E. coli victims appeal to workers in LGMA training video

Coral Beach of The Packer writes that victims of the 2006 E. coli outbreak linked to fresh spinach tell their stories in a new food safety training video co-produaced by the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and the non-profit group STOP Foodborne Illness.

Lauren Bush tells her story in the video, describing how as a 20-year-old college student she contracted an infection from a spinach salad that ultimately sent her to the hospital with hemorrhaging and other severe symptoms.

“I’m so pleased with the video,” Bush said during a Nov. 19 Internet press conference. “I hope it reminds everyone who sees it of the importance of what they are doing. I know it must be a lot of extra work, but it does save lives.”

Dan Sutton, LGMA member and general manager of Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange, said he attended a training session a week before the press conference and watched the reactions of people seeing it for the first time.

“There was absolute silence when it was over,” Sutton said. “It had an impact.”

The video is bilingual with segments presented in Spanish and English.

Step away from the turkey, do not wash

You’d figure a website called food.com could get some basics right, but no, in the run-up to U.S. Thanksgiving next week, idiocracy rules.

wash.turkey.nov.14“Step 3 Rinse the Turkey

Remove the giblets and neck out of the turkey cavity. Rinse the turkey with cold water inside and out, removing any excess fat and leftover pin feathers. Dry the turkey by patting it with paper towels and place it in a large roasting pan.

TIP If you purchased a frozen turkey, allow about 5 hours of thawing per pound.”

Do not wash the poultry, unless you killed it yourself and need to remove the feathers.

Plastic or corrugated containers? Which is better for produce food safety

Two recent studies of bacteria on reusable plastic containers — both sponsored by corrugated carton groups — question the cleaning process used on RPCs before they enter the supply chain again.

reusable-plastic-containerRPC supplier IFCO and the Reusable Packaging Association has countered that no foodborne illness outbreak has been traced to RPCS.

Keith Warriner, professor of food safety at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, said the study of RPCs — commissioned by the Canadian Corrugated and Containerboard Association — was an extension of one he performed in 2013. The first study tested 50 RPCs, the 2014 study involved 160 RPCs.

In the 2014 study, RPC samples from five Canadian packing facilities were pulled from different lots of trays that had been delivered on pallets wrapped with plastic film. Corrugated cartons from those facilities were not tested for comparison, Warriner said.

The study found that 13% of the RPCs tested positive for generic E. coli, but none tested positive for salmonella; 73% exceeded bacterial load levels, although that doesn’t mean they tested positive for E. coli, salmonella, listeria or other pathogens commonly associated with foodborne illness outbreaks.

“The results of the study have confirmed that a high proportion of RPCs are of poor sanitary status due to inadequate sanitation or post-cleaning contamination,” Warriner said in the study’s conclusion.

Trevor Suslow, produce safety specialist and plant pathologist at University of California-Davis, also conducted a recent study of RPCs, “Assessment of General RPC Cleanliness As Delivered for Use in Packing and Distribution of Fresh Produce.” Corrugated Delivers sponsored efforts to publicize the results and International Paper sponsored the testing.

Suslow said his research shows inconsistencies in the system for handling pooled RPCs. The difference between the Canadian study and Suslow’s is that his research tested RPCs with visible organic matter or residual produce material.

“The main takeaway from that is that we found, other than in a few cases across a few different weeks or pallet loads, the units that looked visually clean and dry had very similar viable or living microbial indicator counts compared to the ones we pulled apart for cause,” he said.

Kissing transfers 80 million bacteria, scientists say

French kiss, tongue swapping, tonsil hockey: whatever it’s called, people like to kiss.

imagesAnd while a 10-second “intimate kiss” can transfer 80 million bacteria from one mouth to another, according to a new report in the journal Microbiome, that’s nothing compared to the trillions of bacteria we all carry.

A team of Dutch researchers recruited 21 couples who happened to be visiting the Artis Royal Zoo in Amsterdam on a summer day. All 42 volunteers (whose ages ranged from 17 to 45) allowed the researchers to wipe their tongues with a cotton swab several times. They also agreed to spit into sterile tubes and answer questions about their kissing habits.

The researchers found that the particular community of bacteria living on a volunteer’s tongue was more similar to the bacteria on his or her kissing partner’s tongue than to a stranger’s tongue. They quantified this using a measure called the Morisita-Horn index, where 0 indicates complete overlap and 1 means no overlap at all. The MH index value for kissing couples was 0.37, significantly lower than the 0.55 for strangers.

231127Then the volunteers engaged in some public displays of affection (a 10-second kiss “involving full tongue contact and saliva exchange”) and had their tongues swabbed again. According to the bacterial analysis, a fresh kiss barely budged the similarity index value. That suggests that the overlap in tongue bacteria is probably “a long-term effect of couples living together” – sharing meals, toothpaste and other items from daily life.

In a further test, some of the volunteers were given a probiotic yogurt drink spiked with a marker bacteria. Researchers swabbed their tongues and asked them to kiss their partners. Then the partners had their tongues swabbed. Comparing the contents of the yogurt-drinkers’ swabs and their partners’ swabs, the researchers calculated that a single kiss can deposit 80,000,000 bacteria from one tongue to another.

Shaping the oral microbiota through intimate kissing

Microbiome 2014; 2:41

Remco Kort, Martien Caspers, Astrid van de Graaf, Wim van Egmond, Bart Keijser and Guus Roeselers

http://www.microbiomejournal.com/content/2/1/41

Abstract

Background

The variation of microbial communities associated with the human body can be the cause of many factors, including the human genetic makeup, diet, age, surroundings, and sexual behavior. In this study, we investigated the effects of intimate kissing on the oral microbiota of 21 couples by self-administered questionnaires about their past kissing behavior and by the evaluation of tongue and salivary microbiota samples in a controlled kissing experiment. In addition, we quantified the number of bacteria exchanged during intimate kissing by the use of marker bacteria introduced through the intake of a probiotic yoghurt drink by one of the partners prior to a second intimate kiss.

Results

Similarity indices of microbial communities show that average partners have a more similar oral microbiota composition compared to unrelated individuals, with by far most pronounced similarity for communities associated with the tongue surface. An intimate kiss did not lead to a significant additional increase of the average similarity of the oral microbiota between partners. However, clear correlations were observed between the similarity indices of the salivary microbiota of couples and self-reported kiss frequencies, and the reported time passed after the latest kiss. In control experiments for bacterial transfer, we identified the probiotic Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium marker bacteria in most kiss receivers, corresponding to an average total bacterial transfer of 80 million bacteria per intimate kiss of 10 s.

Conclusions

This study indicates that a shared salivary microbiota requires a frequent and recent bacterial exchange and is therefore most pronounced in couples with relatively high intimate kiss frequencies. The microbiota on the dorsal surface of the tongue is more similar among partners than unrelated individuals, but its similarity does not clearly correlate to kissing behavior, suggesting an important role for specific selection mechanisms resulting from a shared lifestyle, environment, or genetic factors from the host. Furthermore, our findings imply that some of the collective bacteria among partners are only transiently present, while others have found a true niche on the tongue’s surface allowing long-term colonization.