Australia has a raw egg problem and why newspapers (they still exist here because the Internet sucks) would publish such recipes is baffling

The Courier Mail out of Brisbane published a column by Frances Whiting extoling the virtues of her grandmother’s raw egg nog recipe.

egg.farm_“She would have been rather chuffed to know that her words of hope still resonate with people today, particularly today.”

I have no idea what chuffed means, and no idea what Australians are talking about almost all of the time.

Basic Eggnog Recipe

6 eggs

1 cup sugar

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp nutmeg

¾ cup rum

¾ cup brandy

2 cups milk

2 cups whipping cream

Beat eggs until frothy, add in sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, then stir in rum and brandy. Add milk and cream, stir vigorously. Pour into jug. Makes 1½ litres.

Why ruin perfectly good foods like eggs and rum?

Raw eggs are risky.

A table of Australian egg outbreaks is available at

Whole genome sequencing – it’s all the rage

I returned to the University of Guelph in about 1989 for a press thingy, and asked a former genetics prof (who was an asshole; drinking game, they all were) what was this PCR stuf.

kary.mullisHe didn’t tell me how a dude on acid figured it out, but it was now routine.

Today, whole genome sequencing is all the rage, and all I can remember is, another six months of graduate school for you, Powell, go tape those gels.

Our rudimentary DNA sequencing back in 1985 involved a particular skill with masking tape so the gels wouldn’t leak.

And a lot of radioactive phosphorous.

And phenol-based extraction, which has left my one pinky finger smaller than the other.


 Whole genome sequencing (WGS) has emerged as a powerful tool for comparing bacterial isolates in outbreak detection and investigation. Here, we demonstrate that WGS performed prospectively for national epidemiologic surveillance of Listeria monocytogenes has the capacity to be superior to our current approach using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), multilocus sequence typing (MLST), multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA), binary typing and serotyping. Initially 423 L. monocytogenes isolates underwent WGS and comparisons uncovered a diverse genetic population structure derived from three distinct lineages. MLST, binary and serotyping results inferred in silico from the WGS data were highly concordant (>99%) with laboratory typing performed in parallel. However, WGS was able to identify distinct nested clusters within groups of isolates that were otherwise indistinguishable by our current typing methods. Routine WGS was then used for prospective epidemiologic surveillance on a further 97 L. monocytogenes isolates over a 12-month period, providing a greater level of discrimination to conventional typing for inferring linkage to point source outbreaks. A risk based alert system based on WGS similarity was used to inform epidemiologists required to act on the data. Our experience shows WGS could be adopted for prospective L. monocytogenes surveillance, and investigated for other pathogens relevant to public health.

 Prospective whole genome sequencing enhances national surveillance of Listeria monocytogenes

J Clin Microbiol. 2015 Nov 25. pii: JCM.02344-15.

Kwong JC, Mercoulia K, Tomita T, Easton M, Li HY, Bulach DM, Stinear TP, Seemann T, Howden BP.

Stalls in Singapore told to stop selling Chinese-style raw-fish dishes

Food stalls have been ordered to stop selling Chinese-style raw-fish dishes until they can comply with stipulated guidelines, after investigations by the Ministry of Health (MOH) found a definite link between eating these dishes and Group B Streptococcus  (GBS) infection, which can potentially cause permanent disability and even death in severe cases. date, two persons have died from GBS infections this year, said MOH today (Nov 27), without providing details. One of the cases was not linked to the ongoing outbreak, and the other is being investigated.

MOH said it has been notified of 355 cases of GBS infections so far. Of these, about 150 cases had the Sequence Type (ST) 283 strain which causes Type III GBS disease. In comparison, there were, on average, 150 cases of GBS infections per year from 2011 to last year.

The consumption of Chinese-style ready-to-eat raw-fish dishes was found to be associated with Type III GBS disease, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a joint media briefing yesterday with the MOH and the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA). MOH had said previously it has not found any links between the GBS infection and the consumption of Japanese raw meat or fish dish sashimi. Examples of popular Chinese-style raw-fish dishes are “yusheng”, which is usually eaten during Chinese New Year, and raw-fish porridge.

Over 70 stalls selling Chinese-style raw fish dishes have been identified by the authorities. NEA met with the owners of some of these stalls to brief them on its directive and guidelines, which include buying fish from suppliers which can provide certification on the health of the fish from authorities in the country of origin. Other measures include proper cold chain management, such as keeping fish for raw consumption chilled at the right temperature, and proper hygiene practices like using separate kitchen tools for preparing raw fish.


Thanksgiving Australia style, 2015 edition

We’ve tried Thanksgiving a few times in Australia.

We did the Canadian one because it was earlier and not so hot, we did the U.S one. and it’s too hot, so after four years we found a model that may have worked.

amy.thanksgiving.nov.15Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. No religion, just good food to celebrate the harvest. We have traditionally hosted friends, family and students to share the feast each year.

So this year we adapted to Australian weather, and had about 30 people – that includes a bunch of kids – to a park.

We have fabulous parks.

The kids had a great playground and an area for rollerblading, scooters, whatever, the breezes from the river were good, and we did it picnic style.

I cooked the turkey and duck the night before – to a microbiologically safe temperature as determined by a tip-sensitive digital thermometer — and then refrigerated overnight.

Saturday morning, I carved up the birds – and underestimated the popularity – and made a casserole-based stuffing. Amy made potato salad, our friends brought sides, it was a relaxing four hours.

The hockey parents talked hockey gossip, the neighbors talked town home gossip, I stayed out of the way and tried to make sure everyone was fed.


kids.thanksgiving.nov.15They all said they had never had anything like stuffing, so that was sorta cool.

We took a hockey kid home for 24 hours so his Canadian dad could play baseball.

Cause that’s how we roll.

And look how happy Hubbell is (hard to see).

Then we played hockey Sunday am.

If it’s not Scottish, it’s crap; if it is Scottish cheese, it might contain Listeria

After further investigation, CFIA has expanded a recall announcement for Inverloch cheeses that have been imported and distributed across Canada.

Glen Echo Fine Foods is recalling Inverloch cheeses imported from Scotland from the marketplace due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination. Consumers should not consume and distributors, retailers and food service establishments should not sell or use the recalled products described below.

The recalled products may have been sold in smaller packages, cut and wrapped by some retailers. Consumers who are unsure if they have purchased the affected products are advised to contact their retailer.

Taylor Farms recalls onion and celery mix; produce has it’s problems

Taylor Farms supplies celery and onion mixtures to a lot of retail and food service operations. And they are recalling it, according FDA, after Costco and Montana health officials linked the ingredients to it’s chicken salad/E. coli outbreak.tyf_logo

Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. of Tracy, CA, is recalling the products listed below because they may include celery which could potentially contain E. coli 0157:H7. The products listed below are being recalled out of an abundance of caution due to a Celery and Onion Diced Blend testing positive for E. coli O157:H7 in a sample taken by the Montana Department of Health. The Celery and Onion Diced Blend tested by the state of Montana was used in a Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad that has been linked to a multi-state E. coli O157:H7 outbreak.

Liz Szabo of USA Today called me yesterday between a pre-Thanksgiving gym trip and turkey preparation to talk about the Costco-linked outbreak.

The E. coli outbreak traced to Costco chicken salads appears to have been caused by vegetables in the salad, rather than the chicken itself, according to company officials.

Tests performed by the Food and Drug Administration and Montana health officials traced the E. coli to an onion and celery mix, rather than the rotisserie chicken itself, Craig Wilson, Costco’s vice president of food safety and quality assurance, told USA TODAY. Health officials are performing additional tests to confirm this link.

The specific type of bacteria in this outbreak, E coli O157, is particularly dangerous, especially for children, said Ben Chapman, an associate professor and food safety specialist at North Carolina State University. E. coli 0157 is more likely than other varieties of the bacteria to cause hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can leave survivors on dialysis, he said.

One in 6 Americans — more than 48 million people — are sickened by the food they eat each year in the country, causing about 3,000 deaths and 125,000 hospitalizations, costing the economy $14.1 billion, according to the CDC.

More than half of food poisoning outbreaks are related to fruits and vegetables, Chapman said. Fresh produce is particularly vulnerable to contaminants, simply because it’s not cooked.

“When it comes to produce, there is no zero risk,” Chapman said (true with all foods -ben). “There are just so many points where it can be contaminated, between the field and someone’s plate.”

E. coli can get into the food chain in a variety of ways. Outbreaks have been linked to animal manure left behind by deer and even wild pigs, Chapman said.

Both Costco and Taylor Farms have good reputations for food safety, said William Marler, a Seattle attorney who has represented victims of food-borne illness and whose law firm operates a data base of food poisoning outbreaks.

“Costco has always done a good job with food safety,” Marler said. “They are probably one of the better stores out there, which shows just how vulnerable a supply chain is to E. coli or salmonella. Even if you have the best food safety systems in place, it always requires constant monitoring and oversight.”

But outbreaks can happen even at careful companies. “With mass-produced food, the opportunity for problems is really high,” Marler said.

And with not massed-produced foods too.

22 sick with E. coli: Cross-contamination from Reno Provisions

Following the recent news that a local E. coli outbreak came from a dessert item made by restaurant Reno Provisions, owner Mark Estee released a personal statement on Wednesday.

cross.contaminationEstee said that he and his employees were “deeply saddened” when they heard that the outbreak was connected to their chocolate mousse, citing that “our first and foremost concern is always the safety of our guests.” He said that they will assist the affected families as they recover.

Estee also expressed his gratitude for the professionalism of The Twisted Fork restaurant, which had originally been linked to the outbreak after they sold the chocolate mousse to their customers. He said that he also respects how quickly the Washoe County Health District was able to investigate the source of the illness.

According to the statement, the E. coli made its way into the kitchen through the cross-contamination of meat and dessert processing equipment.

“Our food production records allowed us to quickly identify that the wrong mixer was used to blend meat, transferring contaminants to the dessert,” Estee said. “This was an isolated incident that violated our preparation protocols.”

Under the guidance of a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) consultant, the restaurant has reviewed its food safety standards and retrained each employee and will continue to do so.

Chapman wins (but no one wins in foodborne outbreaks) it was the celery: Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. recalls celery, E. coli linked to Costco outbreak

Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. of Tracy, CA, is recalling the products listed below because they may include celery which could potentially contain E. coli O157:H7.

costco.chicken.salad.nov.15The products listed below are being recalled out of an abundance of caution due to a Celery and Onion Diced Blend testing positive for E. coli O157:H7 in a sample taken by the Montana Department of Health. The Celery and Onion Diced Blend tested by the state of Montana was used in a Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad that has been linked to a multi-state E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak.

Consumers may call 209-830-3141 for any further information Monday to Friday, exclusive of holidays, between the hours of 8am-5pm (PST). Consumers with concerns about an illness from consumption of any of the recalled products should contact a health care provider.

The utility of multiple molecular methods including whole genome sequencing as tools to differentiate Escherichia Coli O157:H7 outbreaks

A standardised method for determining Escherichia coli O157:H7 strain relatedness using whole genome sequencing or virulence gene profiling is not yet established.

remaincalm.kevin.baconWe sought to assess the capacity of either high-throughput polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of 49 virulence genes, core-genome single nt variants (SNVs) or k-mer clustering to discriminate between outbreak-associated and sporadic E. coli O157:H7 isolates.

Three outbreaks and multiple sporadic isolates from the province of Alberta, Canada were included in the study. Two of the outbreaks occurred concurrently in 2014 and one occurred in 2012. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) were employed as comparator typing methods. The virulence gene profiles of isolates from the 2012 and 2014 Alberta outbreak events and contemporary sporadic isolates were mostly identical; therefore the set of virulence genes chosen in this study were not discriminatory enough to distinguish between outbreak clusters. Concordant with PFGE and MLVA results, core genome SNV and k-mer phylogenies clustered isolates from the 2012 and 2014 outbreaks as distinct events. k-mer phylogenies demonstrated increased discriminatory power compared with core SNV phylogenies. Prior to the widespread implementation of whole genome sequencing for routine public health use, issues surrounding cost, technical expertise, software standardisation, and data sharing/comparisons must be addressed.