Campy overestimates: FSA accused of undermining meat industry

Alex Black of FG Insight reports the UK Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) has claimed the Food Standards Agency (FSA) ’appears to continue to undermine the meat processing sector’ with misleading campylobacter figures.

AIMS_LOGO_2008_002An article in The Meat Trades Journal quoted figures published on the Food Standards Agency website stated campylobacter was believed to cause 100 deaths a year.

However, AIMS pointed out the figure was an extract from a FSA funded paper which said ’We could not estimate deaths attributable to foodborne illness, due to the lack of reliable data sources on pathogen-specific mortality rates’.

AIMS head of policy, Norman Bagley, said: “Selectively quoting from its own commissioned report on its own website has once again undermined the excellent work and progress the industry has made on combating campylobacter.

“Stating that campylobacter causes 100 deaths a year is just not based on science and leads to continuing scary, misleading stories being carried in both the trade and consumer media, which once again, undermines our sector.

“This is far from helpful and needs to stop.”

A FSA spokesman said: “We explain on our website that the campylobacter deaths figure is a previous estimate, and that we are continuing to analyse the full impact that campylobacter has.

“We are determining which updated figures to use in the future.”

How Toxoplasma in humans turns aggressive

USDA’s AgResearch Magazine reports that Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite that has infected an estimated one-fourth of the world’s population—potentially more than 1 billion people—including about 50 million in the United States. This makes T. gondii the most widespread parasite in the world. This one-celled parasite, invisible to the naked eye, causes a human disease called “toxoplasmosis.” It can lead to serious health complications in people with weakened immune systems and in infants born to infected mothers. Prevention is key.

toxo.usdaarsT. gondiiinfection can happen in two ways. Cats are the only animals that shed the parasite’s egg-like sacks (cysts) in their feces—thus exposing humans and other animals to infection via contaminated soil, water, food, or litterboxes. Infection can also take place when people consume undercooked meat containing T. gondii. 

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and colleagues completed a study that provides clues about T. gondii’s virulence and spread. The study describes genetic mechanisms that help a mild-mannered T. gondii strain turn aggressive.

For the study, a consortium of international researchers, including zoologist Benjamin Rosenthal and parasitologist Jitender Dubey, both with the ARS Parasitic Diseases Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, contributed strains of T. gondii from more than a dozen countries spanning the Americas, Europe, Africa, and Asia. The researchers conducted a genomic analysis on each of 62 strains and identified several types of proteins, called “secretory pathogenicity determinants” (SPDs) that thwart the hosts’ immunity.

Secreting SPDs enables the parasite to influence and hinder host defenses. “These proteins enhance the parasite’s survival, which in turn affects disease severity in hosts,” says Rosenthal. “SPDs have diversified more in T. gondiithan in species closely related to T. gondii, so we are very curious to learn more about the functions they perform and their relationship to disease.”

The findings are helping researchers to identify the genetic basis for differences among strains of T. gondii, from mild strains found in U.S. farmlands to more virulent strains found in the jungles of Brazil and French Guyana. The researchers found that T. gondii strains could become more aggressive through environmental adaptation.

In healthy people, infection does not necessarily mean a person will become sick or develop symptoms. The study results provide valuable information about a subset of regulatory genes that enable the parasite to infect animals and humans. The findings will help researchers develop new treatments and methods to check the parasite’s ability to spread.

 

52 college students in Malaysia fall ill after cafeteria meal

A total of 52 students from the Gopeng Matriculation College suffered food poisoning after eating chicken at the cafeteria.

roti canai, school lunch, kuala lumpur, malaysia

roti canai, school lunch, kuala lumpur, malaysia

Perak Health Department director Datuk Dr Juita Ghazalie said some of the students started showing symptoms of vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness, fever and abdominal pain early on Sunday.

“The students sought outpatient treatment at Kampar Hospital and nearby government and private clinics.

“All are in stable condition and under close observation,” she said here yesterday.

Dr Juita said stool samples, oral swabs of the food handlers and samples of the food had been taken and sent for analysis to find out the cause of any possible contamination.

She said the cafeteria was ordered closed with immediate effect, pending the results of the tests.

The cafeteria operator, who had only just taken over the contract to supply food, has been slapped with a RM1,000 fine under Regulation 34 of the Food Act.

On Wednesday, some 53 students at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar went down with food poisoning after having meals at the dining hall.

Gastro outbreak strikes Australia’s Fraser Coast

Australia’s Fraser Coast, including the town of Hervey Bay, is billed as Australia’s whale watching capital and the scallops are like no other, especially those apparently hepatitis A infected frozen scallops from the Philippines which has sickened 208 Hawaiians.

_DSC0022----Whalesong-with-Eliza Wheeler of the Fraser Coast Chronicle reports an outbreak of gastroenteritis has stricken dozens of people over the past week, inundating home doctors, and putting a strain on the region’s hospitals.

House Call Doctor’s Assistant Clinical Director Dr Ryan Harvey said this particularly aggressive bug had been making people sick across the state.

He said it appeared to be a far more virulent strain than in previous years.

“It is worse than what we have seen and causing worse illness. A lot of people who might otherwise have had an upset stomach are experiencing severe gastro,” Dr Harvey said.

He said there had been reports of a 15% increase in the number of people with gastroenteritis being admitted to hospitals.

Raw is risky: 2 Tampa Bay residents die from shellfish

Jacqueline Ingles of WFTS Tampa Bay reports, take a ride on Captain Nick Warhurst’s boat and there is just one rule: do not eat raw shellfish.

seven.fish.bbq.dec.11“I’d rather you not eat anything raw on my boat,” said Warhurst. “If you want to eat them raw you wait till you get to the dock and you’re on your own.”

Married to a nurse, Warhurst says he knows the dangers of eating raw or undercooked shellfish.

“Some people die from this stuff,” he explained.

According to the Florida Department of Health, two Bay area residents did get infected with Vibrio Vulnificus and died this year. One resident was from Citrus County, the other resided in Sarasota County.

Vibrio is a bacteria that occurs naturally in Gulf Coast waters.

You can also get infected if you go into water with an open cut or sore.

So far this year, 23 people have been infected by the bacteria across the states. A total of five people have died from the infections.

However, contracting it is rare.

“It is really, really, really rare, but why take the chance,” asked Terry Natwick, the director of sales and marketing at the Plantation Inn in Crystal River.

The inn, which is a hotspot for tourists who’ve come to scallop stay, offers a catch and cook program.

“Not only do we have somebody who will professionally shuck the scallops for you and keep it on ice and then put it in a Ziplock and then you bring it right to our kitchen where we refrigerate it at the proper temperature and cook if for you either that day at lunch or that night for dinner,” Natwick said.

First time scalloper Nick Tulse is taking the Inn up on it’s offer.

“Oh no no, you cook ’em,” said Tulse, who drove up from Bradenton.

Death by bagpipe: Man’s lung illness linked to mold in instrument

There’s not enough bagpipes in rock and roll.

BonScottBagpipesAccording to Liz Szabo of USA Today, British doctors are blaming the death of a 61-year-old Liverpool man on his bagpipes, whose moist, dark interior apparently provided an ideal breeding ground for fungus. Authors of the case report are calling the man’s condition “bagpipe lung.”

The man’s demise appears to be the first documented case of death by bagpipe, experts say.

“It sounds like a Monty Python skit or an Agatha Christie story gone wrong,” said William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.

The technical name for the man’s lung disease is hypersensitivity pneumonitis, which occurs when the immune system tries to fight off a foreign invader, such as mold or yeast. The ensuing inflammation ends up scarring the lung, making it harder for patients to breathe, said study coauthor Jenny King, a pulmonology resident at University Hospital in South Manchester.

Over 100 now sick with crypto from pools in Arizona

Heath officials in Arizona said Friday that more than 100 people have been sickened in an outbreak of diarrheal infection and that more than 20 water facilities may have been contaminated.

caddyshack.pool_.poop-1Maricopa County officials said that splash pads, water parks and public pools in the Phoenix area may have been contaminated with the pool-linked gastrointestinal illness cryptosporidiosis, or crypto, the Arizona Republic reported.

Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, the medical director for the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, told the paper that there’s no reliable test for the disease in water, making the determination where the outbreak started difficult to find.

The microscopic, chlorine-resistant parasite that causes sickness is most commonly spread through water. Symptoms of the infection include diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pains, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Crypto could be spread at streams, rivers, ponds and lakes as well.

Chlorine is good: 4100 sick from NZ water, mayor says chlorination ‘will get a bloody good fight from us’

While his neighbours still suffer from the country’s worst case of mass water contamination, Napier Mayor Bill Dalton says his city will fight to keep chlorine out of its town supply.

bill.daltonLower Hutt Mayor Ray Wallace is also rejecting calls for all town water supplies to be chlorinated in the wake of the Havelock North contamination crisis.

About 74,000 Lower Hutt residents from Pomare to Petone drink chlorine-free water sourced from the Waiwhetu aquifer. The rest of greater Wellington’s supply is chlorinated.

In Hawke’s Bay, Napier, Hastings and Havelock North’s town supplies have been chlorine-free but the chemical was added to Havelock North water to treat a campylobacter contamination on August 12, and to the Hastings supply as a precaution last week.

Water treatment engineer Iain Rabbitts said chlorination should be made mandatory to avoid a repeat of the Havelock North crisis, adding, “We knew this was going to happen at some point in one of the unchlorinated supplies in New Zealand and we all hoped it wouldn’t be too bad.”

But Dalton said Napier would resist a move to mandatory chlorination “incredibly strongly because one of the points of difference of Napier is our wonderfully pure, unadulterated water supply”.

He did not want the city serving up the type of chlorine-tainted water other cities, such as Auckland, had to endure, he said.

dumbass“The first thing we do when we’re heading north is we pick up heaps of bottles of water because we don’t drink the water up in Auckland because it bloody stinks.

“If the Government turns around and tries to play the heavy hand, then they’ll get a bloody good fight from us.”

The only thing bloody about this scenario are the asses of the sick from constant pooping.

Marty Sharpe of Stuff also writes it now appears all but certain that a routine test of the Havelock North water supply showed it was clear of E.coli when it cannot have been.

The same test procedure is used by councils around the country, and its apparent failure in Havelock North may result in a reappraisal of whether current testing standards are robust enough.

Those questions are likely to form part of the government inquiry into the outbreak, announced on Monday.

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board chief executive Kevin Snee said on Monday that a survey of the 4500 residents affected by the campylobacter outbreak revealed they were most probably first exposed to the bug through their drinking water about Saturday, August 6, and that their symptoms first started showing on Monday, August 8.

But a routine test by Hastings District Council of the water supply on Tuesday, August 9, came back clear, showing no sign of E.coli. The test takes 24 hours, so the results came on Wednesday.

If they had shown positive at that point, the water system would have been chlorinated immediately.

The next routine test, on Thursday, August 11, came back on Friday as positive for E.coli. By that stage it was clear from DHB records that there was widespread illness in the area, and the decision was made to chlorinate.

E.coli, a common gut bacterium in warm-blooded animals, is used as an indicator of the contamination of water by excrement. It indicates there may be other pathogenic bacteria such as campylobacter.

Public Health Services drinking water assessor Peter Wood, who is in Hawke’s Bay working on the outbreak, said there could be situations of “sheer dumb luck” when E.coli was present in the water but not detected.

Brits want Campy reduced in chickens; testing to be resumed

The UK Food Standards Agency reports that two thirds (66%) of consumers think the industry should continue to reduce campylobacter beyond the agreed current target of less than 10% of chickens at the most highly contaminated level. Retailers should also be telling customers what proportion of chickens are at this highest level of contamination, according to 75% of those questioned.

chickenThe research has been released to coincide with the resumption this month of our campylobacter survey, part of our on-going efforts to reduce the high levels of food poisoning caused by the bug. Testing was suspended in April so we could update the way the survey was carried out to ensure results continued to be robust.

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said, “Publishing surveillance data on campylobacter has prompted action from retailers and processors and we are now seeing progress. Our campaign has also raised awareness of campylobacter amongst the public and it is good to see from our research that it is customers, and not just the FSA, demanding action and information from retailers. We have always said that consumer power will ultimately push industry action.

“Many retailers and processors should be commended for the action they have taken so far.  The majority signed up to the pledge to ensure that campylobacter in chicken ceases to be a significant public health issue, and continued action will be needed to deliver this.”

The FSA’s research shows that 76% of people questioned want retailers to be more proactive in telling them what actions they are taking to reduce the campylobacter levels on the raw chicken they sell. More than half of people (53%) said that they would start buying chicken from another retailer if their usual shop was found to sell more than the industry average ‘high risk’ chicken.

Over 4000 sick from Campylobacter in NZ water

With over 4,000 now sick from drinking water contaminated with Campylobacter in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said today charges could be laid.

Hawke's BayAccording to Nicholas Jones of the NZ Herald, Key is backing the Hastings District Council, saying it acted as quickly as it could. But he told Newstalk ZB’s Mike Hosking there could be court action, as it’s not clear whether the contamination contributed to the death of a woman in a rest home.

He says that court action could involve civil or criminal charges.

The Ministry of Education says all Havelock North’s schools and early childhood centres are expected to be open today.

After the rolls are taken at Havelock North Intermediate this morning the students will be gathered for an assembly.

“We’ll just talk through hygiene basically. Over the next little while we’ll have the Red Cross in during the day at points. We’ll be talking about using the hand sanitisers and washing hands properly when using the loo,” said Principal Julia Beaumont.

At the weekend, the Hawke’s Bay DHB said interim results from the Institute of Environmental Science and Research suggests contamination from cattle and other four-legged farm animals may have been in the water.

Dr Bridgette Sullivan-Taylor, an extreme event expert at Auckland University, criticised the official reaction to the outbreak, saying she was “staggered” at how quickly the disaster snowballed out of control.

“Better planning could have minimised unintended consequences and downstream effects that make the disaster worse. The fact that contaminated water was brought into Havelock North in a tanker is staggering.”