Reading Salmonella outbreak traced to fruit

The Salmonella outbreak which struck the Reading Summer Festival Days the weekend of July 31 was part of an eight-state outbreak from contaminated berries or melons, according to health officer Steve Todd of the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Counties Community Health Agency (CHA).

cantaloupe.salmonellaTodd said the outbreak now has 12 lab-confirmed cases of the foodborne intestinal disease including “several additional secondary cases that appear to be either family members or otherwise related to a person that was ill.”

Interviews with those who have had contact with people infected during the event continues “to prevent an outbreak from getting into food service establishments, daycares, or healthcare settings,” Todd said.

Food Safety Talk 67: John Bassett

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.1411999879196

In episode 67, Ben is on hiatus and Don talks with John Bassett. The scene opens with a vivid description of a picturesque English village with pigeons pooping on the eaves and birds chirping in the background.

John starts by telling the listeners a bit about his background. He is a veterinarian by training, having earned his degree in New Zealand.  He spent seven years as a veterinary practitioner; a bit like that depicted inAll Creatures Great and Small in Epsom (that’s in England). John returned to New Zealand and began a small animal practice but quickly transitioned to work for a government biosecurity laboratory inWellington (that’s in New Zealand) where he solved problems during extended coffee breaks taken in trendy cafes. John got his start in risk assessment using the OIE approach.  John’s next career move was to industry as a risk assessor with Unilever; this took him back to England (that’s in the United Kingdom).  The guys got sidetracked and discussed the sole-crushing bureaucracy that can be found in big industry (not that there’s anything wrong with that).  John’s latest career change finds him in a new mode as food safety consultant.

The guys discussed the recent Chobani mold incident.  From here the conversation jumped into tea.  Iced tea with added sugar was discussed as a possible growth medium for generic E. coli (special concern was expressed for sun-brewed tea) and the potential for herbal (pronounced ‘erbal’ by some) tea as a source of bacteria and maybe pathogens.

John talked about some of his current risk assessment work, and the difficulty of making risk management decisions for low-frequency events.  John explains his recent interest in Gael Risk assessment techniques. This approach can be used for semi-quantitative risk assessment, and may have value in preventing problems like the recent horse-meat food scandal.  The value of audits in science-based food safety was questioned and discussed, and Don and John disagreed about the value of semi-quantitative risk assessments.

Bandwidth on John’s end starts to suffer (perhaps due to John’s kids arrival home from school) so the conversation is paused briefly, while John (the poopy-head) sorts it out.

The show resumes with a discussion on whether HACCP is risk based or not.  John notes that one key to “selling” a risk assessment might be based on saving money in the long run, perhaps from a reduced need for testing and auditing.  A discussion of the Elliott Review takes place before the guys re-iterate the need for using computerized systems for effective traceback in the food supply chain; especially ones that do not need to be linked via paper documents.

John mentions that he will not be at IAFP 2014 due to lack of a wealthy sponsor; but he does plan to attend the IAFP European Symposium in Cardiff in 2015. Don reveals his IAFP presidential party plans (Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ), while John contemplates pork ribs somewhere closer to home.

John mentioned the use of the sear and shave technique to produce safer raw burgers in the UK.  Don didn’t seem convinced, and will continue using his iGrill and tip sensitive digital thermometer, as suggested for use in previous Food Safety Talk episodes, “because everyone’s gotta have a hobby”.  Both guys reminisced over outbreaks of Campylobacter jejuni from seared chicken livers that occurred in the UK and USA.

In the After Dark portion, Don transitioned into talking about Doctor Who, and John explained he was late for the podcast meeting because of a meeting with McDonald’s own Bizhan Pourkomailian.


Katie Overbey, an MS student studying food science at NC State writes,

The Internet is a hub for oversharing, and nothing seems to be off limits, including vomit.

Check out these Twitter hashtags from recent school outbreaks of norovirus: #RHSplagu, and #DSSplague2014. RHS is Richardson High School in Texas, where norovirus sickened about 600 people this past January. The second hashtag is from Delta Secondary School in Canada, where about 300 people came down with norovirus in June. Some common noro webthemes from these hashtags are updates on the progression of the virus, concerns about missing school, various plans for trying to not get sick and discussions about vomit. Don’t have your vomit fix? Do a search of #norovirus on Twitter and for even more fun try #vomit.

Besides providing hours of entertainment and the occasional cringe, why should people care about broadcasting their bodily functions for the world to see?

Researchers are demonstrating that the symptom-sharing provides a signal to aid in identifying outbreaks. All those seemingly TMI posts about people’s evenings spent on the toilet could actually be predicting norovirus outbreaks sooner than any lab test. New York City Health Department has been using Yelp reviews that mention food poisoning or norovirus to find outbreaks and gather more details about them. Chicago has a Twitter account, @foodbornechi, for people to tweet about their foodborne illnesses.

Last year, the U.K. Food Standards Agency (FSA) embarked on a social media listening project that, it hopes, has the potential to predict outbreaks of the winter vomiting bug, norovirus, earlier than ever before.

FSA’s social media team sifted through Twitter data from the last norovirus outbreak during the winter of 2012-13, hunting for spikes in certain related key words and phrases being used in tweets. They then compared the frequency of the key words to the number of lab reports of confirmed norovirus cases in the same period.

They found significant correlations between spikes in the number of lab reports and spikes in conversations on Twitter using words and hashtags such as #winterbug, #norovirus, sickness bug, winter virus and vomiting.

What’s more, they discovered a set of symptom keywords, such as #barf, #flu, chuck up, puke, retch and upset stomach, which strongly correlated to future lab cases.

FSA stated some caveats though, - People self-diagnose. Symptom keywords and search terms are broad so “there’s always going to be a bit of noise”. And early warnings of an outbreak will increase chatter around the subject and might skew the data.

Exploring the use of Twitter for disease detection is promising and could allow health officials to disseminate information earlier and potentially control the spread of norovirus.

4 dead, 1000 sick with Salmonella in Netherlands 2 years ago; fish processor still not up to scratch

A fish processing company which was at the centre of a salmonella outbreak two years ago, has not yet cleaned up its act, health minister Edith Schippers has told parliament.

Foppen.salmonHarderwijk-based Foppen was at the centre of a global salmon contamination scandal in 2012, in which four people died and 1,000 became ill.

Recent check-ups at the company’s processing plant resulted in fines for a ‘mold-like’ substance  on conveyer belts and condensation in the prawn packing system, news agency ANP said.

Last month local broadcaster Omroep Gelderland reported all was not yet well at the company, leading MPs to ask the health minister questions.

‘I consider it worrying that despite the salmonella outbreak in 2012 checks in 2013 and 2014 show that Foppen is not yet up to scratch,’ Schippers said in her briefing.

Salmonella in beef; Danish officials kept yet another food scandal secret

Up to 130 people, including a three-year-old boy, may have gotten ill from salmonella in ground beef in an outbreak that was kept hidden from the public until now.

skare.denmarkMetroxpress obtained access to documents that reveal that ground beef infected with multi resistant salmonella was sold by the Vejen-based food company Skare in June.

Skare delivered the beef to stores on June 13th but did not recall it as required by law when an analysis the following day found the presence of salmonella.

According to the Danish State Serum Institute (SSI), 19 people, including the three-year-old, reported being ill just days later. Beyond the 19 registered cases, SSI estimates that up to 130 people may have been sickened by the tainted meat.

“Six of the 19 were so sick that they were hospitalised,” SSI’s Kåre Mølbak told Metroxpress.

The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestrylsen) first traced the infection to Skare a full 40 days after the meat was sent to stores, but the food authorities did not require a recall.

Neither Skare or Fødevarestrylsen will tell consumers where the meat was sold.

“This is confidential information, the release of which would cause considerable economic harm to the company,” Fødevarestrylsen wrote, according to Metroxpress.

Food safety expert Orla Zinck called the authorities’ decision “a scandal of unimaginable proportions.”

“Fødevarestrylsen’s acts are a danger to consumers’ health when it, out of consideration for Skare’s revenues, fails to recall dangerous meat and on top of that hides where it was sold,” Zinck told Metroxpress.

Fødevarestrylsen has also faced criticism for its slow reaction to a listeria outbreak that has caused 16 deaths.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Gold Coast (BrisVegas) edition

One of the Gold Coast’s most long standing restaurants, Saks Restaurant and Bar, has closed its doors for good.

imagesThe up-market eatery, which once hosted stars like actor Matthew McConaughey and was a meeting place for the city’s who’s who, shut after a failed inspection by council officers and a $15,000 fine.

Saks’ fall from grace began about 12 months ago when council inspectors found uncovered seafood and kitchen surfaces covered in grease, grime, dirt and mould during three separate inspections.

Even more shocking was the discovery of 15 cockroaches under the refrigerated pizza unit, the washing up sink and the dry storage area.

The owners were forced to spend more than $55,000 on cleaning and structural changes and they took the extra step of firing the head chef and manager.

The restaurant was given the all clear in April.

But a single dead cockroach was found during a surprise inspection last month — triggering the court action by council.

Hawaiian restaurant cited for removing food safety placard

The state Department of Health has fined the owners of Iyo Udon at Ala Moana Center $11,000 for intentionally removing a “conditional pass” placard and for food safety violations during a health inspection.

hawaii-restaurant-placardyellow*304xx1035-1553-83-0On Aug. 22, the department conducted a health inspection of the restaurant, which is owned by Iyo Seimen USA, Inc., and issued a yellow placard. A yellow placard is issued if there are two or more major violations observed during an inspection.

“Placard removal is a serious violation with substantial consequences because this act intentionally places profit above health and safety and compromises the public’s trust and their right to know when violations occur during an inspection,” said Peter Oshiro, the department’s Sanitation, Food & Drug and Vector Control Branch Manager. “Since the start of the new placarding program, we’ve seen excellent compliance with the food industry; this is our first incident involving tampering with a placard.”

Over 100 sick; Wisconsin school district deals with aftermath of Campylobacter

After a severe illness sends dozens of students home sick, attendance is back to normal at Durand schools.

football.vomitMore than 100 total students in the district were reported absent last wee, with Durand’s football team being hardest hit by the illness.

There are 19 confirmed cases of campylobacter; all are members of the football team.

More hatching chick associated salmonellosis

You see a cute baby chick, I see a Salmonella factory.

The other parents hate me at school.

borat.chickenScott Wesse writes in his Worms & Germs blog that the salmonellosis outbreak in the US associated with hatching chicks continues to expand. The outbreak, ironically associated with Mt. Healthy Hatcheries in Ohio, has now sickened at least 344 people in 42 US states and Puerto Rico with a variety of Salmonella serotypes (S. Infants, S. Newport and S. Hadar). Showing no sign of abating, another 42 cases were identified in the past 6 weeks.

As is often the case, young people are more often affected, with 33% of sick individuals being 10 years of age or younger. 32% of infected individuals have been hospitalized.

Unfortunately, the regulatory response is most often giving places like this guidance as opposed to mandatory measures. However, this is really a ‘buyer beware’ situation, where people purchasing hatching chicks need to be aware of the high risks associated with young poultry and take appropriate measures. While Salmonella-free eggs and chicks would be ideal, it’s not particularly realistic, and people need to be proactive and listen to established infection control practices, which include keeping kids <5 years of age away from young poultry.

Maybe schools will pay attention to this when they’re planning their annual (and often poorly managed) hatching chick activities.

Nosestretcher alert: no studies showing impact of diseases spread to customers from animals in petting zoo, but NY requires handwashing anyway

New York now requires petting zoos to provide for hand washing.

The new law says establishments providing an area where animals are grouped so visitors can view, touch or fondle them must provide appropriate facilities for washing.

claudia.e.coli.petting.zoo.may.14They should be located either at the exit of the petting area or within 50 feet. Signs are required.

The law also authorizes state and city health officials to formulate rules against the spread of bacteria and viruses carried by animals displayed at carnivals, fairs and amusement parks.

Sponsors say there have been no studies so far showing the impact of diseases spread to customers from animals in petting zoos.

And people wonder why journalism sucks.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at

Best practices for planning events encouraging human-animal interactions

Zoonoses and Public Health

G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman  and D. Powell

Educational events encouraging human–animal interaction include the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. It is estimated that 14% of all disease in the US caused by Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica were attributable to animal contact. This article reviews best practices for organizing events where human–animal interactions are encouraged, with the objective of lowering the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.