Going public: Maine wants to limit what you can know about disease outbreaks

Joe Lawlor of the Portland Press Herald reports the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is proposing a rule change that would allow it to more easily withhold information on the locations of outbreaks of communicable diseases like measles, chicken pox and pertussis.

public-accountabilityA rule is the same as a regulation, would have legal force behind it and implements an agency’s interpretation of a law.

Contacted Wednesday, CDC spokesman John Martins said the agency does not comment on pending rule changes.

The proposal comes a year after the Portland Press Herald filed a lawsuit in July 2015, when the Maine CDC denied the newspaper’s request for information about chicken pox outbreaks at three schools and a day-care facility during the 2014-15 school year. An outbreak is defined by the Maine CDC as a place where there are three or more cases of an infectious disease.

In a settlement agreement, the information was released to the Press Herald in October 2015, and the newspaper published the outbreak locations.

There were 84 chicken pox cases at Maine schools in 2014-15. Of those cases, 57 affected unvaccinated or undervaccinated children, according to CDC data.

In another case where public health advocates criticized the CDC for being unnecessarily secretive, the agency refused in 2014 to name the restaurant where a hepatitis A outbreak had occurred.

The Maine agency’s policy runs counter to recommendations by public health experts, who say that knowing where outbreaks occur is beneficial to the public health because some people – including infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems – are more susceptible to communicable diseases.

The CDC argued when denying the newspaper’s request last year that releasing the school names could jeopardize personal privacy because “indirect information” about the outbreaks could result in the public being able to identify people who had fallen ill.

But Sigmund Schutz, the Press Herald’s attorney, countered that the newspaper was not requesting personal information, and state law did not permit the CDC to deny the request.

Schutz said the new rule, if adopted, also would be in conflict with state open records laws, which do not give the agency latitude to deny requests based on unlikely scenarios that an individual could be identified.

Schutz said the newspaper will be lodging official comments objecting to the proposed rule. The public comment period ends Monday.

 

What about going public? Why produce organizations adopt food safety protocols

We examine theoretically and empirically the factors associated with commodity organizations’ voluntary adoption of stricter food safety guidelines. Our theoretical analysis finds that larger organizations are less likely to require members to invest in food safety procedures due to higher implementation costs.

lettuce.skull.noroRecalls induce organizations to adopt stricter food safety standards only when expected future gains from improved product reputation outweigh the short run costs of implementing those standards. The same logic holds for organizations representing growers of a product with higher demand, e.g., a larger share of fruit and vegetable sales. Organizations whose members have a larger share of the market for their product are more likely to adopt stricter food safety guidelines when that investment induces members to increase output, a necessary condition for which is that members’ current food safety procedures are more protective than the industry average.

Our econometric analysis finds that organizations with more members are less likely to adopt food safety guidelines for their members, as our theoretical analysis predicts. Organizations whose members account for a larger share of the market for their product and organizations for commodities representing larger shares of fruit and vegetable sales are more likely to implement food safety guidelines, consistent with considerations of long term profitability increases due to improved reputation for safety outweighing concerns about increases in cost of production. Organizations that have experienced negative shocks to reputation as measured by the number of Class I FDA recalls are also more likely to adopt food safety guidelines, again consistent with considerations of long term profitability due to improved reputation for safety outweighing concerns about increases in cost of production.

Foodborne illness outbreaks, collective reputation, and voluntary adoption of industrywide food safety protocols by fruit and vegetable growers

AgEcon Search

Aaron Adalja and Erik Lichtenberg

http://ageconsearch.umn.edu/bitstream/235865/2/AAEA_P9730_Adalja_Lichtenberg_final.pdf

 

Sanitation sucks: Federal court orders Minnesota sprout and noodle company to cease operations

On July 15, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota entered a consent decree of permanent injunction between the United States and Kwong Tung Foods, Inc., doing business as Canton Foods; its president and owner, Vieta “Victor” C. Wang; and its vice-president, Juney H. Wang, for significant and ongoing violations of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and its implementing regulations. The business, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, sells rice and wheat noodles, and mung bean and soy bean sprouts.

Canton 2The U.S. Department of Justice brought the action on behalf of the FDA. The complaint that accompanied the consent decree alleges that Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. has an extensive history of operating under unsanitary conditions in violation of current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) regulations and the FD&C Act. The FDA conducted multiple inspections, most recently in 2014 and 2015, and the FDA investigators observed repeated unsanitary conditions, including, rodent excreta pellets too numerous to count, improper cleaning, mold-like substances on equipment, failure to prevent cross-contamination from allergens and improper employee sanitation practices. Despite receiving a Warning Letter and participating in regulatory meetings with the FDA, Kwong Tung Foods, Inc., and Victor and Juney Wang failed to take adequate corrective actions to ensure the safety of their food. Additionally, the FDA worked with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) to resolve this matter.

“The FDA expects food companies to follow cGMP regulations, and when a company does not address violations and sanitary protocols are being neglected, it poses potentially hazardous conditions,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs. “The FDA is taking the necessary actions to protect consumers and the U.S. food supply.”

Food, especially produce, is vulnerable to contamination with pathogenic microorganisms if exposed to unsanitary conditions during growing, harvesting, packing, holding or manufacturing, processing or transportation. Rodents in a facility are an additional cause for concern as they can sometimes carry and transfer bacteria and pathogenic microorganisms, like Salmonella, onto food. Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems.

As a result of this action, Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. is prohibited from directly or indirectly receiving, processing, manufacturing, preparing, packing, holding, and/or distributing any article of food at or from its facility. If Kwong Tung Foods Inc. intends to resume operations, the company must notify the FDA, and, among other requirements, retain an independent food safety expert to ensure Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. has and implements, to the FDA’s satisfaction, an appropriate written Sanitation Control Program. If it resumes operations, Kwong Tung Foods, Inc. must also retain an independent laboratory to conduct analyses of its food processing environment and food products, and provide employee training on sanitation and appropriate food handling techniques.

Although no illnesses have been reported in connection with Kwong Tung Foods Inc., consumers with complaints about any FDA-regulated products can report problemsto their district office consumer complaint coordinator.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

Safefood Queensland, you awake? Noosa eatery brags about medium-rare USDA certified organic burgers

A friend of Amy’s from her PhD days at the I-was-there-when-Tom-Brady-was-there University of Michigan and her family came over last night for dinner.

austin.powers.meat.2.verThey’d been on the road a long time, so I figured a U.S.-styled meal of steak and two veg would be welcomed.

It was.

After a day of cleaning and cooking – seriously, me and two other semi-house dads I hang with at the kid’s school should jump on the food porn train with all the shopping and cooking we do and the discussions we have about how to make a slow-cooked chicken curry while also talking about the shit guys say on mic’d up hockey – Amy went off with her friend and family and I got to write.

Yet only a couple of hours into the adventure, I get this from Amy:

We went to a place for lunch in Noosa. I was going to get a burger but read that “All our burgers are USDA certified organic and served medium-rare.”

Use a thermometer and stick it in.

Only way to tell if something is microbiologically safe.

And the prices are outrageous.

There’s so much shit out there.

cafe.le.monde.noosa.burger.jul.16

Pinto defense: Ferrero guarantees safety of chocolate bars based on government inspection

Ferrero clarified that its chocolate bars are safe, adding that the German government has not recalled its products from the country’s store shelves, an article from local news portal china.cnr.cn reported.

pinto,explodingIn a statement posted on its website on July 12, the firm further guaranteed that they have met all the needed food safety requirements in the countries where they exported their products.

On July 5, U.K. media outlet Daily Mail reported that Germany’s Foodwatch has found out that its Kinder Riegel chocolate bars contain high levels of mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons. This component is a byproduct of the oil refining process.

The newspaper cited that the issue has led to the recalling of the bars, as the European Food Safety Agency also commented that the product “may be carcinogenic.”

China.cnr.cn further reported that Foodwatch member Johannes Heeg has recommended consumers to avoid purchasing these products.

Asked about the said mineral found, Ferrero shared that minimal traces of such oil do exist almost anywhere.

McDonald’s tries fresh beef ‘An E. coli outbreak waiting to happen’

In 1982, E. coli O157:H7, was found to be responsible for outbreaks of human illness in Oregon and Michigan after customers at McDonald’s outlets ate contaminated hamburgers, the first outbreaks linked to Shiga-toxin producing E. coli.

mclovin1-300x140McDonald’s changed the way it cooked burgers to largely eliminate the human element and instituted E. coli O157 testing of its suppliers and demanded continuous improvement.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, or so the saying goes.

Robert Galbraith of Reuters reports that McDonald’s has been testing fresh, never-frozen beef patties at restaurants in Dallas.

Wall Street analysts have applauded the change, but some McDonald’s franchisees say it’s a food-safety disaster waiting to happen.

In a recent survey by Nomura, two dozen franchisees warned that introducing fresh beef patties nationwide would slow down service and expose the chain to new food contamination risks.

“I have major concerns over food safety and our lack of ability to serve a large number of customers quickly,” one franchisee wrote.

Another wrote, “If we do not handle the meat perfectly there is the opportunity for bacterial invasion of our product.”

One operator brought up the E. coli outbreak that affected 14 Chipotle restaurants across the country last fall, sending the chain’s sales plunging by as much as 30%.

“An uncaring employee [could end up] doing something that puts the entire system at risk,” the franchisee wrote. “We are the lightning rod. Chipotle will be a walk in the park if we have an incident.”

McDonald’s has long relied on an extensive network of suppliers who make, freeze, and ship beef patties to its more than 14,000 restaurants in the US.

mcdonalds-600x800Expanding the fresh beef test — which is currently limited to 14 restaurants in Dallas — would require big changes to its supply chain. The potential for foodborne illnesses is higher when uncooked meat is kept at a temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the USDA.

At the restaurant level, it would be a “massive learning curve for our managers and crew,” one franchisee wrote. “No doubt the biggest change in McDonald’s history. Would be a huge distraction from our ‘turnaround.'”

In the same survey, many McDonald’s franchisees also acknowledged that fresh beef would help improve the fast-food chain’s public image.

“Faster cook times, juicier product, seared product versus stewed meat,” one franchisee wrote.

Another said, “Many customers perceive unfrozen to be better for you. Perception is everything.”

Twenty-seven domestic franchisees with approximately 199 stores participated in the Nomura survey, representing a small fraction of McDonald’s 14,000 stores in the US. 

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said last month that there isn’t currently a large enough supply of fresh beef to expand the test nationally but that the company could start expanding it gradually region by region.

 Easterbrook said a larger rollout wouldn’t require any major new equipment or expenses for franchisees.

The company just has a few small issues to work out through the test, such as finding the best system for storage and handling of the beef to avoid any cross-contamination of the fresh, uncooked meat with other food items.

“We are trying to figure out the best way to segregate equipment like spatulas and scrapers for the grill,” he said.

Singapore rocked by 5 separate outbreaks at eateries

Clara Chong of The Straits Times writes that good food can be passed off as food worth eating – only if it is safe to consume.

TTdurianpuff-goodwoodThe current case involves Pow Sing restaurant, which, as of July 12, had 29 verified cases of gastroenteritis and investigations are currently ongoing.

This is just the latest case of a food establishment being suspended after outbreaks of food poisoning among its diners.

Here is a look at the five most recent cases.

  1. Pow Sing Restaurant

Pow Sing restaurant and its sister eatery Pow Sing Kitchen at Serangoon Gardens had their licences suspended indefinitely on July 13 after the authorities became aware of at least 29 cases of gastroenteritis, otherwise known as gastric flu, that were linked to the eatery.

An inspection on July 5 threw up several food lapses, such as the failure to maintain temperature records and allowing an unregistered food handler to prepare food.

Pow Sing, which sells zi char or cooked food in addition to chicken rice, has been told to dispose of all food and completely sanitise the kitchen.

  1. Pek Kio Food Centre

With more than 180 cases of gastroenteritis reported, Pek Kio Market and Food Centre in Owen Road area had to be closed on May 25 for a thorough cleaning and disinfection, including disinfection of dining tables, chairs, food preparation surfaces, walls and floors, for two days.

  1. Kuisine Catering

Poor hygiene standards at Kuisine Catering are a likely cause of a mass food-poisoning incident last February, resulting in 231 people falling ill, with five of those affected requiring in-patient medical treatment.

Investigations by the National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of Health and Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority concluded that food poisoning was likely due to Salmonella enteritidis.

  1. Goodwood Durian Pastries

Goodwood Park Hotel’s food establishment licence was suspended on April 22 after 76 cases of food poisoning were linked to its durian pastries.

singapore-food2But on May 3, it was revealed that up 183 cases may be linked to the hotel’s hugely popular durian pastries.

Further investigations revealed that lapses in food handling in the durian pastry kitchen were to blame. All food handlers had to undergo medical screening and retraining on safe food handling practices

  1. GBS infection from raw fish dishes

In December 2015, stalls were no longer allowed to sell Chinese-style raw fish dishes such as raw fish porridge due to its link with an aggressive strain of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria.

The outbreak, caused by the Type III GBS ST283 strain, is the largest of its kind in the world, with about 360 cases of GBS infections since January 2015 and about 150 cases linked to the consumption of Chinese-style raw fish dishes that use freshwater fish.

This ban extended to hawker centres, coffee shops, canteens, food courts and caterers but left out restaurants, which generally observed hygiene standards.

The ban on using such freshwater fish remains in force until further notice.

Salmonella from same processor stalks Seattle cook-outs

On July 15, 2015, the Washington State Department of Health notified the feds of an investigation of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- illnesses. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) determined there was a link between whole hogs for barbeque and pork products from Kapowsin Meats of Pierce County and those illnesses.

pig.sex_In the end, at least 192 were sickened by the oddly named Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-.

It has now emerged that the Salmonella that sickened at least 11 people at a Seattle luau in July is the same type — and possibly from the same source — as the July 2015 outbreak.

JoNel Aleccia of The Seattle Times cited Washington state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist as saying they all ate whole roast pork served either at the Good Vibe Tribe Luau at Golden Gardens Park in Seattle on July 3, or at a private event in Pierce County,. The meat in both cases came from Kapowsin, which reopened with approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on June 13.

“This is very concerning to me,” said Lindquist.

The genetic fingerprints of the bacteria match those from the outbreak that caused 22 clusters of illnesses in June and July 2015 in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California and Alaska, Lindquist said.

When reached by phone, John Anderson, chief executive of Kapowsin Meats in Graham, Pierce County, declined to answer questions Tuesday. He referred calls to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

FSIS officials said Kapowsin had implemented new cleaning, processing and bacterial-sampling protocols, including running whole hog carcasses through a steam intervention to kill bacteria. Federal inspectors were at the plant when it reopened in June and have been there every day that slaughter occurred.

The plant remained open Tuesday, FSIS officials said. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they were monitoring the outbreak closely.

Health officials urge consumers to use care when cooking whole roast pig to avoid getting sick. Consumers should make sure the meat is clean, avoid cross-contamination of utensils and surfaces, cook the meat to a minimum temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and quickly refrigerate cooked meat after meals.

But this doesn’t sound so much like a consumer problem as a slaughterhouse problem.

Parents hate my food safety stories, so just a face palm: 611 sick with Salmonella from backyard chicks

Sorenne rode her bike to school on Friday for the first time.

After months of angst, probably because she saw daddy wipe out and get 23 stiches a couple of years ago when she was on training wheels, she rode her bike.

Today (Wed) they had a bike-to-school day to play-bicycle-polo-on-the-tennis courts, and the number of kids and bikes was a bit much to handle.

But that’s a good problem.

picard.face.palmI was chatting with a parent after school, while the kids retrieved their bikes that were stored at the swimming pool due to overload, and I said it was a nice problem to have, and then we chatted about the weather – depths of winter, 24C in Brisbane – and he said I guess spring has sprung, our backyard chickens laid two eggs yesterday, so I guess spring is here.

I smiled but inside I was doing my best Jean-Luc.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are now eight multistate outbreaks of human Salmonella infections linked to contact with live poultry in backyard flocks.

In the eight outbreaks, 611 people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella were reported from 45 states.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 4, 2016 to June 25, 2016.

138 ill people were hospitalized, and one death was reported. Salmonella infection was not considered to be a cause of death.

195 (32%) ill people were children 5 years of age or younger.

Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory findings have linked the eight outbreaks to contact with live poultry such as chicks and ducklings sourced from multiple hatcheries.

Regardless of where they were purchased, all live poultry can carry Salmonella bacteria, even if they look healthy and clean.

These outbreaks are a reminder to follow steps to enjoy your backyard flock and keep your family healthy.

Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where the birds live and roam.

baby.chickDo not let live poultry inside the house.

Do not let children younger than 5 years of age handle or touch chicks, ducklings, or other live poultry without adult supervision.

These outbreaks are expected to continue for the next several months since flock owners might be unaware of the risk of Salmonella infection from live poultry or participate in risky behaviors that can result in infection.

Ill people reported purchasing live baby poultry from several suppliers, including feed supply stores, Internet sites, hatcheries, and friends in multiple states. Ill people reported purchasing live poultry to produce eggs, learn about agriculture, have as a hobby, enjoy for fun, keep as pets, or to give as Easter gifts. Some of the places ill people reported contact with live poultry include their home, someone else’s home, work, or school settings.

Public health officials collected samples from live poultry and the environments where the poultry live and roam from the homes of ill people in several states. Laboratory testing isolated four of the outbreak strains of Salmonella.

Australian bloggers demanding free meals for reviews: You have ‘as much right to review my restaurant as I have to review your menstrual cycle’

(Disclaimer: the only free samples we get are barf and shit: literally and lyrically.)

Rebecca Sullivan of News.com reports that both traditional food critics and restaurant owners have started naming and shaming bloggers who contact venues asking for a meal on the house, in exchange for a review.

free.products.blogEarlier this month, the owner of a Sydney restaurant made headlines for his scathing response to a food blogger who requested a free meal.

Tim Philips, the bartender and co-owner at Dead Ringer in Surry Hills, told a “foodie instagrammer” she had “as much right to review my restaurant as I have to review your menstrual cycle”.

The woman explained her usual arrangement with restaurants is “that you give my friend and I a meal on the house in exchange for Instagram coverage and reviews”.

Mr Philips posted screenshots of the interaction on his Instagram page and was praised for “standing up to what’s right and having balls.”

“I called her out because her business is what’s ruining my industry,” he wrote on Instagram, in response to some commenters who said his response was nasty.

“You missed the irony that I, as a man, am ill-qualified to ‘review’ female menstrual cycles. And this person is equally unqualified to review places they’ve been, with the predetermined obligation of a free meal for nice comments.”

While professional reviewers “always pay for their meals”, he said, “this happens A LOT”.

Food writers who work for traditional media publications cannot accept free meals in exchange for a review.

The Australian’s food critic John Lethlean has started using Instagram to name and shame food bloggers who ask for free meals.

All the food bloggers news.com.au spoke to said they had never contacted a restaurant and asked for a free meal, mostly because they don’t need to.

“I get approached by restaurants and PRs maybe 30 or 40 times a week,” said Michael Shen, who blogs at I’m Still Hungry and has 31,000 Instagram followers.

“I’m pretty strict with transparency. If I’m reviewing a place and I’ve eaten for free I say it at the top of the review so my readers know straight away. My friends told me they feel jibbed when they spend time reading a post and they get to the end and they find out it’s sponsored,” he said.

“I don’t write for a restaurant or a chef, in the end it’s all about your readers. The promise of free food is quite alluring. But to me, it’s like, would you rather risk alienating your audience just for a free meal every now and then?”

Adam Scarf is a photographer with 225,000 Instagram followers and is one of Sydney’s most popular food accounts. He’s offered free meals at least once a day.