Whole Foods still sucks at food safety: Hep A link in Detroit (vaccines work)

A bromate at the daddy crowd at school pickup yesterday sheepishly admitted that until two years ago, he thought the band Queen was from the U.S.

whole-foodsI asked him, where were the Beatles from?

Liverpool, UK.

Rolling Stones?

Detroit, Michigan, Rock City USA (he was joking).

Regardless of where you’re from, Whole Foods still sucks at food safety.

The Detroit Health Department is investigating two cases of Hepatitis A in connection with the prepared foods section at the Whole Foods Market at 115 Mack Avenue in Detroit, officials said.

One case was diagnosed in an employee at the store who handles and prepared food at the store.

The second case was diagnosed in a Detroit resident who ate at the prepared foods section of the store.

It’s unclear how either case was contracted, officials said. It’s possible the second case might have been contracted from the food handler, health officials said.

The Detroit Health Department recommends anyone who ate prepared foods from the Whole Foods in Detroit between Oct. 6 and Oct. 12 to speak with a doctor.

“While it remains unclear exactly how either of these individuals contracted Hepatitis A, and we know that Whole Foods Market Detroit has a comprehensive food safety protocol, we want to do our best to protect our residents and those of surrounding communities who may have been exposed. Whole Foods has been nothing but cooperative throughout this process,” said Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, executive director and health officer at the Detroit Health Department.

(Canada should also apologize for Rush).

Get vaccinated for hep A

Herbal plants have long been used as traditional medicines to treat diseases caused by microbial pathogens. The hepatitis A virus (HAV) causes acute liver infection through the fecal–oral route. Although the antimicrobial activities of herbal extracts against bacterial and some viral pathogens have been extensively studied, their antiviral properties against HAV have not been investigated thus far.  This study was designed to investigate the inhibitory effect of 16 herbal extracts against HAV.

hep-aSignificant inhibition of HAV was observed only when HAV was co-treated with extracts. Ten out of the 16 herbal extracts demonstrated significant virucidal activity against HAV. Alnus japonica extract at a concentration of 50 μg/mL reduced HAV titer by 3.43 ± 0.24 logs. Artemisia annua, Allium sativum, Allium fistulosum, and Agrimonia pilosa extracts showed 2.33 ± 0.43, 2.10 ± 0.41, 2.07 ± 0.60, and 2.03 ± 0.26-log reductions, respectively. Pleuropterus multiflorus, Eleutherococcus senticosus, Coriandrum sativum, Ginkgo biloba, and Torilis japonica extracts reduced HAV titer by 1.02 ± 0.21 to 1.90 ± 0.33 logs. Among the 10 herbal extracts, Alnus japonica extract was the most potent in inhibiting HAV without exhibiting cytotoxicity.

Antiviral activity of herbal extracts against the hepatitis A virus

Food Control, Volume 72, Part A, February 2017, Pages 9-13, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodcont.2016.07.028


Going public: The hepatitis A case that wasn’t

When there is a chance to protect public health you gotta go public with all the info you have, when you have it. Sometimes new information arises that changes things and makes it look like officials got it wrong – when they didn’t.

Last week, according to The Chronicle, a food handler tested positive for hep A – and it turned out to be a false positive.flat1000x1000075f

A reported case of Hepatitis A at the Chehalis Shop’n Kart last week has been ruled a false positive by county health officials, meaning a worker in the store’s bakery was not infected and baked goods they handled were not contaminated.

An initial press release from the Lewis County Public Health and Social Services last week said a bakery worker tested positive for the virus, which causes an acute liver infection.

But a release issued Friday said this test was a false positive, meaning there was never an infection or risk to customers.

Shop’n Kart owner Darris McDaniel said the containment procedure cost his store thousands of dollars in product they threw away, while also damaging its reputation.

“In the future, if anything would happen again, we would ask for another test right away, because this sent up a lot of bad signals for our business when in fact it wasn’t true,” he said. “We did take the proper steps and acted very quickly.”

I feel much better: Egyptian strawberries in UAE are free of Hepatitis A

According to The National (the UAE paper, not the band) Egyptian strawberries are all good. I’d like to see some sort of data or specifics (like how many samples, how they sampled).

Frozen Egyptian strawberries are free from Hepatitis A, the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment has confirmed. frozen-strawberry

The issue came up last month when the US Food and Drug Administration reported an outbreak of Hepatitis A from Egyptian strawberries in the US. 

The ministry tightened control on frozen strawberries imported from Egypt to prevent any contaminated products that pose a risk to consumers entering the country.

Authorities also collected samples of seven different brands of frozen Egyptian strawberries in UAE markets to conduct laboratory tests.

All clear. Except testing a few batches and not finding hep A has it’s limitations.

Food Safety Talk 109: Pooped on an airplane

Food Safety Talk, a bi-weekly podcast for food safety nerds, by food safety nerds. The podcast is hosted by Ben Chapman and barfblog contributor Don Schaffner, Extension Specialist in Food Science and Professor at Rutgers University. Every two weeks or so, Ben and Don get together virtually and talk for about an hour.

They talk about what’s on their minds or in the news regarding food safety, and popular culture. They strive to be relevant, funny and informative — sometimes they succeed. You can download the audio recordings right from the website, or subscribe using iTunes.14502823_10157592450435442_3811567674478483849_n

Episode 109 can be found here and on iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Russia, UAE ban Egyptian produce, Saudi lab say frozen berries safe

Rosselkhoznadzor, the state agricultural safety agency, said on Friday that imports of Egyptian plant products will be banned from next Thursday until Egypt’s authorities take steps to ensure their safety.

jeddah_marriott_no_women_signThe move comes after Egypt, the world’s largest wheat importer, changed its import regulations to ban any ergot fungus in imported wheat.

It had previously accepted 0.05% of it in imported wheat, a level considered harmless.

The new policy hurt Russia, which is one of the major suppliers of wheat to Egypt.

In the past, Russia often slapped bans on agricultural imports amid political or economic disputes with other nations, citing sanitary reasons.

Meanwhile, the UAE has tightened controls on imports of frozen strawberries from Egypt that may be linked to a hepatitis A outbreak in the U.S. that sickened 119 people

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment on Saturday said it had instructed food control authorities in each of the seven emirates “to tighten control procedures on frozen strawberries imported from Egypt in order to avoid the entry of any contaminated products that pose a risk to the consumer in the country”.

Yesterday, a Saudi laboratory following thorough tests has confirmed that Egyptian frozen strawberries in the market are safe for consumption.

The test negates all the rumours circulating on social media platforms regarding Egyptian frozen strawberry products and their link to the Hepatitis A outbreak reported recently across eight US states.

A day earlier, an official report posted on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) website does not conform to what has been circulated on social media platforms regarding Egyptian frozen strawberries.

The ministry urged the public to refrain from posting or circulating any news on social media platforms without contacting the concerned authorities to verify and validate the credibility of that information before posting.

Yes, that’s exactly how the world works. Some countries also value women as equal citizens, who can drive and play hockey.

And other countries value data. The Saudis offer nothing but an authoritarian decree.


Going public: Missoula edition

The Missoula City-County Health Department is following the mantra of share what you know, what you don’t know and be available for questions following a possible hepatitis A exposure in Missoula, Montana.

According to KPAX, A food handler at a local retailer, the Good Food Store, was confirmed to be ill with the virus and may have exposed thousands of shoppers over the past month.saladbar

Missoula City-County Health Department officer Ellen Leahy says while the food service employee was excluded from work during most of the time that they had symptoms, there is a potential for customer exposure because Hepatitis A can be spread before a person has symptoms – before they know they are infectious or ill.

To address this possibility, the health department is issuing this public notice in conjunction with the Good Food Store, where the employee’s job included preparing foods for the self-serve salad bar. Ready-to-eat-foods such as those found on a salad bar won’t be cooked or washed by the consumer prior to eating and can be a vehicle for contamination.

Leahy says the Good Food Store followed proper sick employee exclusion rules and has excellent policies, practices, and facilities for food handling and hand washing.

The Missoula City-County Health Department recommends the following courses of action:

• If you ate food from the self-serve salad bar at the Good Food Store between August 15 and September 13, please be alert for symptoms of Hepatitis A.

• If you ate food from the self-serve salad bar at the Good Food Store within the past two weeks and have not been previously immunized for Hepatitis A, an immunization given within two weeks of exposure may protect you from getting the disease. Please come to the health department or contact your health care provider as soon as possible to discuss immunization options.

• If you did not eat food from the self-serve salad bar at the Good Food Store, no action is recommended at this time.

Contact the Missoula City-County Health Department at (406) 258-3500 if you have questions or concerns about Hepatitis A.


KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

It’s hard to get Hep A off of frozen berries

Berries are a staple of my diet; I go through about 2 lbs a week of raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. When fresh berries are too expensive (or don’t look great) I substitute with frozen ones – and often cook them before eating to control for viruses.
Last year, following a hep-A-in-berries outbreak in Australia, we made a food safety infosheet and included the following risk management steps:foodsafetyinfosheet-2-27-15-2
•Consider getting vaccinated. There is a vaccine for hepatitis A that can provide protection from the pathogen from frozen berries and other potential sources.
•Cook frozen berries. They have likely not been heat treated. The science is complicated but the best guess is, boiling berries can inactivate hepatitis A.
•Clean and sanitize. Cooking doesn’t address cross-contamination risks – thawed berries release juice that could contain the virus.
•Know your suppliers and ask questions. Find out how they address risks with the products they buy; ask about how good agricultural practices (GAPs) including employee hygiene safe water sources are implemented and assessed
•Wash your hands. Good handwashing, especially in food service, can protect patrons if you or another food handler is shedding the virus.
Sorta the same stuff I told Sara G. Miller of Live Science when she called to chat about the virus and berries.
Nearly 90 people in seven states have become sick in an outbreak of hepatitis A linked to frozen strawberries imported from Egypt, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But how does the hepatitis A virus get into strawberries?
Berries of all types are actually a common conduit for viruses, said Benjamin Chapman, a food-safety specialist and an associate professor at North Carolina State University. 
One of the reasons for this is that berries are very delicate, and so unlike other, hardier fruits and vegetables, berries need to be harvested by hand, Chapman told Live Science.
Because hepatitis A is spread through the “fecal-to-oral route,” if workers picking berries were infected with hepatitis A and had not properly washed their hands, they could transfer the virus from their hands to the berry, Chapman said. In parts of the world where hepatitis A is more common, this is definitely a risk, he added.
It’s more likely, however, that the water used to irrigate the strawberries was the source of the virus in this outbreak, Chapman said (I based this guess on the size of the outbreak, but who knows -ben). And, yes, because of that fecal-to-oral route, that means sewage-contaminated water.
And once a berry is contaminated, it’s unlikely that the virus will be washed off, Chapman said. Because berries are more delicate than other fruits, they’re not washed as often, he said.
The next step, freezing the berries, only further preserves the virus, Chapman said. And because frozen berries are sold as “ready to eat,” people are unlikely to heat them before eating, he said. This is especially likely if the berries are being used to make a smoothie, as occurred in the current outbreak, he added.
Chapman said that he actually microwaves all of his berries before eating them or refreezing them, though he added that his method of heating them to above 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees C) might be overkill.
Still, there’s not enough data to suggest that just rinsing the berries would sufficiently remove a virus, he said.

Hepatitis A in scallops

As the number of hepatitis A cases in Hawaii nears 300, how do people prepare scallops?

scallop-lunch-mar-12The hep A seems to have originated in frozen scallops from the Philippines.

But if you follow TV food porn chefs, scallops are cooked when they can bounce off the floor.


Use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer and make sure they reach 145F (which may not be enough to kill hep A; some sources recommend an internal temperature of 195F).

Think I’ll go down to the fish market later today and grill some scallops in garlic-lime butter.

And vaccines work.

89 now sick with hep A: What kind of trendy smoothie place gets their frozen strawberries from Egypt?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that several states, CDC, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are continuing to investigate a multistate outbreak of foodborne hepatitis A. Information available at this time does not indicate an ongoing risk of acquiring hepatitis A virus infection at Tropical Smoothie Café’s, as the contaminated food product has been removed as of August 8. Symptoms of hepatitis A virus infection can take up to 50 days to appear. As a result, CDC continues to identify cases of hepatitis A related to the initial contaminated product.

tropical-smoothie-cafe89 people with hepatitis A have been reported from seven states: Maryland (10), New York (1), North Carolina (1), Oregon (1), Virginia (70), West Virginia (5), and Wisconsin (1).

39 ill people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicate frozen strawberries imported from Egypt are the likely source of this outbreak.

In interviews, nearly all ill people interviewed reported drinking smoothies containing strawberries at Tropical Smoothie Café locations prior to August 8 in a limited geographical area, including Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

On August 8, 2016, Tropical Smoothie Café reported that they removed the Egyptian frozen strawberries from their restaurants in Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia and switched to another supplier. Out of an abundance of caution, Tropical Smoothie Café has since switched to another supplier for all restaurants nationwide.

If you think you’ve gotten sick from drinking a smoothie containing frozen strawberries from a Tropical Smoothie Café prior to August 8, contact your doctor.

Food handlers should contact their doctors and stay home if they are sick with hepatitis A.

 “To those who have become ill after eating at one of our cafes, we are deeply sorry,” Tropical Smoothie Cafe said in a statement. “We hope you recover quickly and completely.”

The Food and Drug Administration said in a statement that it would increase surveillance of imported strawberries.