Risk-based: Foodborne illness strategy in Australia

Foodborne illness is a global public health burden. Over the past decade in Australia, despite advances in microbiological detection and control methods, there has been an increase in the incidence of foodborne illness. Therefore improvements in the regulation and implementation of food safety policy are crucial for protecting public health.

aust-food-safetyIn 2000, Australia established a national food safety regulatory system, which included the adoption of a mandatory set of food safety standards. These were in line with international standards and moved away from a “command and control” regulatory approach to an “outcomes-based” approach using risk assessment. The aim was to achieve national consistency and reduce foodborne illness without unnecessarily burdening businesses.

Evidence demonstrates that a risk based approach provides better protection for consumers; however, sixteen years after the adoption of the new approach, the rates of food borne illness are still increasing. Currently, food businesses are responsible for producing safe food and regulatory bodies are responsible for ensuring legislative controls are met. Therefore there is co-regulatory responsibility and liability and implementation strategies need to reflect this. This analysis explores the challenges facing food regulation in Australia and explores the rationale and evidence in support of this new regulatory approach.

Australian food safety policy changes from a “command and control” to an “outcomes-based” approach: Reflection on the effectiveness of its implementation

Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(12), 1218; doi:10.3390/ijerph13121218

James Smith, Kirstin Ross and Harriet Whiley

http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/13/12/1218/htm

Just in time for the holidays: H-E-B recalls raw shelled pistachios for Salmonella

San Antonio, TX – H-E-B announced today that it has issued a recall for both bulk and packaged raw shelled pistachios. The product is being removed because there is potential it could be contaminated with Salmonella.

pistachiosThe issue was discovered through FDA routine sampling.

There have been no reports of illness to date and all product has been removed from stores.

Darwin parents urged to vacuum up gecko and frog poo amid spike in Salmonella cases

Darwin is in northern Australia.

It’s close to the equator.

geckoIt’s hot.

ABC News reports Top End parents are being urged to vacuum up tiny brown and white droppings of gecko poo amid an above-average rise in salmonella cases affecting young children.

Darwin annually records above national average rates of salmonella, especially among children under five during the humid months around Christmas.

This wet season is no different, however the past month has seen an unexpected rise in cases.

“We’re getting about 50 per cent more than we’d expect at the moment,” Dr Peter Markey, head of disease surveillance at the NT Centre for Disease Control, said.

There are many different strands of salmonella, with the disease’s spread generally linked to contaminated food, warm conditions, polluted water, unclean surfaces and the spread of faecal matter.

Symptoms include fever, diarrhoea, vomiting and dehydration, with children and the elderly especially badly affected.

Dr Markey said Top End-specific research conducted by the centre in recent years had identified many well-known risk factors.

“We’ve isolated salmonella from geckos, lizards, snakes. Dogs and cats and turtles are important carriers too. Goldfish even, because aquarium water can be contaminated.”

Dr Markey said young children handling pets and then not washing their hands would often lead to them getting sick, however some might be getting sick from actually eating tiny animal faeces.

Gecko poo is generally elongated and brown, sometimes with a tip of white, and is often mistaken for mouse or rat droppings.

“Toddlers of course live on the ground and crawl around and put anything in their mouths,” Dr Markey said.

“We showed that regular vacuuming can help.

“It’s important to get that gecko poo or the frog poo off the ground or balcony.”

 

Chlorine works, focus on public health: NZ campy-in-water inquiry wraps up with 16 draft recommendations

I served on one of those water inquires, back in Canada after the 2000 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that killed seven and sickened 2,300 residents in Walkerton, Ontario, Canada, a town of about 5,000.

Walkerton Water Tower

Walkerton Water Tower

It was decent work, but what surprised me most was the actions taken by various social actors in the aftermath of the outbreak: protect themselves, public health be damned.

The number of higher-ups who wanted to meet with me to express why they did what they did, in a private chat, had absolutely no influence on my conclusions, and was sorta repulsive.

Maybe I was naïve.

Still am (I’m the full professor from Kansas State University who got fired for bad attendance with  — nothing, except my family, and that makes a good Hollywood tale).

In August, 2016, about 5,530 or 39 per cent of Havelock North, New Zealand’s population reported gastroenteritis from Camplylobacter in the water supply, 1,072 of those confirmed cases.

Nicki Harper of the New Zealand Herald reports a government inquiry into contamination of a Hawke’s Bay water supply has made 16 draft recommendations.

The inquiry into the Hastings District Council’s request to re-activate a Brookvale Road bore to augment Havelock North’s peak summer water supply retired today with a set of draft recommendations.

Before wrapping up proceedings, inquiry panel chair Lyn Stevens QC thanked the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) and Hastings District Council (HDC) for the efforts they made that resulted in the regional council dropping its prosecution of the Hastings council.

This agreement came after the first day of hearings on Monday, when pressure was applied by the panel to re-consider the charges.

After extensive questioning on Monday, the regional council agreed to withdraw the charges relating to breaches of the Hastings District Council’s resource consent conditions for taking water from Brookvale bores 1 and 2 – opting to instead consider issuing infringement notices.

Mr Stevens said, “The panel has noted a level of defensiveness in some of the evidence filed to date.

“I’m not being critical of any organisation or witness but wish to emphasise the overriding interest with this inquiry is the public interest, while we look to fulfil the terms of reference to determine the possible causes of contamination.”

A set of 16 draft recommendations were issued and Mr Stevens said the joint working group would be an important conduit to implement them.

The aim was to have the bore re-opened at the end of January before Havelock North water use reached peak demand in February.

Among the recommendations was a directive that the working group – comprising representation from HDC, HBRC, the DHB and drinking water assessors – meet regularly and share information of any potential drinking water safety risk.

For at least 12 months from December 12, the bore would receive cartridge filtration, UV and chlorine treatment, and a regime of regular montioring be implemented.

It was also recommended that the HDC draft an Emergency Response Plan before Bore 3 was brought on line.

Rapid testing for big 6 shiga toxin E. coli in slaughterhouses

Six major Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli (STEC) serogroups: O26, O103, O145, O111, O121, and O45 have been declared as adulterants in federally inspected raw beef in the USA effective June 4th, 2012 in addition to the routinely tested STEC O157: H7. This study tests a real-time multiplex PCR assay and pooling of the samples to optimize the detection and quantification (prevalence and contamination) of six major non-O157 STEC, regardless of possessing Shiga toxins.

imagesTo demonstrate the practicality, one large-scale slaughter plant (Plant LS) and one small-scale slaughter plant (Plant SS) located in the Mid-Western USA were sampled, in 2011, before the establishment of 2013 USDA laboratory protocols. Carcasses were sampled at consecutive intervention stations and beef trimmings were collected at the end of the fabrication process. Plant SS had marginally more contaminated samples than Plant LS (p-value 0.08). The post-hide removal wash, steam pasteurization, and lactic acid (≤5%) spray used in Plant LS seemed to reduce the six serogroups effectively, compared to the hot-water wash and 7-day chilling at Plant SS.

Compared to the culture isolation methods, quantification of the non-O157 STEC using real-time PCR may be an efficient way to monitor the efficacy of slaughter line interventions.

Evaluating the efficacy of beef slaughter line interventions by quantifying the six major non-O157 Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli serogroups using real-time multiplex PCR

Food Microbiology, Volume 63, May 2017, Pages 228-238, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fm.2016.11.023

KST Kanankege, KS Anklam, CM Fick, MJ Kulow, CW Kaspar, BH Ingham, A Milkowski, D Döpfer

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0740002016305639

Montgomery out, Ells in at Chipotle

A shake-up is happening at the at the top of our ever-favorite, Chipotle. Co-chief executive Montgomery Moran is out while the other co-chief Steve Ells, the perfectionist and touch-for-doneness guru remains.

According to the New York Times, the change is food safety-driven.rs_560x406-150423100706-560-chipotle-burrito-jl-042315

The food safety crises that have battered the once high-flying Chipotle Mexican Grill over the last year are now taking a toll on its executive suite.

Montgomery F. Moran, a co-chief executive who has long presided over the company’s operations, will step down early next year, the company announced Monday morning. It also said it would be changing the board.

“We all agreed that one C.E.O. will serve the company better,” Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder and other co-chief executive, said in a telephone interview. “The board decided that one C.E.O. would be me, and I’m looking forward to a continued friendship with Monty.” The company declined to make Mr. Moran available for comment.

Shares have fallen more than 30 percent in the last year. Late Monday morning, after the executive change was announced, shares were up about 3 percent, to about $380 a share.

Chipotle is also dealing with an activist investor in William A. Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital Management disclosed in September that it owned a 9.9 percent stake in Chipotle. Chipotle and Pershing Square have described their interactions as “cordial” and productive. Pershing Square declined to comment on Monday.

Mr. Ells said Mr. Moran’s departure was not at Pershing Square’s behest. But other investors have been clamoring for change.

Last week, Chipotle executives said that in part because of an extensive new food safety program the company had instituted over the last year, the amount of time it took customers to get through the assembly line as their meal was made had increased. Spot checks by executives and the company’s auditing team found used napkins left on tables, smudged windows and doors, and messy condiment stations. Some customers using the Chipotle app to order were told their meal would not be ready for 45 minutes to an hour.

Such issues largely fell under Mr. Moran’s supervision, but will now fall to Mr. Ells, a self-described perfectionist who founded the company in 1993 with a loan from his father.

Fermentations: A microbiological orgasm for food and drink

Third-year university in 1983, and things started to click.

I was bored, angst-ridden and wondering what am I doing here.

home-made preserves for the winter isolated on white background

home-made preserves for the winter isolated on white background

Then I took an industrial microbiology class.

Fermentations.

(And no, Michael Pollan didn’t invent bragging about fermentations either).

The next year I took a virology class and suddenly realized: we humans are hosts on a microbiological planet.

The way these bugs move genes around, invade others, and have been crucial to the evolution of humans has intrigued me ever since.

Kim Painter of USA Today writes that Americans used to find yogurt yucky. But the creamy dairy food long ago joined beer and cheese on the list of our favorite things produced by fermentation — an ancient preservation process in which bacteria transform food and drink, creating new flavors and, many consumers believe, enhanced health benefits.

So maybe it’s not surprising that thousands of people now show up at fermentation festivals around the country to make sauerkraut and sample kombucha teas, Korean kimchi and Japanese natto. The same folks flock to pop-up “kraut mobs” and study books such as Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation, both by the movement’s guru, Sandor Katz.

“I would say that virtually every event I do these days is at capacity, and I’m not accepting every invitation. I can’t physically do it,” Katz says. He spoke from China, where he was on a quest for more fermentation wisdom.

Fermentation is the hottest trend in plant-based eating, according to recent survey of registered dietitians by The Monday Campaigns, a non-profit organization that promotes healthy lifestyles.

Jeremy Ogusky, a Boston pottery maker, sees it firsthand as founder of Boston Ferments, the host group for a summer festival that drew a few hundred people four years ago and 14,000 this year.  “It’s just grown every year,” he says. “It’s kind of crazy.”

And what about safety, especially for foods fermented at home?  After all, the process typically requires leaving jars of foodstuffs sitting out for weeks, without the final sanitizing steps used in standard canning. (Heat processing can be added for some foods, but purists generally frown on that.)

The history of fermentation, especially with vegetables, is mostly reassuring. When properly done, fermentation produces acids that kill most worrisome microorganisms, says my barfblog.com friend, who also shares a love of fermentations, Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University.

“We have lots of data showing that if you get the correct pH drop, the correct acidity level, you can create a really, really low risk product,” he says. But he says risks are not zero, and some cases of home fermenters making mistakes and creating unsafe foods have been reported. That’s why he urges people to use only long-tested recipes and techniques.


 

Everyone’s got a camera Spanish bakery edition: Rats tucking into sandwiches at popular chain

Customers at a Madrid bakery witnessed a rather unexpected – and stomach churning – sight on Friday: four rats tucking into sandwiches in the bakery’s display case. 

rat-granier-bakeryThe rodents were spotted by two men passing by a branch of the Granier bakery chain and were caught on camera helping themselves to food that was left in a glass-fronted display case.  

The men can be heard joking “how cute” as they film the two large rats scampering over the fresh food in a video published on social media.

Police confirmed they were called to the bakery at around 1.30pm on Friday and had closed the establishment pending health and safety checks. 

Granier, a Spanish chain, has 350 bakeries across Spain as well as in Portugal, Italy and London. 

The company confirmed that the bakery, located in the Pueblo Nuevo neighbourhood of Madrid, “was closed and would stay closed”, in a statement released on Friday. 

“The company has put itself at the disposal of the appropriate authorities and has opened an internal investigation into these events,” the company said, adding that food safety protocol had been “strictly adhered to” in the establishment. 

Granier said that the bakery underwent quarterly inspections, the last having taken place on October 26, when, according to documents released by the company, the branch in question was fumigated. 

It was, the company claimed, “an isolated event” and “the 350 Granier establishments in Spain and abroad comply strictly with all food health regulations.”

Headline hype isn’t science: ‘Avocado can prevent Listeria in food’

High standards regarding Listeria monocytogenes control and consumer demands for food products without synthetic additives represent a challenge to food industry. We determined the antilisterial properties of an enriched acetogenin extract (EAE) from avocado seed, compared it to two commercial antimicrobials (one enriched in avocado acetogenins), and tested purified molecules.

avocado-pair-cob_16Acetogenin composition in pulp and seed of Hass avocado was quantified. EAE were obtained by two sequential centrifuge partition chromatography separations and molecules purified by preparative chromatography and quantified by HPLC-MS-TOF and HPLC-PDA. Avocado seed extracts which are the following two: 1) EAE and 2) the commercially available antimicrobial Avosafe®, presented similar inhibition zones and chemical profiles. Minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) values of extracts and two isolated acetogenins varied between 7.8 and 15.6 mg/L, were effective at 37 and 4 °C, and showed a bactericidal effect probably caused by increased membrane permeability and lytic effects, evidenced by flow cytometry at 10 and 100× MIC. Activity was comparable to Mirenat®. Most potent acetogenins were Persenone C (5) and A (6), and AcO-avocadenyne (1), the latter exclusively present in seed. Common features of bioactive molecules were the acetyl moiety and multiple unsaturations (2 to 3) in the aliphatic chain, some persenones also featured a trans-enone group. Seeds contained 1.6 times higher levels of acetogenins than pulp (5048.1 ± 575.5 and 3107.0 ± 207.2 mg/kg fresh weight, respectively), and total content in pulp was 199 to 398 times higher than MIC values.

Therefore, acetogenin levels potentially consumed by humans are higher than inhibitory concentrations. Results document properties of avocado seed acetogenins as natural antilisterial food additives.

Inhibitory activity of avocado seed fatty acid derivatives (acetogenins) against Listeria monocytogenes

Journal of Food Science, 21 November 2016, DOI: 10.1111/1750-3841.13553

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1750-3841.13553/abstract

STEC surveillance: EU edition

On 1 December 2016 the third version of the Epidemic Intelligence Information System for food- and waterborne diseases and zoonoses (EPIS-FWD) was launched. With this development, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) moved one step further towards the One Health approach.

In collaboration with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the Molecular Typing Cluster Investigation (MTCI) module was expanded to also allow the assessment of Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Listeria monocytogenes microbiological clusters based on non-human isolates (i.e. food, feed, animal and environmental) and on a mix of non-human and human isolates.

Depending on the type of cluster assessed, the MTCIs are coordinated by ECDC or EFSA or jointly by both agencies together with public health and/or food safety and veterinary experts from the involved European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) Member States.

ECDC collects human typing data through the European Surveillance System (TESSy) since 2013 [1]. Typing data from non-human isolates can now be submitted by the food and veterinary authorities of the EU/EEA Member States through the EFSA molecular typing data collection system. Furthermore, the joint ECDC-EFSA molecular typing database allows the comparison of the typing data collected by ECDC and EFSA.

First launched in March 2010, the Epidemic Intelligence Information System for food- and waterborne diseases and zoonoses (EPIS-FWD) has become an important tool for assessing on-going public health risks related to FWD events worldwide. Currently, 52 countries from five continents have access to the outbreak alerts in the EPIS-FWD [2].

Since its launch, 305 outbreak alerts have been assessed through the EPIS-FWD; 32 (10%) were from countries outside of the EU/EEA which underlines the global dimension of the system.

The Health Security Committee, a part of the European Commission and the officially nominated public health risk management authority in the EU/EEA, has access to the EPIS-FWD to ensure the link between risk assessment and risk management. The World Health Organisation (WHO), including the International Network of Food Safety Authorities (INFOSAN) managed jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and WHO, is invited to contribute to the discussions in the EPIS-FWD when international outbreaks involve non-EU/EEA countries.

Through this new version of EPIS-FWD, ECDC and EFSA are encouraging the sharing of data between sectors and aspire to strengthen the multi-sectorial collaboration at international and national levels.

New version of the epidemic intelligence information system for food- and waterborne diseases and zooonoses (EPIS-FWD) launched

Eurosurveillance, Volume 21, Issue 49, 08 December 2016, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2016.21.49.30422

CM Gossner

http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=22666