In China, visitors to resort have to sign Norovirus waiver

Hundreds of Taiwanese visitors to Taichung’s Hoya Resort Hotel in Wuling have signed an affidavit that they are staying at the resort at their own risk in the midst of an outbreak of norovirus GII.17, a genotype common in certain African nations, reports China Times.

Hoya-Resort-Hotel-Wuling--300x199Over 300 visitors to Hoya Resort Hotel Wuling are still coming for the long holiday weekend.

The outbreak over the Lunar New Year holiday of the norovirus, which causes the rapid onset of vomiting and diarrhea, has affected the health of over 200 visitors and employees at the resort. The virus is transmitted through the fecal-oral route, primarily through contaminated food or water.

After the outbreak began, Hoya Resort Hotel Wuling closed for two days. Visitors wishing to continue their stay were given the option of signing the affidavit absolving the hotel from all responsibility should they contract the virus. In addition, the resort will not provide them with food.

The resort is reportedly fully booked for the coming Feb. 28 weekend. The cherry blossoms in the area which bloom briefly as spring nears are a major visitor attraction.

Salmonella in tahini sauce in Canada

Amira brand Tahini Sauce has been recalled for Salmonella as part of an investigation by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) into a foodborne illness outbreak.

tahini.sauce.salmThere have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

That’s going to happen, products get tested as part of an epidemiological investigation, come back positive, gotta go public.

Consumers should not consume the recalled product described below.

Recalled products

Brand Name Common Name Size Code(s) on Product UPC
Amira Tahini Sauce 750 g None 0 69467 40101 0

Food safety nerd alert: FDA launches iRISK 2.0

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released FDA-iRISK 2.0, an enhanced version of the free web-based tool that helps users conduct their own quantitative risk assessments in support of food safety. The Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, (JIFSAN) will also host a webinar to highlight key features of FDA-iRISK 2.0.

LewisFDA-iRISK 2.0 allows users to rank and compare risks and predict the effectiveness of prevention and control measures. Enhanced features include:

advanced modeling methods, such as rare events and new dose-response modeling options;

faster development of alternative scenarios;

innovative reporting of results;

graphical representations of dose-response and variability in contamination and consumption to better understand and verify data; and

easier data-sharing with other users.

The JIFSAN webinar is scheduled for March 11, 2015 from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm EDT. The webinar is free, but registration is required. To register, please visit JIFSAN Event Registration.

I was called Boog in high school — after baseball great, Miller Lite pitchman and mesquite BBQ connoisseur, Boog Powell — but never Booger.

You’ll have to go here to see the video from Revenge of the Nerds.


What foods make people sick? It’s complicated, so follow the bug

Sometimes it’s best to let things ruminate, ferment, instead of simply repeating public relations drivel.

bob-carol-ted-alice-1969-2Guess that’s one reason people write books. Or journal articles.

Various U.S. government agencies patted themselves on the back for their “improved method for analyzing outbreak data to determine which foods are responsible for illness” while underselling the actual report.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) co-authored a report (and threesomes never work out well), Foodborne Illness Source Attribution Estimates for Salmonella, Escherichia coli O157 (E. coli O157), Listeria monocytogenes (Lm), and Campylobacter using Outbreak Surveillance Data by the Interagency Food Safety Analytics Collaboration (IFSAC). A partnership of the three agencies, IFSAC focuses on foodborne illness source attribution, which is the process of estimating the most common food sources responsible for specific foodborne illnesses.

The report briefly summarizes IFSAC’s methods and results, including estimated attribution percentages for the four pathogens named in its title. CDC estimates that, together, these four pathogens cause 1.9 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States each year.

The agencies anticipate that IFSAC’s work will enhance their efforts to prevent foodborne illness.

Who doesn’t anticipate what threesomes will bring.

food.attribution.fbi.feb.15The new estimates, combined with other data, may shape agency priorities and support the development of regulations and performance standards and measures, among other activities. The recently developed method employs new food categories that align with those used to regulate food products and emphasizes more recent outbreak data.

As outlined in the report, IFSAC analyzed data from nearly 1,000 outbreaks that occurred from 1998 to 2012 to assess which categories of foods were most responsible for making people sick with Salmonella, E. coli O157, Listeria, and Campylobacter. IFSAC experts divided food into 17 categories for the analysis. The pathogens were chosen because of the frequency or severity of the illnesses they cause, and because targeted interventions can have a significant impact in reducing them.

The report presents the methods behind the results and provides the amount of uncertainty around the estimates. 

Some of the findings include:

More than 80 percent of E. coli O157 illnesses were attributed to beef and vegetable row crops, such as leafy vegetables.

Salmonella illnesses were broadly attributed across food commodities, with 77 percent of illnesses related to seeded vegetables (such as tomatoes), eggs, fruits, chicken, beef, sprouts and pork.

Nearly 75 percent of Campylobacter illnesses were attributed to dairy (66 percent) and chicken (8 percent). Most of the dairy outbreaks used in the analysis were related to raw milk or cheese produced from raw milk, such as unpasteurized queso fresco.

More than 80 percent of Listeria illnesses were attributed to fruit (50 percent) and dairy (31 percent). Data were sparse for Listeria, and the estimate for fruit reflects the impact of a single large outbreak linked to cantaloupes in 2011.

The figure on the right (the one other than Bob, Carol, Ted and Alice) is what they sent out to PR types. The figure on the left is what they actually wrote.

‘Lab confirmation should never be a requisite to implicating food in an outbreak’ Epidemiology is getting hammered to protect interests

From Australia to Wisconsin to cucumbers, epidemiology is getting hammered with a bunch of people defending their turf by saying, there’s no definitive proof.

spongebob.oil.colbert.may3.10The hepatitis A outbreak in Australia linked to Chinese frozen berries that has now sickened 19 has prompted many an Aussie to proclaim, I’ll never use frozen berries, without acknowledging they live in a sub-tropical climate, not Canada. And that preservation technologies work, when used properly.

The raw milk dairy farmers in Pepin County, Wisconsin, are denying charges that their raw milk served at a potluck dinner last September sickened at least 39 students and coaches affiliated with the Durand High School football team with Campylobacter.

Information collected from 65 students, coaches and parents indicated that consumption of milk was the only exposure statistically associated with the illness, DHS spokeswoman Jennifer Miller said.

For instance, the report said that some of the 38 people sickened at the dinner did not eat chicken, that 32 drank unpasteurized milk, and that six others drank milk consumed from a store-bought jug that could have contained pasteurized or unpasteurized milk.

Also, DATCP staff collected cow manure specimens from the Reeds’ cows and genetic fingerprinting proved that the bacteria that caused the illness at the dinner was the same bacteria strain found on the Reeds’ farm, Miller said.

But it’s the Salmonella-in-cucumbers outbreak – publicly unknown until a week ago — that reveals how deep interests influence.

An 18-week Salmonella outbreak linked to fresh cucumbers in 2014 sickened at least 275 people across 29 U.S. states, and killed one man.

Several of us in the food safety world – and probably the cucumber-consuming world – were left wondering, why didn’t we know about this?

Here’s the explanation from Dr. Bob (Bob Whitaker, chief science officer at the U.S. Produce Marketing Association; if anyone calls me Dr. Doug, I glare, and say, that’s Dr. Evil to you; I didn’t spent seven years in Evil University to be Mr. Evil):

epidemiology.WATER PUMP3_Page_4.storyThe Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) today. Anything with “morbidity” and “mortality” in the title is probably not going to rank highly on your general reading list and this weekly report was fairly typical of the reports published by CDC; highly technical and detailed, very informative, but probably targeted to a fairly specific audience.

So mere mortals are too dumb to understand?

Unfortunately, the process of identifying the cause of an illness outbreak and then further identifying how the people became ill and where that product originated from involves, as a first step, time consuming reporting of patient sample microbiology from local communities to states and perhaps up to the federal level. Often the process of just collecting this type of information and recognizing that there may be an illness outbreak exceeds the shelf life of our perishable products. Once an outbreak has been recognized, the epidemiological traceback or the process of determining what people might have come in contact with to make them ill can begin.

Epidemiology involves patient surveys, case control studies and correlation coefficients and can be time consuming and may yield multiple potential contamination vehicles. Finally, once potential food vehicles are identified, a traceback can be conducted to learn where patients might have obtained or consumed a specific food and investigators can work back to where the food was ultimately grown, harvested, packed or processed. Once production locations are identified, investigators can take microbial samples in an attempt to match any strains from the production environment to those isolated clinically from patients or in some limited cases from the food itself. Often by the time all of these vitally necessary steps have been completed, the crop is long gone and direct proof for how the contamination occurred or the source of the contamination is impossible to ascertain. Such was the case described by this Salmonella outbreak related to cucumbers.

CDC also disclosed that they employed consultations with industry experts early on in their investigation to gather information about industry practices, crop production cycles in the suspected region and product distribution. This is a positive step and is the result of a great deal of effort by the industry and CDC to determine how to engage industry to better inform investigations.

More accurate and rapid epidemiological investigations will ultimately help our industry determine what went wrong when these unfortunate illness outbreaks occur and are assigned to a produce item. This will help us direct research efforts aimed at identifying mitigation steps that can reduce the risk of further occurrences and assist operators in building improved risk and science-based food safety programs.

So why wasn’t the public informed there were a bunch of sick people?

Sounds more like the produce cone of silence.

Kirk Smith, epidemiology supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Health, told the Washington Post four years ago it’s rare for scientists investigating foodborne illness outbreaks to test the exact food suspected of carrying pathogens. By the time symptoms occur and a foodborne illness is reported and confirmed, the product in question has likely been consumed or has exceeded its shelf-life and been thrown away.

Instead, scientists, like detectives, interview victims, collect data, analyze patterns and match food “fingerprints” to determine the likely source of an outbreak.

“The majority of outbreaks, we don’t have the food to test,” Smith said. “Laboratory confirmation of the food should never be a requisite to implicating a food item as the vehicle of an outbreak.

“Epidemiology is actually a much faster and more powerful tool than is laboratory confirmation.”

As we have written, often during an outbreak of foodborne illness there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk, prior to the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public.

There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload.

Internet cheese? Be careful Europeans

The suitability for consumers of a variety of raw milk cheeses purchased over the Internet was investigated in terms of packaging, labelling, physicochemical parameters and microbiological safety. 108 purchases from seven European countries were examined.

artisanal.cheeseThe prevalences of Salmonella spp., Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli and coagulase positive staphylococci (SA) were determined. All 108 samples were described on websites as raw milk cheeses and thereby qualified for this study. However, after delivery it was noted that 4.6% (5/108) of cheeses were labelled to be manufactured from heat-treated or pasteurized milk. Delivery duration ranged from 24 h to six days. Immediately upon receipt cheese temperatures were observed to range between 5 and 23 °C, whereas in 61.5% of all cases the temperature was higher than 15 °C. Cheese labelling was examined in respect of EC Guideline 2000/13 and Regulation No. 853/2004. Only 17.6% (19/108) of cheeses were properly labelled and fulfilled all European guideline requirements.

In 50.9%, 38.8%, 46.3% and 39.8% of all cases (i) specific storage requirements, (ii) name and address of the manufacturer/packer or seller, (iii) net weight and (iv) shelf life (use by date), were missing. Even the labelling information “made from raw milk” was not apparent on 36% of all cheese items delivered. The major foodborne pathogen L. monocytogenes was detected in 1.9% of all samples, one of which had counts of 9.5 × 103 CFU/g. None of the 108 investigated cheeses showed a pH ≤ 5.0 and aw value ≤0.94 which are the limiting values for growth of L. monocytogenes. For two samples (0.9%) and 11 samples (10.2%) the pH and the aw value was ≤4.4 or ≤0.92, respectively at least at one of three stipulated time points (receipt, mid-shelf-life and at expiry). Salmonella spp. could not be detected in any of the samples. E. coli and SA could be detected in a total of 29.6% (≥10 CFU/g; 32/108) and 8.3% (≥100 CFU/g; 9/108) of samples, respectively, indicating poor conditions of hygiene.

Results reveal that labelling and hygiene concerns about the safety of Internet purchased cheeses in Europe are justified.

How safe is European Internet cheese? A purchase and microbiological investigation

Food Control, Volume 54, August 2015, Pages 225–230

Dagmar Schoder , Anja Strauß, Kati Szakmary-Brändle, Martin Wagner

Going public: Signs of Australian hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen berries month before public disclosure

Australian health types should be further embarrassed by their lack of disclosure, public notification and political pandering after it was revealed today that the first case of hepatitis A linked to frozen berries was diagnosed on January 3 but it took more than a month to recall the berries from supermarkets.

266570-ed20eaa0-b5e3-11e4-89a7-658c9eaa89c0Senate Estimates has been told there were three cases of Hepatitis A diagnosed in Victoria between January 3 and February 6.

Experts investigated to find a common link between the affected patients and identified the common factor as Nanna’s 1kg frozen mixed berries.

This meant it was not until February 12 that Ausfoodnet Victoria informed a national network of food regulators of the three cases.

It then took another two days before food company Patties announced a voluntary recall of the berries from supermarket shelves on February 14.

It was not until February 17 the government set up a national incident room to deal with the outbreak which has now spread to 18 people.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Baggoley said before the incident room was set up, epidemiologists and other experts in food safety were already working on containing the Hepatitis outbreak.


Hockey and food safety? Sure they’re the same, keep elbows up when you go in the corners

This isn’t about food safety. It’s about coaching, mentoring, whatever words you like that are often thrown around in the food safety world but often not practiced (follow the money).

No money involved here, just me and fellow coach Kyle spending four Sundays trying to teach a bunch of surfer kids in 90 F heat how to play hockey.

And it was a family affair. Sorenne and Amy both helped out with the various tasks to get people on the ice, as did Kyle’s kids.

The regular season begins next weekend, and I’m anxious to get back on the ice as a goalie (if my body can handle it) and coaching.

But this was fun. Thanks to all who volunteered their time. And especially my family who tolerate my Canadian indulgences in Australia.


Reheat cooked burgers to ‘steaming hot?’ USDA disappoints

While promoting today that the “U.S. Department of Agriculture continues to modernize its food safety program,” a press release from last week contradicts its own agency advice.

AskKaren_Web2Jane Doherty, international coordinator, at USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, writes that each year, America imports over 3.5 billion pounds of meat, poultry, and egg products. As our food supply becomes increasingly globalized, it is important to continually strengthen our regulatory programs to ensure that the food on your family’s table is safe. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the agency that verifies these products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged, whether they are produced in the U.S. or abroad. …

“Our mission is to protect the public health, and our system boasts stringent science based requirements that are respected around the world.”

But when announcing the recall of Kenosha Beef International cooked patties due to possible Listeria contamination last week, the FSIS announcement advised, “reheat ready-to-eat product until steaming hot.”

Is this the American version of piping hot?

FSIS also said consumers with food safety questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at

So I did.

What temperature should you reheat leftover hamburgers?

When reheating fully cooked patties or casseroles containing ground beef, be sure the internal temperature reaches 165 °F (73.8 °c) or it is hot and steaming.

How do I reheat leftovers safely?

Even though foods may have been safely cooked, bacteria from the air or people’s hands can contaminate the leftovers. Always reheat leftovers thoroughly in a conventional or microwave oven or on the stove top. Always test reheated leftovers in several places with a meat thermometer to be sure they reach 165 °F (73.8°C) throughout. When reheating foods in the microwave, cover and rotate or stir foods once or twice during cooking.

And, as usual, USDA sticks with the clean-cook-chill-separate dogma while ignoring the fifth factor that has been promoted by the World Health Organization since 1999: chose wisely, or source food from safe sources.

(The video, however, is cheesy.)

Food porn parody: The Katering Show

Amy forwarded this, and it’s a well-earned skewer at the cooking show world.

celebrity.chefsIt’s been over a decade since my research lab made food safety fun of TV chefs, but maybe we should have been funnier. We were trying to be scientific.

Comedians Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney have brought their own recipe to the cooking show world, and if you’re among the thousands who have spent far too much of their weekend watching it, you’re probably still laughing.

The pair have created a six-part YouTube series entitled The Katering Show. In it, they have a laugh at food intolerances, food fads and social traditions like the Christmas meal, and the Internet is catching on to their brand of humour.

Billed as the journey of a food intolerant and an intolerable foodie, McLennan declares: “This show is all about me, and how I can cook delicious recipes that won’t make McCartney (who is gluten, fructose and lactose intolerant) shit her pants.”

And Tom Colicchio got hired as MSNBC’s food correspondent.

That’s funny. (NSFV)

Mathiasen, L.A., Chapman, B.J., Lacroix, B.J. and Powell, D.A. 2004. Spot the mistake: Television cooking shows as a source of food safety information, Food Protection Trends 24(5): 328-334.

Consumers receive information on food preparation from a variety of sources. Numerous studies conducted over the past six years demonstrate that television is one of the primary sources for North Americans. This research reports on an examination and categorization of messages that television food and cooking programs provide to viewers about preparing food safely. During June 2002 and 2003, television food and cooking programs were recorded and reviewed, using a defined list of food safety practices based on criteria established by Food Safety Network researchers. Most surveyed programs were shown on Food Network Canada, a specialty cable channel. On average, 30 percent of the programs viewed were produced in Canada, with the remainder produced in the United States or United Kingdom. Sixty hours of content analysis revealed that the programs contained a total of 916 poor food-handling incidents. When negative food handling behaviors were compared to positive food handling behaviors, it was found that for each positive food handling behavior observed, 13 negative behaviors were observed. Common food safety errors included a lack of hand washing, cross-contamination and time-temperature violations. While television food and cooking programs are an entertainment source, there is an opportunity to improve their content so as to promote safe food handling.