Multistate US Cyclospora spike tops 200 cases

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota reports that several states noted Cyclospora infections over the past week, pushing the total to 202, and health officials are still on the hunt for a common food source for some of the infections.

love.boat.cyclosporaThe US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said 202 cases have been reported as of today, an increase of 77 from the past week. More than half of the cases were in Texas, which saw its total grow by 49 cases over the past week, to 110.

Six more states reported illnesses, raising the number of affected states from 13 to 19, with New York City also reporting cases. The latest states to report cases are California, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Last week the CDC said outbreak investigations were under way in Texas, Maine, and Massachusetts and that federal officials were assisting state partners in their investigations.

Foodborne Cyclospora outbreaks have been reported in the United States since the mid 1990s and have been linked to many kinds of imported fresh produce, including raspberries, basil, snow peas, and mesclun.

Malawi finance minister stable after food poisoning

Malawi Minister of Finance and Economic development, Goodall Gondwe is still observed by doctors, following an apparent case of bacterial food poisoning but he is in “stable” condition.

Goodall GondweGondwe was sickened by bacterial food poisoning, according to Secretary to the Treasury Newby Kumwembe. Kumwembe said in Lilongwe during the opening of the pre-budget consultation meeting that Gondwe would not be able to attend as he was “not feeling quite well.” 

100 sick from Campylobacter in Iceland over past year

It wasn’t virtual, it was real (messy).

campy.chickenThe Directorate of Health says it has had to deal with a virtual explosion of diarrhea cases caused by Campylobacter.

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) said that they could not definitively draw a connection between Icelandic chickens and the outbreak, nor could they rule it out. They pointed out that according to their findings, the incidence of Campylobacter in chickens has not significantly spiked upwards.

The Directorate of Health cautions the public to cook all meat thoroughly and to keep surfaces and hands clean during and after cooking, as well as to use clean water.

At least 10 confirmed with staph at horseriding event in Luxembourg: it was the pesto pasta salad

A pesto pasta salad has been officially blamed for a food poisoning outbreak at a horseriding event in Roeser.

road.apples .tragicallyhipThe conclusion was drawn by Luxembourg’s Health Ministry following an investigation into the food-borne infection, which spread among people who ate from the buffet of a VIP area at the event from June 12 to 13.

Analysis of the stools of 10 people admitted to emergency services were found to contain Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.

Food hygiene inspections of the caterers who prepared the buffet showed minor deficiencies in procedures for producing and storing food at the event.

Initially, the smoked salmon was blamed for the food poisoning outbreak. But, the investigation found that among those who fell ill, 82 percent reported having eaten the pesto pasta salad.

At the time of the investigation, no sample of the actual food served was available for testing, however.

300 suffer food poisoning at Japanese sports tournament

Police and health officials in Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, said Monday that around 300 students suffered food poisoning at a soccer and rugby tournament. Of those, 120 were taken to hospital but none suffered any lasting effects, police said.

According to police, players taking part in an elementary school soccer and rugby tournament started vomiting and complaining of stomach pain at around 1 p.m. Sunday, TV Asahi reported.

Police suspect the cause of the food poisoning may have been in some of the bentos (boxed lunches), which all came from the same supplier.

125 now sick in multi-state Cyclospora investigation

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy is reporting that U.S. federal health officials have joined with officials in 13 states to investigate a spike in Cyclospora illnesses, with 125 confirmed or probable cases reported and no specific food item implicated so far.

love.boat.cyclosporaTexas health officials have been investigating a recent surge of infections, and an outbreak investigation is underway in Maine, with Massachusetts also probing an increase in lab-confirmed cyclosporiasis cases, the CDC said in an e-mail to CIDRAP News. As of today, it said, those 3 states, 10 others, and New York City have reported cases. The other states are Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Tennessee.

News of a multistate increase in Cyclospora illnesses follows the recent launch of the investigation in Texas. Over the last months the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) has learned of 61 cases around the state, which prompted a recent alert to Texas healthcare providers. No common source has been identified.

Open letter to the FSA on the publication of Campylobacter survey results

Richard Lloyd of Which? a UK consumer organization, writes to the UK Food Standards Agency to say:

chicken.thermI am writing to express our grave concern about the proposal being put to the FSA Board to withhold information about the levels of the deadly food poisoning bacteria Campylobacter in supermarket chickens. Campylobacter is a major public health issue. 72,000 people were reported to have suffered Campylobacter food poisoning last year and it kills an estimated 100 people every year.

As you know, the main source for the bacteria is in raw chicken which is why the FSA decided to undertake testing across supermarkets, butchers and convenience stores and publish the results on a quarterly basis with information by retailer and processor.

The publication of the performance of each retailer is in the public interest. The FSA should not sit on this survey data which it initially intended to publish in full.

The FSA was set up because of concerns about commercial and political interference in decisions about food safety. It is with great regret that it has become necessary to remind you of your role to put consumers first, be independent and operate transparently.

At your board meeting today, I urge you to reject the proposal to withhold this information and instead to publish the results in full on a quarterly basis in order to provide consumers with this important information and help to drive up standards.

Maybe use better tests? Fonterra cuts blamed on botulism scare

After a crappy botulism test sparked falling demand for New Zealand-based Fonterra dairy products, the company is now going to axe about 110 jobs at a Hamilton packing site, a union official says.

fonterra.aug_.13-300x253The Dairy Workers Union official told Fairfax Media Fonterra was slashing the jobs at Canpac, in Foreman Rd, by about a third after last year’s botulism scare.

The dairy co-operative called a snap meeting of all Canpac staff this morning to tell them it was cutting back the operation to a 24-hour day, five days a week after a drop in sales volume on products packaged there.

It had been a 24 hours, seven days a week operation since expanding in 2007 on the back of the commodities boom.

Dairy Workers Union national secretary Chris Flatt said a Fonterra presentation had admitted food-safety scares played a part in Canpac losing work.

Just market food safety at retail, government is hopeless: FSA plan to name and shame supermarkets selling Campylobacter chicken ditched after pressure from retailers

Maybe there’s something lost in translation; I’m barely starting to understand Australian.

chickenBut if I read this right, the piping hot UK Food Standards Agency has put retail over public health after scrapping plans to regularly name and shame supermarkets selling chicken contaminated with Campylobacter.

Lots of chuckles next time FSA proclaims they are a science-based agency.

According to the Daily Mail, FSA had promised to carry out regular surveys of chicken sold on the high street and publish the results, including the names of the stores, every three months.

The idea was that the public naming and shaming exercise would put pressure on the stores to clean up their chicken and reduce the food poisoning risk to customers.

However, the officials at the watchdog now want to scrap this idea and instead only publish data on the number of birds that are contaminated without identifying the stores involved.

The move has been condemned by a leading academic, who suggested it was driven by pressure from the industry and Government departments, who are keen support supermarkets, farmers and processors.

chicken.thermThe changes represent a major victory for the commercial interests of the big retailers, putting concerns for their sales and profits ahead of consumer safety and their right to know what they are eating.

The fact that the supermarkets have managed to water down the scheme is just the latest evidence as to how lobbying by big business has driven a change in official policy on food and health issues.

Similar lobbying killed off a plan for a blanket ban on junk food snacks and drinks from displays around supermarket check-outs.

The FSA recently revealed that more than one million people are falling victim to food poisoning every year with supermarket chicken named as the greatest threat.

Campylobacter, which is most often found on raw chicken, is the biggest cause of food poisoning in the country.

An official study published in 2009 revealed that two in three of all fresh chicken on shelves was contaminated with campylobacter. More than one in four – 27 per cent – were classed as being highly contaminated.

Despite the fact the FSA has asked supermarkets and farmers to make combatting campylobacter a top priority, the situation appears to have shown no improvement since then.

An FSA paper on the food poisoning caused by campylobacter warned: ‘In addition to the attendant economic costs, cases cause inconvenience, discomfort and misery to those who become infected and a small proportion of cases result in death or long-term consequences, such as reactive arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and Guillain-Barré syndrome, the latter of which affects the peripheral nervous system.’

Despite the clear threat, the FSA’s executives are now asking its board to redraw the rules for its surveys to ensure the stores selling contaminated chicken are not identified in its quarterly results.

A paper prepared by officials states this is in response to ‘legitimate concerns expressed by the industry and other government departments’. The references to other departments relates to the food and farming department, DEFRA, which sees itself as a champion of British farmers, including those producing chicken.

The FSA paper states: ‘In the last update to the Board in March 2014 it was stated that the FSA intended to release the full results, including the names of the retailers and processors, of testing of around 1,000 samples every 3 months during the survey, with the first results published around June/July 2014.’

However, it says it has now decided to change this approach because there is a risk the results will be incomplete and misleading and it would – in some way – be unfair to the stores.

The FSA said: ‘One of the drawbacks of this approach is that no interpretation can properly be placed on interim raw data until the full year’s sampling is complete and fully analysed.

The watchdog’s board is being asked to approve this new approach at a meeting tomorrow.

Erik Millstone, the Professor of Science Policy at the University of Sussex, condemned the move to let the supermarkets off the hook.