1 dead, two others sick; Oasis Brands Inc. cheese recalls and investigation of human listeriosis cases

Several recalls of cheese and dairy products produced by Oasis Brands, Inc. due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination have been announced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

listeria4On August 4, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. voluntarily recalled quesito casero (fresh curd) due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination after the pathogen was isolated from quesito casero produced by this firm.

On October 6, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. recalled cuajada en hoja (fresh curd) after FDA isolated Listeria monocytogenes from environmental samples collected from the production facility.

On October 16, 2014, Oasis Brands, Inc. recalled various cheese and dairy products sold under the Lacteos Santa Martha brand.

Whole-genome sequences of the Listeria monocytogenes strains isolated from recalled quesito casero cheese produced by Oasis Brands, Inc. were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from one person who became ill in September 2013 and two persons who became ill in June and August 2014.

These three ill persons were reported from three states: New York (1), Tennessee (1), and Texas (1).

All ill persons were hospitalized. One death was reported in Tennessee. One illness was related to a pregnancy and was diagnosed in a newborn.

oasis.listeria.oct.14All ill persons were reported to be of Hispanic ethnicity and reported consuming Hispanic-style soft cheese. The two persons who were able to answer questions about specific varieties of Hispanic-style soft cheeses reported consuming quesito casero, though neither could remember the brand.

CDC recommends that consumers do not eat any of the recalled cheese and dairy products. Restaurants and retailers should not sell or serve them.

Although limited information is available about the specific cheese products consumed by ill persons, the whole genome sequencing findings, together with the cheese consumption history of the patients suggests that these illnesses could have been related to products from Oasis Brands, Inc.

This investigation is ongoing, and new information will be provided when available.

Growth of Listeria monocytogenes and Listeria innocua on fresh baby spinach leaves: Effect of storage temperature and natural microflora

Leafy greens such as spinach may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes during pre-harvest and postharvest handling. Recent recalls issued for Listeria-contaminated leafy greens are driving the need for technologies to minimize safety issues in fresh and fresh-cut produce.

listeria.spinachThis study assessed the effectiveness of washing treatments as a postharvest practice to minimize the growth of the pathogen and L. innocua on fresh baby spinach leaves under different storage temperatures and to evaluate the feasibility of using L. innocua as a surrogate when access to BL2 facilities is difficult. Each microorganism had a different (P < 0.05) response to the type of washing treatment at room temperature (∼22 °C) and the pathogen was harder to remove from the leaves than the surrogate was. Growth data for L. monocytogenes and L. innocua on fresh baby spinach leaves at 5–36 °C were modeled using the Baranyi and Ratkowsky (secondary) models which were validated by comparing the root mean square error (RMSEs) and biases between the growth data and model predictions. The secondary models showed good agreement between observed and predicted values.

These models can provide useful input to quantitative risk assessment tools to evaluate the growth of pathogens in baby spinach during several stages of processing and distribution such as washing and cold storage. Although the natural microflora on fresh baby spinach leaves affected the growth parameters for both bacteria, the effect was not significant. Thus, in the specific case of spinach leaves, the study shows that L. innocua may be a suitable surrogate in growth studies of L. monocytogenes.

Postharvest Biology and Technology, Volume 100, February 2015, Pages 41–51, DOI: 10.1016/j.postharvbio.2014.09.007

Basri Omac, Rosana G. Moreira, Alejandro Castillo, Elena Castell-Perez

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S092552141400252X

 

Asparagus soup? Three deaths traced to new Listeria outbreak in Denmark

Three people have died from listeria-infested asparagus soup at Odense University Hospital.

asparagus.soupThe deaths are a result of a new listeria outbreak and are not related to the one that has been traced to the deli meat rullepølse, which has claimed 16 lives.

“There are two different outbreaks and they are not connected. In the asparagus soup, it is a completely different strain of listeria than in the rullepølse outbreak.”

Three of the infections proved fatal, with the most recent death in April.

A recent check by the Danish Food and Veterinary Service (Fødevarestyrelsen) found traces of listeria in three soups at Odense University Hospital and Svendborg Hospital. Listeria was also found in meatballs served with the soups.

In all, 38 people were infected through the rullepølse outbreak, with 16 dying within 30 days of being infected. The last recorded death was on August 25.

Listeria still isn’t nice to pregnant women (and others)

This study describes trends in the incidence of pregnancy-related listeriosis in France between 1984 and 2011, and presents the major characteristics of 606 cases reported between 1999 and 2011 to the French Institute for Public Health Surveillance through the mandatory notification system.

amy.pregnant.listeriaThe incidence of pregnancy-related listeriosis decreased by a factor of 12 from 1984 to 2011. This reduction was a result of progressive implementation of specific Listeria monocytogenes control measures in food production. A lower incidence of pregnancy-related listeriosis was observed in regions with a lower prevalence of toxoplasmosis. Given that dietary recommendations in pregnancy target both toxoplasmosis and listeriosis prevention, we suppose that recommendations may have been delivered and followed more frequently in these regions.

Cases reported between 1999 and 2011 (n=606) were classified as maternal infections with ongoing pregnancy (n=89, 15%), fetal loss (n=166, 27%), or live-born neonatal listeriosis (n=351, 58%). The majority of live-born neonatal listeriosis cases (n=216, 64%) were preterm births (22–36 weeks of gestation), of whom 14% (n=30) were extremely preterm births (22–27 weeks of gestation). Eighty per cent of mothers reported having eaten high risk food during pregnancy. A better awareness of dietary recommendations in pregnant women is therefore necessary.

Eurosurveillance, Volume 19, Issue 38

D Girard, A Leclercq, E Laurent, M Lecuit, H de Valk, V Goulet

http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=20909

 

Listeriosis, caused by Listeria monocytogenes, is an important foodborne disease that can be difficult to control and commonly results in severe clinical outcomes. We aimed to provide the first estimates of global numbers of illnesses, deaths, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) due to listeriosis, by synthesising information and knowledge through a systematic review.

Methods

We retrieved data on listeriosis through a systematic review of peer-reviewed and grey literature (published in 1990—2012). We excluded incidence data from before 1990 from the analysis. We reviewed national surveillance data where available. We did a multilevel meta-analysis to impute missing country-specific listeriosis incidence rates. We used a meta-regression to calculate the proportions of health states, and a Monte Carlo simulation to generate DALYs by WHO subregion.

Findings

We screened 11 722 references and identified 87 eligible studies containing listeriosis data for inclusion in the meta-analyses. We estimated that, in 2010, listeriosis resulted in 23 150 illnesses (95% credible interval 6061—91 247), 5463 deaths (1401—21 497), and 172 823 DALYs (44 079—676 465). The proportion of perinatal cases was 20·7% (SD 1·7).

Interpretation

Our quantification of the global burden of listeriosis will enable international prioritisation exercises. The number of DALYs due to listeriosis was lower than those due to congenital toxoplasmosis but accords with those due to echinococcosis. Urgent efforts are needed to fill the missing data in developing countries. We were unable to identify incidence data for the AFRO, EMRO, and SEARO WHO regions.

Funding

WHO Foodborne Diseases Epidemiology Reference Group and the Université catholique de Louvain.

The Lancet Infectious Diseases, doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(14)70870-9

Noordhout, Charline Maertens De, Brecht Devleesschauwer, Frederick J. Angulo, Geert Verbeke, Juanita Haagsma, Martyn Kirk, Arie Havelaar, and Niko Speybroeck

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(14)70870-9/abstract

Fast Facts about Cutting Boards and Food Safety in Your Kitchen (from The Abstract)

Channeling my inner Dean Cliver, I had a chat last week with my friend Matt Shipman about cutting boards and food safety. Matt, a science writer, public information officer at North Carolina State University, curator of The Abstract, and all around swell dude, writes:

Anything that touches your food can be a source of contamination and foodborne illness – including cutting boards.

For example, if you cut up a raw chicken, and then use the same cutting board to slice a tomato for your salad, you run the risk of cross-contamination – with bacteria from the chicken being transferred to the tomato. That, of course, would be bad.

And vegetarians aren’t off the hook either. Fruits and vegetables can also carry pathogens (and transfer them to cutting boards).

To reduce the risk of foodborne illness in your kitchen, here are some things you should know about cutting boards.

Plastic Versus Wood

For a long time, most (if not all) cutting boards were made of wood. But at some point people began using plastic cutting boards. The idea was that they were easier to clean (and sanitize), and therefore were safer.

But in the late 1980s, a UC Davis researcher named Dean Cliver – the de facto godfather of cutting board food safety – decided to investigate whether plastic cutting boards really were safer. Answer: not really.

Photo credit: Betsssssy, via Wikimedia Commons.

Plastic cutting boards, Cliver found, are easier to sanitize. But cutting on them also leaves lots of grooves where bacteria can hide. Wood is tougher to sanitize, but it’s also (often) tougher in general – you won’t find as many deep scratches in the surface.

In addition, researchers have discovered that the type of wood your cutting board is made from also makes a difference.

“Hardwoods, like maple, are fine-grained, and the capillary action of those grains pulls down fluid, trapping the bacteria – which are killed off as the board dries after cleaning,” says Ben Chapman, a food safety researcher at NC State. “Soft woods, like cypress, are less likely to dull the edge of your knife, but also pose a greater food safety risk,” Chapman explains. “That’s because they have larger grains, which allows the wood to split apart more easily, forming grooves where bacteria can thrive.”

Which type of cutting board should you use? Chapman recommends using plastic cutting boards for meat and wood cutting boards for fruit, vegetables, or any ready-to-eat foods (like bread or cheese).

Why use plastic cutting boards for meat? Because of how you wash them.

Cleaning Your Cutting Board

Plastic and wood have different characteristics, so you have to handle them differently.

Plastic cutting boards can be placed in the dishwasher, where they can be sanitized by washing at high temperatures. But wood cutting boards would quickly be ruined by a dishwasher, and not everyone owns a dishwasher. If you’re washing a cutting board by hand, you should:

  • Rinse the debris off the cutting board (being careful not to splatter contaminated water all over the place);
  • Scrub the cutting board with soap and water (to get out anything in the scratches or grooves on the board’s surface); and
  • Sanitize the cutting board (you should use different sanitizers for wood cutting boards than for plastic ones).

For plastic cutting boards, you should use a chlorine-based sanitizer, such as a solution of bleach and water (one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water – has a shelf life of a week or two). But for wood cutting boards, you should use a quaternary ammonia sanitizer, such as a solution of Mr. Clean and water (follow the dilution instructions on the label).

“This is because chlorine binds very easily to organic materials, like the wood in a cutting board, which neutralizes its antibacterial properties,” Chapman says. “Quaternary ammonia is more effective at killing bacteria on wood or other organic surfaces.”

It’s worth noting that you should also sanitize your kitchen sponge/rag/brush after you’ve used it to scrub the chicken-juice off your cutting board – or else you run the risk of contaminating the next thing you wash (which is the exact opposite of what you’re trying to do).

The last step in cleaning your cutting board is an important one –dry it.

“Make sure you put the cutting board somewhere that air circulates, so that it can dry completely,” Chapman says. Bacteria need moisture to grow, and you don’t want to give them a welcoming environment.

“Historically, butchers used to put salt on their butcher blocks to keep them from smelling bad,” Chapman says. “This worked because the salt drew the moisture out of the wood and prevented bacterial contamination, which is what caused the smell – though the butchers didn’t know it at the time.”

When To Replace Your Cutting Board

At some point, scrubbing and sanitizing might not be enough. When your cutting board has accumulated a lot of deep grooves from repeated use, you probably need to replace it.

“The more grooves it has, and the bigger they are, the more area is available for trapping moisture and giving bacteria a place to proliferate,” Chapman says.

Sushi restaurant in Jerusalem closed due to Listeria risk

An immediate closing order was issued on Sunday by the Municipal Court for Local Affairs and the Health Ministry against Sushi Garden, a restaurant at 21 Rehov Yirmiyahu in Jerusalem’s Romema quarter. Ministry inspectors said the restaurant presented an immediate danger to public health if it remained open. As a result, municipal authorities asked for the urgent court order, which was issued on the spot.

Sushi-Platter-720x460Inspectors found that it was operating without a license and had very bad hygienic conditions. An epidemiological investigation by the ministry uncovered the case of a pregnant woman who miscarried after suffering from listeriosis. The ministry said there is a  possibility that the source of the bacterial infection was food made in the Sushi Garden restaurant.

Reports of Listeria more than double in Hong Kong

The annual number of reports of a deadly disease resulting from foodborne bacteria have more than doubled from 2011 to last year as people eat more pre-packaged food, doctors at the Centre for Food Safety said on Wednesday. 

listeria4A total of 26 cases of listeriosis, a serious bacterial infection that has a mortality rate of about 20 per cent, were reported last year and in 2012. In the previous three years, the annual average number of reported cases was 11.

The disease is caused by Listeria monocytogenes, a type of bacteria which thrives on pre-prepared food that is refrigerated for more than a week. 

Sixteen cases have already been reported in the first seven months of this year. The disease can lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, blood and brain infections among high-risk people such as pregnant women, newborns and elderly people.

Some of the cases reported this year had resulted in miscarriages, the centre said.

We’re in waste managment: Liechtenstein thieves steal 1.3 tonnes of Listeria cheese

Germany’s food inspection office is concerned bad cheese will be sold either directly or indirectly, posing a health risk to anyone who consumes it, ATS reported on Tuesday.

sopranos.don't.fuck.with.usThe problem is the “Alp Sücka” cheese was found to be contaminated with listeria monocytogenes, a bacterium that causes listeriosis, a potentially deadly infection.

Liechtenstein’s food office had banned the cheese but during a check discovered that 236 five-kilogram wheels of the dairy product had gone missing, ATS said.

They were probably stolen from open containers where they were stored temporarily before planned destruction, the news agency reported.

The country’s prosecutor has launched an investigation into the cheese’s disappearance.

Listeria concerns on the rise for pregnant women?

Listeria has always been a concern, but according to a NBC news affiliate, it’s new.

amy.pregnant.listeriaAnd people wonder why mainstream journalism is dying.

“While normally this is a bacteria our bodies can fight off, for expecting women, it becomes more difficult because of a lowered immune system. Additionally, there is concern that the bacteria could be passed on to the fetus.”

Duh.

Seek and ye shall find; Listeria in smoked trout in Denmark

With 15 dead and 38 sick from a Listeria outbreak in Denmark, there’s probably more testing going on.

And they’re finding Listeria.

smoked.troutThe northern Jutland company Geia Food has recalled a batch of røget ørred (smoked trout) after Listeria was found in some samples, according to a release from the food authority, Fødevarestyrelsen.

The fish is sold at Rema 1000 stores under the Musholm brand with expiration dates 25 September 2014 and 29 September 2014.

Fødevarestyrelsen has advised customers to throw away the fish or return it to the shop where it was purchased.

Halibut, called hellefish in Danish, from Hjerting Laks should also be binned or returned to the Irma supermarket where it was purchased.

According to both Fødevarestyrelsen and Metroxpress, frozen fish from as far back as 1 June may be infected. Hjerting Laks has previously had problems with listeria infection.

However, Statens Serum Institute (SSI) said that it has not yet heard of anyone contracting listeria from infected fish.