Doug Powell

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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. »

54 sickened: German eggs linked to UK Salmonella outbreak

A Salmonella outbreak at Kirkby take-away Woks Cooking has been linked to German eggs and poor hygiene.

salmonella.eggsHealth bosses have completed their final investigations into the fast food outlet which was shut down by Knowsley council last July but opened again in August and is now under new management.

The report by Public Health England (PHE) confirms food safety experts have found signs that the salmonella illnesses at Woks Cooking, as well as a series of other cases across Europe, were linked to eggs from a German supplier.

Dr Alex Stewart, from PHE’s Cheshire and Merseyside centre, said: “There is now evidence to indicate that a series of cases in Europe caused by the same strains of Salmonella were associated with consumption of eggs from a single source. The eggs from this supplier also reached distributors and food outlets in England and there is evidence to support the hypothesis that this was the same source of infection for Woks Cooking.

“Nevertheless, good practice in any food outlet accounts for the possibility of contaminated food sources; in this outbreak it is clear that poor hygiene practices with cross-contamination were the ultimate cause of the outbreak.”

It had previously been thought 25 people were struck by the salmonella in Kirkby last July but food safety experts have now confirmed 54 cases were identified which were linked to Woks Cooking, which is on Richard Hesketh Drive in Westvale.

Of these, 33 cases were microbiologically confirmed Salmonella Enteritidis PT14b and 21 were classified as probable cases.

There were nine people hospitalised during the outbreak.

A spokeswoman for PHE said they were unable to name the company which supplied the eggs from but confirmed it was German.

Can norovirus get into plants? Apparently, yes

Human norovirus (NoV) is the leading cause of foodborne disease in the United States, and epidemiological studies have shown that fresh produce is one of the major vehicles for the transmission of human NoV. However, the mechanisms of norovirus contamination and persistence in fresh produce are poorly understood.

sorenne.strawberry.13The objective of this study is to determine whether human NoV surrogates, murine norovirus (MNV-1) and Tulane virus (TV), can attach and become internalized and disseminated in strawberries grown in soil.

The soil of growing strawberry plants was inoculated with MNV-1 and TV at a level of 108 PFU/plant. Leaves and berries were harvested over a 14-day period, and the viral titer was determined by plaque assay. Over the course of the study, 31.6% of the strawberries contained internalized MNV-1, with an average titer of 0.81 ± 0.33 log10 PFU/g. In comparison, 37.5% of strawberries were positive for infectious TV, with an average titer of 1.83 ± 0.22 log10 PFU/g. A higher percentage (78.7%) of strawberries were positive for TV RNA, with an average titer of 3.15 ± 0.51 log10 RNA copies/g as determined by real-time reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR).

In contrast, no or little virus internalization and dissemination were detected when TV was inoculated into bell peppers grown in soil.

strawberryCollectively, these data demonstrate (i) virally contaminated soils can lead to the internalization of virus via plant roots and subsequent dissemination to the leaf and fruit portions of growing strawberry plants and (ii) the magnitude of internalization is dependent on the type of virus and plant.

 Evidence of the Internalization of Animal Caliciviruses via the Roots of Growing Strawberry Plants and Dissemination to the Fruit

Applied and Environmental Microbiology, April 2015, Volume 81, Number 8, doi:10.1128/AEM.03867-14

DiCaprio E, Culbertson D, Li J

http://aem.asm.org/content/81/8/2727.abstract?etoc

Eating mechanically tenderized beef could make you sick

Before you bite into your next steak, consider this unappetizing fact: It may have been punctured all over before it made its way to your plate, contaminating the inside of the meat with bacteria that can make you sick.

needle.tenderize.crAs the name suggests, mechanically tenderized beef has been put through a machine that breaks up the muscle fiber and tough connective tissue with blades or needles. This promotional video for the Jaccard Model H Commercial Meat Tenderizer shows just what that looks like (below).

About a quarter of beef sold in the U.S. has been treated this way. The restaurant industry is one of the largest purchasers of mechanically tenderized beef because the process makes cheaper cuts of beef more palatable and therefore more marketable. Moderately priced cuts – such as sirloin tip, eye of round, inside round and outside round – are more likely to have been mechanically tenderized, according to the beef industry.

After an E. coli outbreak in 2012 prompted the largest meat recall in Canada’s history, the country instituted mandatory labeling of all mechanically tenderized beef that includes safe cooking instructions. In the U.S., Costco started voluntarily labeling such cuts as “blade tenderized” after meat sold in its Canadian stores was implicated in that outbreak.

After years of pressure by consumer groups, the U.S. now is poised to require labeling of mechanically tenderized beef, too. That’s over the objections of the meat industry. But the new rules still might take years to take effect.

Rare hamburgers are (not) safe, tasty and disgusting

What once was deemed unfit for human consumption now is considered a delicacy.

rare.hamburgerLes MacPherson of The StarPhoenix says restaurants in Saskatoon (that’s in Canada) are now offering rare hamburgers as a feature entree. They can get away with this by grinding their beef on the premises, just before it is served. E. coli thus does not have time to colonize the larger surface area exposed by grinding. At these establishments, you can order and safely consume a burger scorched on the outside and raw on the inside, like a big, juicy steak.

No. This is just more food porn that ignores biology.

The effect of diet on E. coli 0157:H7 in cattle

Fifteen years old, written for me by Rena Orr while I was a prof at Guelph, and I’m still citing it.

cow.poop.spinachThe gastrointestinal tract of animals and humans is an ideal habitat for the growth of mostly harmless bacteria. Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a normal inhabitant of the human gastrointestinal tract. The 0157:H7 strain of E. coli, however, is responsible for the illness known as hamburger disease.  As few as 10 viable E. coli O157:H7 can cause infection. Victims may experience severe cramping and abdominal pain, watery or bloody diarrhea, vomiting or low-grade fever for an average of eight days. It can also cause kidney failure and death, primarily in children and immune compromised adults.

A small percentage of cattle are carriers of E. coli O157:H7. The prevalence of Shiga toxin‑producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in beef slaughter steers and heifers on P.E.I. was reported to be 4% (2000, Douglas Schurman). When meat is contaminated with cattle feces at slaughter, this strain of E. coli can enter the food chain. With the increasing use of hazard analysis and critical control point ( HACCP) plans, dietary management during the pre-slaughter period of beef production may play a role in reducing the incidence of E. coli O157:H7‑positive ruminants. Reducing the levels of E. coli O157:H7 organisms that enter slaughter plants would require two interrelated strategies: (i) reducing the number of cattle shedding E. coli O157:H7 and (ii) reducing the magnitude of shedding (CFU/gram) by those animals infected with the organism (1998, Cray Jr.).

cow.poop2Since September 1998, there has been conflicting information on the effect of diet on E. coli shedding from cattle. The conflict arises in part from the effect of diet on the ability of E. coli to develop acid resistance. The induction of acid resistance could increase the risk of human food‑borne illness. Normally, stomach acid is an effective barrier to infection by food‑borne pathogens because the organisms die in an acid environment. Acid resistant bacteria are able to survive this defence mechanism, reproduce, and produce the toxins that cause disease.

Diez‑Gonzalez et. al demonstrated that feeding a high‑grain diet to cattle results in an acidic environment in the colon. Because the animals incompletely digested the starch in grains, some starch was able to reach the colon where it fermented, producing fermentation acids. The researchers believe an acidic environment selects for or induces acid resistance among the Escherichia coli population.

On a diet of hay, there is no residual starch to be fermented in the colon. Thus, the acid level remains low and the E. coli remain acid‑sensitive. Acid‑sensitive E. coli are easily destroyed in the human stomach. Diez‑Gonzalez et al. concluded that if cattle were given hay for a brief period (five days) immediately before slaughter, the risk of food‑borne E. coli infection would be significantly reduced because the acidity in the colon is greatly reduced. “Our studies indicate that cattle could be given hay for a brief period immediately before slaughter to significantly reduce the risk of food‑borne E. coli infection.”  This finding was supported by studies on fecal shedding of E. coli 0157H7. Van Donkersgoed et al. concluded that feces and rumen content are sources of E. coli and Victor Gannon et al. showed that there were significantly fewer E. coli isolated from steers changed to an alfalfa hay diet for three weeks than for steers that stayed on silage/grain. The effect of dietary stress such as fasting has also been demonstrated to increase fecal shedding of E. coli O157:H7. The Science article received mainstream media attention, and was covered by the Associated Press and The New York Times, as well as scientific releases and reports. In the Irish Times, it was cited as the basis for concluding that because Irish cattle are fed a grass‑based diet rather than grain, Ireland has a low incidence of E. coli 0157:H7.

Hancock et al. contend that this conclusion is unsupported or contradicted by several lines of evidence. The E. coli that contaminate beef typically originate from the hide, the hooves, or the equipment used in slaughter and processing rather than directly from the colon, and likely replicate in environments unlike the colon. Therefore, the induced acid resistance of E. coli contaminating beef is likely to be unrelated to the pH of its ancestral colonic environment. The E. coli O157:H7 bacterium uses several mechanisms to survive acid environments, some of which are innate and are not influenced by environment . Although acid resistance is likely a factor in an infective dose, induced acid resistance has not been shown to be a factor in E. coli O157:H7 infectivity by experimental (dose‑inoculation) or observational (epidemiological) data . Therefore, acid resistance induced by exposure to weak acid may not influence the virulence of this pathogen.

mad.cows.mother's.milkPublished data on E. coli O157:H7 tends to contradict or does not support the effects of the dietary change proposed by Diez‑Gonzalez et al. In a recent study on three different grain diets (85% cracked corn, 15% whole cottonseed and 70% barley, or 85% barley), the fecal pH of the animals fed the corn diet was significantly lower (P < 0.05) than the fecal pH of the animals fed the cottonseed and barley and barley diets, likely resulting in a less suitable environment for E. coli O157:H7 in the hindgut of the corn fed animals (2000, Buchko et al). In the Journal of Food Protection, researchers concluded that changing from grain to a high roughage diet did not produce a change in the E. coli concentration that was large enough to deliver a drastic improvement in beef carcass hygiene. Sheep experiencing an abrupt diet change have higher concentrations and increased shedding of fecal E. coli O157:H7 for longer periods than sheep fed a consistent high‑grain diet. Another study compared the duration of shedding E. coli O157:H7 isolates by hay‑fed and grain‑fed steers experimentally inoculated with E. coli O157:H7 as well as the acid resistance of the bacteria. The hay‑fed animals shed E. coli O157:H7 longer than the grain‑fed animals, and irrespective of diet, these bacteria were equally acid resistant.

These results suggest that the proposed dietary change would actually increase contamination with E. coli O157:H7. Also, the 1,000‑fold reductions in total fecal E. coli demonstrated by Diez‑Gonzales et al. are far greater than those recorded in cattle experiencing similar ration changes. Finally, extensive surveys show that grain‑fed feedlot cattle have no higher E. coli O157:H7 infection prevalence than similarly aged dairy cattle fed forage (hay) diets. Abrupt feed change immediately before slaughter could have unexpected deleterious effects. The proposed diet change has the potential to increase the risk of bovine salmonella infections, a potential source of food poisoning. The dietary change results in sharply reduced volatile fatty acid

concentrations in the large intestine as well as changes in the bacteria, allowing for colonization of Salmonella.

Several people interviewed in the media, including U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, Dr. Gary Weber of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Dr. Robert Buchanan, a microbiologist at the Food and Drug Administration, and the authors, including Diez-Gonzalez, of a review article of recent research pointed out the need for further study to confirm that cattle feeding management practices may be manipulated to decrease the risk of foodborne illness from E. coli . Glickman said in a statement that the findings, if confirmed by additional research, “have the potential to greatly assist efforts to fight foodborne illness” and may lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture to recommend changes in the way cattle are fed. Peter Doris of the Ontario Cattlemen’s Association recommended a “cautious approach” on this issue. “Subjecting cattle to a special diet before slaughter is a problem in itself since most market‑ready cattle are sorted from pens in feedlots no more than 12 hours before they board the truck to the packing plant . Before we get to that point, we need to clarify if the research findings are valid”.

 

References

Buchko, S. J., R. A. Holley, S. J. Buchko, W. O. Olson, V. P. J. Gannon, and D. M. Veira. The Effect of Different Grain Diets on Fecal Shedding of Escherichia Coli O157:H7 by Steers Journal of Food Protection: October 2000 Vol. 63, No. 11, pp. 1467­1474

Brody, Jane E. The New York Times: September 11, 1998.

Cray Jr., William C., Thomas A. Casey, Brad T. Bosworth, and Mark A. Rasmussen. Effect of Dietary Stress on Fecal Shedding of Escherichia coli O157:H7 in Calves.  Applied Environmental Microbiology: May 1998, p. 1975‑1979, Vol. 64, No. 5

Diez‑Gonzalez, Francisco, Todd R. Callaway, Menas G. Kizoulis, James B. Russell.

Grain Feeding and the Dissemination of Acid‑Resistance Escherichia coli from Cattle.

Science: Sept 11, 1998. Volume 281, Number 5383, pages 1666‑1668.

Douglas Schurman R., Harry Hariharan and Susan Heaney.  Prevalence And Characteristics of Shiga Toxin‑producing Escherichia Coli in Beef Cattle Slaughtered on Prince Edward Island

Journal of Food Protection: November 2000. Vol. 63, No. 11, pp. 1583­1586.

Farm and Country: Scientists Debate Hay vs Corn. October 19, 1998

Gannon, Victor, Thomas Graham, Walter Olson, Roger Johnson: Fecal Shedding of

Escherichia coli O157:H7 during the Beef Cattle Production Cycle. Health Canada and

Agriculture and Agri‑Food Canada, Lethbridge Alberta and Health Canada, Guelph,

Ontario http://sun1.bham.ac.uk/bcm4ght6/res.html

Hancock, Dale D., Thomas E. Besser (College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164, USA), Colin Gill (Agriculture and Agri‑Food Canada Research Center, Lacombe, Alberta, Canada T4L1W1), Carolyn Hovde Bochach (Department of Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and Biochemistry, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID 83844, USA): Cattle, Hay, and E. coli. Science, April 2, 1999 Volume 284, Number 5411, Page 49.

Hovde, Carolyn, et al. Applied and Environmental Microbiology: 65: 3233‑3235. 1999

Jordan, David, Scott McEwen. Effect of Duration of Fasting and a Short‑Term High Roughage Ration on the Concentration of Escherichia coli Biotype 1 in Cattle Feces.  Journal of Food Protection 1998. Volume 61, No. 5, pages 531‑534.

Kudva, Indira T., Carl W. Hunt, Christopher J Williams, Ursula M. Nance, Carolyn J.

Hovde: Dietary Influences on the Shedding of Escherichia coli 0157:H7 by Ruminants.

Department of Microbiology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, Department of

Animal and Veterinary Sciences and Division of Statistics, University of Idaho, Moscow,

Idaho http://sun1.bham..ac.uk/bcm4ght6/res.html

O’Sullivan, Kevin. Irish Times: September 23, 1998.

Russell JB, F  Diez‑Gonzalez, GN Jarvis. Invited review: effects of diet shifts on Escherichia coli in cattle. Journal of Dairy Science: 2000 Apr;83(4):863‑73

Tkalcic, Suzana, Barry G. Harmon, Cathy A. Brown, E. Mueller, A. Parks, T. Zhao, M.P.

Doyle: Effects of the Rumen Microenvironment on the Growth and Fecal Shedding of E

coli 0157:H7. The Department of Pathology and Department of Food Science and

Technology, University of Georgia. http://sun1.bham.ac.uk/bcm4ght6/res.html

Van Donkersgoed, Joyce, (Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, 11 Bruns

Road, Lacombe, Alberta, T4L 1P1), Tom Graham, Vic Gannon (Animal Diseases

Research Institute, Health Canada., Lethbridge Alberta). The Prevalence of Verotoxins,

  1. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella in the Feces and Rumen of Cattle at Processing.

13 sickened: Handwashing is never enough and why I’m wary of animal displays: Crypto outbreak contained in Michigan

An outbreak of cryptosporidiosis at the Centreville High School agriculture program sent one student to the hospital and infected 12 others, according to Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency.

cow.poop2The outbreak is contained and the hospitalized student has been released.

The outbreak came in early March in the co-op vet/ag science program run through St. Joseph Intermediate School District and involving students from throughout the county, according to Rebecca Burns, environmental health director.

The parasite is commonly found near calves, Burns said the health agency identified the calf program as the source.

“The school is all in to make sure this doesn’t happened again,” Burns said. “The problem was traced to poor hand-washing.”

Burns said there was hand sanitizer in the barn, but that alone is not enough.

cow_hug_cumberland“Nothing beats soap, water and friction to get rid of the parasite,” she said.

Two other major outbreaks of crypto were reported in the tri-county health district since 2011. In Hillsdale County in 2012, 28 people were infected at a pool party. In 2011, a Quincy firefighter was hospitalized and 19 others infected while fighting a fire at a calf barn. Firefighters used water from a pond nearby to extinguish the blaze.

2 dead, 30 sickened: Australian Salmonella outbreak over

New South Wales Health has closed its investigation into the deadly salmonella outbreak that affected 32 people in aged-care facilities across the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and the ACT.

Betta MaidDirector of Illawarra Shoalhaven Public Health Curtis Gregory said that since February 23, no additional residents had become unwell with salmonellosis.

The rare strain Salmonella bovismorbificans was found in 32 infected residents at 10 aged-care facilities operated or supplied by IRT. Two of the residents have since died.

“We’ve deemed the outbreak is now over as more than four weeks has elapsed since the last confirmed case. This means any incubation period for additional cases has now passed,” Mr Gregory said on Friday.

The NSW Food Authority shut down Betta Maid – an IRT supplier – on March 5 after traces of the rare strain of salmonella linked to the outbreak were found in food samples and on a contact surface. The Food Authority confirmed this week the Unanderra wholesale bakery remained closed.

100 lawyers sickened at banquet in Philly

“What do you call 100 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

“An excellent start.

“l used to resent jokes like that.

“Now l see them as simple truths.”

danny.devito.war.rosesDanny DeVito in the truly fabulous divorce movie, War of the Roses.

Sam Wood of Philly.com writes that nearly 100 lawyers and law students were sickened last month after attending a banquet celebrating the Lunar New Year in Chinatown.

But even though the restaurant has a history of food-safety problems stretching back several years, the city Health Department says it cannot publicly discuss details of its investigation, citing a 1955 state law.

That law hasn’t silenced the outbreak’s victims.

It’s that social media thing, and restaurants better get used to it – fast.

About 250 people attended the feast Feb. 27 at Joy Tsin Lau, the venerable dim sum restaurant at 10th and Race Streets. Dozens of the diners reported that they felt the first symptoms two mornings later.

Chi Mabel Chan, who has owned Joy Tsin Lau for more than 30 years, denied that the diners had suffered food poisoning from the banquet.

“It was not a problem with my restaurant,” she said, theorizing that chilly weather or festivities at a karaoke bar after the dinner might be to blame.

001679_12“Maybe they got cold or drank too much,” she said of the victims.

Wow.

Good luck with that in court. Against lawyers.

The eight-course dinner – well-documented on social media – was a fund-raiser for a group of Temple University law students, the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association.

“This was the worst case of food poisoning I’ve ever witnessed,” Antima Chakraborty, a Philadelphia assistant district attorney, wrote on Yelp, a restaurant review site. “Many individuals had to go to the ER.”

City inspection reports show that Joy Tsin Lau has long had a problem maintaining food-safety standards.

Just 17 days before the banquet, a Health Department sanitarian was at Joy Tsin Lau to check back on an earlier problem. In a report dated Feb. 10, Kyria Weng wrote “that current management practices have allowed unacceptable public health or food-safety conditions.”

An Inquirer analysis of city inspection reports found that the average eat-in restaurant in Philadelphia last year had 2.3 risk factors for foodborne illness, the more serious of the two main categories defined by the Food and Drug Administration.

Weng cited Joy Tsin Lau for five such risk factors. Several of those – dumplings held at a bacteria-friendly 57 degrees, and a lack of soap and paper towels in the employee restroom – were noted as repeat violations. Weng also found nine lesser violations, called “lack of good retail practices.”

But that was an improvement over Weng’s Dec. 22 visit, when she cited the restaurant for seven risk factors for foodborne illness (including a chicken held at unsafe temperatures) and 13 lesser violations.

Back in 2010, the city Health Department filed suit against Joy Tsin Lau after deeming it a “public nuisance” and issued a cease-and-desist order for “failure to ensure that public-health standards for a safe and sanitary operation . . . are being maintained.”

City legal officials did not respond to questions asking if the city ever acted on the order or if the restaurant ever was forced to close.

David S. Haase, a Center City lawyer, said he began to feel nauseated about 30 hours after the banquet. Contrary to Chan’s theory, he said he was warmly dressed and did not go to the karaoke bar.

A combination of nonstop puking and explosive diarrhea kept him bedridden for four days.

“It was freaking terrible,” Haase said. “I’d crawl back into bed and curl up into a ball, moaning like a child with the cramps.”

Organizers, in a post-banquet e-mail to attendees, said multiple guests had sought medical attention.

Thursday, nearly four weeks after the banquet, Health Department spokesman Jeff Moran would say only that a “food source” had been identified for the outbreak.

“We are not permitted, by law, to publicly release the findings of outbreak investigations,” Moran said.

Bullshit.

He cited the Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law of 1955, which prohibits health authorities from disclosing reports or records of diseases. Though the law primarily addresses patients with venereal diseases and tuberculosis, its confidentiality clause keeps secret the details of all health investigations.

Most states have similar laws, according to Scott Burris, the codirector at Temple University’s Center for Health Law, Policy, and Practice.

“It’s pretty typical,” Burris said. “Pennsylvania is not an outlier.”

Investigators need some secrecy to collect sensitive information, he said, but the laws may go too far when it comes to alerting the public of potential threats.

“That’s a price we pay,” Burris said of secrecy laws. “It’s probably worth working on our privacy laws to see if we can find an approach that lowers that price.”

But there is no law silencing the sickened.

“If you enjoy being on your back for the 48 hours post-dinner writhing in pain, burning up, and exploding out of all orifices, then this is the restaurant for you,” wrote Jack Jiang, a University of Pennsylvania researcher who attended the banquet with his girlfriend.

In an e-mail to a reporter, Jiang said he had been bedridden for three days and suffered lingering effects through the end of the week.

Haase, who missed his daughter’s championship track meet due to the illness, said he had contacted a Health Department coordinator, who told him the outbreak was likely brought on by norovirus.

Norovirus, the most common cause of foodborne illness, sickens about 20 million people a year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pathogen is often spread by contact with an infected person or by ingesting food or water contaminated by fecal matter. Acute gastroenteritis strikes usually between 24 and 48 hours after exposure to norovirus.

Caroline Johnson, director of the city’s division of disease control, said she couldn’t talk specifics, but in general said the goal of investigations “is to find out what happened, correct that problem, and move on.”

As for the secrecy, she said, “We don’t want to drive underground the facts we want to uncover.”

Her agency told Haase about the norovirus because “we feel that by telling them, they won’t need to have the wrong antibiotic prescribed to them or have unnecessary testing. It’s the right medical thing to do. I wouldn’t withhold information from them because it might have medical significance to their situation.”

Norovirus would have a much quicker onset than two days.

It’s a math thing: Raw milk is 3 percent of the market but causes over 50 percent of milk foodborne illnesses

Most people would be horrified if they went to a restaurant bathroom and saw the chef not bother to wash his hands after using the toilet. It’s a good thing raw milk fad health buyers do not understand cow milking for the same reason.

santa.barf.sprout.raw.milkA new review finds that consumers are nearly 100 times more likely to get foodborne illness from drinking raw milk than they are from drinking pasteurized milk, which is a lower figure than the Centers for Disease Control, which puts that number at 150X. Though a tiny fraction of milk drinkers risk consuming the raw kind, the raw kind accounts for over 50 percent of milk-related foodborne illness.

Given the results, the scholars from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future join the chorus discouraging participants in the raw milk fad.

The analysis was prepared at the request of the Maryland House of Delegates’ Health and Operations Committee as lawmakers considered undoing regulations that currently prohibit the sale of raw milk in Maryland. In the 2014 legislative session, House Bill 3 aimed to legalize the on-farm sale of raw milk but was tabled as legislators considered the issue.

Raw milk has become more popular in recent years, even though it is only available for direct purchase at farms in states that allow it. Advocates claim that raw milk healthier and cleaner with all of that extra bacteria. More speculative claims are that it reduces lactose intolerance and allergies. Pasteurization, named after Louis Pasteur, has saved a billion lives because it destroys microbes that enter the milk supply from fecal contamination, dairy operations, cow udders, bovine diseases or other sources. The treated milk is then hermetically sealed to prevent recontamination.

“Ultimately, the scientific literature showed that the risk of foodborne illness from raw milk is over 100 times greater than the risk of foodborne illness from pasteurized milk,” says report lead author, Benjamin Davis, a CLF-Lerner Fellow and doctoral candidate in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences. “Although potential benefits related to the consumption of raw milk would benefit from further investigation, we believe that from a public health perspective it is a far safer choice to discourage the consumption of raw milk.”

For their study, a team of investigators led by Keeve Nachman, PhD, director of the Public Health and Food Production Program at CLF and an assistant professor with the Bloomberg School, screened approximately 1,000 articles and reviewed 81 published journal articles relevant to the health risks and benefits of consuming raw cow’s milk.

Microbial contaminants commonly found in milk include infectious Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Listeria species along with the Escherichia coli type O157:H7. These bacteria can cause foodborne illness in humans, including diarrhea, vomiting, cramping, fevers, and sometimes more serious consequences such as kidney failure or death.

“The risks of consuming raw milk instead of pasteurized milk are well established in the scientific literature, and in some cases can have severe or even fatal consequences,” notes co-author Cissy Li, a CLF research assistant and doctoral candidate with the Bloomberg School’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences. “Based on our findings, we discourage the consumption of raw milk, especially among vulnerable populations such as the elderly, people with impaired immune systems, pregnant women, and children.”

Going public: Inspectors fail to reveal Salmonella outbreak at popular Calif. deli

A popular LA-area restaurant may have left nearly two dozen people with salmonella poisoning over a four-month period — and health officials failed to warn the public of the danger, an NBC4 I-Team investigation has uncovered.

brent's.deli.reubenBrent’s Deli in Westlake Village, a popular family-owned restaurant dubbed by Zagat as “the Cadillac of delis,” was the suspected source of the poisonings, according to Ventura County records obtained by the I-Team. Some victims reported eating Brent’s famous corned beef sandwiches, some ate pastrami, and others believe it was salads or soups that sickened them.

“It felt like someone reached in and was tearing out my stomach,” said J.D. Leadam of Simi Valley, 25, who said he became ill two days after eating a roast beef sandwich at Brent’s in Westlake in August. He said the nausea, body aches and diarrhea were so bad that his doctor thought he might have contracted Ebola.

Days later, tests confirmed it was salmonella.

State and Ventura County health officials began learning about salmonella cases from Brent’s customers months before Leadam ate at the restaurant, but both agencies failed to inform the public about the growing outbreak.

“I wouldn’t have eaten there if the county had warned the public,” Leadam told NBC4. “I really don’t think the health department was looking out for the public.”

Records from the state health department show the first Brent’s customer became sick with salmonella symptoms in late April, with more cases reported in May, June, July and August. In total, 21 cases of salmonella were associated with the 2014 outbreak, including two Brent’s employees, according to state records.

“We generally don’t notify the public when we’re in the midst of an investigation,” said William Stratton, director of Ventura County Environmental Health, which investigated the Brent’s outbreak.

But county health departments in Los Angeles and San Francisco have alerted the public to food poisoning outbreaks within days of learning of the first cases, so that customers who experience symptoms can get proper medical care.

Bill  Marler said, “They clearly had an obligation to tell the public, from a moral and a public health perspective. This outbreak was an accident waiting to happen,” referring to Brent’s inspection history.

Since 2007, county officials have repeatedly cited Brent’s in Westlake for major health code violations — such as keeping food at unsafe temperatures and employees not properly washing their hands, both of which can spread bacteria to food.

The I-Team also found other Brent’s Westlake customers reported contracting Salmonella in 2007, 2010 and 2013 — well before the 2014 outbreak.

Ventura County health officials say in hindsight, they could have made a public statement warning the public about the outbreak.

“Is issuing a news release or notifying the public one of those things we could have done? Perhaps it is,” Stratton said. “That’s something we’re going to be evaluating.”

NBC4 spoke by phone with one of the owners of Brent’s in Westlake, Marc Hernandez, who says his restaurant is now safe to eat at.