Frozen berries, how I used to love you, and now I cook you

Epidemiological investigations of outbreaks of hepatitis A virus (HAV) and norovirus (NoV) infections in the European Union/European Economic Area (EU/EEA) in the last five years have highlighted frozen berries as a vehicle of infection.

frozen.strawberry-300x225Given the increasing berry consumption in the EU over the last decades, we undertook a review of the existing evidence to assess the potential scale of threat associated with this product. We searched the literature and four restricted-access online platforms for outbreak/contamination events associated with consumption of frozen berries. We performed an evaluation of the sources to identify areas for improvement. The review revealed 32 independent events (i.e. outbreak, food contamination) in the period 1983–2013, of which 26 were reported after 2004. The identified pathogens were NoV, HAV and Shigella sonnei. NoV was the most common and implicated in 27 events with over 15,000 cases reported. A capture–recapture analysis was performed including three overlapping sources for the period 2005–2013.

The study estimated that the event-ascertainment was 62%. Consumption of frozen berries is associated with increasing reports of NoV and HAV outbreaks and contamination events, particularly after 2003. A review of the risks associated with this product is required to inform future prevention strategies.

Better integration of the available communication platforms and databases should be sought at EU/EEA level to improve monitoring, prevention and control of food-borne-related events.

Food-borne diseases associated with frozen berries consumption: A historical perspective, European Union, 1983 to 2013

Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 29, 23 July 2015

Tavoschi L, Severi E, Niskanen T, Boelaert F, Rizzi V, Liebana E, Gomes Dias J, Nichols G, Takkinen J, Coulombier D.

http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=21193

Beaches closed after 29 swimmers sickened with Norovirus, at Pennsylvania park

State officials have closed the beaches at a central Pennsylvania state park after at least 29 swimmers were sickened with Norovirus, and possibly E. coli bacteria in the water.

Cowans Gap State ParkThe lake and beach at Cowans Gap State Park have been closed to swimmers, though fishing and boating are still permitted. The park straddles the border of Franklin and Fulton counties and is located about 60 miles west of Harrisburg.

100 lawyers and students sickened: Lawsuit filed against Chinatown restaurant in Philadelphia

A lawsuit has been filed against a Chinatown restaurant after about 100 lawyers and law students attending a private Lunar New Year dinner in February said they developed food poisoning.

Joy Tsin LauSamantha F. Green, a Philadelphia lawyer who attended the event at Joy Tsin Lau on 10th and Race streets and who said she was diagnosed with the norovirus, filed the lawsuit, citing a “sordid history of health code violation and food-borne illness.”

A copy of the document filed in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on Monday was obtained by Philly.com, which reported the story.

Green’s lawyer wrote in the lawsuit that Joy Tsin Lau was cited for 249 health code violations by the Philadelphia Department of Health in the past six years.

The document also stated that on the morning after the dinner, Green began to feel ill and “raced to the emergency room at Pennsylvania Hospital in agonizing pain. Following nine hours of vomiting, she was unable to consume anything but bananas and tea for four days.”

The lawsuit also noted that 17 days before the banquet, a city health department restaurant inspector allegedly declared that management practices at Joy Tsin Lau allowed “unacceptable public health or food-safety conditions,” and four days after the food-poisoning incident, another city inspector allegedly found “41 violations that indicated a chronic inability to adhere to basic food safety standards.”

The most recent complaint by the city was filed May 6, but a July 6 court date on the complaint was canceled.

A representative of Joy Tsin Lau did not comment on the lawsuit or past complaints. The restaurant currently remains open.

Don’t serve food when you’re sick: Almost 300 in mass lawsuit over UK Toby Carvery norovirus outbreak

The number of people who are taking legal action against an Exeter restaurant following an outbreak of norovirus has nearly reached 300.

toby.carvery.exeterLawyers are investigating the norovirus outbreak at Toby Carvery at the Exeter Arms, Middlemoor.

Irwin Mitchell have now revealed that it is representing 285 people in relation to the case.

They believe more than 300 people may have been affected by the outbreak.

The restaurant chain confirmed that tests run by the Environmental Health department, after a man was sick in the restaurant foyer in the evening of Sunday, March 29 tested positive for the virus.

The pub underwent a deep clean overnight on Thursday, April 2, but continued to trade over the busy Easter bank holiday weekend when more customers fell ill, finally closing on Tuesday, April 7.

Raw still risky: 102 sickened with Norovirus in oysters at Taiwan restaurant

A recent diarrhea outbreak among 102 tourists on Green Island off Taitung was caused by a norovirus infection at a local seafood restaurant that had served contaminated raw oysters imported from South Korea, Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported Thursday.

SUN0705N-Oyster7Taitung health authorities have received seven suspected food poisoning cases between June 26-30 which involved 102 tourists in six tour groups who displayed symptoms of diarrhea, with 76 of whom having been hospitalized.

After an investigation, Taitung County’s Public Health Bureau found that all the 120 people had eaten raw oysters at a seafood restaurant on Green Island and directed that all restaurants around the island to stop serving raw oysters.

In addition, two raw oyster samples have been found with the presence of norovirus, while two travelers who visited local hospitals tested positive for the norovirus, according to a report from the FDA on July 8.

The FDA then traced the sources of the contaminated products and found they were among a total of 16,447.5 kilograms of raw oysters imported by two aquaculture companies in New Taipei and Kaohsiung from South Korea, a FDA official said Thursday.

 

Food Safety Talk 78: Brogues are low risk

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.

The show opens with the guys reminiscing about their visit to Southern California and the Hopscotch Tavern where they witnessed a Fark worthy car chase on TV.

Ben shared his love of Top 40 music , and his worries about exposing his kids to inappropriate music like Beyoncé or Sublime1436278542099

From there the discussion moves to the value of real world experiences like those detailed in Kitchen ConfidentialHeat, or by Gord Surgeoner during his retirement dinner.

The food safety talk begins in earnest with a discussion of Hepatitis A illnesses linked to frozen berries in Australia, and Don shared his back of the envelope quantitative microbial risk assessment for frozen berries based on this article. This was followed by a discussion on why viruses might be such a problem in frozen berries, and frozen food safety risk management in general.

Next up is an exploration of Listeria in public lavatories based on this peer reviewed publication. The conversation then devolves into Shoe Safety Talk, and the risks posed by brogues, not broughs, but the brogue shoe.

The After Dark includes a mention of Roderick’s RendezvousThe Dan Benjamin Hour, and Don finally remembers the name of Battle Creek.

Pay attention when staff barf: 96 sickened from Cowfish in NC

At least 96 people were sickened during the Norovirus outbreak at The Cowfish restaurant in early June, according to county health department records obtained by the Observer.

norovirusThe records, obtained through a public records request, provide the fullest account yet of the extent of the illnesses at the popular SouthPark sushi and burger bar.

Records show one Norovirus case was confirmed by a state Department of Health and Human Services laboratory. Ninety-five others were deemed “probable” by health officials. Just one person reported visiting a hospital.

The outbreak prompted the restaurant to close twice, once on June 5 and again on June 10. It reopened June 16.

Cowfish owner Alan Springate, responding by email to questions from the Observer, said his staff began to suspect a problem late in the day on Friday, June 5, when a customer reported some members of his party had become ill in the preceding two days.

Wednesday and Thursday of that week, two other guests had reported illnesses, but the restaurant had suspected a problem with a food item, calamari, which both guests had consumed. Cowfish removed the item from its menu and contacted its suppliers.

The person reporting on June 5 had not consumed calamari, though. At that point, “we began to consider the possibility that we were dealing with something other than a food issue,” Springate wrote.

After the Cowfish posted news of its closing on Facebook June 6, others began coming forward to report they’d been sickened. The restaurant contacted each of them and shared details with the health department, Springate said.

By the time the restaurant knew something was amiss on June 5, at least nine of the restaurant’s roughly 140 employees had been sickened, according to a report by state health inspector Nicole Lee. The first fell ill May 31, she wrote.

Springate’s email said that while some employees had called in sick, “nothing raised a red flag.”

“It’s critical to understand that although we now know we were experiencing an uptick in illness, many employees had not yet notified us because they were not scheduled to work,” he said.

 

Food Safety Talk 77: Sous vide is French for under vacuum

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.large_89552732661

Ben and Don start by catching up about technology. Ben is quite excited about Google fiber coming to Raleigh, NC, Don, already subscribed to Verizon fios says that the fiber is great. Ben then leads a discussion about his new obsession, the Wake Forest Community discussion board on Facebook. The page is a forum for pretty much anything from tooth abscesses, to snakes, to local business ratings. The guys delve into the community forum concept and explore the intersection with food safety (sale of goods, transportation from out of state). Don mentions that he has been volunteering with the innovation committee in Freehold borough who also is looking at a community forum.  Ben introduces the concept of lip dubbing and Don provides his favorite, a NFL video about reading of lips incorrectly.

The real food safety portion of the podcast starts by Don talking about Better Process Control School. Don talked about some feedback he was giving to a couple of small companies about aseptic processing, challenge studies and jacketed kettles, and expressed some frustration with FDA because sometimes their interpretation of science isn’t clear.

The discussion goes into regulatory hurdles, retail food safety, variances and HACCP plans. Ben talked about an individual that is interested in food sustainability who is looking to divert food waste from restaurants to pantries, using reduced oxygen packaging for storage and transport. The guys talk about regulating food even that is given away (but not it all states) and the variance process.

NC Senator Thom Tillis garnered headlines for suggesting that restaurants be allowed to opt out of handwashing regulations as long as they post a disclosure or advisory – or  replacing one regulation with another. The podcast ends with a discussion of a possible norovirus outbreak at NC State.

NC State researchers show copper affects norovirus capsid

Matt Shipman, public information officer at NC State University and curator of The Abstract writes, norovirus affects an estimated 20 million Americans every year, and the hardy virus can linger on exposed surfaces for weeks – making it difficult to stop the spread of the disease. But a new finding from NC State researchers shows that an age-old commodity may be a new tool in combating norovirus: copper.pennies-435cs051012-1

The researchers found that viral shells (being used as a stand-in for norovirus) that were in contact with copper alloys for at least ten minutes became effectively neutralized. In other words, the finding means that virus particles that land on a copper doorknob or counter-top would no longer be capable of causing a norovirus infection.

The work holds promise for helping to limit the spread of norovirus infection via “environmental contamination” in places like hospitals or doctor’s offices.

A paper on the finding, “Destruction of the Capsid and Genome of GII.4 Human Norovirus Occurs During Exposure to Metal Alloys Containing Copper,” is published online in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The paper was authored by NC State researchers Chip Manuel, Matt Moore, and Lee-Ann Jaykus, who are part of the NoroCORE research collaborative. NoroCORE stands for the Norovirus Collaborative for Outreach, Research, and Education, and involves more than 30 research teams from 18 institutions. It is funded through a $25 million grant awarded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

More information on the work is also available on the site of the American Society for Microbiology.

A different kind of mile-high club: 12 ill on a flight to LAX

Illnesses happen on planes, and it’s miserable.

The Los Angeles Times reports that 12 passengers on a flight from Fiji to LAX fell ill with vomiting and nausea. Each of the affected flyers reported staying in the same hotel prior to the flight.

Maybe the best plane-related outbreak was one reported in Clinical Infectious Diseases a couple of years ago. I’d describe my poop and barf-related imagination as pretty good but I couldn’t have dreamt up the scenario that unfolded on a plane leaving Boston bound for Los Angeles in October 2008.F97B1678-9288-4E1F-A6DC-5C807461E2CA

Members of [the] tour group experienced diarrhea and vomiting throughout an airplane flight from Boston, Massachusetts, to Los Angeles, California, resulting in an emergency diversion 3 h after takeoff.

The problematic flight departed Boston on Oct 8, 2008, heading for Los Angeles and carrying among its passengers 35 members of a leaf-peeping tour group. (Four more members of the group had planned other routes home, while two had been hospitalized in the previous 2 days.)

The outbreak included a passenger with “multiple episodes of diarrhea, with at least 1 occurring in the aisle of the first-class section. The soiled aisle was not cleaned until after completion of the flight.”