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. »

Seek and ye shall find: E. coli O103 found in Waco beef

Waco, Texas will always have a special place in the barfblog.com family.

Amy was a French professor there for one year. She was required to follow a dress code, one that didn’t include beach shorts and loud Hawaiian shirts.

Her car was randomly shot at driving to work one day – which is why she volunteered to go to Iraq as part of a teaching mission, correctly reasoning it couldn’t be much more dangerous than Waco.

Chapman did a duck and hide under the table at a Waco restaurant as one of the regular booms went off to scare away starlings.

I’ve been told many times I look like David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidians religious sect,

Waco is also home to rare strains of E. coli.

H & B Packing Co., Inc., a Waco, Texas establishment, is recalling approximately 73,742 pounds of boneless beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O103, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The boneless beef items were produced on March 6, 2017. The following products are subject to recall:

60-lb. box containing boneless beef with case code 69029 and production date 03/06/17.

Multiple combo bins containing 73,682-lbs of boneless beef with case code 69029 and production date 03/06/17.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. M13054” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to food manufacturers within the state of Texas.

The problem was discovered when FSIS was notified by the State of Texas’ Meat Safety Assurance Unit about a positive non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli sample.

There have been no confirmed reports of illnesses due to consumption of these products.

Many clinical laboratories do not test for non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), such as STEC O103 because it is harder to identify than STEC O157. People can become ill from STECs 2–8 days (average of 3–4 days) after consuming the organism.

should seek emergency medical care immediately.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in customers’ freezers.

Customers who have purchased these products are urged not to use them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

Waco is also near George W. Bush’s ranch retreat, as Harold and Kumar found out.

Food fraud: Brazil bored bureaucrat mob-influenced version

Federal authorities announced Friday they’re investigating evidence that companies including JBS SA and BRF SA, the nation’s largest meat producers, bribed government officials to approve the sale and export of soiled meat. Federal police served hundreds of court orders, including more than 30 detention warrants, in what local media says is the largest police operation in the country’s history.

Police released transcripts of recorded conversations showing how agricultural inspectors were bribed, sometimes in the form of prime cuts of beef. It’s alleged that some of the meat, including sausages and cold cuts, was adulterated with ingredients including pig heads, and that suspect smells were masked by applying acid. Inspectors who refused to comply, it’s alleged, were reassigned elsewhere by the meat companies.

“It seems like magic realism,” Marcos Josegrei da Silva, the judge responsible for overseeing the so-called Weak Flesh investigation, said in a court order. “Unfortunately, it is not.”

In a statement, the Brazilian unit of Wal-Mart said it fully trusts its internal food safety procedures.

But should consumers?

The story trickled around the globe over the weekend and is now like a Brisbane downpour.

Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said Saturday Brazil fears that it may lose foreign markets for its agricultural products.

The minister confirmed earlier media reports that the United States, the European Union and China have already requested Brazilian authorities to launch an investigation against the unscrupulous meat producers. However, none of these countries has so far announced that it was closing its market for animal products from Brazil.

On Friday, Brazil’s federal police arrested members of a major criminal group involved in trade of tainted food, mostly meat. According to police, the operation involved almost 1,100 police officers and became the country’s largest ever. The operation targeted major Brazilian meat producers selling their products both domestically and internationally.

Investigators detained a number of meat industry employees, who are suspected of bribing agriculture watchdogs to receive quality certificates for low-quality goods without proper checks. Some of those money were reportedly used to finance political parties.

Police says that the suspects also used acid and other chemicals to make the rotten meat appear fresh.

The Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and the Environment has stated it is taking the issue seriously and will investigate if spoiled meat has been brought to Finland.

In Finland, Brazilian meat has been sold in stores belonging to S Group.

Truffle oil fingered: 159 sickened with Salmonella at Fig & Olive in 2015

In the summer of 2015, some 150 people were stricken with Salmonella at uppity Fig and Olive restaurants in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.

The salmonella outbreak shut down the City Center, DC location for six days in Sept. 2015. The Food and Drug Administration and local health authorities never definitively determined the exact source of the salmonella, but truffle mushroom croquettes were a common denominator among Fig & Olive diners who got sick. Components of the dish were pre-prepared at a Long Island City commissary that supplied Fig & Olive’s restaurants around the country with already-made sauces, dressings, and more, and has since been closed.

Six months and a round of layoffs later, one former mid-level executive told Jessica Sidman of Washington City Paper, “They’re an image conscious-first company. They don’t care about the guest. They care about their image, and they care about the bottom line … It’s just not a good company.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has now weighed in on the source of the Salmonella – without naming the restaurant.

During July–September 2015, a total of 159 patrons reported gastrointestinal illness after eating at a single District of Columbia restaurant. Forty-one persons (40 restaurant patrons and one employee) were infected with an indistinguishable Salmonella Enteritidis strain on the basis of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (XbaI pattern JEGX01.0008). Results from a case-control study using restaurant patron data identified a novel food vehicle, truffle oil, as the likely source of Salmonella Enteritidis infection in this outbreak. Approximately 89% of case-patients reported eating truffle oil–containing items, compared with 57% of patrons who did not report gastrointestinal illness (p<0.001).

Public health officials and consumers should be aware that truffle oil has been implicated as the likely source of a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak and could possibly harbor this pathogen. Timely engagement of the public, health care providers, and local and federal public health officials, is particularly critical for early recognition of outbreaks involving common foodborne pathogens, such as Salmonella Enteritidis.

Don’t piss off parents: 3,300 Egyptian children hospitalized after food poisoning

Nour Youssef of the N.Y. Times reports that more than 3,300 children were hospitalized in Egypt on Tuesday after an outbreak of food poisoning at several state-run primary schools, state-owned news media said.

The mass poisoning, in the impoverished Upper Egypt province of Sohag, north of Luxor, was one of the biggest food-safety cases to hit the country in years.

Officials suspect that school lunches may have been contaminated, and they have opened an investigation. Samples from the lunches, consisting of processed cheese cubes, dry sesame paste bars and loaves of bread, were being analyzed, they added.

Children, most younger than 12, began vomiting within an hour of eating the lunches, Ahmed Nashaat, a Sohag lawmaker, said in a telephone interview. A total of 3,353 children became ill, and at least 50 ambulances were sent to the schools, state news media said. Since then, all but 17 of the students have recovered and been discharged. No deaths or serious complications were reported.

The ordeal revived complaints over the declining quality of Egypt’s public education and health systems. “It is ridiculous how this keeps on happening,” Mr. Nashaat said. “It is not hard to store biscuits and look at the expiration date.”

Apparently in an attempt to deflect some of the anger, the governor of Sohag, Ayman Abdel-Moneim, quickly suspended the distribution of government meals and demanded that changes be made to how they were stored and transported to schools.

Tuesday’s outbreak was one in a long series that have occurred in public schools and universities nationwide recently. Earlier this month, more than 214 students were found to have food poisoning caused by government meals at several schools in the provinces of Minya and Assiut.

Outrage over such instances of perceived government neglect was a main cause of the popular uprising in 2011 that toppled the government of President Hosni Mubarak. “It was not just the parents who were angry in Sohag,” Mr. Nashaat said. “Everyone believes that was the result of neglect. This is leading people to conclude that the people in charge don’t care about their kids.”

Auditors and public health: a request

I still can’t say no to students.

Beth Driscoll, MA, CPHI(C), CHA, PMP (I’m not sure what all those initials mean) and PhD Candidate, Policy Studies, at Ryerson University (that’s in Toronto, which is in Canada) writes:

My name is Beth Driscoll, and I am inviting you to participate in a brief, online survey.  This survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete, and investigates the perceptions of Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) auditors’ role in public health.  This survey is being conducted for my doctoral research project at Ryerson University.

To participate in this project, you must:

•]be fully certified to conduct GFSI audits for at least one benchmarked scheme;

• have completed at least five GFSI audits of that scheme; and,

• be fluent in English.

The survey is not intended to investigate or assess the GFSI, a GFSI benchmarked Food Safety Scheme, Certification Body, Accreditation Body, government or other organization.  Should the responses to the survey questions contain information that would identify one of these organizations, the identifying information will be anonymized prior to use.

Conflict of interest declarations: I am a contract employee for NSF International.  This information is being collected solely for my researcher’s graduate degree, and is not being collected for any organization associated with the GFSI or NSF International, nor do I conduct GFSI audits. 

If you choose to participate, you will be asked to complete an online survey about your professional identity and your understanding of your role in public health through the audits you conduct to a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked Food Safety Scheme.  The survey is confidential is using Opinio, Ryerson University’s Online Survey Program, and all data is stored at Ryerson University.  This study has undergone review through the Ryerson University Research Ethics Board and if you have questions about your rights as a research participant, you may contact the Ryerson Research Ethics Board at rebchair@ryerson.ca.  If you have any questions about the survey please contact the researcher, Beth Driscoll, at edriscol@ryerson.ca  or Dr. Richard Meldrum at  meldrum@ryerson.ca before continuing.

Please feel free to forward this email to anyone you feel may be qualified to participate.

To participate, please go to the following website: https://survey.ryerson.ca:443/s?s=6004

24 sick: E. coli O121 outbreak shows failures of food safety safety net

 

Chapman was always the kinder, gentler version of me, and he goes too easy on Canadian boffins who announced today there are now 24 people sick with E. coli O121 in British Columbia (12), Saskatchewan (4), Alberta (3) and Newfoundland and Labrador (5).

That the outbreak missed Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and PEI should give epidemiologists solid clues, ones that the Public Health Agency of Canada is not ready to divulge.

The initial public announcement was Jan. 12, 2017.

A couple of months later, the case count has doubled, and the only advice PHAC has is wash your fucking hands.

The last two major North American outbreaks of E. coli O121 were in flour, last year, and in sprouts, a few years earlier (please, let it be sprouts, please).

Five months into the outbreak, I’m sure the dedicated Canadian public servants have had time to match the genetic fingerprint of the outbreak strain with the U.S.-based outbreaks, but don’t expect PHAC to answer such simple questions.

They could have done whole genome sequencing in the time it took to have miniions craft a press release that said … nothing.

“The Government of Canada is committed to food safety. The Public Health Agency of Canada leads multi-jurisdictional human health investigations of outbreaks and is in regular contact with its federal and provincial partners to monitor and take collaborative steps to address outbreaks.”

Eat me completely.

Beam me up Scotty: Health Canada approves radiation to treat fresh and frozen raw ground beef

Rob Mancini writes:

Food irradiation is the treatment of food with a type of radiation energy known as ionizing radiation used to kill microorganisms. In Canada, irradiation has been used on products such as potatoes, onions, wheat and spices.  Health Canada has now authorized the use of ionizing radiation to treat fresh and frozen raw ground beef and permit the sale of these products in Canada.

A number of concerns regarding the use of irradiation were brought forth to the attention of Health Canada including the formation of hydrogen peroxide and alkylcyclobutanones. Health Canada states that hydrogen peroxide is relatively unstable and any residues that may remain on the meat after irradiation are expected to break down to water and oxygen during post-irradiation storage. Alkylcyclobutanones are products referred to as “Unique Radiolytic Products” (URPs) that are derived from fat when irradiated and therefore their presence is directly related to the fat content of the food. These URPs are found in extremely small quantities in irradiated foods, in the order of parts per billion. The overall weight of evidence indicates that the very low levels of these compounds found in irradiated beef do not pose a risk to human health.

I currently live in Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada) and have been asked a number of times what I’m doing here, cause of the ridiculous cold and short summers. Family is everything to me and they all live in Winnipeg. My parents have kindly suggested that if I take away their grandkids, nothing good will come from that scenario. Winnipeg is also home to food microbiologist guru Dr. Rick Holley whom I have had the pleasure of working with in the past on the CFIA modernization project ranking biological hazards with food commodities. Here is Dr. Holley speaking on food irradiation:

Soul-sucking: Town house living ain’t for me

We’ve moved into my grandparents’ home circa 1967 (the last time the Leafs won the cup).

The walls are cigarette yellow, the plants are overgrown, but I got Internet.

We love this neighbourhood, and will do our fiscally-able best to improve the place.

Living in a townhouse is convenient, but soul-sucking.

Where I live and write, the place has to have soul.