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. »

Unwrapping a tamale drama on Christmas

At Amapola market in Downey, people stood in line for hours last week for the famous masa, the ground cornmeal for tamales — centerpiece of many a Christmas dinner.

getimage-ashxLoyal customers came from miles around for 30-and 40-pound batches that they would use in their elaborate holiday cooking ritual. But this year, they found themselves scrambling for doctors’ numbers, sending guests home hungry and rummaging through cupboards for backup plans.

At Maria Coronado’s house, dozens of guests made do with a desperate meal of spaghetti and nachos. The tamales had turned out gloppy, and her husband felt so sick after a few bites that he had to visit the doctor.

“We didn’t have dinner for Christmas,” said Coronado, 51, who has shopped at Amapola markets for 30 years and has always regarded their masa as excellent, well worth the drive from her home in Riverside.

She was back in line Monday, waiting for a refund of the $143 she spent, along with hundreds of others complaining of bad tamales, stomach cramps, fever, nauseated children — and ruined Christmases. Others were lining up at Amapola stores in Compton, Paramount and West Covina.

“We’re devastated,” said Carlos Galvan Jr., the company’s vice president and chief financial officer. “We’re not entirely sure yet what occurred.”

Galvan, whose father and grandfather started the market chain in 1961, said the bad tamales seem to stem from a problem with a 120,000-pound supply of raw corn purchased from a longtime California vendor, though he refused to provide the name. He said Amapola has since switched vendors.

North Texas QB misses snap while teammate barfs

Throwing up is common in football. Stakes are high and nerves are wired. Plus, there’s the whole act of physically exerting yourself, sometimes in extreme weather conditions.

But North Texas running back Jeffrey Wilson took the act of unloading to a new level by getting sick not once, but twice on consecutive plays during the first half of the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Army. In fact, Wilson’s first puke distracted quarterback Alec Morris so much he missed the snap.

The absolute nonchalant attitude of Wilson as he projectile vomits everywhere is impressive. Here’s hoping no one landed in it.

Army won the game 38-31 in overtime.

Possum, donkey, horse meat could be on the menu as South Australia considers national code

Mmmm. Camel meat.

Possum, donkey and horse could be on the menu in South Australia if the definition of game meat is expanded under proposed amendments to food regulations by SA Health.

possum-baby-nov-11Goat, rabbit, hare, kangaroo, wallaby and bird are currently listed as game in the state, provided the animals have not been confined or farmed in any way.

The proposed new definition would see the list grow to include buffalo, camel, deer, donkey, hare, horse, pig and possum — bringing SA in line with an updated section of the Australian and New Zealand Food Standard Code.

Some of these less common game meats are already allowed interstate and an abattoir at Peterborough in SA’s Mid North has been exporting camel meat for several years.

The changes would include strict conditions so that animals would have to be slaughtered in the wild; protected native species could only be hunted with special permits; and bird eggs, foetuses or pouched young, would remain excluded.

Adelaide game meat specialist Richard Gunner said “in general” there were some good things about the proposal.

“I don’t see any particular market for donkey meat, possum meat and horse meat, but camel meat, yes,” he said.

Barf plane: Virgin flight passengers vomit after served parmesan cheese

Parmesan cheese smells like barf.

Always has.

parmesan-breadPassengers on a Virgin Australia flight on Christmas Day were served a complimentary snack on their journey from Perth to Adelaide.

Aside from coffee and tea, they were also offered bread rolls filled with parmesan cheese, which stunk up their entire plane for the duration of the five-hour long journey.

This caused some passengers to vomit in their seats, and others to race off the plane after landing to vomit on the tarmac.

I get it.

After the flight, a woman took to Facebook to share her experience and how Virgin Australia should improve.

‘I love cheese along with the best of us, however, when sitting in an enclosed space, with a low roof, over the length of 40ft, with not a window to open, and with seating capacity of over 100 passengers, parmesan cheese was probably not your brightest choice.’

A fan of cheese herself, the woman said the strong smell of parmesan became for some of the people sitting around her, including the woman beside her who was heaving into her sick bag for two hours.
‘I am fortunate enough not suffer such an affliction, but after hearing her wrenching and burping, mixed in with the lingering wafting smell of old socks took every strength of effort not to go out in sympathy with her.’

Nothin’ new here: China reports 500,000 food safety violations in 9 months

The Bangkok Post reports China, rocked in recent years by a series of food safety scandals, uncovered as many as half a million illegal food safety violations in the first three quarters of the year, an official has told lawmakers.

Chinese officials have unearthed a series of recent scandals, including rice contaminated with heavy metals, the use of recycled “gutter oil” in restaurants, as well as the sale of baby formula containing lethal amounts of the industrial chemical melamine in 2008.

Bi Jingquan, the head of the China Food and Drug Administration, told the Standing Committee of National People’s Congress on Friday that while significant progress had been made in the food sector, “deep-seated” problems remained.

Diner that catered lunch for health types didn’t have permit ‘We expect they would refuse our request’

The restaurant that provided the meal that sickened at least 70 state health department workers in Santa Fe, NM, didn’t have a permit to cater events.

kick-ass-sandwich-shopThe New Mexico Environment Department says the diner — until recently called the Bad Ass Sandwich Shop but now called the Kick Ass Sandwich Shop because of a legal dispute, see the NSFV video below – will be served with a notice of violation for not having a catering permit.

Paul Rhien, a spokesman for the Health Department, said Friday that epidemiology tests confirmed the contamination came from the restaurant’s food.

Shannon Quintana of Kick Ass Sandwich Shop couldn’t be reached for comment Friday. He told the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper that he didn’t cater the Dec. 14 lunch and that the Health Department had ordered food from Kick Ass to be served alongside other dishes brought by employees.

But Rhien told Mark Oswald of the Albuquerque Journal the restaurant set up a buffet line and served food, and there weren’t many food items prepared by Health Department workers.

The Health Department’s holiday lunch, which was held in the department’s offices at the Runnels Building – where employees headquartered there are the same ones who investigate disease outbreaks around the state – resulted in “reports of a number of employees becoming ill with mild gastrointestinal illness,” according to a message sent to employees Monday by Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher.

More than 200 department workers are estimated to have attended and about 71 reported gastrointestinal symptoms that developed within 24 to 48 hours.

Rhien said Friday that the Department of Health was not aware the sandwich shop didn’t have a catering permit. “If a restaurant doesn’t have the appropriate permit, we would expect them to refuse our request to cater an event — just as anyone would expect,” he said in an e-mail.

“The lab results from our epidemiological investigation confirmed that Clostridium perfringens bacteria were the source of the outbreak.”

The holiday lunch was paid for with worker contributions to an employee events committee, not by taxpayers, Rhien said.

We’re all hosts on a parasitic planet: Crypto edition

This is cool: the parasite seems to deliver RNA transcripts into infected hosts cells, which may then take over parts of transcription in the host.

crypto-mouse-epi-cellCryptosporidium parvum is an important opportunistic parasite pathogen for immunocompromised individuals and a common cause of diarrhea in young children. Previous studies have identified a panel of RNA transcripts of very low protein-coding potential in C. parvum.

Using an in vitro model of human intestinal cryptosporidiosis, we report here that some of these C. parvum RNA transcripts were selectively delivered into the nuclei of host epithelial cells during C. parvum infection. Nuclear delivery of several such parasitic RNAs, including Cdg7_FLc_0990, involved heat-shock protein 70-mediated nuclear importing mechanism. Overexpression of Cdg7_FLc_0990 in intestinal epithelial cells resulted in significant changes in expression levels of specific genes, with significant overlapping with alterations in gene expression profile detected in host cells following C. parvum infection.

Our data demonstrate that C. parvum transcripts of low protein-coding potential are selectively delivered into epithelial cells during infection and may modulate gene transcription in infected host cells.

Delivery of parasite RNA transcripts into infected epithelial cells during Cryptosporidium infection and its potential impact on host gene transcription

J Infect Dis. (2016) doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiw607

Yang Wang, Ai-Yu Gong, Shibin Ma, Xiqiang Chen, Yan Li, Chun-Jen Su, Dana Norall, Jing Chen, Juliane K. Strauss-Soukup, Xian-Ming Chen

http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/12/21/infdis.jiw607.abstract

Veal products recalled due to possible E. coli O26 and O45 contamination

Gold Medal Packing Inc., a Rome, N.Y. establishment, is recalling approximately 4,607 pounds of boneless veal products that may be contaminated with E. coli O26 and O45, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

veal-cutsThe veal trim and top bottom sirloin (TBS) products were produced and packaged on August 16, 2016, and October 25, 2016. The following products are subject to recall: [View Label (PDF only)]

60-lb. boxes containing “BONELESS VEAL”.

2,387-lb. bin containing “TBS”.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 17965” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The “BONELESS VEAL” items were shipped to a warehouse in California and the “TBS” items were shipped to distributor locations in Pennsylvania.

The problem was discovered during routine sample testing. There have been no confirmed reports of illness or adverse reactions due to consumption of these products.

Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), such as STEC O26 or O45, because they are harder to identify than STEC O157. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism. Most people infected with STEC O26 or O45 develop diarrhea (often bloody), and vomiting. Some illnesses last longer and can be more severe. Infection is usually diagnosed by testing of a stool sample. Vigorous rehydration and other supportive care is the usual treatment; antibiotic treatment is generally not recommended.

Going public (not): E. coli outbreak at Chicago restaurant sickened over 100 in June

In June, 2016, people started getting sick after dining at Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill at 300 W. 26th St., Chicago.

carbon-live-mexican-grillBy July 1, at least 25 people were sick with Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, and the restaurant closed.

Five months later, and cilantro has been fingered as the source.

By the end of the outbreak, 68 people were sickened, 22 of whom were hospitalized. All have since been treated and released.

According to a report from the department of health, cilantro was identified as “food vehicle” that likely caused the outbreak. 

All prepared food was disposed, food handling practices were reviewed, and all staff who handle food were tested at least twice for the bacteria,” according to a release from Healthy Chicago, an initiative of the Chicago Department of Health, said at the time the outbreak was reported. 

Carbón withdrew from the Taste of Chicago so that it could turn “its full attention to addressing the issues at its Bridgeport location,” health officials said.

The owners also closed their second location at 810 N. Marshfield “out of an abundance of caution.” That location reopened July 9, health officials said. 

Two lawsuits stemming from the outbreak were filed against the restaurant, one seeking more than $90,000 in damages.

That’s the PR version.

The team at Marler’s Seattle law firm had previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request and found more than 100 people were sickened and that 16 of 40 food-handling employees of Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill tested positive for E. coli soon after the restaurant’s two locations voluntarily closed for cleaning July 1.

Lab tests confirmed 69 people were sickened during the outbreak, with another 37 probable cases. Of the sick people, 22 had symptoms so severe that they required hospitalization. Illness onset dates ranged from June 3 to July 23.

Cilantro is the suspected source of the E. coli based on percentages of sick people who ate menu items made with the fresh produce item. Inspectors collected 12 food items, including cilantro, but none of the food returned positive results for E. coli bacteria. The cilantro was sourced from Illinois and Mexico, according to traceback information provided to the health department.

“Lettuce was associated with illness in both multivariable models but was consumed by only 44 percent of cases,” according to the health department report.

“In comparison, cilantro was consumed by 87 percent of cases, and either cilantro or salsa fresca (which included cilantro) were consumed by 95 percent of cases.”

The report references “several critical violations” observed during a July 1 inspection, such as improper temperatures for several food items including red and green salsas, tequila lime sauce, raw fish, guacamole and cheese. Inspectors also noted improper hand hygiene practices among food handlers.