Algorithms for Salmonella surveillance

The objective of this study was to assess the use of statistical algorithms in identifying significant clusters of Salmonella spp. across different sectors of the food chain within an integrated surveillance programme.

Three years of weekly Salmonella serotype data from farm animals, meat, and humans were used to create baseline models (first two years) and identify weeks with counts higher than expected using surveillance algorithms in the third (test) year.

During the test year, an expert working group identified events of interest reviewing descriptive analyses of same data. The algorithms did not identify Salmonella events presenting as gradual increases or seasonal patterns as identified by the working group.

However, the algorithms did identify clusters for further investigation, suggesting they could be a valuable complementary tool within an integrated surveillance system.

Utility of algorithms for the analysis of integrated Salmonella surveillance data

Epidemiology and Infection, Volume 144, Issue 10, July 2016, pp. 2165-2175, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0950268816000182

Vrbova, D.M. Patrick, C. Stephen, C. Roberston, M. Koehoorn, E.J. Parmley, N.I. De With, E. Galanis

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=10375411&utm_source=Issue_Alert&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=HYG

UK goes with Food Crime Confidential

The UK Food Standards Agency’s National Food Crime Unit has launched Food Crime Confidential. This is a reporting facility where anyone with suspicions about food crime can report them safely and in confidence, over the phone or through email. The facility is particularly targeted at those working in or around the UK food industry.

food.crime.confidentialThe FSA’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) works with partners to protect people from serious criminal activity that impacts the safety or authenticity of food and drink they consume.

Food crime involves dishonesty at any stage in the production or supply of food. It is often complex and likely to be seriously detrimental to consumers, businesses or the general public interest.

NFCU would like to receive any information relating to suspected dishonesty involving food, drink or animal feed. In addition to identifying and being able to tackle specific instances of food crime, such information will help us learn more about the circumstances that make offending possible.

The National Food Crime Unit would like to hear from anyone if they have suspicions including:

that food or drink contains things which it shouldn’t

that methods used in your workplace for producing, processing, storing, labelling or transporting food do not seem quite right

that an item of food or drink says it is of a certain quality or from a specific place or region, but it doesn’t appear to be.

Call 0207 276 8787 or email foodcrime@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk

Head of Food Crime at the FSA, Andy Morling said: ‘The National Food Crime Unit is committed to putting consumers first in everything we do. That is why we are launching Food Crime Confidential today to ensure that those with information about food crime can report it in confidence. The facility is open to anyone who has information about food which is being dishonestly produced, manufactured or sold.

‘We particularly want to hear from those who work in or around the UK food industry. We recognise that picking up the phone to pass on suspicions about an employer or an associate can be a big deal. That’s why we’ll ensure the information provided will be handled sensitively and professionally.’

 

Food fraud: Ireland wants to separate its cheese from Brits

Provenance of processed foods is a significant quality attribute for many consumers and one for which they are willing to pay a price premium. As a consequence, the fraudulent mislabeling or adulteration of high-value foods now occurs on a global scale.

Artisan_cheese_cover_200Regulatory authorities and food businesses are focusing greater efforts in combating food fraud which can have serious ramifications for both revenue and reputation.

A number of provenance verification schemes have been established in other countries with the express purpose of protecting the denomination of quality associated with particular food products. This includes the Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano protected designation of origin status for artisan cheeses in Italy. There is currently no such scheme for artisan or “farmhouse” cheeses produced on the island of Ireland and yet it is desirable to facilitate a system of provenance confirmation which can provide confidence to consumers in the true geographical origin of artisan cheeses branded as produced on the island of Ireland. It is therefore prudent at this point in time to investigate analytical methods that could be applied to provide consumers with the necessary assurance of the claimed island of Ireland origin of such products.

The concentration and relative ratios of key analytes in a food products such as cheese are mainly influenced by animal diet and geographic location. Several reports from other countries or regions have shown that the use of multivariate analysis of analytical data comprising elemental and isotopic ratio values can provide confirmation of claimed geographic provenance. Given that food animals on the island of Ireland are largely fed a grass-based diet and reside within a discrete insular geographical area, there is potential for developing robust fingerprint models that can characterise indigenous farmhouse cheeses.

Ultimately, the development of robust models will require the demonstration of two properties: (a) models should correctly classify the provenance of all island of Ireland-produced artisan cheeses as originating on the island of Ireland, and (b) models should correctly identify that farmhouse cheeses produced outside the island of Ireland are not of island of Ireland provenance. These two objectives are inseparable in the context of the provenance testing desired and must be demonstrated before any such model can be confidently used in practice. Before this juncture is reached the application of analytical methodologies for the purposes of robust fingerprinting must be investigated.

Artisan_cheese_640_90This project was a technology viability study that set out to do just that. The strategy pursued generated a considerable quantity of baseline analytical data on the elemental and isotopic composition of island of Ireland artisanal cheese as well as a selection of artisanal cheeses from Great Britain and mainland Europe. While it was not possible to confirm the geographic provenance of island of Ireland artisanal cheeses with 100% accuracy, nonetheless trends in some of the data, especially the isotope data, suggest the possibility of effective segregation of island of Ireland from mainland European, if not Great Britain, cheeses.

Therefore the analytical methodologies investigated have been scoped out for this purpose and can now be taken forward and applied in more focused investigations involving artisan cheeses and other foods produced on the island of Ireland.

1 dead, 38 sick at Greece baptism party: Maybe it was the feta

One person is dead and two are in critical condition amongst the 38 people who suffered food poisoning after a baptism party in Aspra Spitia, Viotia, in central Greece.

buffet food

buffet food

The baptism party was held on Saturday and afterwards 38 people were transferred to the hospital with severe gastroenteritis symptoms. Health experts claim it was salmonella that caused the mass food poisoning.

According to local website lamiareport.gr, a 55-year-old man died in the hospital while two others are in intensive care. The 23-year-old son of the man was transferred to an Athens hospital for treatment, while another guest is in intensive care at a Lamia hospital.

A guest who spoke to lamia.gr believes the salmonella was in a specific feta cheese because all the people who ate it ended up in the hospital, while those who didn’t eat the particular cheese showed no gastroenteritis symptoms whatsoever.

20 years of PulseNet: The national molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports PulseNet is celebrating 20 years of public health achievements in transforming the way foodborne disease outbreaks are detected and investigated.

pulse-net-20-200PulseNet is a national surveillance network of federal, state, and local public health laboratories that work together to detect foodborne disease outbreaks by connecting DNA fingerprints of bacteria that cause illness. The network facilitates the early identification of common sources of foodborne outbreaks and helps regulatory agencies identify areas where implementation of new measures are likely to improve the safety of the food supply.

A recent economic evaluation of PulseNet activities suggests that the network prevents at least 270,000 illnesses from infection with Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria and saves an estimated $500 million each year. In 2013, PulseNet began using whole genome sequencing (WGS) to detect outbreaks caused by Listeria, the most deadly foodborne pathogen. PulseNet is quickly expanding the use of WGS in state laboratories and has begun using WGS in investigations of other foodborne pathogens such as Campylobacter, E. coli, and Salmonella. With incorporation of WGS and other advanced molecular detection methods, PulseNet will continue to improve foodborne disease detection and identify outbreaks faster and with more accuracy.

Additional information regarding CDC’s Advanced Molecular Detection initiative is available at http://www.cdc.gov/amd/. Additional materials on the 20th anniversary of PulseNet, including success stories from state public health laboratories and fact sheets are available at the CDC PulseNet website.

Why color sucks: Eating pink chicken

Joe Sevier of Epicurious had unknowingly done me a favor, telling his food porn audience it’s OK to eat pink chicken, if it is temped for safety.

Suck on that Food Standards Scotland.

scotland.pinkchicken-fss_largeWe’ve been trained as a society to treat pink poultry like anathema. Some cooks even go so far as to overcook chicken on purpose. But what if I told you some pink poultry is safe to eat? Would you believe me?

Amazingly, it’s true. When I spoke to Dr. Greg Blonder, a physicist and co-author of Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling, he explained why some pinkness will never fade. And if no amount of checking the chicken’s temperature will assuage your squeamishness, he offered some tips to avoiding pink poultry before you even bring it home from the store.

What causes cooked meat to turn pink?

“The majority of chickens sold in stores today are between six to eight weeks old,” says Blonder. Young chickens have hollow bones that are thinner and more porous than their older brethren. When cooked, “the purple marrow—so colored due to the presence of myoglobin, a protein responsible for storing oxygen—leaks into the meat.” This reaction, in effect, stains the bone; the color of the meat adjacent to it will not fade regardless of the temperature to which it’s cooked.

What about pink flesh nearer the surface? Certain cooking techniques—especially ones that use lower cooking temperatures, such as smoking—exacerbate the pink meat reaction. That pink smoke ring that’s a telltale sign of good barbecue? Myoglobin again. In fact, you don’t even need smoke to achieve that smoke ring.

barfblog.Stick It InWhy is my chicken bloody in the first place?

Actually, it’s not. Blonder notes, “all commercially-sold chickens are drained of their blood during processing.” The pink, watery liquid you’re seeing is just that: water. The moisture that seeps from the chicken while it’s waiting for you to buy it mixes with that old rascal myoglobin, causing the pink “juices” that you see pooling around the packaged bird—it’s called myowater, FYI.

That same substance is what gushes forth when you cut into a cooking chicken to see if the juices run clear. Unfortunately, that’s a long-held measure of doneness that can’t be trusted. The only way to know if your bird is cooked through: a good quality thermometer. (Here’s the Epi favorite.) To check the temperature, stick the probe into the meatiest part of the bird—checking both the breast and thigh is a good idea. You’re looking for a finished temperature of 160ºF to 165ºF. Accounting for carry-over cooking and the size of whatever it is you’re cooking, that could mean pulling the chicken off the heat anywhere from 150ºF to 155ºF.

Whatever, pink meat still freaks me out

There are a couple of things you can do to avoid pink meat altogether.

First, debone the meat before it’s cooked. Without a myoglobin-y bone around to stain it, your chicken breast will be as pristinely white as possible.

Second, change the pH. A lot of factors are at play here, notes Blonder, and even the way an animal is slaughtered can significantly change the pH level (i.e. acidity) of its meat. Higher pH—i.e. lower acidity—means higher myoglobin and higher myoglobin means pink had better be your new obsession. If you’re not Steven Tyler, opt instead to marinate your meat in a marinade with a lot of citrus or vinegar. Introducing the meat to a high-acid environment will lower the pH and reduce the risk of that anxiety-inducing rosy hue.

Scotland, your overpaid food safety communications types got some explaining to do. If you can’t even get cooking chicken right, how can anyone believe your so-called science-based approach to food safety issues?

And every generation will have its Aerosmith. They aren’t the Stones or Floyd.

Blame consumers: Hong Kong case of E. coli O157:H7

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health is today (June 20) investigating a case of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157:H7 infection, and hence reminded the public to maintain good personal, food and environmental hygiene against intestinal infections.

blame_canadaBecause in the absence of any details, it’s PR strategy to blame consumers.

The boy, aged 3 with good past health, has developed fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough and runny nose since June 10, and was admitted to a private hospital for management on June 12. He has been in a stable condition all along and was discharged on June 15.

His stool specimen tested positive for STEC O157:H7 upon laboratory testing by the CHP’s Public Health Laboratory Services Branch.

Initial enquiries revealed that the patient had no recent travel history. He had contact with animals during the incubation period, but did not consume unpasteurised milk or raw food.

I must be drunk: A pink chicken is the mascot for a Food Standards Scotland campaign

I like the train. Some of my most memorable conversations happen on the train.

scotland.pinkchicken-fss_largeThe three of us bid adieu to Montpellier and returned to Paris for a couple of days before the pilgrimage back to Australia, home of carp herpes and koala chlamydia (see next post, when I write it).

The shaggy-haired dude sitting beside me finally spoke up in perfect London English, and said, I couldn’t help but overhearing, but yes, you should move your knapsack, let me help you.

You speak English?

Turns out Dr. Mark has a PhD in the maths, and is post-docing in Montpellier on the maths.

He was off to the Glastonbury music festival, worried about trenchfoot, I told him to watch out for Campylobacter and E. coli O157, and Amy told him that one of this years’ headliners, Muse, has complaints about Salmonella and bird shit. Something about Sorenne being a product of science also came up.

When we needed a conversational hiatus, I returned to watching John Oliver skewer his native UK for wanting to leave the European Union (warning, video hilarious but extremely not suitable for family viewing).

And even the Brits don’t want to stay together, what with Scotland doing its own thing, including a Food Standards Scotland agency.

Scottish independence was supposed to be something about Celtic pride, or pride in Sean Connery impersonations on mock Jeopardy, but if Food Standards Scotland attempt at independent food safety communications – if it’s not Scottish, it’s craaaaaaap – are an indicator, bring on the whiskey and go back to sleep.

In my best John Oliver voice, the new FSS mascot is a pink chicken.

A f*cking pink chicken.

Read this, if you can.

Foodborne illness remains an important public health problem for Scotland, resulting in disruption to the workforce and burdens on health services which have consequences for the Scottish economy.

Prior to the establishment of Food Standards Scotland (FSS), we worked as part of the Food Standards Agency to develop, implement and evaluate interventions for improving the safety of the food chain and help consumers to understand the steps that they need to take to protect themselves and their families from foodborne illness.

We’re now consulting on a draft of our proposal for a new Foodborne Illness Strategy for Scotland which sets out the approach we think we will need to take over the next five years to protect the safety of foods produced and sold in Scotland and reduce the risks of foodborne illness to the people of Scotland. … It will take a targeted approach by developing interventions for containing and eradicating contaminants at the key foodborne transmission pathways that have the potential to lead to illness in humans. Workstreams will be developed to evaluate the impact of interventions at all stages, based on uptake and evidence for efficacy.

It’s still a f*cking pink chicken.

Did the PR team get loaded and watched Dumbo and woke inspired by pink elephants?

These food safety geniuses know color is a lousy indicator of food safety, yet issued a companion press release which said, Food poisoning can wreck your summer barbecue. Keep pink chicken – and nasty food bugs – off the menu. …The bigger the piece of chicken, the more time it needs.

“Check chicken is steaming hot right through before dishing up.

“Looks can deceive. Charred chicken on the outside may still be pink inside. Check it’s cooked right through. 

“Turning chicken regularly helps it cook evenly. And you’ll impress your guests with your fancy tongs action.

“You’re good to go when the chicken is steaming hot in the middle, there’s no pink chicken to be seen and the juices run clear.

“To make sure, use a meat thermometer. Chicken should be a minimum of 75 °C in the centre.”

The thermometer is an after thought to tong juggling and piping hot, but is the only way to determine if that bird is safe to eat (75C).

FSS also threw in this line, apparently written by a Scot who migrated to the Ozarks and returned home with the word “reckon” in his or her vocabulary.

At least 6000 people in Scotland suffer Campylobacter poisoning every year. Some reckon the number could be 9 times that. It’s the most common cause of food poisoning.

And it’s still a f*cking pink chicken.

Best wishes at Glastonbury, Dr. Mark, and figuring out what you’ll do if Britain does leave the EU.