Why does Australia have these huge outbreaks? And an egg problem? 250 now sick from principals’ conference

The number of people who have been struck down by food poisoning since eating at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre last week as part of a principals conference has jumped to 250.

salmonella.eggsThe cases are spread across Queensland with the highest numbers in Cairns and the Sunshine Coast with 34 cases reported in each of those regions.

About 1400 people descended on the venue for the conference on Thursday and Friday last week.

The outbreak is the second worst case of salmonella poisoning in the state’s history.

The worst was in November 2013 from a Melbourne Cup function with 350 reported cases and 12 hospitalizations.

A 77-year-old women’s death was linked to that outbreak which was suspected to have been caused by bad eggs.

An outbreak of Salmonella in January this year from deep fried ice cream at Chin Chin restaurant (it was the eggs) led to 141 cases with at least eight people hospitalized.

A table of Australian egg outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-2-15.xlsx\

2 dead, 29 sick at aged-care: Australia apparently sucks at Salmonella control

Public health authorities are concerned after two new cases of Salmonella emerged at aged care facilities in the Illawarra this week, bringing the total number of patients to 31.

salmonella.aged.care.austLast week authorities were hopeful the outbreak of the food-borne illness at 10 facilities in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, south-eastern Sydney and the ACT had been contained.

Two elderly residents have died and 16 residents have been hospitalised after contracting a rare strain of salmonella, with the onset of the first case on January 21.

175 sick with Salmonella: Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre kitchen dumps eggs and poultry, Lloyds of London is a food safety auditor?

I can’t make this stuff up.

The Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre will continue to source food from the same suppliers, but has suspended the use of poultry and eggs, after the second-worst outbreak of salmonella poisoning in Queensland’s history.

powell.egg.nov.14Despite the indication of potential food poisoning, poultry and eggs weren’t struck off the menu until late yesterday.

Up to six events were held at the centre yesterday.

Chief Health Officer Dr Janette Young said that the usual suspects in salmonella poisoning are poorly cooked meat, poultry, eggs and egg products.

General manager of the BCEC Bob O’Keeffe said yesterday afternoon he hadn’t considered suspending food services while the causes of the outbreak were still unknown, before a dramatic about-face from a spokeswoman later in the day.

“Not really, no. We’ve done 20 years of it, of systems and the systems have got better and better every year and we have the records of the products and the service and the timing and the suppliers,” Mr O’Keeffe had said. A spokeswoman later said eggs and poultry were being suspended as a “prudent and precautionary approach.”

About 200 people who attended the 2015 principals conference on Thursday and Friday last week have been struck down, with at least 24 people hospitalized.

The BCEC has also appointed food safety auditor Lloyds of London to begin an investigation today.

Look to the raw egg dishes that Australian chef types seem to prefer.

Here’s an updated table.

Food safety cleanup

A Japanese buffet restaurant in Stockbridge, Georgia, was asked to close after failing another health inspection, its third in less than six months. The food permit for Huge Hibachi Sushi Buffet, 5425 N. Henry Blvd., was recently suspended because of “continual disregard for public safety.”

qr.code.rest.inspection.gradeAn astonishing 85 restaurants in Birmingham, UK, have been zero-rated for hygiene standards.

Several Malaysian eateries have been ordered closed by the Klang Municipal Council (MPK) in an ongoing operation to check food safety and hygiene. “Action was taken for violations such as cockroach infestation, rat droppings, not maintaining food temperature, preparing food in back lanes and dirty toilets,” said MPK Corporate Communications director Norfiza Mahfiz.

With many jumping on the smartphone disclosure bandwagon, it’s no surprise that shoppers in China can look up a kiwi fruit’s complete thousand-mile journey from a vine in a lush valley along the upper Yangtze River to a bin in a Beijing supermarket. The smartphone feature, which also details soil and water tests from the farm, is intended to ensure that the kiwi has not been contaminated anywhere along the way. Some talk. Some do.

A real headline: Health Officials React To An Outbreak Of Stomach Yuck

I don’t know what Stomach Yuck is, but health department folks in Florida are reacting to it, according to WUWF radio.Wooden-Mannequin-Vomiting-300x198

An outbreak of a nasty stomach bug (Stomachus yuckii? – ben)  has health officials getting the word out about basic hygiene. Dr. John Lanza, the Director of the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County, recently issued a release about a spike in the number of gastrointestinal infections reported in Escambia County.

Lanza says thirty plus people have come down with the illness causing vomiting, diarrhea and fever.  They are all part of the same outbreak, which involved children and workers at day care centers in the county. While you might expect the chilly weather keeping people inside as the cause, Dr. Lanza says it’s not so much the time of year but an event or circumstance that exposes a lot of people to a bug at once that can cause an outbreak like this. He says the classic case is the spring wedding where a sick caterer can cause illness in more than half a wedding party within a few days.

Australia still has an egg (food porn) problem: Former partner of MKR judge investigated after food poisoning incident at Double Bay Public School

The story below from the Wentworth Courier gives a taste of the disdain and food porn that permeates Australian egg culture.

mayonnaise.raw.eggA table of egg-based Salmonella outbreaks is available here.

The former partner of TV chef Manu Feildel has been implicated in a Salmonella poisoning incident at the Double Bay Public School’s Year 6 farewell event.

The incident, which occurred in December 2014, has since been the subject of a NSW Food Authority and NSW Health investigation.

A NSW Food Authority spokeswoman said an investigation had linked the salmonella outbreak “to a raw egg sauce served”.

“The NSW Food Authority has worked with the home-based catering business involved … and provided the operator with advice, guidance and information in relation to food safety requirements.”

Ronnie Morshead, Feildel’s partner for more than a decade and the owner-operator of Red Sage Catering which catered the function, said yesterday she had sent the Food Authority’s findings on to the school’s principal Andrea Garling.

“I believe the school is still waiting on an official report from the director of public health (Mark Ferson),” Ms Morshead said.

“But I understand, as far as (Professor Ferson) was concerned the whole (investigation) was complete.”

Last week, the Courier published details of six confirmed cases of salmonella following the farewell.

Prof Ferson, the South East Sydney Local Health District public health director, said on Monday that “more than six people were affected”, but as the Food Authority had completed its investigation, there was no need for him to conduct ­interviews with other victims.

A parent, who did not want their name published, said upwards of 25 people had fallen ill, including their own child who was still yet to fully recover.

raw.egg.mayo“How can there have been a thorough investigation when not every body has been interviewed?” the parent said.

“There’s talk of reimbursing medical bills but this is so much more than that. What about all that unnecessary suffering?” Prof Ferson said his ­department had identified the farewell event as the source of a salmonella outbreak after receiving ­unusual lab results.

The school has declined to comment and has directed questions to the NSW Education Department.

A spokesman did not ­respond to the Courier’s questions yesterday.

Five Japanese men poisoned by puffer fish after ‘eating highly poisonous liver’

Five men have been poisoned in Japan after allegedly asking a restaurant to serve them banned parts of the world’s most toxic fish.


puffer.fish.liverThe men were having dinner on Friday night in the western city of Wakayama when they ate puffer fish liver, which prompted vomiting and breathing difficulties early the next morning.

Puffer fish – also called blowfish or fugu in Japanese – are the world’s most toxic group of fish and their livers, ovaries and skin contain tetrodotoxin, 100 times more lethal than cyanide.

Yet eating the fish’s flesh is a tradition in Japan, where wealthy diners play the Russian roulette of the restaurant world by dining on sashimi slivers so thin they are almost transparent.

According to a city health official, the men asked to eat a banned, toxic part of the fish – which the most foolhardy fugu aficionados are said to enjoy for the tingling it produces on the lips.

The tingling is only the first symptom of tetrodotoxin poisoning, and is seen as part of the thrill for lovers of the fish.

But if the toxin is served in any significant quantity it then paralyses the muscles, suffocating victims as it reaches their chests and diaphragms while they are still conscious.

The health official said the men were in their 40s and 50s and the restaurant was shut down for five days from yesterday amid an investigation.

 

175 principals sick: Brisbane needs to up its food safety

An op-ed by me in this morning’s Brisbane Courier-Mail:

g20.brisbane.14If Brisbane wants to be the world-class city it aspires to be, put aside obsessions with TV cooking shows, with political inanities, with imports and focus on what makes people — such as 175 delegates at a school principals’ conference — sick.

After decades of food safety research, I can conclude anyone who serves, prepares or handles food, in a restaurant, nursing home, day care centre, supermarket or local market needs some basic food safety training. And the results of restaurant and other food service inspections must be made public and mandatory.

Here’s why. Parenting and preparing food are about the only two activities that no longer require some kind of certification in Western countries. To coach little kids ice hockey in Brisbane, which I do, required 16 hours of training. But anyone can serve food.

Cross-contamination, lack of handwashing and improper cooking or holding temperatures are all common themes in food-service related outbreaks — the very same infractions that restaurant operators and employees should be reminded of during training sessions and are judged on during inspections.

eat.safe.brisbaneThere should be mandatory food handler training, for say, three hours, that could happen in school, on the job, whatever. But training is only the start. Just because you tell someone to wash their hands after using the toilet before they prepare salad for 100 people doesn’t mean it is going to happen; weekly outbreaks of hepatitis A confirm this. There are incentives that can be used to create a culture that values safe food and a work environment that rewards hygienic behaviour.

Next is to verify that training is being translated into safe food handling practices through inspection, which should be public and mandatory.

Brisbane’s star system is voluntary, which means an owner can choose to not display results if they suck. The best cities — Toronto, Los Angeles, New York — have mandatory disclosure.

In the absence of regular media scrutiny, or a reality TV show where camera crews follow an inspector into a place unannounced, how do diners know which of their favourite restaurants are safe?

Cities, counties and states are using a blend of websites and letter or numerical grades on doors, and providing disclosure upon request.

In Denmark, smiley or sad faces are affixed to restaurant windows.

Publicly available grading systems rapidly communicate to diners the potential risk in dining at a particular establishment and restaurants given a lower grade may be more likely to comply with health regulations in the future to prevent lost business.

More importantly, such public displays of information help bolster overall awareness of food safety among staff and the public — people routinely talk about this stuff. The interested public can handle more, not less, information about food safety.

I volunteer at my daughter’s school tuck shop — no inspection, no training — and they’re serving meals to kids. Principals visiting Brisbane, unfortunately, learnt the importance of food safety.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety at the University of Guelph in Canada and Kansas State University in the U.S., who is now based in Brisbane.

 dpowell29@gmail.com

0478 222 221

Beware the mud: Mountain bikers and cross-country runners at risk of E.coli poisoning

Mountain bikers and cross-country runners are at risk from the deadly stomach bug E. coli if they get splashed with mud, doctors warned today.

mudMedics at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary say they treated a 23-year-old cyclist for an E. coli O157 infection after he was admitted to the hospital suffering from vomiting, abdominal pain and bloody diarrhea.

The man – a vegetarian – said he had not eaten undercooked meat or vegetables, nor had he spent time with livestock or visiting farms before falling ill.

But eight days before his symptoms began the man had competed in a cycling event along wet, muddy tracks in eastern Scotland.

He, along with other competitors, had removed the mudguards from his bicycle to reduce weight, and mud and water had splashed on his face during the race. 

It is thought this was how he became infected with the bug, which can be found in animal feces and farm slurry.

The man said he had taken part in a ‘Tough Mudder’ event, which involves a 10 -12 mile race with obstacles such as climbing vertical walls and plunging through ice pools.

The cyclist, who has not been identified, recovered – but the doctors have highlighted his case in the Journal of Infection Prevention.

mountain.bike.mudWriting in the research paper, the doctors warned: ‘Sporting endeavours such as cycling and cross-country running events often take participants through such high-risk areas and may be an important cause of contact with E. coli O157.

‘This case highlights such exposure and should alert clinicians to the possibility of E.coli O157 infection and the importance of individuals presenting with bloody diarrhea with a history of participation in similar sporting or other events.’

In 2012, three people contracted E.coli 0O57 infection following a 12-mile ‘Tough Mudder’ event at Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfriesshire, which involved immersion or contact with mud.

Also in 2012, a study of one of the world’s largest mountain bike races, the 95k Birkebeinerrittet in Norway, which annually attracts 19,000 participants, found that when mudguards were attached to bikes, there were fewer cases of gastrointestinal illness.  

The Brits have a way with language: townies wash their hands

Germs. You can’t get away from the blighters. If it’s not the teeming populations of camplylobacter that infest the cavities of supermarketchicken, it’s the E coli, salmonella and worse that disport themselves on our towels and dishcloths.

courtlynn.handwashAgainst these regiments of invisible enemies we deploy a vast arsenal of weapons-grade cleaning products. But while we’re spraying our surfaces with bleach and washing our dishes in Eucalyptus detergent, a shaming 60-odd per cent of us neglect to wash our hands after we’ve visited the loo, according to a Rentokil survey.

While confirming my conviction that you’re better off eating dinner at home, where at least the bugs are mostly familiar, this news has made me reflect on my own handwashing habits which are, I realise, completely perverse.

At home in London, I carry on like Lady Macbeth, washing my hands dozens of times a day. But at weekends, in the stableyard, I find myself cheerfully eating a sandwich from an unwashed hand that moments ago was feeding a horse a mint.

I’ve no idea whether it is my scrupulous townie cleanliness or my robust rural exposure to pathogens that means I’m almost never ill. But either way I view with misgiving Rentokil’s proposed solution to the handwashing recidivists. Stewart Power, its marketing director, predicts that one day every washroom will have a monitoring system “to give us a nudge to wash our hands”.

It’s bad enough being nagged by an electronic voice about an unexplained item in the bagging area. Just imagine the irritation of being slut-shamed by a disembodied nanny in the loo door.