No real answers in Ohio botulism outbreak yet

With 20 confirmed cases, nine others showing symptoms, and the tragic death of Kim Shaw, lots of questions remain in the botulism outbreak linked to a potluck dinner at Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church. Like what food led to the illnesses? And preliminary analysis, according to the Columbus Dispatch, isn’t conclusive.

Twenty cases of botulism have been confirmed among those who attended the potluck at the Cross Pointe Free Will Baptist Church on Sunday, said Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Michelle LoParo.HT_wsyx_botulism_ohio_church_sk_150422_4x3_992

The foods that have preliminarily tested positive for botulism were three samples of potato salad, one sample of potato salad with egg, one sample of spaghetti pasta salad and one sample of macaroni and cheese, LoParo said.

The food samples, however, were taken from trash bags where other food was mixed in, likely resulting in cross-contamination, she said. Investigators will continue to try to pinpoint the source, LoParo said.

The state received more than 20 food-related samples from the Fairfield Department of Health, said Matt Giljahn, a spokesman for the state health department. The foods included home-canned items: beets, vegetable soup and two samples of pears.

Not so wholesome: Illinois food company agrees to stop production of contaminated sprouts

On April 22, 2015, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois entered a consent decree of permanent injunction against Wholesome Soy Products Inc., of Chicago, Illinois, owner Julia Trinh, and manager Paul Trinh, following multiple findings of contaminated food and environmental samples by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Wholesome_Soy_Products_logoThe consent decree prohibits Wholesome Soy Products from receiving, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packing, holding and distributing ready-to-eat mung bean and soybean sprouts. The company sold its products to wholesale distributors and retail stores in Illinois.

“It is FDA’s responsibility to ensure that appropriate action is taken when we conduct inspections and find results that could put consumers at risk,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “Agreeing to the consent decree is a first step in the right direction for this company.”

This action follows a multi-agency collaboration among the FDA, U.S. Department of Justice, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Health.

In August 2014, during a routine inspection of the company, the FDA collected environmental and product samples that tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes (L. mono), a foodborne pathogen that can cause serious illness or even death in vulnerable groups including elderly adults and those with impaired immune systems (such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and transplant patients). In pregnant women, L. mono can cause miscarriage, stillbirth and serious illness or death in newborn babies.

On Aug. 28, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products agreed to voluntarily recall and temporarily stop production of their sprout products. The company reported that they cleaned and sanitized their facility. They also hired an independent consultant to collect and test several samples that reportedly came back negative for L. mono. They resumed operations on Sept. 15, 2014, after making these corrections.

Later that month, the company was notified of an outbreak of human infections with a strain of L. monolinked to strains found in the samples previously collected by the FDA during its inspection of the company. According to the CDC, there were four cases in Illinois and one in Michigan. Of those five patients, all were hospitalized and two died.

The FDA began a follow-up inspection of Wholesome Soy Products in October 2014 to verify the effectiveness of the company’s corrective actions. Nine samples taken by FDA inspectors tested positive for L. mono. Due to these findings, the FDA concluded that sprouts could not be safely manufactured by the company in that environment.

In November 2014, the company agreed to voluntarily shut down operations, and the Illinois Department of Public Health oversaw the company’s voluntary destruction of their remaining inventory. The CDC closed its investigation in January 2015 and no further cases of illness in connection to the company have been reported.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.


It’s not organic or conventional it’s will it make you barf?

I’ve been drawn into these debates before, and concluded they are mindnumbing.

sprout.santa_.barf_.xmas_1-300x254Yes, organic probably causes a disproportionate number of food safety recalls, but it’s not the production method, it’s the producer.

Either they know about dangerous microorganisms and take steps to reduce them, or they don’t.

 The Western Producer says the “refreshingly candid comments of a University of Saskatchewan professor (Stuart Smyth) interviewed by WP reporter Dan Yates provoked lively discussion.

Except, if accurately quoted, they were as much bullshit as the good professor claims is at the root of organic outbreaks.

Smyth responded to one critic by stating, “In 2011, organic cucumbers containing a lethal level of E. coli were sold in Europe, resulting in over 4,000 cases of illness and 50 deaths. Colleagues of mine at the FAO reported that by the third day of the story, the powerful European organic industry had pressured the media into removing the word organic from all stories. Sadly, removing the word organic contributed to thousands of additional cases of illness and death, as European consumers had no idea it was the organic food that was killing them.

“I stand by my claim: organic food is the most dangerous and unsafe food on the market today. If you want to eat food that will kill you, eat organic.”

Yes, cucumbers were initially fingered as the source of an E. coli O104 outbreak that killed 53 and sickened 4,400 in Europe in 2011, but the source was ultimately determined to be fenugreek sprout seeks imported from Egypt.

If you’re going to cast stones, get it right.

34 kids sickened with Salmonella from caterer in Paris

From 24 December 2012 to 8 January 2013, the Paris Mother and Child Health Protection Service reported 10 cases of salmonellosis in children attending four nurseries located in the 7th borough of Paris. Following this event, the National Reference Center for Salmonella reported an increase of salmonellosis cases in Paris in December 2012 and identified rare strain in several cases.

parisThirty-four cases of salmonellosis were identified during the investigations (30 confirmed cases and 4 probable cases), including 10 children attending four nurseries, and 24 community cases. The outbreak lasted 10 weeks and was due to 2 strains of Salmonella: serotype Typhimurium belonging to Crispol type 51 (CT51) and serotype 4,12:i:-, a monophasic variant of serotype Typhimurium and CT1. Cases were interviewed on their food consumption. Most of them reported having consumed products bought from a caterer located in the 7th borough of Paris several days before the onset of symptoms. A random inspection in the caterer’s premises from the Paris Health Protection authorities revealed many infringements to food hygiene. Among samples collected in the caterer’ shop, 2 S. Typhimurium CT51 and S. 4,12:i:- CT1 strains were found on the surfaces and in the food.

This investigation emphasized the importance of maintaining strict hygienic conditions and temperature control in catering outlets. It also emphasized the Mother and Child Health Protection Service’s role through observation and early reporting. This report was the “visible” part of a larger epidemic event that included both cases attending daycare centers and in the community which occurred simultaneously.

But puppies are so cute: Puppy Starter Kit due to possible Salmonella health risk

Nylabone Products, of Neptune, NJ is recalling one lot of its 1.69 oz. package of the Puppy Starter Kit dog chews, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Nylabone_Puppy_Starter_KitSalmonella can affect animals ingesting the product and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

The recalled Puppy Starter Kit consists of one lot of dog chews that were distributed nationwide, to Canada, and through one domestic online mail order facility.

The product comes in a 1.69 oz. package marked with Lot #21935, UPC 0-18214-81291-3, located on the back of the package, and with an expiration date of 3/22/18 also stamped on the back of the package.

The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by the company revealed the presence of Salmonella in one lot of 1.69 oz. packages of the Puppy Starter Kit.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

Who says I don’t play well with others: Kansas State veterinarian outlines safety guidelines for kids handling animals

Do you have kids who love to find frogs and turtles in the wild or snuggle with baby chicks and ducklings? Kansas State University veterinarians say it’s great to encourage children to become interested in animals at a young age, but there are certain precautions and guidelines you should know.

uq.petting.zoo.1.aug.11“We want kids to be excited about animals, but it’s really important for parents to remember that safety should always come first,” said Kate KuKanich, associate professor of internal medicine in the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “We want to make sure all of these experiences that kids have with animals are safe, healthy and positive experiences, which is why everyone should follow the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention recommendations about interacting with animals.”

According to the CDC, parents should closely monitor which animals young kids come into contact with, and kids under the age of 5 should not be allowed to touch reptiles like turtles, snakes and lizards; amphibians like frogs, toads, salamanders and newts; and young poultry like chicks, ducklings and goslings. All of these animals are carriers and shedders of salmonella, which can cause illness in children and immunosuppressed adults.

“Salmonella is so common in reptiles that reports have shown that more than 90 percent of our reptiles may be carrying and shedding the bacteria — and they often don’t show symptoms,” KuKanich said. “Having young children wash their hands after petting the animal isn’t enough protection from salmonella because of the possibility of cross-contamination. Children who pet these animals often have risky behaviors, such as wiping their hands on their shirt, pants or the counter, or putting their hands in their mouth before washing. All of these actions can lead to the spread of the bacteria and ultimately, illness.”

More than 70,000 people become sick from salmonella through contact with reptiles each year in the U.S., with the main signs of salmonellosis being fever and bloody diarrhea.

“It’s just not worth the risk of letting toddlers handle, pet or even be in the same room with these animals,” KuKanich said.

That doesn’t mean animals can’t be part of young children’s lives. Kukanich says some fun animals that young kids can learn about and safely pet — as long as these animals are healthy — include pocket pets, adult dogs and cats, and adult farm animals.

ekka.petting.zooPetting zoos and farms can provide an excellent opportunity for children to learn and interact with animals. A recent study from KuKanich; Gonzalo Erdozain, a 2014 Kansas State University Doctor of Veterinary Medicine graduate; and colleagues found three main ways to reduce the risk of transmission of infection in these settings: knowing the risks involved with interacting with animals, including the potential diseases and how they spread; taking the proper sanitary measure of washing your hands; and being aware of risky behaviors that could lead to illness.

“Young kids are more prone to risky behaviors around animals, such as putting their hands in their mouths right after petting an animal or letting a pacifier touch an animal before going into their mouth,” Erdozain said. “Parents and teachers should supervise kids closely to minimize these behaviors, encourage hand-washing and help ensure all animal encounters are safe as well as fun.”

Previous research by Erdozain, KuKanich and colleagues found that of 574 visitors attending petting zoos in Kansas and Missouri, only 37 percent attempted any kind of hand hygiene.

“Think about how many kids pick up a turtle or toad they find in the yard and then don’t wash their hands immediately after handling the animal,” Erdozain said. “Properly washing your hands is the best way to decrease the chances of getting sick after petting or handling an animal.”

Proper hand-washing includes wetting hands, applying soap, rubbing for at least 15 seconds, rinsing with a significant flow of running water and drying with paper towels — not on clothes. KuKanich suggests teaching kids to sing a song while washing their hands to ensure they wash long enough.

The study, “Best Practices for Planning Events Encouraging Human-Animal Interactions,” was published in the journal Zoonoses and Public Health. Authors include Erdozain; KuKanich; Ben Chapman, North Carolina State University; and Doug Powell,

‘Absurd you could be fined €800,000 for sending spam email and not for deliberately adding rubbish to food’ Netherlands increases fines

The maximum fines which Dutch food safety inspectors can levy on companies caught meddling with food has been increased from €4,500 to €810,000 following a vote in parliament on Tuesday evening.‘It was absurd that you could be fined €800,000 for sending spam email messages and not for deliberately adding rubbish to food,’ Labour MP Sjoera Dikkers, who sponsored the motion, is quoted by broadcaster Nos as saying after the vote.

For example, fish processing company Foppen, at the centre of a major salmonella scare last year, was given four fines of just €1,050. Ministers wanted to raise the maximum fines to €81,000 but Dikkers said that was not enough to force companies to keep to health and hygiene rules. The consumers’ association welcomed the change in the law. ‘Consumers have had to deal with food scandals time after time,’ a spokesman said. ‘This has made the need for higher fines painfully obvious.’ Dikkers is also campaigning to have all fines administered by food safety inspectors made public.

Seen and heard: Listeria in Blue Bell ice cream

As the coverage of the 10 case/3 death listeriosis outbreak focuses on the expansion of the recall many are looking at the fallout and environmental and product testing in ice cream facilities

Rachel Abrams and Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times report on how customers might react:

Analysts voiced concerns that Blue Bell had acted too late, as the recalls eroded customer confidence. Restoring trust as the summer sales season approaches will be difficult, they say.bluebell3

“When there’s a recall and somebody does something quickly and when they handle it properly, we forgive it,” said Phil Lempert, food industry analyst for “When it’s the entire product line or the entire company,” he said, “people are very concerned.”

“Food and safety recalls are something that retailers take very seriously,” said Dya Campos, a spokeswoman for HEB Grocery. She said the grocer was referring all queries from shoppers to Blue Bell and that it would independently assess whether to carry the brand again once its products were deemed safe.

Food safety lawyer Bill Marler was also quoted about the perception of expanding recalls:

“Limiting the recall might seem like a good idea. But then if you keep expanding your recall, it’s a death by a thousand cuts. You look like you’re dragging your feet.”

Karin Robinson – Jacobs and Sherry Jacobson of the Dallas Morning News dive right into Blue Bell’s response.

The company acknowledged that when it issued its first recall notice, portraying the problem as limited, isolated and small, it did so before thoroughly testing for Listeria throughout its operation.

One food safety expert did not fault the company for its initial brevity, but said subsequent events show that the company expressed confidence too soon.

“Maybe the cleaning and sanitation program that Blue Bell was using wasn’t adequate,” said Benjamin Chapman, a food safety expert with North Carolina State University. “As more samples came back … it highlights that this problem was larger than they originally thought.”

Blue Bell spokeswoman Jenny Van Dorf said that before the initial March 13 recall “we were regularly testing our products at that time for bacteria. There was nothing that indicated that there was any issue,” she said.

She added that the production line identified in the initial recall was in an isolated area of the main Brenham plant, which added to the company’s sense that the problem also was isolated. So far, two lines in Brenham and two in Broken Arrow, Okla., have turned up traces of Listeria.

“We’ve always followed industry standards with testing our product,” she said. “But now going forward, we will specifically test for Listeria.”

Van Dorf said Blue Bell has hired an outside lab and will place any newly produced product in cold storage while waiting for results from tests specifically designed to detect Listeria. The wait could be several days.

The new procedure, called “test and hold” marks a more costly departure from the company’s past testing protocols and lengthens the time before product returns to market.

Chapman noted that there is no federal mandate for how food manufacturers are to test. He said “industry standards” are more like common practices.

But he cautioned against the urge to mandate specific testing methods because each plant is so different.

“I think you get into a very dangerous situation when you start to say there should be a minimum amount of environmental [testing] that goes on because each business has their own particulars. What we need are really good operators who understand where pathogens come from and they know what to do to … reduce the risk.”

Raleigh NBC affiliate WNCN asked me about the outbreak, you can see the interview below.
WNCN: News, Weather, Raleigh, Durham, Fayetteville

Salmonella kills 5 in Serbian nursing home

Another person with salmonella poisoning is being treated at the hospital in Cacak, central Serbia, Director Dr. Radoslav Milosevic said on Wednesday.

salm.nursing.homeHowever, the new patient, an 85-year-old man, did not come from a nursing home in the village of Vranici where five elderly persons died of this form of food poisoning during the past week.

According to Milosevic, the patient is “a neighbor” of the Dvoje nursing home.

He added that the condition of two other patients the hospital is treating for the same disease has deteriorated.

Currently, the Cacak hospital is treating nine salmonella poisoning patients, while one more has been admitted to the Uzice Health Care Center.

The nursing home salmonella epidemic was reported on April 16. 41 persons have been infected, among them the staff and two locals. Five persons have passed away.