Probably cilantro: Cyclosporiasis outbreak hits 358

The stories we could – and will — tell about implementing on-farm food safety programs for the past 15 years.

cilantro.slugs_.powell.10-300x225Don’t have a shit around fresh produce; don’t make the worker incentives such that they crap in the fields because they lose money if they go to the bathroom; provide decent handwashing facilities, and stop with nonsensical soundbites.

As of July 30, 2015 (11am EDT), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had been notified of 358 ill persons with confirmed Cyclospora infection from 26 states in 2015.

Most (199; 56%) ill persons experienced onset of illness on or after May 1, 2015 and did not report international travel prior to symptom onset.

Clusters of illness linked to restaurants or events have been identified in Texas, Wisconsin, and Georgia.

Cluster investigations are ongoing in Texas and Georgia.

Cluster investigations in Wisconsin and Texas have preliminarily identified cilantro as a suspect vehicle.

Investigations are ongoing to identify specific food item(s) linked to the cases that are not part of the identified clusters.

Previous U.S. outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to imported fresh produce, including cilantro from the Puebla region of Mexico. Read the related FDA Import Alert issued July 27, 2015.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state public health officials have identified annually recurring outbreaks (in 2012, 2013, and 2014) of cyclosporiasis in the United States which have been associated with fresh cilantro from the state of Puebla, Mexico. There is currently (in July 2015) another ongoing outbreak of cyclosporiasis in the United States in which both the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection have identified cilantro from the Mexican state of Puebla as a suspect vehicle with respect to separate illness clusters.

From 2013 to 2015, FDA, SENASICA, and COFEPRIS inspected 11 farms and packing houses that produce cilantro in the state of Puebla, 5 of them linked to the US C. cayetanensis illnesses, and observed objectionable conditions at 8 of them, including all five of the firms linked through traceback to the U.S. illnesses.

Conditions observed at multiple such firms in the state of Puebla included human feces and toilet paper found in growing fields and around facilities; inadequately maintained and supplied toilet and hand washing facilities (no soap, no toilet paper, no running water, no paper towels) or a complete lack of toilet and hand washing facilities; food-contact surfaces (such as plastic crates used to transport cilantro or tables where cilantro was cut and bundled) visibly dirty and not washed; and water used for purposes such as washing cilantro vulnerable to contamination from sewage/septic systems. In addition, at one such firm, water in a holding tank used to provide water to employees to wash their hands at the bathrooms was found to be positive for C. cayetanensis.

Based on those joint investigations, FDA considers that the most likely routes of contamination of fresh cilantro are contact with the parasite shed from the intestinal tract of humans affecting the growing fields, harvesting, processing or packing activities or contamination with the parasite through contaminated irrigation water, contaminated crop protectant sprays, or contaminated wash waters.


Raw is risky – stupid college sports egg edition

I always thought college football was sorta dumb.

Rocky-egg+copyI ended up professoring at a U.S university, and would go to the tailgates for some food safety research and show I was a team player and let the admin types know I was alive (because going to meetings was like death and to be avoided).

Didn’t work out so well.

But this shows how idiotic U.S. college football can be.

And this dude is majoring in health and physiology.

Guess they don’t teach microbiology in Iowa.

This ain’t Rocky, it’s Salmonella.

Video is available at


Red Sox fan vomits on to fans sitting in tier below him during game at Fenway Park

Baseball is incredibly dull.

fever_pitch_300x220But maybe it would be more interesting if someone barfed on you.

A Boston Red Sox fan vomited from the stands onto fans sitting below at a baseball game on Thursday afternoon.

Just after the national anthem had finished playing, the man wretched a stream of puke before his friends could reign him in.

Shocked spectators standing alongside could hardly believe their eyes as the sick rained down on those gathered directly underneath the upper tier at Fenway Park.

The Boston fan drenched unsuspecting fans in vomit at the game against the White Sox.

Despite his friends trying to hold him back as he leant over for seconds, they were not quick enough to hold him back and he was able to lean over the railings.

It wasn’t a good omen for what was to come game-wise: the Red Sox went on to lose 8-2.


E. coli cases being investigated at Lovelock Correctional Center

Just cause you’re in jail doesn’t mean you deserve food poisoning.

Public health officials are investigating a case of E. coli at the Lovelock Correctional Center, the Nevada Department of Corrections said Thursday.

Besides the confirmed case at the prison about 100 miles northeast of Reno, there are two suspected cases of E. coli being examined, the department said in a news release.

Army food inspectors run gamut

My knapsack is my go-to place.

It’s got everything in it – passports, computer, pictures of my wife and daughters, just in case I need to make a quick exit.

warrant.officer.jul.15But there’s one thing I treasure that may seem weird: my U.S. Army warrant officer badge.

For several years when I was at Kansas State, I would give talks about food safety for folks headed to Afghanistan or Iraq to work on projects. I always felt goofy because there were many in the audience who knew far more about such safety matters than I did.

A couple of years ago I went to Germany to hang out with U.S. Army types and talk mainly about sprouts.

I had a few beers with Greg.

The Preventative Medicine and the Veterinary Public preventive medicine type functions – you actually are taking care of problems before they happen,” said Chief Warrant Office 4 Gregory Scher, veterinary technician with 86th Combat Support Hospital.

Army regulation 40-657, Veterinary/Medical Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Laboratory Service, sets out all of the job responsibilities of Veterinary Food Inspectors and Preventative Medicine Specialists.

Between the two departments, food served on military installations the world over is checked for compliance starting at the farm where it is first grown or raised to the serving line, and everywhere in between.

“As far as food safety goes, the military’s probably got the safest food in the world because we are actually monitoring the food all the way,” he said. “As far as the flavor, we take no credit.”

Scher said he was also trained by the state of Washington as a health inspector. Other officers receive degrees in health education and food science. Veterinarians that want to perform inspections can receive extra training as well, becoming Veterinary Preventative Medicine specialists.

Scher and his team deploy with 86th CSH and are in charge of checking that all food from local sources meet Army standards.

“We are responsible for the sources of food in Afghanistan and then everything that’s coming into Afghanistan, making sure it is coming in the proper condition and within the contractual requirements,” Scher said.

He said because almost all food sent from the United States would be spoiled by the time it reached Afghanistan, many contractors sub-contract with companies in countries closer, such as Germany. The veterinary core officers do commercial sanitary audits on those factories.

Although they are not part of the Federal Department of Agriculture, Scher said they fill the position for the military outside of the United States.

“We’re the ones that are going to the factories and making sure they’re within the Army and federal standards,” he said.

When the food arrives on a post, his team rechecks it to ensure it has not been contaminated in transit.

They also have the authority to extend the shelf life of foods that are near or past their use by date.

“When you go to an [Army and Air Force Exchange Services] shoppette, you’ll find a whole lot of potato chips that are half off,” Scher said. “The reason why is it takes the entire shelf life printed on the label for them to even get to Afghanistan, or else when they get there they might have just a week or two left.”

35 sick: raw is risky in rising temperatures in BC

A warning from the BC Centre for Disease Control about eating raw shellfish:

So far this summer, there have been an unprecedented number of shellfish-related illnesses thanks to the warm weather.

SUN0705N-Oyster7The majority of illnesses have been linked to eating raw oysters sourced in BC and served in restaurants.

Spokesperson Marsha Taylor says 35 people have become ill from eating the uncooked shellfish…

“We’re putting this message out both to the public that will also hit the restaurants and we’re also doing follow up with every restaurant to make sure they are aware of the issue and we’re inspecting the premises.”

Some illnesses have also been linked with raw oysters purchased or self-harvested.

Taylor says if you happen to get sick…

“People who are experiencing symptoms of the Vibrio Parahaemolyticus most often experience typical food-borne illness like nausea and vomiting, headaches, and feel pretty badly for a couple of days…but most people will recover on their own.”

To reduce risk of illness consumers are being told to eat only cooked shellfish.

174 sickened in Sweden from Salmonella in spices

From 24 December to 24 July 2015, 174 cases were reported in a nationwide salmonellosis outbreak in Sweden: 108 cases were connected to a single restaurant. A spice mix, containing dried vegetables from the restaurant tested positive for the outbreak strain.

salm.spice.swedenAdditional spice mixes with similar content from different suppliers also tested positive. The outbreak investigation suggests there could be a risk of contaminated products being also on the market in other countries.

Outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis phage type 13a infection in Sweden linked to imported dried-vegetable spice mixes, December 2014 to July 2015

Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 30, 30 July 2015

Jernberg C, Hjertqvist M, Sundborger C, Castro E, Löfdahl M, Pääjärvi A, Sundqvist L, Löf


Salmonella: Stop kissing turtles and stop touching yourself

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that in May 2014, a cluster of human Salmonella Poona infections was identified through PulseNet, the national molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance.

turtleHistorically, this rare serotype has been identified in multiple Salmonella outbreaks associated with pet turtle exposure and has posed a particular risk to small children (1,2). Although the sale and distribution of small turtles (those with carapace [upper shell] lengths <4 inches [<10.2 cm]) is prohibited by federal law, they are still available for legal purchase online for “bona-fide” scientific, educational, or exhibition purposes, other than use as pets (3). In addition, small turtles are still available for illegal purchase through transient street vendors, at flea markets, and at fairs.

During April 26–September 22, 2014, a total of 40 persons infected with Salmonella Poona pulse-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) pattern JL6X01.0055 (the outbreak strain) were reported from 12 states. Patients ranged in age from <1 to 75 years (median = 5 years); 16 (40%) patients were aged ≤1 year, and 14 (35%) were female. Among 29 ill persons for whom information about hospitalization was available, eight (28%) were hospitalized; no deaths were reported. Among 28 ill persons who were interviewed, 13 (46%) reported exposure to turtles. Three ill persons reported the size of the turtles, and all identified turtles <4 inches in length. The outbreak strain was isolated from a pet turtle in a California patient’s home. Turtles had been obtained from several types of locations, including a carnival and a fair. The transient nature of turtle vendors hampered the traceback investigation. No other common food or animals were identified during the course of the investigation.

This outbreak demonstrates that turtles remain a source for human Salmonella infections, especially for young children. Because 40% of ill persons were infants aged ≤1 year and were unlikely to directly handle pet turtles, the potential role of indirect transmission in turtle-associated salmonellosis outbreaks should be considered. Turtles in the home could lead to environmental contamination with Salmonella bacteria and result in human illness. Educational campaigns directed toward parents of young children, in conjunction with the federal turtle ban, might help to prevent future turtle-associated salmonellosis outbreaks.

1Epidemic Intelligence Service, CDC; 2Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC; 3California Department of Public Health; 4City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, Long Beach, California.

Corresponding author: Colin Basler,, 404-639-2214.


CDC. Eight multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to small turtles (final update). Available at

CDC. Notes from the field: outbreak of salmonellosis associated with pet turtle exposures—United States, 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2013;62:213.

Code of Federal Regulations. Turtles intrastate and interstate requirements, 21 C.F.R. § 1240.62 (2014). Available at Web Site Icon. 

Notes from the Field: Multistate Outbreak of Human Salmonella Poona Infections Associated with Pet Turtle Exposure — United States, 2014

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Report

$19,000 fine: Is this Australia’s filthiest restaurant?

A popular dumpling restaurant in Melbourne’s east has been exposed as a filthy cesspit, and its owner fined $19,000 after live and dead cockroaches, drain flies, rodent feces and filthy buildups of food waste, grease, oil and grime were found in the kitchen.

Raramen eatery in Glen WaverleyA Monash Council inspector made the discovery at the Raramen eatery in Glen Waverley, along with used drink bottles used to store sauces, meat sitting on a bench “for a couple of hours” and rice stored on the floor, plus wires and boxes that had been nibbled by rodents.

Astonishingly, the restaurant — which is still open for business — continued to be riddled with to insects and rodent poo on up to eight further council visits between March and July this year.

On July 10, Dumpling Hut Pty Ltd, the company which owns Raramen, and company director Siu Hin Yip pleaded guilty to 17 charges under the Food Act 1984 and the Food Standards Code. The charges related to inadequate pest control, unsuitable food handling, poor food storage and inadequate skills, among other issues.

5 now sick with E. coli from ND fair

A fifth case of E. coli possibly linked to the Red River Valley Fair was confirmed Tuesday by the North Dakota Department of Health.

red.river_The case joins four others that have been confirmed in the last two weeks. All five cases are from eastern North Dakota and four out of the five have been hospitalized, said Michelle Feist, an epidemiologist with the Health Department.

Feist said the investigation into the root causes of the E. coli outbreak is ongoing. She asks anyone who experienced illness after attending the fair, especially gastrointestinal illness like diarrhea or vomiting, to fill out a survey on the Health Department website to determine if their cases are related.