8 dead, 26 sickened in Listeria outbreak linked to Quargel cheese in Austria; genomic sequencing

A large listeriosis outbreak occurred in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic in 2009 and 2010. The outbreak was traced back to a traditional Austrian curd cheese called Quargel which was contaminated with two distinct serovar 1/2a Listeria monocytogenes strains (QOC1 and QOC2).

Quargel_cheeseQuargel is an acid curd cheese with a red smear made from skimmed pasteurized milk. Some recalled Quargel lots were highly contaminated with up to 106–108 colony forming units (CFU) of L. monocytogenes per gram of cheese.

From June 2009 to January 2010 Quargel outbreak clone 1 (hereafter: QOC1) was the cause of 14 cases, including 5 with a fatal outcome, while between December 2009 and February 2010, clone 2 (hereafter: QOC2) accounted for 20 cases, which resulted in 3 fatalities. No maternal or neonatal case had been reported. The median age of the cases was 72 years (range 57 to 89) and 76% of the patients were male. Of the 34 patients, 25 were Austrian, 8 were German and one was from the Czech Republic.

Rychli et al. report we sequenced and analysed the genomes of both outbreak strains in order to investigate the extent of genetic diversity between the two strains belonging to MLST sequence types 398 (QOC2) and 403 (QOC1). Both genomes are highly similar, but also display distinct properties: The QOC1 genome is approximately 74 kbp larger than the QOC2 genome. In addition, the strains harbour 93 (QOC1) and 45 (QOC2) genes encoding strain-specific proteins. A 21 kbp region showing highest similarity to plasmid pLMIV encoding three putative internalins is integrated in the QOC1 genome. In contrast to QOC1, strain QOC2 harbours a vip homologue, which encodes a LPXTG surface protein involved in cell invasion. In accordance, in vitro virulence assays revealed distinct differences in invasion efficiency and intracellular proliferation within different cell types. The higher virulence potential of QOC1 in non-phagocytic cells may be explained by the presence of additional internalins in the pLMIV-like region, whereas the higher invasion capability of QOC2 into phagocytic cells may be due to the presence of a vip homologue. In addition, both strains show differences in stress-related gene content. Strain QOC1 encodes a so-called stress survival islet 1, whereas strain QOC2 harbours a homologue of the uncharacterized LMOf2365_0481 gene. Consistently, QOC1 shows higher resistance to acidic, alkaline and gastric stress. In conclusion, our results show that strain QOC1 and QOC2 are distinct and did not recently evolve from a common ancestor.

French court fines former owner, director of Marcel Baey for 2010-2011 Listeria cover-up

A French court condemned the former director of salmon smoker Marcel Baey on April 8 in relation to an investigation into unreported listeria occurrences and misleading marketing material at the company in 2010 and 2011, reported La Voix du Nord.

smoked-salmon2-265x268The court also imposed a fine of €50,000 on the company’s former owners. However, that money is unlikely to ever be paid considering Marcel Baey’s assets were taken over by from receivership Poland’s Suempol in July 2013.

“This case relates to events between 2010 and 2011,” Marcel Baey’s current production manager Romain Marce told Undercurrent News following the court ruling. “It does not concern Suempol but the entity Marcel Baey. It is therefore the liquidator who is concerned.”

The authorities which uncovered the malpractices at Marcel Baey from 2010 to 2011 stressed that these were in the past, and that the company and its owners Suempol are fully compliant with regulations.

According to La Voix du Nord, the court heard that Marcel Baey had dissimulated a sanitary crisis in 2010 and 2011. The Boulogne-sur-mer-based company was also found guilty of misleading promotion on its products.

The findings were uncovered by the French agency Direction departementale de la protection des populations (DPPP), which started investigating the company following hear-say from competitors.

Listeria being sequenced to better understand food poisoning

Chances are you’ve heard of mapping genes to diagnose rare diseases, predict your risk of cancer and tell your ancestry. But to uncover food poisonings?

The nation’s disease detectives are beginning a program to try to outsmart outbreaks by routinely decoding the DNA of potentially deadly bacteria and viruses.

listeriaThe initial target is Listeria, the third-leading cause of death from food poisoning and bacteria that are especially dangerous to pregnant women. Already, the government credits the technology with helping to solve a listeria outbreak that killed one person in California and sickened seven others in Maryland.

“This really is a new way to find and fight infections,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With genome sequencing becoming faster and cheaper, the CDC is armed with $30 million from Congress to broaden its use with a program called advanced molecular detection. The hope is to solve outbreaks faster, foodborne and other types, and maybe prevent infections, too, by better understanding how they spread.

“Frankly, in public health, we have some catching up to do,” said the CDC’s Dr. Christopher Braden, who is helping to lead the work.

As a first step, federal and state officials are rapidly decoding the DNA of all the Listeria infections diagnosed in the U.S. this year, along with samples found in tainted foods or factories.

It’s the first time the technology has been used for routine disease surveillance, looking for people with matching strains who may have gotten sick from the same source.

The Listeria project began as officials were investigating some sick Maryland newborns and their mothers. Genome sequencing showed publix.deli.warningthose cases were linked to a California death, helping investigators determine which foods to focus on, said Dr. Robert Tauxe, CDC’s leading foodborne disease sleuth.

Standard tests prompted recall of the FDA’s suspect, a brand of Hispanic-style cheese. Last month, the government announced that sequencing also confirmed listeria from the recalled cheese matched germs from the patients.

“We expect to be able to match more and more of what we find in people to what we find in food,” as the project grows, Tauxe said.

Multistate outbreak of listeriosis linked to soft-ripened cheese — United States, 2013

On June 27, 2013, the Minnesota Department of Health notified CDC of two patients with invasive Listeria monocytogenes infections (listeriosis) whose clinical isolates had indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. A query of PulseNet, the national molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance, identified clinical and environmental isolates from other states. On June 28, CDC learned from the Food and Drug Administration’s Coordinated Outbreak crave.brothers.cheeseResponse and Evaluation Network that environmental isolates indistinguishable from those of the two patients had been collected from Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese during 2010–2011. An outbreak-related case was defined as isolation of L. monocytogenes with the outbreak PFGE pattern from an anatomic site that is normally sterile (e.g., blood or cerebrospinal fluid), or from a product of conception, with an isolate upload date during May 20–June 28, 2013. As of June 28, five cases were identified in four states (Minnesota, two cases; Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, one each). Median age of the five patients was 58 years (range: 31–67 years). Four patients were female, including one who was pregnant at the time of infection. All five were hospitalized. One death and one miscarriage were reported.

Case–case analysis of Listeria Initiative* data (1) was conducted, comparing food exposure frequencies among the five outbreak-related cases identified by June 28 with food exposure frequencies in 1,735 sporadic listeriosis cases reported to CDC during 2004–2013. The analysis indicated that any soft cheese consumption during the month before illness onset was associated with outbreak-related listeriosis: five of five (100%) in the outbreak-related cases versus 569 of 1,735 (33%) in the sporadic cases (odds ratio = 10.8; 95% confidence interval = 1.8–∞).

The five patients were reinterviewed to assess their cheese exposures. All five patients had definitely or probably eaten one of three varieties of Crave Brothers soft-ripened cheese (Les Frères, Petit Frère, or Petit Frère with truffles). Three patients had purchased the cheese at three different restaurants, and two had purchased the cheese at two different grocery stores. The cheeses were shipped as intact wheels to the three restaurants and two grocery stores, where they had been cut and served or repackaged and sold to customers.

Testing at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture identified the outbreak pattern of L. monocytogenes in two cheese wedges (Les Frères and Petit Frère with truffles) collected from two different grocery stores in Minnesota. Inspection of the cheese-making facility revealed that substantial sanitation deficiencies during the cheese-making process itself, after the milk was pasteurized, likely led to contamination. On July 1, Crave Brothers halted production of Les Frères, Petit Frère, and Petit Frère with truffles. On July 3, Crave Brothers issued a voluntary recall of these products with a production date of July 1, 2013, or earlier. On July 11, the company voluntarily halted production of all cheese products manufactured at the facility. After product recall, one additional case was identified in Texas through whole genome sequencing, bringing the total case count for the outbreak to six.

This outbreak was linked to soft cheeses that were likely contaminated during the cheese-making process (2,3). Pasteurization eliminates Listeria in milk. However, contamination can occur after pasteurization. Cheese-making facilities should use strict sanitation and microbiologic monitoring, regardless of whether they use pasteurized milk.†

Persons at greater risk for listeriosis, including older adults, pregnant women, and those with immunocompromising conditions, should be aware that certain soft cheeses made with unpasteurized milk, or made under unsanitary conditions, regardless of whether the milk was pasteurized, have been shown to cause severe illness. These soft cheeses include fresh (unripened) cheeses, such as queso fresco (4), and soft-ripened cheeses, such as the cheeses implicated in this outbreak.

Mary J. Choi, Kelly A. Jackson, Carlota Medus,  Jennifer Beal, Carrie E. Rigdon, Tami C. Cloyd, Matthew J. Forstner, Jill Ball, Stacy Bosch, Lyndsay Bottichio, Venessa Cantu, David C. Melka, Wilete Ishow, Sarah Slette, Kari Irvin, Matthew Wise, Cheryl Tarr, Barbara Mahon, Kirk E. Smith, Benjamin J. Silk

Food Safety Talk 58: Where’s my wallet?

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.1396369706543

In Episode 58 the guys started the show admiring Ben’s new computer, and his House of Clay beer, before talking about Don and Victoria Backham’s treadmill desksRicky Gervais bathtub photosdressing up like a realtor, and confidence intervals.

Don and Ben then welcomed Bill Marler to the show. Bill’s notoriety started with the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak (documented in the book Poisoned). The discussion moved to the Jensen farm legal case, in particular, the criminal aspects of unknowingly shipping contaminated food and the involvement of service providers, i.e. auditors. The guys also discussed the impact on apportioning liability as a result of the recent North Carolina limiting farmers liability law. The conversation then turned to Salmonella and Foster Farm’s chicken and no one could understand why there hadn’t been a recall.

The guys then discussed Listeria and cantaloupes, including CDC’s recommendations and Don’s paper on “Modeling the growth of Listeria monocytogenes on cut cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon.”

After a short detour via the AVN Awards, Bill got the chance to explain why he generally doesn’t take on norovirus cases and the lengths he goes to before taking on a case, using the Townsend Farm Hepatitis A outbreak as an example. The conversation then turned to auditors and what the impact of the Jensen Farm litigation case might be.

After saying farewell to Bill, Don and Ben talked about podcasting, including Lex Friedman, and Libsyn’s Rob Walch.

In the after dark the guys chatted about House of CardsTrue Detective, Ben’s quirky Aussie accent, Malaysia Airlines flight 370 andLost.

Listeria lurks: Judge shuts down Brooklyn fish processing plant

A federal judge has ordered the shutdown of a Brooklyn fish processing plant that has been plagued for years by Listeria.

Judge Roslynn Mauskopf stuck a harpoon in New York City Fish, granting the government’s request for a permanent injunction against the plant located on fish artChester St. in Brownsville, which distributes smoked salmon, mackerel and herring.

Mauskopf held a bench trial last summer and determined that New York City Fish’s operators had taken insufficient corrective action after federal inspectors found that food had been prepared and packaged under unsanitary condition where it “may be contaminated by filth,” according to papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Inspectors had conducted six inspections at the plant between 2006 and 2012 when it operated as New York Fish, when the Listeria bacteria was detected. An inspection in February 2013, when the facility was renamed New York City Fish by new ownership, found many of the unsanitary conditions persisted.

Five new Listeria species found; may improve tests

Cornell researchers have discovered five new species of Listeria – including one named for Cornell – that provide new insights that could lead to better ways to detect soil bacteria in food.

To date, of the 10 previously known species of Listeria, only two are pathogenic to humans; Listeria monocytogenes is the main cause of Listeriosis, which causes illness in listeriahundreds – and death in nearly 250 – people each year in the United States through infected deli meats, seafood and produce.

The new study, published online March 5 in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, suggests that all five new species are benign.

The research was part of a larger study led by researchers at Colorado State University and Cornell to examine the distribution of such foodborne pathogens as Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella in agricultural and natural environments. Samples were taken from fields, soil, ponds and streams in New York, Colorado and Florida.

“Doing studies on natural diversity in produce fields helps us develop better and more precise tests to make food safer,” said Martin Wiedmann, Cornell professor of food science and the paper’s senior author.

Food Safety Talk 57: My Own Tea Mule

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.1395011368356

The guys started the show by sharing some family traditions including watching Jeopardy and drinking Rooibos tea.

They then discussed some raw milk questions posed by raw milk producer. Don suggested that there was specific scientific evidence to answer many of them. He also wondered about the scientific basis of some of the information presented in a recent RMI webinar.

Don then shared that he’ll be podcast cheating again on an upcoming Raw Food Real Talk episode on cottage food. The guys then transitioned to a recent cheese related Listeriosis outbreak affecting members of the Hispanic community. While health authorities have released some information on illnesses and the product there are many questions that are still to be answered.

After a false start and then covering the last part of the IAFP History, the 2000′s, Ben put out a call to listeners for important outbreaks and food safety landmarks that Ben and Don could discuss in the upcoming Outbreak Flashback segment. It will be groovy. And have a disco theme.

The guys then turned to pizza and Alton Brown, who Don went to see live. Alton had dropped the pizza base before cooking it and that got Don worried about what message this was sending. Ben was amused by Alton’s Twitter feed and fascinated by his earlier career. While on the pizza topic, Ben found some really stretched science reporting of this research article. The press release reminded the guys of Betteridge’s law of headlines. The answer is always no.

The discussion of media reminded Don of this Andrew Gelman post about how to get your university press release reprinted by The Washington Post. Don concluded that the best practices for engaging people are also despicable. Ben suggested sometimes science-types need to go to where people are engaged and sort of play the same game. To quote Merlin Mann from 43 Folders: “Joining a Facebook group about creative productivity is like buying a chair about jogging.”

To finish off, Ben raised the issue of consumers not following label instructions, as was the case with E. coli in Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough. Ben wanted to know how consumers learn about products and how to use those products.

In the after dark the guys covered Picturelife, and Siri not having what Don was looking for, which he posted on Facebook.

Dole brand Italian Blend Salad recalled in Canada due to Listeria

There’s not a lot of lettuce being grown in Canada in this winter-of-winters, so where was the Dole brand Italian Blend salad grown, or processed, that was recalled due to possible Listeria contamination?

This recall was triggered by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of dole.italian.blend.salad.mar.14other products. If other high-risk products are recalled the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

14 dead; Sweden listeria outbreak linked to cold meats

The Swedish National Food Agency (Livsmedelsverket) has identified cold meats as the primary source for a recent outbreak of listeria in Sweden that has been connected to the deaths of up to 14 people since autumn 2013.

The agency plans to conduct a four-week intensive, on-site spot-inspection of all plants producing cold meats in Sweden this month and next to appraise what listeriasteps companies are taking to ensure listeria-free production areas.

More than 80 cases of the deadly bacteria have been detected in Sweden since September 2013, and 27 of these involved infections contracted from the same bacteria strain.

In the latest development, the Swedish supermarket chain Axfood recalled smoked ham and garlic salami meats after listeria was found in the Garant meat brand’s facility that produces cold cuts for supermarkets and delis. The recall includes both the 252 stores directly owned by Axfood and the 820 proprietor-run stores with which it co-operates under partnership agreements.