Austin, TX Whataburger food handler diagnosed with hepatitis A

If I were a food business owner I’d be worried about hepatitis A. Individuals can shed the virus without showing symptoms and even a Hep A positive handwashing superstar will result in lineups outside the business or at the health department while patrons get their post-exposure shots.images-7
Authors of a 2000 Journal of Food Protection  paper on the cost effectiveness of vaccinating food handlers arrived at the conclusion that the public health benefit of vaccinating for hep A doesn’t equal the costs – but doesn’t factor in all the bad publicity, hassle and incident management costs.
According to KXAN, an Austin outlet of Whataburger the famed Texas fast food chain is going through the crisis stuff right now – and it will cost them business even without patrons getting sick.
Health officials are wanting to alert the public about possible hepatitis A exposure at a Whataburger in Central Austin. A restaurant employee there at the 2800 Guadalupe St. location has been diagnosed with the hepatitis A virus.
 
While health officials say transmission of the infection to customers is not likely, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department is recommending people contact their doctor if they ate at that specific Whataburger between Aug. 7 and Tuesday and fit the following criteria:
  • are 75 years old or older
  • are immune-compromised
  • have chronic liver disease or have had a liver transplant
  • have clotting-factor disorders
  • are experiencing hepatitis A symptoms
A bit out of the norm; the usual public health response is to administer protective post-exposure IgG shots to all.

Nosestretcher alert: steaming hot taxpayer-funded UK food safety nonsense

bites.stick.it.inYou don’t even need a temperature probe, just keep dad handy. Meat should be steaming in the middle, with no pink on the inside. Any juices should run clear.”

Nonsense.

And taxpayers pay for this.

I also wouldn’t use tongs on raw meat and then stick them in my apron.

Use a thermometer and stick it in.

Labels the law for all mechanically tenderized beef in Canada

In a move to cut risk from foodborne E. coli, all mechanically tenderized beef (MTB) sold in Canada from today on must be labelled as such and list instructions on safe cooking.

needle.tenderize.crHealth Minister Rona Ambrose on Thursday announced the new labelling requirements for all uncooked MTB — expanding a rule that’s been in place since July last year for federally licensed beef plants producing steaks and roasts.

The new label must clearly state the beef being sold is “mechanically tenderized,” and must include instructions for safe cooking, stressing the importance of cooking MTB to a minimum internal temperature of 145 F (63 C) and turning over steaks at least twice during cooking.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is tasked with verifying retailers’ and packers’ labels meet the new requirements, Health Canada said.

Mechanical tenderization is a common practice for improving beef tenderness and flavour, using needles or blades to break down, penetrate or pierce the meat’s surface and disrupt the muscle fibers, or to inject the meat with a marinade or tenderizer.

mech-tenderized-beef-boeuf-attendris-meca-01-413x280Normally, the risk of E. coli contamination from a rare or undercooked steak, roast or other solid cut of beef is “not a significant concern” since such bacteria would normally be on the surface of the meat and “inactivated” during cooking.

Much like grinding beef, mechanical tenderization can increase the potential for bacteria to transfer from the surface to the centre of the meat.

Unlike ground beef, however, as a Health Canada health risk assessment pointed out last year, it’s “not necessarily apparent by just looking at a mechanically tenderized meat product that it has undergone this process.”

The May 2013 assessment showed “a five-fold increase in risk from MTB products when compared to intact cuts of beef.”

Health Canada noted that in 2012, out of 18 cases of foodborne E. coli O157-related illness from a Canadian outbreak linked to contaminated beef, five cases were considered to be “likely associated with the consumption of beef that had been mechanically tenderized at the retail level.”

The rule covers all solid cuts of MTB, regardless of thickness, which means it will also apply to cubed steaks, “fast fry” or “minute” steaks. It will apply to both pre-packaged and non-pre-packaged products.

MTB that’s packaged on the premises at selection or purchase — such as in a butcher shop or at a clerk-served meat counter — will need to be identified as such before the customer selects a desired cut of beef. An in-store sign would identify a product in a display case as “mechanically tenderized,” for example.

In those cases, once meat has been packaged to give to the customer, the product must carry both the mandatory “mechanically tenderized” label and safe cooking instructions on the “principal display panel.”

Nosestretcher alert: eating locally helps prevent foodborne illness?

The Globe and Mail, based in Toronto and self-proclaimed public record of all thing Canadian, used to be decent. There are still good people there, and some are my friends.

imagesBut this is just crap.

Jason Tetro, a similarly self-proclaimed microbiologist, writes that the first investigations in 2002 focused on comparisons between locally and organically grown foods and those sold in large grocery stores. The results revealed those who chose foods grown closer to home were more likely to have a safer supply with less pesticides, better food quality and, more importantly, less post-harvest handling, which is known to be a significant factor in foodborne infection spread.

No.

By 2010, these differences were solidified as being the basis for better microbiological quality in local foods. Researchers searched for the reasons behind foodborne outbreaks and found links to several well-known problems associated with large-scale farming. …

The most meaningful comparison for consumers comes in the form of statistics. Outbreaks resulting from large-scale farming continue to grab headlines both in the media and scientific literature. In contrast, only a few outbreaks resulting from eating locally grown food have been recorded. In these rare cases, the problems were the result of a significant environmental change, such as a major rain storm or flood. There were almost no cases of local malpractice leading to infection.

This is bullshit.

The only meaningful comparison, statistically speaking, would be to compare incidence of foodborne illness per capita – on a meal eaten basis.

And then he cites the bullshit clean, cook. chill separate, ideology without the source food from safe sources, from farmers who know what they’re doing bit.

Defense attorney grills former peanut plant manager in trial linked to Salmonella outbreak

Defense attorneys for three people charged in a deadly salmonella outbreak sought to deflect blame and poke holes in the government’s case Tuesday as they questioned a co-defendant, who is a key prosecution witness.

PCA.AIB.certificateThe co-defendant, Samuel Lightsey, was a former manager of a Georgia peanut processing plant blamed in the 2008-09 outbreak. He was indicted along with his former boss, Peanut Corporation of America owner Stewart Parnell, and two others. Lightsey pleaded guilty in May after reaching a deal with prosecutors.

The 76-count indictment accuses Parnell and his brother, food broker Michael Parnell, of shipping tainted products to customers and covering up lab tests showing they contained salmonella. It also charges Stewart Parnell and the plant’s quality assurance manager, Mary Wilkerson, with obstructing justice.

Tom Bondurant, an attorney for Stewart Parnell, asked Lightsey about his plea agreement, which recommends that he not serve more than six years in prison. He had been facing decades behind bars.

Bondurant then pointed out that the government’s lawyers could ask the judge for further leniency, including no prison time, if Lightsey’s able to “substantially assist” their efforts.

“So the truth alone is not enough. You need a scalp to make this deal work, don’t you?” Bondurant said.

Bondurant asked Lightsey a series of questions to demonstrate that Stewart Parnell had given him considerable authority over the Georgia plant and relied on him.

“You made decisions every day about how to run the plant, didn’t you?” Bondurant said.

“That’s the job,” Lightsey responded.

Bondurant also had Lightsey review audits predating the salmonella outbreak that showed the plant receiving high marks from inspectors and a box of what he said was nearly 4,000 lab reports, of which about a dozen tested positive for salmonella.

Food fraud: It’s what’s for dinner?

David Edwards of the Scientific American Blog Network writes that beef that’s horsemeat, grouper that’s actually tilapia—thins the global economy every year by an estimated $49 billion. That’s a lot of bogus burgers and suspect sushi.  Yet containing the problem is no small task.  Some experts estimate that approximately 5 to 7 percent of the U.S. food supply is affected by food food_fraud_adulterationfraud. Another study found that about 10 percent of the food Americans buy is likely adulterated. The sprawling, complex modern food industry can be difficult to monitor and regulate – making it an easy target.

Food fraud, the deliberate substitution, addition, tampering or misrepresentation of food, ingredients or packaging, is not new. For as long as people have sold food to one another and not just grown it to feed themselves, the road to market has been mapped with cut corners. By the 17th century, governments started pushing back, introducing food purity laws to detect, among other things, watered-down milk and bread plumped up with chalk.

But that kind of after-the-fact reaction is not enough to discourage sophisticated 21st century criminals, who are sometimes armed with high tech resources like encrypted websites and who know that they can depend on often lax, inconsistent or ill-defined regulations to raise their odds of getting away with it. Worse still, investigations into the European horse meat scandal of 2013 found that the profit margins available to the more sophisticated and organized criminals are beginning to approach those normally associated with other forms of organized crime.

1-in-8, sorta like the US; foodborne illness in Canada

The Canadians were busy today, when most of them are off at the cottage.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has joined with the U.S. and now estimates that each year about 1 in 8 Canadians (4 million people) get sick from the food they eat (used to be 1-in-3, or 1-in4).

back_slapFour pathogens cause about 90% of the 1.6 million illnesses caused by known pathogens: Norovirus (1 million cases), Clostridium perfringens (177,000 cases), Campylobacter (145,000 cases) and nontyphoidal Salmonella (88,000 cases). These estimates are based on multiple complementary disease surveillance systems and the peer-reviewed literature.

Understanding the burden of foodborne illness is useful for decision-makers, supporting the development of food safety and public health interventions, for research and for consumer education. Future efforts will focus on estimating the number of foodborne hospitalizations and deaths, the economic cost of food-borne illness and the burden of water-borne illness in order to provide crucial information to support research, policy and action.

A guidance document, Weight of Evidence: Factors to Consider for Appropriate and Timely Action in a Foodborne Illness Outbreak Investigation was developed to assist federal government decision-makers weigh the scientific evidence collected during a foodborne illness outbreak investigation in order to inform risk mitigation actions.

The objective of the document is to provide guidance on how to weigh evidence collected during epidemiologic, laboratory and food safety investigations in a food-borne illness outbreak investigation, as part of an overall health risk assessment process carried out by Health Canada. This is a short summary of the document.

And, to highlight the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Foodborne Illness Outbreak Response Protocol (FIORP), the primary guidance document for investigations of multi-jurisdictional food-borne illness outbreaks in Canada.

Approach: The current version of the FIORP was developed in 2010 by the Public Health Agency of Canada following consultation with Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and provincial and territorial stakeholders.

Results: The FIORP outlines guiding principles and operating procedures to enhance collaboration and coordination among multiple investigative partners in response to multi-jurisdictional food-borne illness outbreaks. It has provided guidance for the conduct of 22 such investigations led by the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Centre for Food-borne, Environmental and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases between 2011 and 2013. Furthermore, it has also served as a guide for the development of provincial protocols.

Conclusion: The timely and effective investigation of and response to multi-jurisdictional food-borne illness outbreaks in Canada is facilitated and enhanced by the FIORP.

Of course, none of these documents were peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals, so it’s just a lot of back-slapping.

It’s all about knowing your supplier (sic); Rancho Feeding Corp. in US charged with selling sick, unfit cattle

A federal grand jury has indicted Rancho Feeding Corp., the Petaluma, California, slaughterhouse at the center of a massive beef recall, for processing animals condemned by U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors and processing others that were known to have eye cancer.

Rancho Feeding CorpThe indictment, dated last Thursday, charges Rancho co-owner Jesse J. Amaral Jr. and two workers, foreperson Felix Sandoval Cabrera and yardperson Eugene D. Corda, with 11 felony counts, including distribution of adulterated and misbranded meat, mail fraud and conspiracy. Amaral pleaded not guilty during a Monday morning hearing and was released on $50,000 bail. The status of Cabrera and Corda is still pending.

In a filing Monday, prosecutors informed U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer that Rancho’s co-owner, Robert Singleton, will be indicted on a single count of distributing adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat. The filing says the U.S. Attorney’s Office anticipates that Singleton will plead guilty and cooperate with prosecution of the other Rancho defendants. The main indictment, which does not name Singleton as a defendant, refers to him only as “R.S.”

The indictment alleges that Amaral and R.S. directed employees to circumvent inspection procedures for cows that exhibited signs of epithelioma, including lumps and other abnormalities around the eyes, from mid-2012 until January 2014.

According to the indictment, Cabrera, the foreperson, swapped uninspected cows for cattle that had already passed inspection and were awaiting slaughter. Then employees slaughtered the cancerous cattle and deposited their heads in a gut bin, the indictment says. Employees then allegedly placed the heads from apparently healthy cattle next to the carcasses of the diseased cattle during the inspectors’ lunch breaks.

Employees are also said to have carved out “USDA Condemned” stamps from other carcasses. 

Food additives on the rise as FDA scrutiny wanes

The explosion of new food additives coupled with an easing of oversight requirements is allowing manufacturers to avoid the scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of chemicals streaming into the food supply.

fda.gras.approvedAnd in hundreds of cases, the FDA doesn’t even know of the existence of new additives, which can include chemical preservatives, flavorings and thickening agents, records and interviews show.

“We simply do not have the information to vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals,” said Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food.

The FDA has received thousands of consumer complaints about additives in recent years, saying certain substances seem to trigger asthmatic attacks, serious bouts of vomiting, intestinal-tract disorders and other health problems.

At a pace far faster than in previous years, companies are adding secret ingredients to everything from energy drinks to granola bars. But the more widespread concern among food-safety advocates and some federal regulators is the quickening trend of companies opting for an expedited certification process to a degree never intended when it was established 17 years ago to, in part, help businesses.

A voluntary certification system has nearly replaced one that relied on a more formal, time-consuming review — where the FDA, rather than companies, made the final determination on what is safe. The result is that consumers have little way of being certain that the food products they buy won’t harm them.

“We aren’t saying we have a public health crisis,” Taylor said. “But we do have questions about whether we can do what people expect of us.”

Wu Heng on throwing China’s food out the window

I hope this book will make you feel that it’s time to throw unsafe food out the window.”

Wu HengSo writes Wu Heng, the founder of Throw it Out the Window (www.zccw.info), a website staffed by volunteers that documents China’s rampant food safety problem and tallies incidents of unsafe food — 3,449 since 2004. In July, Mr. Wu, 28, a former history student and now a journalist who lives in Shanghai, published a book by the same title aiming to raise awareness of a problem he says is fueled by greed, ignorance and corruption, and to support consumer rights.

The book’s table of contents vividly illustrates the problem. Resembling a periodic table of elements, it points the reader to chapters dealing with an unsafe food, a chemical or a policy problem. They include melamine milk and leather milk, fake beef and fake lamb, malachite fish and heavy metal fish, garbage pigs, gutter oil, bleach mushrooms and sulfuric acid lychees, institutional overlaps, policy gaps and special interests.

Finally, it shows Mr. Wu’s prescription for how people can protect themselves, to a certain degree. He calls this the “Three RPs Principle”: Right Price, Right Place and Rotate Poisons.