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.

Assholes.

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.

No.

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.

 

Hepatitis A: Get vaccinated cause you never know when you’ll eat shit

Frozen berries from Egypt, frozen scallops from the Philippines, raw sewage in Detroit, one never really knows when they are going to injest human shit.

hep.aThe City of Detroit is offering preventative vaccinations after two people were diagnosed with Hepatitis A.

Health officials say the two people both came in contact with raw sewage that backed up into a basement.

The Detroit Health Department recommends that anyone who may have come in contact with sewage seek a preventative vaccination.

Contact your primary care physician or go to one of Detroit’s Health Department clinics between Friday August 26 and Friday, September 2. 

More hepatitis A: smoothie edition

Berries are a staple of my diet; I go through about 2 lbs a week of raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. When the fresh berries are too expensive (or don’t look good) I substitute with frozen ones.

Frozen food is sometimes ready-to-eat. Sometimes not. Frozen berries likely haven’t been heat treated before the get to me and were almost certainly harvested by hand.

So I cook them before eating after the multiple noro and hep A outbreaks in the past few years. Even ones that go into smoothies.

According CBS6, hepatitis A cases linked to Egyptian strawberries served at Tropical Smoothie Cafes in Virginia have climbed to over 20.

There have been 23 confirmed cases of hepatitis A linked to frozen strawberries used at Tropical Smoothie Cafes across Virginia.

This includes four cases in Central Virginia.

There are seven is Northern Virginia, four in Northwest Virginia, and eight in the eastern region on the state.

The CEO of Tropical Smoothie Café said the strawberries in question were voluntarily removed from all stores when they learned of a possible link.

The VDH said they want anyone who consumed a smoothie with frozen strawberries at a restaurant within the last 50 days to watch out for symptoms of hepatitis A.

Hawaii Hepatitis A seen and heard: secondary infection potential edition

If I ran a kitchen, hepatitis A would scare me the most. I could have hired a superstar employee, the world’s best handwasher, and still end up with lines outside my operation as folks get post-exposure shots.

I’d try to figure out a way to get everyone who worked for me vaccinated. And according to Murphy et al at CDC, vaccines really matter. Following an increase in vaccination recommendations and offerings in the U.S. rates of the illness declined ‘96.6% from 1996 to 2011 (from 11.7 to 0.4 cases per 100,000 population), and the number of reported cases decreased from 31,032 to 1,398, respectively.’original

In the ongoing saga of hep A in Hawaii, where over 206 are ill following the consumption of contaminated raw scallops, the potential for secondary cases is emerging as food handlers in different settings are part of the case group. According to KRON4, a food handler in a school cafeteria has the virus.

The Hawaii Department of Health is investigating a case of hepatitis A involving a school cafeteria worker.

The patient worked at Kipapa Elementary School in Mililani and was in the cafeteria kitchen between Aug. 3-16.

The Department of Education says it’s complying with the investigation and the school will be preparing its meals off-site for the time being.

The principal sent home a letter to notify parents.

DOH officials say all students should have received a hepatitis A vaccine as part of routinely recommended childhood vaccinations.

Children who have not been previously vaccinated — a few dozen students — should be seen by their pediatrician.

Also on the list of secondary infection sources is a Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant who, according to the Hawaii Tribune Herald, is also part of the outbreak cluster.

The state Department of Health on Tuesday afternoon issued a precaution to passengers who were on the following Hawaiian Airlines flights:

• July 31 — Flight HA22 from Honolulu to Seattle.

• Aug. 1 — Flight HA21 from Seattle to Honolulu.

• Aug. 10 — Flight HA18 from Honolulu to Las Vegas.

• Aug. 12 — Flight HA17 from Las Vegas to Honolulu.

The flight attendant served in-flight food and beverages during each of the flights.

The DOH noted in a press release that risk of transmission from the Hawaiian Airlines flights is “extremely low.”

Food Safety Talk 107: Univalve Mallets

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.1472063437005

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.

Episode 107 can be found here and on iTunes.

Show note links to follow along at home:

Egypt investigates claims of hepatitis-A in strawberry exports

With 10 hepatitis A cases linked to frozen strawberries used by Tropical Smoothie Café in Virginia, and health officials saying the hep A strain has been associated with past outbreaks due to frozen strawberries from Egypt, the Egyptians are now investigating.

strawberry.harvest.egypeEgypt Independent cites Agriculture Ministry spokesman Edi Hawash as saying the U.S. has not officially informed Egypt of the claims, but the claims are being investigated anyway.

Agriculture Minister Essam Fayed has formed a committee, headed by the chairman of the Union of Egyptian Exporters, to investigate the issue, Hawash added.

He said that recent tests conducted on random samples of exported strawberries have shown no cases of the virus.

Hussein al-Hinnawi, the president of the Union of Producers and Exporters of Horticultural Crops, said he doubts that the reported hepatitis-A infections were caused by frozen Egyptian strawberries.

He said Egyptian strawberries are scrutinized at competent laboratories prior to export. Moreover, exporters have full awareness of good practice through the stages of production, transfer and export, Hinnawi said.

Egypt ranks first among Arab countries in the production and export of strawberries, exporting about 40,000,000 tons of fresh and frozen strawberries to 30 countries in Europe, America, Southeast Asia and the Gulf states, according to Al-Ahram.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe voluntarily withdrew all of the strawberries sourced from Egypt and found an alternate supply.