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 Doug’s CV here. Download C.V. »

Sneaky: Campy in UK chickens declines, but is an artifact

The UK Food Standards Agency says the latest data show 9.3% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination in this quarter, down from 21.8% for the three months from December 2014 to February 2015*.

chickenCampylobacter was present on 50% of chicken samples, down from 71% in the equivalent quarter of the previous year. We tested 1,009 samples of fresh whole chilled UK-produced chickens and packaging this quarter.

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said, “One of the reasons the survey results are lower this quarter is because of the decision taken by a number of retailers and their suppliers to remove neck skin from the bird before it goes on sale. This is good news for the consumer because the neck skin is the most contaminated part of the chicken. However it is also the part of the bird that we have been testing in our survey and this means that comparisons with previous results are not as reliable as we would like.

Therefore, this quarter, we are giving an overall figure for the amount of campylobacter on chicken and not breaking the figures down by retailer as we normally do. We have also stopped this survey and will begin a new one in the summer, with a different method of testing campylobacter levels on chicken. sFirst results from this survey, which will rank retailers, are due in January 2017.”

Alex Neil , director of policy and campaigns at Which?, said: “Despite the work by the regulator and the industry to reduce campylobacter in chickens, levels remain too high and it still poses a significant risk to the public.

“We want to see much greater transparency from the supermarkets on their own testing and the action they are taking to keep their customers safe from this bug.”

 

68 sick: 3.1 million ‘Sippee’ cups recalled due to mold

Sippy cups, those seemingly indestructible vessels that toddlers use to quench their thirst have a problem: mold can accumulate.

Tommee Tippee Sippee cupsI used to clean ours with toothpics or thin metal skewers, but that was after hundreds of uses.

Mayborn USA is recalling more than 3 million of their spill-proof Tommee Tippee Sippee cups. The recall affects five types of cups: First Sips Transition cup, Trainer Sippee cup, Sippee cup (including Cute Quips), Sportee bottle and Insulated Swiggle/Sippee tumblers.

All of them have a removable valve, which the Consumer Product Safety Commission says can develop mold if not cleaned well. The agency said 68 kids have gotten sick.

Their symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, consistent with drinking from a cup containing mold.

Officials investigate link between 3 children with shiga-toxin E. coli and Fairfax Creek in Calif.

Richard Halstead of the Marin Independent Journal writes two young children, one a 2-year-old Fairfax resident, have been diagnosed with a toxin-producing form of E. coli, and Marin public health officials are investigating the possibility that the source of the bacteria was a creek that runs through Peri Park in downtown Fairfax.

periparkA third child, a 3-year-old San Anselmo resident, has also displayed symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of E. coli, but tests results are still pending. The second confirmed E. coli case is a 3-year-old resident of Truckee. All three children played in Peri Park’s Fairfax Creek not long before becoming ill.

“We have not yet confirmed that water contamination is the source,” said Dr. Lisa Santora, Marin County’s deputy public health officer.

Rebecca Ng, deputy director of Marin County’s environmental health department, said, “We took water samples this morning.”

Test results from those samples weren’t available Thursday; but Santora said they will show only whether there is coliform bacteria in the creek, not whether the type of E. coli that caused these illnesses is present there. Coliform bacteria is found in the intestinal tract of humans and other animals.

Fairfax Town Manager Garrett Toy said the creek is polluted from storm drain runoff and could contain feces from dogs, deer or other animals.

“It’s a creek; there is always going to be bacteria in the creek,” Toy said. “You really shouldn’t be consuming water from the creek even if it is by accident.”

Santora said the Truckee child was the first to become ill and was hospitalized May 8-9 at Marin General Hospital. The Fairfax child became ill on May 15, and the San Anselmo child became ill on May 21.

Neither of the Marin County children have been hospitalized. Santora said she didn’t have current information on the medical condition of any of the children.

The illnesses have caused a flurry of postings on the social media site Nextdoor. According to one posting, the Truckee child was transferred to the University of California at Davis Medical Center in Sacramento after his kidneys began to fail and is responding well to intravenous therapy and blood transfusions.

But will it make fewer people barf? US FDA issues final food defense regulation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today finalized a new food safety rule under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that will help to prevent wide-scale public health harm by requiring companies in the United States and abroad to take steps to prevent intentional adulteration of the food supply. While such acts are unlikely to occur, the new rule advances mitigation strategies to further protect the food supply.

imagesUnder the new rule, both domestic and foreign food facilities, for the first time, are required to complete and maintain a written food defense plan that assesses their potential vulnerabilities to deliberate contamination where the intent is to cause wide-scale public health harm. Facilities now have to identify and implement mitigation strategies to address these vulnerabilities, establish food defense monitoring procedures and corrective actions, verify that the system is working, ensure that personnel assigned to these areas receive appropriate training and maintain certain records.

“Today’s final rule on intentional adulteration will further strengthen the safety of an increasingly global and complex food supply,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., incoming deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine, FDA. “The rule will work in concert with other components of FSMA by preventing food safety problems before they occur.”

The rule was proposed in December 2013 and takes into consideration more than 200 comments submitted by the food industry, government regulatory partners, consumer advocates and others.

BBQs work: Cooking squirrel with blowtorch to cost Michigan tenant $2M after complex gutted

A woman whose boyfriend sparked a 2012 apartment fire using a blowtorch on a squirrel is on the hook for $2 million in damages to the Holland Township complex, the Court of Appeals ruled.

grey.squirrel.eatWednesday’s ruling reverses a lower court decision that held Barbara Pellow responsible for only $15,400 in damages caused by the Oct. 10 blaze that consumed 32 units at ClearView Apartments.

The woman’s boyfriend, Khek Chanthalavong, had been using a blowtorch to remove fur from the squirrel on a wooden deck. Owners of the complex claimed cooking a squirrel on the deck violated her rental agreement.

Even though her boyfriend caused the fire, Pellow is still liable under a lease agreement for what justices described as a “fur-burning escapade.”

“Because defendant signed the lease agreement, she is presumed to have read and understood its contents,” the three-judge panel wrote.

Dozens of people at ClearView Apartments in Holland Township lost everything in the fire. Insurance carrier Travelers Indemnity Co. paid out more than $2 million to repair the damage.

The boyfriend left the torch on the deck and went into the apartment. When he returned 15 minutes later, he discovered the fire.

19-year-old dies in Oslo from suspected food poisoning

Nyheter reports police have initiated an investigation after a 19-year-old boy died in Oslo on Tuesday.

oslo-university-hospital-ambul_10876310Oslo police are assisting health authorities to find out why 19-year-old died suddenly.

The preliminary autopsy report does not give a clear answer on the cause of death, but it is less likely that it concerns a source of infection. It has probably happened a type of food poisoning, says section leader Rune Shields by Finance and Environmental Crime Section of the Oslo police.

Police have sealed off the family’s home and seized food, but there is no suspicion that there has been no crime.

We have taken a great deal of products at their home, which will now be analyzed, says Shields.

The 17-year-old sister of 19-year-old is too ill. Her condition has been critical, but during the past day has stabilized, police said.

The 19-year-old was a guest at a restaurant in Oslo before he became ill, but not her sister. As things stand now, it is most likely that food poisoning happened at their home.

Infection Control Superior in Oslo, Tore W. Steen, confirmed that he is involved in the case.

Could Alzheimer’s stem from infections like Salmonella

Gina Kolata of The New York Times reports on new research by a team of investigators at Harvard which suggests Alzheimer’s disease stems from the toxic remnants of the brain’s attempt to fight off infection.

salm.alzIt is still early days, but Alzheimer’s experts not associated with the work are captivated by the idea that infections, including ones that are too mild to elicit symptoms, may produce a fierce reaction that leaves debris in the brain, causing Alzheimer’s. The idea is surprising, but it makes sense, and the Harvard group’s data, published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, supports it. If it holds up, the hypothesis has major implications for preventing and treating this degenerative brain disease.

The Harvard researchers report a scenario seemingly out of science fiction. A virus, fungus or bacterium gets into the brain, passing through a membrane — the blood-brain barrier — that becomes leaky as people age. The brain’s defense system rushes in to stop the invader by making a sticky cage out of proteins, called beta amyloid. The microbe, like a fly in a spider web, becomes trapped in the cage and dies. What is left behind is the cage — a plaque that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

So far, the group has confirmed this hypothesis in neurons growing in petri dishes as well as in yeast, roundworms, fruit flies and mice. There is much more work to be done to determine if a similar sequence happens in humans, but plans — and funding — are in place to start those studies, involving a multicenter project that will examine human brains.

“It’s interesting and provocative,” said Dr. Michael W. Weiner, a radiology professor at the University of California, San Francisco, and a principal investigator of the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, a large national effort to track the progression of the disease and look for biomarkers like blood proteins and brain imaging to signal the disease’s presence.

The work began when Robert D. Moir, of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, had an idea about the function of amyloid proteins, normal brain proteins whose role had long been a mystery.

The proteins were traditionally thought to be garbage that accumulates in the brain with age. But Dr. Moir noticed that they looked a lot like proteins of the innate immune system, a primitive system that is the body’s first line of defense against infections.

Elsewhere in the body, such proteins trap microbes — viruses, fungi, yeast and bacteria. Then white blood cells come by and clear up the mess. Perhaps amyloid was part of this system, Dr. Moir thought.

glen-campbell-ill-be-me-movie-reviewHe began collaborating with Rudolph E. Tanzi, also at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. The idea was to see if amyloid trapped microbes in living animals and if mice without amyloid proteins were quickly ravaged by infections that amyloid could have stopped.

The answers, they reported, were yes and yes.

In one study, the group injected Salmonella bacteria into the brains of young mice that did not have plaques.

“Overnight, the bacteria seeded plaques,” Dr. Tanzi said. “The hippocampus was full of plaques, and each plaque had a single bacterium at its center.”

In contrast, mice that did not make beta amyloid succumbed more quickly to the bacterial infection, and did not make plaques.

Food fraud: Police and Interpol crackdown on toxic food

The New York Times highlights some of the toxic and counterfeit food products that police agencies have recently seized recently in 57 countries:

  • food.fraud.jpg154 pounds of chicken intestines soaked in formalin, a prohibited food additive, seized in Indonesia;
  • Italian olives painted with copper sulfate solutions to make them look greener;
  • sugar that was cut with fertilizer in Sudan;
  • customs agents and police officers in Hungary, Italy, Lithuania and Romania have discovered counterfeit chocolates, sweets and non-alcoholic sparkling wine that were headed to West Africa;
  • South Korean police arrested a man who was smuggling dietary supplements that contained harmful ingredients but were advertised online as natural products;
  • in Australia, a shipment of peanuts was repackaged and relabeled as pine nuts, posing a potentially deadly threat to people with serious groundnut allergies;
  • police in Bolivia raided a warehouse and seized thousands of cans of sardines and the fake labels of a famous Peruvian brand that would have been affixed to them;
  • police in eastern China raided two workshops that were producing fake jellyfish, which contained high levels of aluminum and chemicals (jellyfish is popular in parts of China, where it is sliced and served as part of a salad); and,
  • illicit alcohol concocted in Greece, Britain or Burundi.

Criminals make millions of dollars a year peddling such products, and worse, to unwitting or reckless buyers, according to the international police agencies Interpol and Europol. Recent joint operations have netted about 11,000 tons of counterfeit and hazardous food and 264,000 gallons of bogus beverages, the agencies’ largest hauls to date.

“Fake and dangerous food and drink threaten the health and safety of people around the world, who are often unsuspectingly buying these potentially dangerous goods,” said Michael Ellis, who runs Interpol’s unit on trafficking in illicit goods and anti-counterfeiting measures.

Hepatitis A outbreak strikes in Welsh schools

Parents are being advised not to send their child to school for seven days if Hepatitis A is suspected following a number of cases in Caerphilly, South Wales

hep.aParents are being warned over an outbreak of hepatitis across schools in the UK.

Public Health Wales have confirmed that two more cases – including one at a secondary school – have been diagnosed in Caerphilly.

The total number of cases of hepatitis A in the area is now 11.

Heather Lewis, a consultant in health protection, warned there may be more cases to come, reports Wales Online.

Hepatitis A vaccination is not routinely offered on the NHS, as the infection is rare in the UK, with 13 reported cases in Wales in 2012.

It is strongly advised that anyone travelling to a country where the infection is more common should receive the vaccination.