Apricot kernels pose risk of cyanide poisoning

Eating more than one large or three small raw apricot kernels in a serving can exceed safe levels. Toddlers consuming even one small apricot kernel risk being over the safe level.

apricot_kernels_160427A naturally-occurring compound called amygdalin is present in apricot kernels and converts to cyanide after eating. Cyanide poisoning can cause nausea, fever, headaches, insomnia, thirst, lethargy, nervousness, joint and muscle various aches and pains, and falling blood pressure. In extreme cases it is fatal.

Studies indicate 0.5 to 3.5 milligrams (mg) cyanide per kilogram of body weight can be lethal. The European Food Safety Authority’s Scientific Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain set a safe level for a one-off exposure (known as the Acute Reference Dose, or “ARfD”) of 20 micrograms per kilogram of body weight. This is 25 times below the lowest reported lethal dose.

Based on these limits and the amounts of amygdalin typically present in raw apricot kernels, EFSA’s experts estimate that adults could consume one large or three small apricot kernels (370mg), without exceeding the ARfD. For toddlers the amount would be 60mg which is about half of one small kernel.

Apricot fruit is not affected

Normal consumption of apricot fruit does not pose a health risk to consumers. The kernel is the seed from inside the apricot stone. It is obtained by cracking open and removing the hard stone shell and, therefore, has no contact with the fruit.

Most raw apricot kernels sold in the EU are believed to be imported from outside the EU and marketed to consumers via the internet. Sellers promote them as a cancer-fighting food and some actively promote intakes of 10 and 60 kernels per day for the general population and cancer patients, respectively.

Evaluating the claimed benefits of raw apricot kernels for cancer treatment or any other use is outside EFSA’s food safety remit and was, therefore, not part of this scientific opinion.

EFSA consulted its partners in EU Member States to discuss this scientific opinion and previous assessments by national authorities (see report below). This risk assessment will inform risk managers in the European Commission and Member States who regulate EU food safety. They will decide if measures are needed to protect public health from consumption of raw apricot kernels.

Primary Dubai fish market under inspection

There was this one time, a few years ago, I went to Dubai and Abu  Dhabi, to evaluate a graduate program and hang out at Dubai’s food safety conference.

bobby.bittman.sctv.eugeneFriend of the barfblog,  Bobby Khrisna (right, not exactly as shown), took me for a typical seafood dinner in Dubai, and it was great.

Looks like Bobby’s (left, exactly as shown) got some work.

The UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment accompanied by representatives from the Dubai Municipality recently conducted an inspection of Dubai’s fish market to assess the site’s compliance with the ministerial legislation that prohibits the sale of particular fish species during specific periods in the year.

H.E. Dr. Thani Al-Zeyoudi UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment headed the inspection accompanied by H.E. Eng. Hussein Lootah Director General of the Dubai Municipality and H.E. Engineer Saif Mohammed Al-Shara Assistant Undersecretary for External Audit sector along with a team from both sides.

powell.krishna.feb.12H.E. Dr. Al-Zeyoudi emphasized on the importance of protecting and developing the fisheries across the UAE and treat it as a national treasure by committing to the ministerial legislations that have been established to protect and develop the natural stored fishes in the local water. The Ministry has issued multiple laws to prevent sale and harvest of particular species of fish such as the Ministerial Decrees 501 and 174 for the protection of rabbitfish (Safi) the emperor fish (Seiri) and Gerreidae fishes which are considered significant local fishes. The decrease of the stock of these species prompted the Ministry to issue such laws.

Australian prisons confiscating Vegemite and cordial to cut down on pruno, or prison wine, brewing

When I was in jail, it was much easier to throw a chunk of hash embedded in cigarette butt over the barb wire fence, or have your girlfriend give you a nice, deep kiss in minimum security while transfering a bag of pills – never did that one, was just happy to see my girlfriend and have some human contact.

BluesbrosI never made pruno but wasn’t much of a food safety type back then and stuck to the classroom (I don’t want to read today. OK).

Jailhouse hooch, New South Wales in the dankest corners of cells, has become such a problem that some prisons in NSW have banned Vegemite and cordial, another key ingredient in the corrective services concoction.

Last year, inmates brewed up at least 8604 litres of the wine of crime, enough to fill a dozen 20-litre kegs in each of the NSW’s jails, reported the Daily Telegraph.

“Craft brewing shouldn’t be part of the prisoner rehabilitation program,” Opposition leader Luke Foley said.

Pruno has a long and international vintage having cropped up in prisons around the world.

It’s key ingredient is fruit, such as oranges, which are left to ferment with a little water, sugar and bread, ketchup, or even Vegemite, to kick start the yeast producing enzymes into action.

Water and friends

I sometimes retweet my friend Jim Fischer’s accounts of his new ventures as a maple syrup producer (Canadian, eh), B&B entrepreneur, forest management dude, and high school supply teacher.

braunwynn.kittens.03He’s lived a rich life, and will continue. Look at his mother (below, left), 92-years-old and pulling the last syrup off this year’s batch, yesterday.

But when I think of Jim, it’s not his passion for agriculture, his family, or how he always terrified my girls when he delivered chickens by telling them that any cats on his dairy farm would be shot, instantly, to reduce the risk of disease (in fairness, Jim did arrange for us to adopt 3 kittens from the Walkerton animal shelter).

When I think of Jim, it’s how he handled the outbreak of E. coli O157 in Walkerton, Ontario in 2000 that killed seven and sickened 2,500 in a town of 5,000.

“Whenever we heard a helicopter, it probably meant someone else had died.”

That outbreak took a huge toll, in numbers, and in personal memories.

Water, so essential, so precious.

Water safety is vital, and the quality of water important in terms of public health. One of the objectives of the Water Quality and Health Strategy of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the 2013 to 2020 period, is to obtain ‘the most rigorous and relevant evidence regarding water quality and health’ [1].

In terms of infectious diseases, water can transport pathogens in the environment through different steps of the water cycle [2,3]. In the water, some physical or chemical parameters, e.g. temperature, pH, salinity, organic matter, may affect the survival of the pathogens [4]. Substances intended to control pathogens or insects (antimicrobials,  antivirals and pesticides) can occur in water subsequent to their use [5,6] or manufacturing process [7,8]. This may paradoxically induce pathogen or vector resistance to these substances [9-12]. Moreover, water can also bear a number of pathogens with resistance acquired through other pathways [13]. Exposure of people to waterborne pathogens may occur by drinking or swallowing water, inhaling aerosolised droplets and contact with water through bathing and recreation [14,15]. Some pathogens may also be disseminated by water further in the environment (e.g. in the soil and air) potentially allowing human exposure. Consuming foods, grown on/in or irrigated with pathogen-contaminated water may also lead to infection [16,17].

fischer.syrup.apr.16As a number of changes to water, e.g. canalisation, temperature, nutrient enrichment, addition of pest-control or antimicrobial/viral substances, and pathogen contamination, result from human activities, it is relevant to understand their impact on infectious disease epidemiology. To provide some examples relevant for European public health, and to present issues related to the detection and identification of cases of waterborne outbreaks and the proof of anthropogenic change to water as the cause, we issued a call for papers [18]. Subsequent to this, we now publish five articles, through which a number of issues arise and which can be summarised as follows.

The challenges of outbreaks potentially caused by microbial contamination of water are first illustrated in a report from Italy, where an outbreak of monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium 1,4 [5],12:i:- with sole resistance to nalidixic acid is described [19]. Attempts to determine the source of this outbreak led to extensive environmental investigations. While its cause could not be ascertained, a number of surface water samples in the outbreak area, including of water used for growing fruit and vegetables, were positive for the outbreak strain. Moreover some water samples from local sewage treatment plants also tested positive, thus leading to the hypothesis that wastewater may have contaminated irrigation water [19]. The epidemiological investigation was complicated and the origin of the outbreak strain and how this strain acquired its resistance to nalidixic acid remain unresolved. The study reinforces the value of detecting waterborne outbreaks early.

Generally, water may become contaminated from a non-point source, such as the runoff of water from manure in agricultural fields, or from a point discharge, such as a hospital wastewater outlet or a sewage treatment plant. The issue of clinical wastewater harbouring microorganisms resistant to antimicrobials, and its subsequent effect on sewage and freshwater is important for public health, particularly if resistant bacteria introduced in the water can not only survive but also grow in wastewater. Acinetobacter baumanni for example, is considered a nosocomial pathogen, but its ecology is as of yet not fully understood and the observation of community outbreaks has made environmental niches suspect. A study from Croatia finds multiresistant A. baumannii strains in both influent and effluent water to a sewage treatment plant in Zagreb, indicating that such strains can evade the treatment process. The study shows moreover that isolated strains can survive and grow in effluent sewage water up to 50 days, posing a potential risk for further dissemination in the recipient river to the plant [20].

As a risk exists for surface water to become contaminated by wastewater pathogens, there is relevance in fully assessing its safety for further human use. A study from Serbia conducted during the bathing season reveals adenovirus and rotavirus genetic materials in recreational waters of the Danube, along popular public beaches in addition to faecal contamination. As the presence of viruses could not necessarily be predicted by the amount of bacteria measured in the water via routine quality control, the authors conclude that viral indicators may be helpful for further assessing the risks posed by water, in particular in areas where the sewer network is insufficient or inadequate [21].

walkertonWhich panels of viruses could serve as relevant indicators of water quality in certain circumstances would need further investigations, as this may depend in part on their infectivity doses and persistence in environmental water. Also this might require to know what potential viruses contaminate the water to begin with, possibly first requiring agnostic screening techniques. In this regard, the development and implementation of assays that can be used for the surveillance of the whole population of viruses in water samples can be of interest. In this special issue, a methodology combining tangential flow filtration of sewage combined with deep sequencing, without the need for cell culture, is presented as an agnostic approach to survey viruses in sewage. The use of this methodology is proposed for the surveillance of poliovirus, but broader applications, including creating new viral sequence databases for retrospective analysis of presently unknown human viruses that may be discovered in the future are suggested [22].

Should it be a priori known what viruses likely contaminate water in an area, defining more specific tools to confirm their presence may be considered. Moreover in terms of further risk assessment, and as also discussed in the Serbian study in this issue [21], assays to determine the presence of infectious virus might also be of value.

As illustrated by some of the above studies [19,21], adequate management of wastewater is crucial. Indeed, water contaminated by wastewater can subsequently cumulate in larger water bodies such as lakes or the ocean. There, its impact may be less clear, as not only pathogens, but supportive nutrients may be carried by the wastewater. In combination with meteorological factors such as temperature, this may lead to the sporadic or intermittent occurrence of ‘exotic’ or ‘unusual’ pathogens in some areas [4]. An article from the Netherlands describes three cases of Vibrio cholera non-O1 serogroup (VCNO) bacteraemia reported in the country. Cases had been prior exposed to fish and/or had contact with surface water. The Dutch study includes a review of the literature to identify sources and risk factors for bacteraemia [23].

In conclusion, this special issue provides some insights into the importance of surveillance of pathogens in the water [19-23] and outbreaks or cases caused by waterborne pathogens [19,21,23]. Wider studies could help further refine criteria for assessing water treatment processes. Through pollution of ground water with antimicrobials and multi-resistant bacteria, waterborne outbreaks of multi-resistant bacteria are likely to become more frequent in the future. The special issue illustrates that addressing the problems due to anthropogenic changes to water on the epidemiology of human pathogens will require a multi-disciplinary approach.

A note from the editors: impact of anthropogenic changes to water on human pathogens

Eurosurveillance, Volume 21, Issue 15, 14 April 2016


Vibrio cholerae and fish in The Netherlands

Vibrio cholerae non-O1 serogroup (VCNO) bacteraemia is a severe condition with a high case–fatality rate.

kiss.fish.kidWe report three cases diagnosed in the Netherlands, identified during a national microbiological congress, and provide a literature review on VCNO bacteraemia.

A search strategy including synonyms for ‘VCNO’ and ‘bacteraemia’ was applied to PubMed, Medline, Web of Science and Embase databases.

The three cases were reported in elderly male patients after fish consumption and/or surface water contact. The literature search yielded 82 case reports on 90 cases and six case series. Thirty case reports were from Asia (30/90; 33%), concerned males (67/90; 74%), and around one third (38/90; 42%) involved a history of alcohol abuse and/or liver cirrhosis The presenting symptom often was gastroenteritis (47/90; 52%) which occurred after seafood consumption in 32% of the cases (15/47).Aside from the most frequent symptom being fever, results of case series concurred with these findings. Published cases also included rare presentations e.g. endophthalmitis and neonatal meningitis. Based on the limited data available, cephalosporins seemed the most effective treatment. Although mainly reported in Asia, VCNO bacteraemia occurs worldwide. While some risk factors for VCNO were identified in this study, the source of infection remains often unclear. Clinical presentation may vary greatly and therefore a quick microbiological diagnosis is indispensable.

Vibrio cholerae non-O1 bacteraemia: description of three cases in The Netherlands and a literature review

Eurosurveillance, Volume 21, Issue 15, 14 April 2016

MF Engel, MA Muijsken, E Mooi-Kokenberg EJ Kuijper, DJ van Westerloo


I miss my hot tub, I miss my sauna, I don’t miss the viruses

From August to September 2014 a water quality study was conducted on five popular public Danube beaches in Vojvodina, Serbia.

serbia.beach.waterTo assess the safety of Danube water for bathing, physical, chemical, bacteriological tests were performed. While many parameters for monitoring the quality of water are regulated by law, there are neither national nor international legislations addressing the presence of viruses in recreational waters. In this study, we performed analyses that surpassed national requirements, and investigated if adenovirus, enterovirus or rotavirus genetic material was present in samples of recreational water collected for quality monitoring.

Of 90 water samples obtained during the study, enterovirus material was not found in any sample, but adenovirus and rotavirus genetic materials were respectively detected in 60 and 31 samples. Statistical analyses showed a significant correlation between adenovirus DNA and total coliforms in the water. Even when water samples were adequate for recreational use, adenoviruses were detected in 75% (57/76) of such samples. Our results indicate that implementation of viral indicators in recreational water might be helpful to better assess public health safety. This might be particularly relevant in areas where urban wastewater treatment is insufficient and surface waters affected by wastewater are used for recreation.

Testing For Viral Material In Water Of Public Bathing Areas Of The Danube During Summer, Vojvodina, Serbia, 2014

Eurosurveillance, Volume 21, Issue 15, 14 April 2016

A Jovanović Galović, S Bijelović, V Milošević, I Hrnjaković Cvjetkovic, M Popović, G Kovačević , J Radovanov, N Dragić, V Petrović


It’s so simple, European style: What we can learn from menopause

The way scientists plan, verify and report how they use data and evidence is crucial for the transparency, impartiality and quality of scientific assessments. Our new interactive infographic provides an easy-to-follow overview to understand EFSA’s new approach for evidence use, developed in the context of the “Promoting methods for evidence use in scientific assessments” initiative.

This approach was first tested last year in a risk assessment for peri- and post-menopausal women taking food supplements containing isolated isoflavones. It is currently being implemented in further EFSA case-studies.

Yup, that’s it.


SQF certification is so simple (acronym overload)

The U.S. Food Marketing Institute says the new infographic 8 Steps to SQF Certification breaks down the ins-and-outs of how to become SQFI certified.

It’s so simple, it’s confusing.

Consumers, this is how you know your food is safe, even though there are lots of outbreaks associated with SQF foods.

handwashing.sep.12(Step 5 reminds me of this)




Food safety fail: Pork 6-2-2, use a thermometer instead

Australia Pork has apparently invested hundreds of thousands in a marketing message that is high on BS and low on credibility.

According to this advert, without taking into account variations in BBQs, cooking pork is simple (I’ve decided to start referring to Chapman as Stork, in all correspondence).

Only if a tip-sensitive digital thermometer is used.

Did you spot the cross-contamination?

CDC: Faster tests, but lousy tracking

Changes in the tests that diagnose foodborne illness are helping identify infections faster but could soon pose challenges to finding outbreaks and monitoring progress toward preventing foodborne disease, according to a report published today in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Week Report.

vomit.2Culture-independent diagnostic tests (CIDTs) help doctors diagnose infections quickly because they provide results in hours instead of the days needed for traditional culture methods, which require growing bacteria to determine the cause of illness. But without a bacterial culture, public health officials cannot get the detailed information about the bacteria needed to help find outbreaks, check for antibiotic resistance, and track foodborne disease trends.

In 2015, the percentage of foodborne infections diagnosed only by CIDT was about double compared with the percentage in 2012-2014.

“Foodborne infections continue to be an important public health problem in the United States,” said Robert Tauxe, M.D., M.P.H, director of CDC’s Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases. “We are working with partners to make sure we still get important information about harmful bacteria despite the increasing use of diagnostic tests that don’t require a culture.”

The increased use of CIDT could affect public health officials’ ability to monitor trends and detect outbreaks. In the short term, clinical laboratories should work with their public health laboratories to make sure a culture is done whenever a CIDT indicates that someone with diarrheal illness has a bacterial infection. For a long-term solution, CDC is working with partners to develop advanced testing methods that, without culture, will give health care providers information to diagnose illness and also give the detailed information that public health officials need to detect and investigate outbreaks.

Limited progress in reducing foodborne illness

The report included the most recent data from CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, or FoodNet. It summarizes preliminary 2015 data on nine germs spread commonly through food. Overall, progress in reducing rates of foodborne illnesses has been limited since 2012, according to the report. The most frequent causes of infection in 2015 were Salmonella and Campylobacter, which is consistent with previous years.

Other key findings from the FoodNet report include:

The incidence of Salmonella Typhimurium infection, often linked to poultry and beef, decreased 15 percent from 2012-2014 levels.

This decline may be due in part to tighter regulatory standards and vaccination of chicken flocks against Salmonella.

The incidence of some infections increased:

Reported Cryptosporidium infections increased 57 percent since 2012-2014, likely due to increased testing for this pathogen.

Reported non-O157 Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) infections increased 40 percent since 2012-2014. Quicker and easier testing likely accounted for some or all of this increase.

FoodNet has been monitoring illness trends since 1996. FoodNet provides a foundation for food safety policy and prevention efforts because surveillance data can tell us where prevention efforts are needed to reduce foodborne illnesses.

CDC is working with federal, state, and local partners, and the food industry to improve food safety. New regulations and continuing industry efforts are focusing on challenging areas. USDA has made improvements in its poultry inspection and testing models and has tightened standards for both Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry.

“In 2013, we launched a series of targeted efforts to address Salmonella in meat and poultry products, known as the Salmonella Action Plan, and recent data show that since then the incidence of Salmonella Typhimurium infection has dropped by 15 percent,” said USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food Safety, Al Almanza. “However our work is not done. The newly published performance standards for poultry parts will lead to further Salmonella reductions and fewer foodborne illnesses.”

In 2015, FDA published new rules to improve the safety of the food supply including produce, processed foods, and imported foods.

Dr. Kathleen Gensheimer, MD, MPH, director of the FDA’s Coordinated Outbreak Response and Evaluation team and Chief Medical Officer, Foods and Veterinary Medicine Program, said, “We want to respond quickly to foodborne illness, but our true goal is to move forward with preventive measures that will be implemented from farm to table. In addition to collaboration with other government agencies at the local, state and federal level, the rules we are implementing under the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act will help the food industry minimize the risk of contamination to our food supply.”

For more information on avoiding illnesses from food, please visit www.foodsafety.gov.

About FoodNet

FoodNet collects information to track rates and determine trends in laboratory-confirmed illnesses caused by nine germs transmitted commonly by food: Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, Cyclospora, Listeria, Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing O157 and non-O157, Shigella, Vibrio, and Yersinia. Annual data are compared with data from the previous three years (2012-2014). Since 2010, FoodNet has been tracking the increasing use of CIDTs used by clinical laboratories for diagnosis of bacterial enteric infection.

FoodNet is a collaboration among CDC, 10 state health departments, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, and the FDA. FoodNet covers 48 million people, encompassing about 15 percent of the United States population. The sites are the states of Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, and Tennessee, and selected counties in California, Colorado, and New York.