Doug Powell

About Doug Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Download C.V. »

22 sick with E. coli: Cross-contamination from Reno Provisions

Following the recent news that a local E. coli outbreak came from a dessert item made by restaurant Reno Provisions, owner Mark Estee released a personal statement on Wednesday.

cross.contaminationEstee said that he and his employees were “deeply saddened” when they heard that the outbreak was connected to their chocolate mousse, citing that “our first and foremost concern is always the safety of our guests.” He said that they will assist the affected families as they recover.

Estee also expressed his gratitude for the professionalism of The Twisted Fork restaurant, which had originally been linked to the outbreak after they sold the chocolate mousse to their customers. He said that he also respects how quickly the Washoe County Health District was able to investigate the source of the illness.

According to the statement, the E. coli made its way into the kitchen through the cross-contamination of meat and dessert processing equipment.

“Our food production records allowed us to quickly identify that the wrong mixer was used to blend meat, transferring contaminants to the dessert,” Estee said. “This was an isolated incident that violated our preparation protocols.”

Under the guidance of a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) consultant, the restaurant has reviewed its food safety standards and retrained each employee and will continue to do so.

Chapman wins (but no one wins in foodborne outbreaks) it was the celery: Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. recalls celery, E. coli linked to Costco outbreak

Taylor Farms Pacific, Inc. of Tracy, CA, is recalling the products listed below because they may include celery which could potentially contain E. coli O157:H7.

costco.chicken.salad.nov.15The products listed below are being recalled out of an abundance of caution due to a Celery and Onion Diced Blend testing positive for E. coli O157:H7 in a sample taken by the Montana Department of Health. The Celery and Onion Diced Blend tested by the state of Montana was used in a Costco Rotisserie Chicken Salad that has been linked to a multi-state E. coli 0157:H7 outbreak.

Consumers may call 209-830-3141 for any further information Monday to Friday, exclusive of holidays, between the hours of 8am-5pm (PST). Consumers with concerns about an illness from consumption of any of the recalled products should contact a health care provider.

The utility of multiple molecular methods including whole genome sequencing as tools to differentiate Escherichia Coli O157:H7 outbreaks

A standardised method for determining Escherichia coli O157:H7 strain relatedness using whole genome sequencing or virulence gene profiling is not yet established.

remaincalm.kevin.baconWe sought to assess the capacity of either high-throughput polymerase chain reaction (PCR) of 49 virulence genes, core-genome single nt variants (SNVs) or k-mer clustering to discriminate between outbreak-associated and sporadic E. coli O157:H7 isolates.

Three outbreaks and multiple sporadic isolates from the province of Alberta, Canada were included in the study. Two of the outbreaks occurred concurrently in 2014 and one occurred in 2012. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multilocus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) were employed as comparator typing methods. The virulence gene profiles of isolates from the 2012 and 2014 Alberta outbreak events and contemporary sporadic isolates were mostly identical; therefore the set of virulence genes chosen in this study were not discriminatory enough to distinguish between outbreak clusters. Concordant with PFGE and MLVA results, core genome SNV and k-mer phylogenies clustered isolates from the 2012 and 2014 outbreaks as distinct events. k-mer phylogenies demonstrated increased discriminatory power compared with core SNV phylogenies. Prior to the widespread implementation of whole genome sequencing for routine public health use, issues surrounding cost, technical expertise, software standardisation, and data sharing/comparisons must be addressed.

Going public (not): 252 sick, I dead from E. coli in UK, yet officials were silent

Be the bug.

leek.e.coliThat’s what I tell people when they recite the different-cutting-board mythology as somehow, raw vegetables – grown in dirt and water from who knows where – are immune from E. coli and other bugs.

And talk about the bugs.

That raises awareness and helps people from getting sick.

But the UK, and their piping hot cooking technology, doesn’t believe in saying much.

Stuffed shirt approach.

While the paper below summarizes the outbreak four years later, it says nothing about the responsibility of health types – on the public dime — to make their information public.

 Between December 2010 and July 2011, 252 cases of STEC O157 PT8 stx1 + 2 infection were reported in England, Scotland and Wales. This was the largest outbreak of STEC reported in England and the second largest in the UK to date.

Eighty cases were hospitalized, with two cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome and one death reported. Routine investigative data were used to generate a hypothesis but the subsequent case-control study was inconclusive. A second, more detailed, hypothesis generation exercise identified consumption or handling of vegetables as a potential mode of transmission. A second case-control study demonstrated that cases were more likely than controls to live in households whose members handled or prepared leeks bought unwrapped [odds ratio (OR) 40, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2·08-769·4], and potatoes bought in sacks (OR 13·13, 95% CI 1·19-145·3). This appears to be the first outbreak of STEC O157 infection linked to the handling of leeks.

 A large Great Britain-wide outbreak of STEC O157 phage type 8 linked to handling of raw leeks and potatoes

Epidemiology and Infection / Volume 144 / Issue 01 / January 2016, pp 171-181


Listeria redux: Maple Leaf to cut 400 jobs

I killed two people in a car accident when I was 18-years-old. I went to jail. It’s all on the Intertubes.

20080827bg_leaf07.JPGBut I’ve never hid from it.

Seven years after his cold-cuts killed 23 people and sickened 55 with Listeria, Maple Leaf president Michael McCain now says, it’s all about the money.

Fair comment: food is a low-margins-high-turnover kind of biz.

But to ignore the food safety aspects when your company has monumentally messed up is beyond belief.

Or just another day at the office.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc said on Wednesday it would cut 400 management jobs, or about 3 per cent of its work force, saying it was ready to streamline operations after starting up Canada’s biggest meat plant.

Nearly half of the positions are based in the Mississauga head office, said spokesman Dave Bauer. Sixty-four are based at the new Hamilton, meat plant, where analysts noted excess staff and supervisors during a recent tour, and the rest of the job cuts are scattered across Canada.

Senior management, led by chief executive officer Michael McCain, remains intact, Bauer said.

“After years of change and transformation, we’re now in a position to streamline the organization so we can operate as efficiently as possible,” Bauer said.

Does that include food safety?


Journalism works: Philly restaurants get same-day health inspections

Philadelphia this week joined other major American cities in publicly releasing same-day restaurant inspection reports rather than waiting a month, a policy critics said kept diners in the dark about potential health risks.

rocky.phillyFor the last three decades, diners in Philadelphia have unknowingly patronized restaurants cited for serious hygiene problems including mouse droppings, improperly refrigerated food and managers oblivious of the basic tenets of food safety.

Health department officials said the city’s longstanding 30-day secrecy policy was meant to give eatery owners time to challenge inspection results. Yet it was a practice that surprised health officials in other big cities.

The same-day release of inspection results follows an Inquirer/ report that found Philadelphia was the only major city in the United States to withhold results for a significant length of time. The results are available from the city, or more conveniently, on the Clean Plates website:

This week, health department sanitarians dropped in on dozens of eateries throughout the city. Among the most sharply criticized were a Drexel University dining hall, two South Philly watering holes and an upscale burger joint in Center City.

The Band last played 39 years ago: Salmonella found in raw milk sold at NY farm

A Tompkins County farm was ordered to stop selling raw milk after a sample tested positive for salmonella last week, according to New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A Ball.

Officials say the “unpasteurized” raw milk from Jerry Dell Farm on Fall Creek Road in Freeville agreed to stop selling raw milk in light of the results.

The contamination was found during a test on Nov. 18. Sampling is performed every three months, according to the state.

And for no particular reason, today in 1976, The Band made their final performance, “The Last Waltz”, at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. Not bad for a bunch of kids from around my hometown in southern Ontario, and an amazing drummer and vocalist from Arkansas.

Avoid holiday pathogen starter kit: Thanksgiving leftovers version

Friend of the, Michéle Samarya-Timm, with the Somerset County Department of Health (Jersey, represent) writes:

thanksgiving.leftoversWhile conducting my annual perusal of online Thanksgiving hints, tips, tweets and infographics,  I began musing about Thanksgiving post-dinner activities.  You know, when folks are leaning back with turkey fatigue, food scraps begin congealing on individual dinner plates, the buffet resembles a feeding frenzy at the zoo, and the kitchen is stacked with pots clogged with unused remnants of fall harvest traditions.

This mellow and restrained moment often progress into a free-for-all, where guests start jockeying for position to grab leftovers to take back home. This lineup becomes fueled by individual dreams of creating a Friday morning shooter sandwich, turlafel, magical mystery mush or similar creative concoction of post-Thanksgiving residuals.  And so, the mad pantry hunt for tin foil, old Tupperware containers or the box of zippy bags begins.  You know it will happen.  With this in mind, shouldn’t leftover planning be a natural extension of Thanksgiving food prep?

An ideal Thanksgiving schedule allows adequate time for food preparation, thorough cooking and proper cooling of leftovers.  Just like asking the family culinary wiz to carve the turkey, the host (or guest) with the most knowledge should be tasked with overseeing the holiday food safety.

Why? You’ve heard the two-hour rule:  Never let hot or cold food sit on the dinner table or on the counter for more than 2 hours.  After two hours, the food has cooled to the point that it’s in the food danger zone – 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F – the range where bacteria can rapidly reproduce and contaminate the food.   This can be a tall task during a holiday meal, but one that is achievable with some creativity.

mr-creosoteDevelop a game plan for any extra perishable food.  After filling serving dishes in the kitchen, immediately divide up the remaining vittles into smaller portions or pieces, place in shallow containers, and promptly refrigerate.  For leftovers tableside, invite guests to pack up what they’d like before the end of that 2-hour window, (try setting a music loop as a timer for that two hours) and encourage folks to stay for more coffee while their take-home bag is chilling in the fridge or freezer before the ride back home.  With that, zippy bags full of water make great cheap ice packs for that added touch of food-safety caring to-go.

Labeling the food packages makes sense so those who rave about your potatoes with marshmallows don’t find themselves with roasted brussels sprouts. In addition to including recipient names and food contents, labeling containers with safe reheating instructions (to 165 degrees!) ads that little-something extra –  and cute, printable tags found online can be adapted for this purpose.

Is that necessary?  While folks may be more likely to check the Thanksgiving turkey with a thermometer for doneness (after all, how embarrassing to carve a half-raw bird in front of a table full of salivating guests?),  FDA reports that 97% of leftover eaters don’t use a food thermometer before eating to check if the food is safety reheated to prevent possible foodborne illness.  You know Aunt Gladys, Uncle Charlie, and your loopy neighbors. Do you want to gamble that these guests are part of the 3% who safely prepare resurrected meals?

Take home meals can take on a life of their own if not properly handled. Reimagining Thanksgiving leftovers takes on a whole new meaning if not eaten over the holiday weekend.  After all, the idea isn’t how long the food is pretty or tasty…it’s how long before  it  can create ill effects. Two storage options exist:  Refrigerate and safely eat within 3 to 4 days (that’s Monday), or freeze at 0 degrees F for a longer lasting souvenir.

Enjoy the holiday with your family and friends. And when providing guests with take-home packages of harvest bounty, aim to give them ingredients for post-meal happiness, not a holiday pathogen starter kit.

With much appreciation to all the good folks working to prevent foodborne outbreaks.  

On-line cheese presents risk

Online shopping saves time and provides an enormous product choice, but when buying cheeses, this may lead to a quality compromise, according to a new study from Vetmeduni Vienna.

3294_Cheese shutterstock_117291487According to a German market study, six per cent of all fresh foods sold today are purchased online – and this rate is on the rise. For perishable foods, however, it is necessary to follow certain hygienic rules.

Dagmar Schoder from the Institute of Milk Hygiene at the Vetmeduni Vienna was interested above all in one especially high-risk food – raw milk cheese. Raw milk cheeses are made from unpasteurised milk, which puts them at a higher risk of microbiological contamination.

Ms Schoder and her colleagues ordered 108 different raw milk cheeses from 21 online retailers in seven European countries (France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium).

“We chose raw milk cheese because it is a high-risk product. As raw milk is unpasteurised, it can be easily contaminated with harmful bacteria.

“Even a small amount of bacteria, for which raw milk cheese offers ideal growing conditions, can reach critical proportions after a longer ripening, storage and transport time.

“The product is then no longer edible and may even make consumers ill. For this reason, special care must be taken during production, storage and transport,” said Ms Schoder.

The researchers found Listeria monocytogenes in two cheese products: one from France and one from the Netherlands.

The fecal bacteria Escherichia coli was found in 32 products. It indicates poor conditions of hygiene during production. Salmonella were not found in any of the cheese samples.

“Some of the producers apparently have shortcomings in terms of hygiene,” said first author Ms Schoder. “Furthermore, when making online purchases, I recommend consumers to check if a product is adequately packaged and cooled when it arrives.”

The shipping period of the online products was between one and five days.

“Cheese must be cooled,” Ms Schoder stressed. But this was not the case with 61.5 per cent of the raw milk products purchased.

“If raw milk cheese is not cooled, bacteria will grow more quickly. A longer transport journey and improper packaging increase the risk for consumers.”

Only 19 cheeses fulfilled the EU labelling requirements (Directive 2000/13/EC and Regulation 853/2004). Of the cheeses purchased, 37 were not labelled as “raw milk cheese” and 43 labels had no “use by date”. Information on storage requirements was missing in more than half of the cheeses.


E. albertii: Prevalence in retail raw meat in China

Escherichia albertii is a newly emerging enteric pathogen that has been associated with gastroenteritis in humans.

e.albertiiRecently, E. albertii has also been detected in healthy and sick birds, animals, chicken meat and water. In the present study, the prevalence and characteristics of the eae-positive, lactose non-fermenting E. albertii strains in retail raw meat in China were evaluated.

Thirty isolates of such strains of E. albertii were identified from 446 (6·73%) samples, including duck intestines (21·43%, 6/28), duck meat (9·52%, 2/21), chicken intestines (8·99%, 17/189), chicken meat (5·66%, 3/53), mutton meat (4·55%, 1/22) and pork meat (2·44%, 1/41). None was isolated from 92 samples of raw beef meat. Strains were identified as E. albertii by phenotypic properties, diagnostic PCR, sequence analysis of the 16S rRNA gene, and housekeeping genes. Five intimin subtypes were harboured by these strains. All strains possessed the II/III/V subtype group of the cdtB gene, with two strains carrying another copy of the I/IV subtype group. Pulsed-field gel electrophoresis showed high genetic diversity of E. albertii in raw meats.

Our findings indicate that E. albertii can contaminate various raw meats, posing a potential threat to public health.

Prevalence of eae-positive, lactose non-fermenting Escherichia albertii from retail raw meat in China

Epidemiology and Infection / Volume 144 / Issue 01 / January 2016, pp 45-52