Doug Powell

About Doug Powell

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

Portland to flush 38M gallon reservoir after teen uses it as a toilet

Portland will dispose of 38 million gallons of treated reservoir water after learning that a 19-year-old man urinated into it, even though urine-tainted drinking water is apparently not much of a health risk. 

ReservoirdogWater Bureau Administrator David Shaff said that animals urinate into the reservoir often and that there’s no real problem with that, but this is different because it (naturally) makes everyone feel super weird — or, as he put it, ”I could be wrong on that, but the reality is our customers don’t anticipate drinking water that’s been contaminated by some yahoo who decided to pee into a reservoir.”

The perp was seen peeing through an iron fence into Mount Tabor Reservoir No. 5 around 1 a.m. by security cameras and has been cited for public urination. He was accompanied by two others, ages 18 and 19, who tried (only one succeeded) to scale the fence surrounding the reservoir. All three have been given citations for trespassing. 

In describing the footage, Shaff said that there’s “really no doubt” what he’s doing. “When you see the video, he’s leaning right up because he has to get his little wee wee right up to the iron bars.”

Is it safe to keep a pig’s head with baked goods? Judge reserves decision on New Zealand bakery

The Bulls Bakery could be closed down because of problems with food safety, including a pig’s head kept with baked goods.

In Wanganui District Court on April 11, Judge David Cameron heard the Rangitikei District Council’s case for closing the High St business run by Santhya Sun.

pig.headJudge Cameron reserved his judgment until this week.

However, Mr Sun said he had tried hard to remedy problems and the council was unfairly targeting him.

Over the past year an inspector found mould growing on meat, rice and a tin of syrup, uncovered food, cooked and uncooked found placed together and a pig’s head from a home kill in the freezer with loose cakes like doughnuts and eclairs. Other problems included a pastry flan base uncovered with a plate of mince left on top, a mincer with old encrusted meat on it, fly spotting, and a sick baby playing with kitchen implements.

The council ordered the shop closed in December 2013 because of the unsafe food practices, but the owner defied the order and reopened it.

In January council did not renew Mr Sun’s registration and gave chief executive Ross McNeill the go-ahead to prosecute him.

Salmonella, staph, poop on sushi that sickened 220 in Mexico

Salmonella, fecal waste and Staphylococcus aureus were the bacteria that caused food poisoning in 36 customers three branches of Qué Rollo Sushi (Sushi Roll) and sickened up to 220.

sushi.vomit.apr.12Sergio Olvera Alba, director of Epidemiology, Ministry of Health, revealed the results of laboratory outbreak sushi, then matched the isolates with human samples.

8 dead, 26 sickened in Listeria outbreak linked to Quargel cheese in Austria; genomic sequencing

A large listeriosis outbreak occurred in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic in 2009 and 2010. The outbreak was traced back to a traditional Austrian curd cheese called Quargel which was contaminated with two distinct serovar 1/2a Listeria monocytogenes strains (QOC1 and QOC2).

Quargel_cheeseQuargel is an acid curd cheese with a red smear made from skimmed pasteurized milk. Some recalled Quargel lots were highly contaminated with up to 106–108 colony forming units (CFU) of L. monocytogenes per gram of cheese.

From June 2009 to January 2010 Quargel outbreak clone 1 (hereafter: QOC1) was the cause of 14 cases, including 5 with a fatal outcome, while between December 2009 and February 2010, clone 2 (hereafter: QOC2) accounted for 20 cases, which resulted in 3 fatalities. No maternal or neonatal case had been reported. The median age of the cases was 72 years (range 57 to 89) and 76% of the patients were male. Of the 34 patients, 25 were Austrian, 8 were German and one was from the Czech Republic.

Rychli et al. report we sequenced and analysed the genomes of both outbreak strains in order to investigate the extent of genetic diversity between the two strains belonging to MLST sequence types 398 (QOC2) and 403 (QOC1). Both genomes are highly similar, but also display distinct properties: The QOC1 genome is approximately 74 kbp larger than the QOC2 genome. In addition, the strains harbour 93 (QOC1) and 45 (QOC2) genes encoding strain-specific proteins. A 21 kbp region showing highest similarity to plasmid pLMIV encoding three putative internalins is integrated in the QOC1 genome. In contrast to QOC1, strain QOC2 harbours a vip homologue, which encodes a LPXTG surface protein involved in cell invasion. In accordance, in vitro virulence assays revealed distinct differences in invasion efficiency and intracellular proliferation within different cell types. The higher virulence potential of QOC1 in non-phagocytic cells may be explained by the presence of additional internalins in the pLMIV-like region, whereas the higher invasion capability of QOC2 into phagocytic cells may be due to the presence of a vip homologue. In addition, both strains show differences in stress-related gene content. Strain QOC1 encodes a so-called stress survival islet 1, whereas strain QOC2 harbours a homologue of the uncharacterized LMOf2365_0481 gene. Consistently, QOC1 shows higher resistance to acidic, alkaline and gastric stress. In conclusion, our results show that strain QOC1 and QOC2 are distinct and did not recently evolve from a common ancestor.

104 sickened: increase in Vibrio parahaemolyticus infections associated with consumption of Atlantic coast shellfish — 2013

I don’t eat raw oysters. This is why.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) is found naturally in coastal saltwater. In the United States, Vp causes an estimated 35,000 domestically acquired foodborne infections annually (1), of which most are attributable to consumption of raw or undercooked shellfish. Illness typically consists of mild to moderate Raw oystersgastroenteritis, although severe infection can occur. Demographic, clinical, and exposure information (including traceback information on implicated seafood) for all laboratory-confirmed illnesses are reported by state health departments to CDC through the Cholera and Other Vibrio Surveillance system. Vp isolates are distinguished by serotyping (>90 serotypes have been described) and by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE).

Vp serotypes O4:K12 and O4:K(unknown) comprise the Pacific Northwest (PNW) strain and, within the United States, had not been associated with shellfish outside the Pacific Northwest before 2012. During May–July 2012, Vp of the PNW strain associated with shellfish from Oyster Bay Harbor in New York caused an outbreak of 28 illnesses in nine states. Simultaneously, Vp of the PNW strain caused an outbreak of illnesses on a cruise ship docked on the Atlantic Coast of Spain; illness was associated with cooked seafood cooled with ice made from untreated local seawater. All Vp isolates from ill persons in the U.S. and Spanish outbreaks that were further subtyped were indistinguishable by PFGE (2).

In 2013, this same indistinguishable strain was traced from shellfish consumed by ill persons to a larger area of the U.S. Atlantic Coast, causing illness in 104 persons from 13 states during May–September (Figure). The median age of patients was 51 years (range = 22–85 years); 62% were male. Six (6%) patients were hospitalized; none died. Multiple outbreaks appeared to be occurring, accounting for many of these illnesses. Illness was associated with consumption of raw shellfish and seafood traceback was reported for 59 (57%) illnesses. Of these illnesses, 51 (86%) involved seafood that could be definitively traced to a single harvest area. The implicated harvest areas were located in Connecticut (20 illnesses), Massachusetts (15), New York (10), Virginia (four), Maine (one), and Washington (one). The remaining eight illnesses with traceback information involved seafood that could not be definitively traced to a single harvest area (locations reported included harvest areas of the Atlantic Coast of the United States and Canada). In response to the illnesses, four Atlantic Coast states closed implicated harvest areas; two issued shellfish recalls (3). The number of foodborne Vp cases in the United States traced to Atlantic Coast shellfish was threefold greater in 2012 and 2013 compared with the annual average number reported during 2007–2011.

This PNW strain is possibly becoming endemic in an expanding area of the Atlantic Ocean. The mechanisms for this introduction are not known. During the 2014 Vibrio season, beginning in the spring, clinicians, health departments, and fisheries departments should be prepared for the possibility of shellfish-associated diarrheal illness caused by this strain SUN0705N-Oyster7again. Appropriate actions, such as quick closure of implicated harvest areas, will help prevent additional illnesses. The Interstate Shellfish Sanitation Conference maintains a list of shellfish harvest area closures and recalls.* Clinicians seeking an etiology of diarrhea in a patient who has recently consumed raw or undercooked shellfish should notify the microbiology laboratory that Vp is suspected; the use of special culture media (thiosulfate citrate bile salts sucrose) facilitates identification of Vibrio species. Consumers can reduce their risk for Vp infection by avoiding eating raw or undercooked shellfish, especially oysters and clams.†

References

Scallan E, Hoekstra RM, Angulo FJ, et al. Foodborne illness acquired in the United States—major pathogens. Emerg Infect Dis 2011;17:7–15.

Martinez-Urtaza J, Baker-Austin C, Jones JL, Newton AE, Gonzalez-Aviles GD, DePaola A. Spread of Pacific Northwest Vibrio parahaemolyticus strain. N Engl J Med 2013;369:1573–4.

CDC. Increase in Vibrio parahaemolyticus illnesses associated with consumption of shellfish from several Atlantic coast harvest areas, United States, 2013. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2013. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/vibrio/investigations/index.html.

* Available at http://www.issc.org/closuresreopenings.aspx.

† Additional information available at http://www.cdc.gov/vibrio/investigations/vibriop-09-13/advice-consumers.html.

 CDC MMWR 63(15);335-336

Anna E. Newton, Nancy Garrett, Steven G. Stroika, Jessica L. Halpin, Maryann Turnsek, Rajal K. Mody

http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6315a6.htm?s_cid=mm6315a6_e

27 sick with Yersinia and Campylobacter from raw milk in Finland

The first results from milk samples at a farm in Askola, Finland taken April 7 revealed Yersinia pseudotuberculosis and Campylobacter jejuni.

The number of people who drank milk from Uljaan tilamaito and experienced symptoms has still increased in Porvoo and in the neighboring municipalities (Askola, Lovisa, Borgnäs colbert.raw.milkand Sipoo). There are now 19 confirmed cases of Yersinia. Campylobakterier have so far been isolated from a total of eight people. Investigations are still ongoing for about twenty people.

Uljaan tilamaito pulled away all unpasteurized milk from the shops in early April.

Hey kids, the snails are back: CDC releases 2013 FoodNet data

That’s the tagline from a Far Side cartoon and what immediately came to mind upon reading yet again that reductions in foodborne illness were stagnant for 2013.

There were successes, failures and shifting profiles of what foods lead to foodborne illness, because whatever Americans choose to eat, under whatever production system, some smart bug is going to figure out how to flourish.

And the FoodNet data remains the best and most publicly available surveillance data in the world; that’s right, best in the world.

The Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) monitors the incidence of laboratory-confirmed infections caused by nine pathogens transmitted commonly through food in 10 U.S. sites, covering approximately 15% of the U.S. population. This report summarizes preliminary 2013 data and describes trends since 2006. In 2013, a total of 19,056 infections, 4,200 hospitalizations, and 80 deaths were reported. For most infections, incidence was well above national Healthy People 2020 incidence targets and highest among children aged <5 years. Compared with 2010–2012, the estimated incidence of infection in 2013 was lower for Salmonella, higher for Vibrio, and unchanged overall. Since 2006–2008, the overall incidence has not changed significantly. More needs to be done.

Yes, more needs to be done. Part of that involves abandoning archaic communications and invoking current, compelling and credible food safety messages using a variety of media, at the places where people make food decisions – whether it’s the local market or the megalomart.

cdc.fbi.annual.13The complete report is available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6315a3.htm?s_cid=mm6315a3_e

Incidence and trends of infection with pathogens transmitted commonly through food — Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, 10 U.S. sites, 2006–2013.

CDC MMWR 63(15);328-332

Stacy M. Crim, Martha Iwamoto, Jennifer Y. Huang, Patricia M. Griffin, Debra Gilliss, Alicia B. Cronquist, Matthew Cartter, Melissa Tobin-D’Angelo, David Blythe, Kirk Smith, Sarah Lathrop, Shelley Zansky, Paul R. Cieslak, John Dunn, Kristin G. Holt, Susan Lance, Robert Tauxe, Olga L. Henao

cdc.foodnet.13

Antibacterial soaps can reduce risk of foodborne illness

Friend of the blog Don Schaffner has published some new research that shows  the use of antibacterial soaps can reduce the spread of harmful bacteria – that often leads to foodborne illness – more effectively than using non-antibacterial soaps.

The research, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Food Protection (Vol. 77, No. 4, 2014, pp. 574-582), used new laboratory data, together with simulation techniques, to compare the ability of non-antibacterial and antibacterial products to reduce the risk of the infectious disease shigellosis, which is often spread during food preparation.

antibacterial.soapLead researcher Donald Schaffner of Rutgers University’s Department of Food Science says the data show that the use of three antibacterial wash products result in a statistically significant reduction in the presence of Shigella (the bacterium that causes shigellosis) compared to the use of the non-antibacterial soaps.

“This exciting research blends quantitative microbial risk assessments with an impressive set of laboratory data to show that antibacterial treatments are more effective than non-antibacterial treatments in reducing disease,” said Dr. Schaffner.

In the study, 163 subjects were used to compare two non-antibacterial products and three antibacterial products, with a study design intended to simulate food handling. The participants’ hands were exposed to Shigella and then treated with one of the five products before handling food melon balls. The resulting levels of Shigella on the food were then measured.

The levels of Shigella were then used to predict the outcome from an event in which 100 people would be exposed to Shigella from melon balls that had been handled by food workers with Shigella on their hands.

The data show all three antibacterial treatments significantly lowered the concentration of Shigella compared to the non-antibacterial treatments. Based on this model, the paper predicted that by washing with the antibacterial treatments, the number of illnesses could be reduced tenfold.

“This research provides strong evidence that antibacterial soaps are significantly more effective than non-antibacterial soaps in reducing Shigella on the hands and its subsequent transfer to ready-to-eat foods,” the authors write.

The American Cleaning Institute (www.cleaninginstitute.org) and the Personal Care Products Council (www.personalcarecouncil.org) provided funding for the research as part of the groups’ ongoing commitment to product and scientific stewardship to affirm the safety and benefits of these products.

An abstract summarizing the paper, “Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment of Antibacterial Hand Hygiene Products on Risk of Shigellosis,” can be found online athttp://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/iafp/jfp/2014/00000077/00000004/art00006#aff_3

Supermarket madness: shopping for food safety

powell_inside02

From the Texas A&M Center for Food Safety:

Shopping is a competitive sport.

Especially for groceries.

People who would think nothing of laying out $200 for a fancy-pants dinner and atmosphere, will digitally or electronically clip coupons to save $0.10.

I watch people when I go shopping for food, about every second day, and maybe they watch the creepy guy watching them.

My questions may not be the same as other cooks or parents, but I have a lot.

Should that bagged salad be re-washed? Some bags have labels and instructions, some don’t. What about the salad out in bins that came from pre-washed bags? Should it be re-washed?

Is washing strawberries or cantaloupe going to make them safer?

Where did those frozen berries come from? Am I really supposed to cook them and can’t have them in my yogurt because of a hepatitis A risk?

Are raw sprouts risky?

How long is that deli-meat good for? Is it safer at the counter or pre-packaged?

Should I use a thermometer or is piping hot a sufficient standard for cooking meat and frozen potpies? Can I tell if meat is cooked by using my tender fingertips?

Is that steak or roast beef mechanically tenderized and maybe requires a longer cook time or higher temperature?

Are those frozen chicken thingies made from raw or cooked product? Is it labeled? Is labeling an effective communication mechanism?

These are the questions I have as a food safety type and as a parent who has shopped for five daughters for a long time in multiple countries. It has guided much of our research.

I see lots of things wandering through the grocery store, but I don’t see much information about food safety.

When there is an outbreak, retailers rely on a go-to soundbite: “Food safety is our top priority.”

As a food safety type I sometimes see that, but as a consumer, I don’t.

This sets up a mental incongruity: if food safety is your top priority, shouldn’t you show me?

The other common soundbite is, “We meet all government standards.” This is the Pinto defense – so named for the cars that met government standards but had a tendency to blow up when hit from behind – and is a neon sign to shop elsewhere.

Leaving brand protection to government inspectors or auditors is a bad idea.

For a while I started saying, rather than focus on training, which is never evaluated for effectiveness, change the food safety culture at supermarkets and elsewhere, and here’s how to do that.

But now the phrase, “We have a strong food safety culture,” is routinely rolled out but rarely understood, so I’m going back to my old line: show me what you do to keep people from barfing.

doug.ben.family.Food safety information needs to be rapid, reliable, relevant and repeated. I don’t see that at grocery stores.

The days of assuming that all food at retail is safe are over. Some farmers, some companies, are better at food safety. And they should be rewarded.

Most of us just want to hang out with our kids and get some decent food – food that won’t make us barf.

Dr. Douglas Powell is a former professor of food safety who shops, cooks and ferments from his home in Brisbane, Australia.