1 dead, 284 sick from Salmonella in US outbreak linked to imported cucumbers

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports:

  • Since July 3, 2015, 285 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona have been reported from 27 states.
  • 53 ill people have been hospitalized, and one death has been reported from California.
  • cucumbers54% of ill people are children younger than 18 years.
  • Epidemiologic, laboratory, and traceback investigations have identified imported cucumbers from Mexico and distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce as a likely source of the infections in this outbreak.
  • 58 (73%) of 80 people interviewed reported eating cucumbers in the week before their illness began.
  • Eleven illness clusters have been identified in seven states. In all of these clusters, interviews found that cucumbers were a food item eaten in common by ill people.
  • The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency isolated Salmonella from cucumbers collected during a visit to the Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce facility.
  • On September 4, 2015, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce voluntarily recalled all cucumbers sold under the “Limited Edition” brand label during the period from August 1, 2015 through September 3, 2015 because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.
  • The type of cucumber is often referred to as a “slicer” or “American” cucumber and is dark green in color. Typical length is 7 to 10 inches.
  • Limited Edition cucumbers were distributed in the states of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah. Further distribution to other states may have occurred.
  • Consumers should not eat, restaurants should not serve, and retailers should not sell recalled cucumbers.
  • If you aren’t sure if your cucumbers were recalled, ask the place of purchase or your supplier. When in doubt, don’t eat, sell, or serve them and throw them out.
  • CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System laboratory is conducting antibiotic resistance testing on clinical isolates collected from ill people infected with the outbreak strains; results will be reported when they become available.
  • This investigation is ongoing. CDC will provide updates when more information is available.

CDC, multiple states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Poona infections linked to imported cucumbers from Mexico and distributed by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce.

salm.cucumber.sep.15Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet, the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories, is coordinated by CDC. DNA “fingerprinting” is performed on Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using a technique called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, or PFGE. PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA “fingerprints” to identify possible outbreaks. Three DNA “fingerprints” (outbreak strains) are included in this investigation.

As of September 3, 2015, 285 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Poona have been reported from 27 states. The number of ill people reported from each state is as follows: Alaska (8), Arizona (60), Arkansas (6), California (51), Colorado (14), Idaho (8), Illinois (5), Kansas (1), Louisiana (3), Minnesota (12), Missouri (7), Montana (11), Nebraska (2), Nevada (7), New Mexico (15), New York (4), North Dakota (1), Ohio (2), Oklahoma (5), Oregon (3), South Carolina (6), Texas (9), Utah (30), Virginia (1), Washington (9), Wisconsin (2), and Wyoming (3).

Among people for whom information is available, illnesses started on dates ranging from July 3, 2015 to August 26, 2015. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 99, with a median age of 13. Fifty-four percent of ill people are children younger than 18 years. Fifty-seven percent of ill people are female. Among 160 people with available information, 53 (33%) report being hospitalized. One death has been reported from California.

On September 4, 2015, Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce voluntarily recalled all cucumbers sold under the “Limited Edition” brand label during the period from August 1, 2015 through September 3, 2015 because they may be contaminated with Salmonella. The type of cucumber is often referred to as a “slicer” or “American” cucumber. It is dark green in color and typical length is 7 to 10 inches. In retail locations it is typically sold in a bulk display without any individual packaging or plastic wrapping. Limited Edition cucumbers were distributed in the states of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah and reached customers through retail, food service companies, wholesalers, and brokers. Further distribution to other states may have occurred.

A magazine report still isn’t peer-review: Times wants Salmonella an adulterant

Americans, according to this editorial in the N.Y. Times, eat more than 50 pounds of beef per person each year. That’s a lot of beef. It’s also a lot of risk, because about half — or more than two billion pounds — is ground beef, which can too easily harbor dangerous bacteria.

beef.processingA report, issued by Consumer Reports with the Pew Charitable Trusts, said that between 2003 and 2012, 1,144 people grew sick from beef contaminated with E. coli O157; 316 people were hospitalized and five people died.

The editorial says the Agriculture Department, which now allows beef to have salmonella in up to 7.5 percent of samples, should instead label it an “adulterant,” which would restrict it further. The industry needs to further curb its use of antibiotics for cattle, which contributes to development of drug-resistant bacteria. And cattle feed regulated by the F.D.A. should not include residue from chicken coops and other contaminants.

10 now sick with E. coli O157 linked to Seattle food truck

King County Public Health has investigated an E. coli outbreak after six – now 10 — cases of E. coli O157 were linked to Los Chilangos food trucks.

Elizabeth BuderThe owners of Los Chilangos stated that they are ready to reopen, but this news naturally did not sit well with the Buder family as their daughter is currently confined at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  For the last 10 days, Elizabeth Buder has been fighting kidney failure in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. 

Elizabeth has been complaining about her tummy non stop.  “She’s constantly ‘My tummy. My tummy,'” said her mom, Deanna Buder. “And then she says ‘I want to see my friends. I want to see kids,’ because no kids are allowed in there. She just misses home.”

The Buder family shared a plate of carnitas at a Los Chilangos food truck last August 8.  Although the mom and dad were fine, Elizabeth or Scout as people would call her, started complaining of stomach ache days later.  “Normal things that a kid might get, a tummy ache, she was a little tired, she wasn’t hungry,” said Buder.  However, Scout’s conditions became worse as her body released some bloody diarrhea.  A trip to the emergency room confirmed the parents’ worst nightmare, as Scout’s kidney deteriorates and she has to stay in the Intensive Care Unit. 

Scout is just one of the six — now 10 — confirmed positive of a dangerous strain of E.coli O157, all linked to Los Chilangos.  Los Chilangos’ Bellevue and other locations were closed last Wednesday by the Public Health department. Los Chilangos serves food at seven farmers markets in King and Snohomish Counties, operates two food trucks, and also caters events.  However, they were able to secure an approval to reopen on Thursday.  None of the employees were positive of the disease and investigators still have not found the source of the infection.

The Buder family would like to seek more justice beyond the shutting down of the kitchen and the food truck.  “”There should be consequences beyond shutting down the kitchen for a few days,” said Buder.  “People need to be aware of what to look for, and then after that be aware that you shouldn’t go to this business,” she said.


98 sickened: Norovirus confirmed at Calif. Chipotle

An investigation by the Ventura County Environmental Health Division (EHD) revealed that during the week of August 18, 2015, about 80 restaurant customers and 18 restaurant employees reported symptoms characteristic of a gastrointestinal illness.

norovirus-2The restaurant, in conformance with its own corporate policy, voluntarily closed the facility, threw out all remaining food products, cleaned and disinfected the facility including all food contact surfaces, and excluded all employees with symptoms from working in the restaurant. EHD staff conducted an inspection the following day to confirm that the food had been removed, the restaurant was adequately disinfected, and the 18 employees had been excluded from work.

As part of the investigation the EHD and Public Health staff interviewed affected customers and restaurant staff to determine when the illness began and what had been eaten. The EHD also ordered that all affected restaurant employees submit specimens for laboratory analysis in an attempt to determine the cause of the illnesses. As of Sep. 3, 2015, 7-out-of-18 samples tested positive for Norovirus. The employees with positive test results will continue to be excluded from the restaurant until subsequent laboratory analysis results are negative for the virus and the Public Health Division has cleared them to return to work. There have been no further reports of illness since the initial reports two weeks ago.

220 inmates sick at Arizona prison

Winslow, Arizona, famous for one of the few Eagles songs I can stand and where Starman Jeff Bridges had to be to return to his planet, is now notable for hundreds of inmates sickened at a state prison.

starman.winslowThe department says lab samples are being sent out to determine why 220 inmates in the Winslow prison complex’s Kaibab and Coronado units have had gastrointestinal illness.

According to the department, the stricken inmates are receiving medical care and being monitored.

It also says precautions being taken include having inmate meals prepared off-site and sanitizing the two units with a bleach solution.

Person County NC has a lot of norovirus

Or so it seems.

CBS is reporting that almost 700 students, about 14% of the district, missed school today due to gastro illnesses that appear to be from norovirus, according to CBS News.

Superintendent Danny Holloman said there were 668 absences in the district Thursday, or 14 percent of the student population. Most of the absences came from Person High School, where more than 300 students stayed home.10849902_719581291471357_3442145704847569295_n1-300x3001-300x300

Holloman said it’s not known how many students are actually sick and how many stayed home as a precaution.

CBS Raleigh affiliate WRAL reports Holloman realized something was going around just before lunch time yesterday, when large numbers of students were going home sick.

According to the Person County Health Department, a local doctor’s office experienced a similar situation with several patients and staff members coming down with virus-like symptoms last week. The North Carolina Division of Public Health asked that samples be collected from students to use for testing. The samples will be tested for both norovirus and other enteric pathogens, officials said.

Students roll out Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience project

Earlier this week I spent some time with NC State’s Food Science Club and told some stories about how I got into the food safety nerd world. One of the career-shaping experiences in my past (that I didn’t share) was making a Jon Stewart correspondent-type video with Christian Battista at Biojustice 2002.

We talked to lots of folks about their perceptions, concerns and understanding of GE foods and it gave me some hands-on experience in risk communication. The video led to some writing, which led to some criticism of putting out evidence-based opinions.

A couple of food science students I know, Nicole Arnold and Lily Yang (and others), are jumping into the communicating food risk world and put together a much slicker introductory video to a project they’re calling Don’t Eat the Pseudoscience.

I’m looking forward to their next steps as they do their own engaging with the passionate eaters of the world.

And here’s my YouTube debut from 13 years ago.

Study says foodborne illnesses cost $77 billion a year

The first step in solving any problem is to recognize that a problem exists.


From rehab to the National Rifle Association, the phrase is thrown around like candy at Halloween, yet it doesn’t change or even influence behavior: those steps are harder.

The food safety world is inundated with reports recognizing the problem, but little changes.

A new report by the American Association for Justice (formerly known as Association of Trial Lawyers of America) concludes that the food industry’s drive for profits over safety has fueled a series of illness outbreaks and that the civil justice system remains consumers’ last and best line of defense.

“American consumers expect and deserve safe food. Yet, time and again, food producers have cut corners on food safety knowing full well that tainted products cause serious illness or even death. Cutting corners puts profits over people and that’s unforgivable when it comes to our food supply. Parents should never have to be worry about the safety of the peanut butter or ice cream they feed their children,” said Larry Tawwater, President of AAJ. “Because regulators are underfunded and understaffed, it is the civil justice system that provides the accountability necessary to safeguard our food supply.”

 Every year, 48 million people fall sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and at least 3,000 die from foodborne illness, costing the nation approximately $77 billion. Recalls in 2015 have surged compared to 2014 rates. In one of the most recent high-profile outbreaks, three people died after consuming Blue Bell ice cream contaminated with listeria. The company reportedly knew as early as 2013 that it had listeria in one of its plants. The outbreak is the most recent of the “ten worst outbreaks” chronicled in the new report.

problem.2“If your food supply begins with corporate run factory farms, it begins in a system that prioritizes corporate profits over public health,” Jessica Culpepper, food safety & health attorney for Public Justice, said on today’s call.

Are not small growers charging ridiculous amounts for boutique food with dubious health claims also profit-driven?

AAJ Researcher David Ratcliff said what’s so surprising is how often outbreaks of foodborne illnesses occur, adding, “We’re focused on so many other things when it comes to food – gluten, calories and GMOs (genetically modified organisms),” he said. “There’s a sense it won’t happen to us.”

Freezing isn’t a good preventive control for raw fish sushi

I like sushi, the raw fish kind, but I’m picky about where I eat it, and with each outbreak I’m becoming more apprehensive about consuming it

When I do choose the raw fish-dish, I ask about whether it’s sushi grade and was previously frozen (to take care of the parasitic worms). I stay away from ground tuna or back scrape (which I learned about after a 2012 Salmonella outbreak) since lots of handling and small pieces can increase my risk of foodborne illness. tuna_roll1-300x196

Lydia Zuraw of NPR’s food blog, The Salt writes about a sushi-linked outbreak earlier this year, and points out that freezing isn’t good a Salmonella control measure.

The outbreak in question began in California in March. All told, it sickened 65 people in 11 states. There were 35 cases in California, with another 18 in Arizona and New Mexico. The rest of the cases were scattered across the country, including four in Minnesota.

So if pathogens like Salmonella don’t usually contaminate fish, what went wrong with the sushi tuna in this case? The FDA tells The Salt it doesn’t know for sure. Maybe someone in the processing facility didn’t wash their hands. Maybe the water or equipment used in processing was contaminated. Or maybe a bird or rodent got into the fish on the boat or during the ride to the processing facility. There are many opportunities for contamination to occur between capture and processing.

Ironically, freezing is usually considered a way to make sushi safer, because it kills any parasitic worms living in the raw fish flesh. That’s why last month, New York Citybegan requiring sushi restaurants to freeze their fish before serving it. Many of the city’s top sushi spots have been freezing their raw fish for this very reason for years.

But as this case highlights, freezing doesn’t guarantee your sushi is pathogen-free. While freezing will slow down the growth of Salmonella, cooking or pasteurizing are the only ways to kill the bacteria.

Norovirus maybe? 100 students sent home from NC schools

Sick kids can spread gastrointestinal viruses around pretty quickly. I write from experience, my kids have brought home what was likely norovirus a couple of times from school/preschool and spread it to Dani and I.10849902_719581291471357_3442145704847569295_n1-300x3001-300x300

Once the perfect human pathogen is in a restaurant, grocery store, or cruise ship – or school – it’s tough to get it out without some illnesses.

Part of the problem with noro (beyond the low mean infectious dose; environmental stability; and, 10^9 virus particles per gram of vomit/poop) is a vomit event can lead to particles floating through the air. And maybe moving 30 feet from the barf splatter.

According to ABC 11, over 100 students in Person County, NC are suffering from something that looks like norovirus.

Person County Schools says more than 100 students were sent home from school Wednesday due to illness.

The problem appeared to be come kind of virus that caused stomach problems.

Sources said 84 students and 6 teachers from Person County High School and 17 students from Helena Elementary School in the Timberlake area went home.

Managing a norovirus outbreak is a bit tricky, here are a couple of infosheets we’ve used/developed over the years that might be of use.

Norovirus is a problem for campuses and cafeterias

Vomiting and fecal episodes