Food Safety Talk 81: Food safety matters every week

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.  They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.

After a brief discussion about Quadrophenia, the guys thankfully decide to not sing this episode.Unknown-3

Ben mentions that the last video store in the Raleigh area is closing. This led to some discussion about the job security of academic careers where Don stated, ‘prediction is very difficult especially about the future.’

Spurred by Ben’s short visit to Baltimore, the guys then discuss how awesome The Wire is.  Don mentions a perspective by David Simon, the Wire’s creator, on the real life situation in Baltimore.  Ben was recently in Baltimore for the Food Safety Summit.  A nod goes out to Brian Saunders for doing a good job of boots on the ground coverage of what’s going on in Baltimore during the Food Safety Summit.

Don recommends Acorn TV for anyone interested in British TV. This subscription service has British programming not typically shown on US TV. At the Acorn website Ben spotted Time Team an archeology reality series that he thinks his kids would love.

This week Ben talks about media interviews and a focus on multiple food safety stories all hitting at the same time. He talked a cutting boards post on barfblog that garnered some attention.  He also fielded inquires regarding the Blue Bell Listeria outbreak .  Ben noted that Blue Bell announced they are recalling all the ice cream.

A tragic botulism outbreak linked to a church potluck in Ohio was also a topic in multiple media outlets. The potluck outbreak was linked to home-canned potatoes but the coverage prompted a side conversation about bot and foil-wrapped baked potatoes.

Looking ahead to future food outbreaks Ben mentions that a bill was introduced in North Carolina to legalize raw milk.  This bill would allow consumers to legally acquire raw milk via a cow share mechanism.  In this article Ben is quoted challenging an inappropriate comparison of raw milk outbreak data by the bill’s sponsor.

In After Dark Don shames Ben for not listening to Roderick on the Line. Again.

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Suspected food poisoning affects 48 Vietnam workers

Forty-eight workers at an industrial zone in the northern Nam Dinh Province were rushed to a military health centre yesterday afternoon, after they fell ill with food poisoning symptoms.

Tin Phát CompanyThe workers reportedly showed symptoms of stomach pain, headache, vomiting and diarrhea after they had lunch provided by the Ha Noi-based Tin Phát Company.

Initial investigation showed that Tin Phat Company provided 3,200 lunch portions to Youngor Smart Shirt Ltd. Co workers on October 6. The portions were distributed over two shifts that began at noon.

After having lunch, several workers showed symptoms of food poisoning and were given first-aid by the company’s health staff.

Then they were moved to the military health centre, 300m from the industrial park.

By 6pm yesterday, all affected workers — of Youngor Smart Shirts Viet Nam Ltd Co in My Trung industrial park in My Loc District — had recovered enough to be sent home to convalesce, a doctor at the health centre said. 

At 10pm yesterday, an inspection team from Nam Dinh Province’s health and hygiene safety departments questioned Youngor Smart Shirts Ltd. Co staff and took food samples from the company’s canteen for testing.

NZ hospital food safety manager rightly sacked

A food safety manager in an Auckland hospital who was fired after unsafe work practices was not unjustifiably dismissed as she claims.

simpsons.lunch.lady.09Former food service manager at North Shore Hospital Padmini Singh was employed by Compass Group from August 2009 until January 2015.

Her employment ended after she was found to have been lacking in a number of areas in food safety and a decision on a demotion for her couldn’t be reached.

Compass Group had already been warned about food safety prior to audits of Singh’s work coming up short.

An outbreak of norovirus at North Shore Hospital in 2012 was found to have most likely originated in the hospital kitchen – though this was never confirmed nor linked to Singh.

During the outbreak there were 59 cases of gastroenteritis with each patient having had the same food.

The Ministry for Primary Industries conducted an investigation and there were indications the culprit may have been a chicken and barley soup served at lunch.

Ultimately, the source of the norovirus was not determined and MPI issued a formal warning to Compass Group that it was at risk of legal action.

Operations manager Raymond Hall said this warning was related to hand hygiene practices, training and food safety documentation.


Chicken and campy: Foodnet Canada 2011-2012

FoodNet Canada (formerly known as C-EnterNet) is a preventive, multi-partner sentinel site surveillance system, facilitated by the Public Health Agency of Canada, that identifies what food and other sources are causing illness in Canada.

chickenEach sentinel site is founded on a unique partnership with the local public health unit, private laboratories, and water and agri-food sectors, as well as the provincial and federal institutions responsible for public health, food safety, and water safety. The pilot sentinel site (ON site), comprised of the Region of Waterloo, Ontario, has approximately 525,000 residents, with a mix of urban and rural communities and innovation in public health and water conservation.

A second site (BC site) was officially established in the Fraser Health Authority, British Columbia in April of 2010. This BC site includes the communities of Burnaby, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack and has approximately 450,000 residents.

In the ON site, enhanced surveillance of human cases of enteric disease in the community is performed, as well as active surveillance of enteric pathogens in water, food (retail meat and produce) and on farms. In the BC site in 2010, enhanced human disease surveillance began, as did active surveillance of enteric pathogens (for retail produce only).

The following key findings are based on the surveillance data from 2011–2012 in the ON and BC sites:

  • A total of 1663 human cases of 11 bacterial, viral and parasitic diseases were reported within the ON and BC sites between 2011 and 2012. The three most frequently reported diseases (campylobacteriosis, salmonellosis and giardiasis) accounted for 82% of the cases.
  • Campylobacteriosis remained the most commonly reported enteric disease in both sentinel sites, with Campylobacter jejuni being the most common species associated with human campylobacteriosis. The majority of raw chicken samples tested were also contaminated with Campylobacter jejuni. Possible exposure factors included living on a farm or country property, contacting on-farm poultry, contacting household pets, contacting animal manure and consuming spoiled food. Overall, as found in the past, retail chicken meat was considered to be the most important vehicle of transmission for Campylobacter.

Distributions of patient age and gender among the human salmonellosis cases between 2011 and 2012 were similar to those observed historically in both the ON and BC sites. The most commonly reported serovars for human cases of salmonellosis were Enteritidis, Typhimurium, and Heidelberg. Phage type alignment continues to be observed among isolates from endemic human cases, chicken meat, and broiler chicken feces for both Salmonella Heidelberg and Salmonella Enteritidis. A slight decrease was observed in the rate in both sites (in 2011–2012 combined compared to 2010), which is comparable to the national trend observed during the same time period (2, 3, 7, 8). The prevalence of Salmonella on ground chicken was twice the level found on chicken breast. This may highlight the greater chance of product contamination during processing. Overall, possible salmonellosis exposure factors included contact with pet reptiles, retail poultry products, and broiler chicken manure (Table 4.6). The most important possible vehicle of transmission is considered to be retail poultry products.

• Verotoxigenic E. coli (O157:H7 and non-O157:H7 serotypes) infections continue to be primarily acquired domestically, as demonstrated by the low number of travel-related cases in 2011–2012. E. coli O157:H7 PFGE patterns in both human and non-human samples from 2011–2012 continued to show considerable diversity, as observed nationally and within the FoodNet Canada sites, in past years.

• As in previous years, the majority of Yersinia cases are domestically acquired. Among travel-related cases, the majority reported travel to Central or South America in 2011–2012. The incidence in domestically acquired cases was much higher in females than males. None of the swine manure samples in the ON site in 2011 were positive for pathogenic Yersinia (biotype 4, serotype O:3). • As in previous years, pathogenic strains of Listeria monocytogenes were recovered in 2011–2012 from samples of skinless chicken breasts, ground beef, ground chicken and ground turkey, as well as uncooked chicken nuggets. The scientific literature suggests that abattoirs and meat processing environments rather than farm animals may be an important source of L. monocytogenes (21). The retail meat data from many historical surveillance years indicate that pathogenic serotypes of L. monocytogenes are present on raw chicken, beef, and pork meat sold at retail, as well as in bagged leafy greens. Although, based on one PFGE enzyme, there was a match between a human case and a sample of uncooked chicken nuggets in 2011–2012, there were no matches between sources and sentinel site cases of listeriosis in 2011–2012 when both PFGE enzyme patterns were compared. Also, based on one enzyme, a few matches were identified between meat isolates (chicken and beef) and four of the top five PFGE patterns reported at the national level in humans (according to PulseNet Canada data). In 2012, fresh herbs were tested for L. monocytogenes though the pathogen was not detected.

• The majority of Shigella infections were travel-related, with Asia being the most frequently reported travel destination.

FoodNet Canada surveillance identified human pathogenic strains of norovirus on retail soft berries and fresh herbs in 2011–2012. Historically, pathogenic subtypes have also been found in food animal manure, as well as retail pork chops and leafy greens.

Frankenface.berry• Cryptosporidium was found in 2011–2012 on retail soft berries and in untreated surface water. Giardia was detected on retail soft berries and herbs, and water in the same period. Also, Cyclospora was found on soft berries. However, the viability of these pathogens was unable to be determined.

• Travel outside of Canada continued to add to the burden of enteric disease observed in Canada during 2011–2012, with 27% of the reported cases from both sites (combined) likely involving infections acquired abroad. Safe travel practices continue to be important considerations among Canadians.

• Enhanced, standardized laboratory testing across all FoodNet Canada surveillance components (human, retail, on-farm, and water) has allowed for the identification of patterns in subtype distributions among human cases and potential exposure sources over time. Continued surveillance and addition of more sentinel sites will help in refinement of the key findings and inform prevention and control measures for enteric diseases in Canada.


UK supermarket chicken price war ‘putting health at risk’

When I showed up in Australia and started shopping at my local stores – as you do without a car – I noticed the whole chickens were leaking all kinds of bacterial crap.

moneyI spoke with the manager and said, in the U.S., they have additional plastic bags in the meat section and antibacterial wipes.

He said, that’s a great idea, I’ll bring it up at our fortnightly food safety meeting.

The company decided not to do anything because the wipes would cost half-a-cent each.

Other customers I’ve chatted with say they grab a plastic bag from the produce section to further enclose their chicken.

UK professor, Chris Elliott, who led the official inquiry into the horsemeat scandal, says supermarkets are reluctant to bring in changes that could reduce potentially fatal infections from chicken because of the cost.

Food safety versus economics.

Handwashing is never enough: Maine man says 20-month-old son died of E. coli linked to petting fair

A man from the town of Poland says his 20-month-old son died of an illness caused by E. coli and that the child may have come in contact with it while visiting a petting zoo at the Oxford County Fair in mid-September.

Colton-GuayThe toddler is believed to be one of two young children who visited the fair’s petting zoo around the same time and were hospitalized with symptoms of E. coli. The father made the announcement on Facebook, saying he was doing so to warn other parents about the dangers of letting small children pet farm animals.

State health officials have confirmed they are investigating two E. coli cases, but they have not confirmed that anyone has died or named either of the people affected.

However, Victor Herschaft of Auburn posted a message on his Facebook page Tuesday asking that friends and family share the message about his son, Myles, who was at Maine Medical Center undergoing treatment for E. coli.

A nursing supervisor said Myles was in fair condition Tuesday night.

“This (E. coli) is what Myles contracted and I hope no one else is sick or gets sick. If your child has symptoms of an illness please don’t take it lightly and please get your children checked out,” Herschaft wrote. “Myles is still battling this HUS (hemolytic uremic syndrome).”

Herschaft said his son and the other boy went to the same petting zoo around the same time. They were admitted to the hospital within 6 hours of each other, he said.

ekka.petting.zoo.aug.12State health officials say there is only one way of preventing the spread of E. coli after touching farm animals: washing hands throughly with soap and water or using some type of hand sanitizer.


Handwashing is never enough, and we have documented numerous cases of shiga-toxin producing E. coli linked to animal exhibits that involve aerosolization of E. coli or cross-contamination.

4 dead, 732 sick from Salmonella Poona linked to imported cucumbers

As of October 5, 2015, 732 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona have been reported from 35 states. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: Alabama (1), Alaska (14), Arizona (114), Arkansas (11), California (192), Colorado (18), Hawaii (1), Idaho (24), Illinois (9), Indiana (3), Iowa (6), Kansas (2), Kentucky (1), Louisiana (5), Maryland (1), Minnesota (37), Missouri (11), Montana (14), Nebraska (6), Nevada (14), New Mexico (31), New York (6), North Dakota (6), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (12), Oregon (20), Pennsylvania (2), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Texas (34), Utah (53), Virginia (1), Washington (22), Wisconsin (40), and Wyoming (7).

cucumberAmong people for whom information is available, illnesses started on dates ranging from July 3, 2015 to September 25, 2015. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 99, with a median age of 17. Fifty percent of ill people are children younger than 18 years. Fifty-five percent of ill people are female. Among 536 people with available information, 150 (28%) report being hospitalized. Four deaths have been reported from Arizona (1), California (1), Oklahoma (1), and Texas (1).

Illnesses that occurred after September 8, 2015 might not be reported yet. A series of events occurs between the time a person is infected and the time public health officials can determine that the person is part of an outbreak. This means that there will be a delay between when a person gets sick and confirmation that he or she is part of an outbreak. This takes an average of 2 to 4 weeks.

Trichinosis outbreak in Argentina affects more than 100

Robert Herriman of Outbreak News Today reports that an outbreak of trichinosis, has been reported in Bahía Blanca, a city located in the south-west of the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, according to a La Verdad Online report (computer translated).

trichThe local media reports that more than 100 people have been infected with 20 percent of those sickened being children. The consumption of dry sausages has named as the source of the infections.

The dry sausage is from a clandestine Grünbein farm where six pigs and 2 kilos of products were seized. In addition, it was confirmed that there are 3 persons in the Penna Hospital hospitalized for their illness.

In February, it was reported that in the city of Pehuajó more than 160 people with trichinosis were infected after consuming tainted dry sausages.

Botulism: Smoked sausages linked to four cases in Portugal

Outbreak News Today reports that Portugal health officials are reporting a botulism outbreak that has sickened up to six people, including one foreign national, according to the General Directorate for Health (DGS) last week (computer translated).

Origem Transmontana brand smoked sausagesThe DGS says there are four confirmed cases (one a Swiss resident) and two probable identified, linked to the consumption of Origem Transmontana brand smoked sausages and cheese.

Health officials report no deaths in the current outbreak.

‘We were wrong’ Butcher should have been charged with manslaughter in Mason Jones E. coli death

A butcher whose E. coli-infected meat killed a five-year-old boy should have been charged with manslaughter, a court has heard.

mason-jonesMason Jones, from Deri, Caerphilly county, died in 2005 after eating contaminated meat at school.

William John Tudor was jailed for a year for breaking food safety laws.

But Cardiff Civil Justice Centre heard the Crown Prosecution Service has admitted it made the “wrong decision” in not pressing manslaughter charges.

The infected meat which killed Mason came from Tudor’s butchers in Bridgend which also supplied more than 40 other schools in the south Wales valleys.

About 160 people fell ill during the E. coli outbreak.

The original inquest in 2010 into Mason’s death recorded a narrative conclusion. Delivering his verdict, coroner David Bowen said: “I have agonised over a verdict of unlawful killing but despite substantial, some might say horrific, breaches of food hygiene regulations the evidence is not strong enough.

“There is little doubt Mason was owed a duty of care and a catalogue of failures to observe basic food hygiene breached that duty.

“But it is not enough for there to be a breach of the duty of care, however extensive and reprehensible that may be.”

On Tuesday, Cardiff Civil Justice centre considered an appeal by Mason’s family to get the original inquest narrative conclusion quashed and a second inquest heard.

Mason’s family, including his older brother who was also infected during the outbreak, were all present in court.

Representing the family, Mark Powell QC, claimed the coroner got the original verdict wrong.

“We say the coroner misdirected the jury and misdirected himself as to the essential elements of the offence,” he said.

“We don’t say the coroner was acting improperly, we say he was wrong.”

Following Mason’s death, the CPS declined to press charges of manslaughter against Tudor, of Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan.

The hearing was told that the CPS have since said to the family that was the wrong decision.

Mr Powell said the family is motivated by “a desire to right a wrong”.

The hearing was told Tudor had sufficient training in food hygiene and knew there was a risk someone might die.

The Civil Justice Centre heard a judgement would be handed down at a later date.