Cook it: Toxo in pork

Toxoplasma gondii is one of the leading foodborne pathogens in the United States.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that T. gondii accounts for 24% of deaths due to foodborne illness in the United States.

raw-meat-120607Consumption of undercooked pork products in which T. gondii has encysted has been identified as an important route of human exposure. However, little quantitative evaluation of risk due to different pork products as a function of microbial quality at the abattoir, during the production process, and due to consumer handling practices is available to inform risk management actions.

The goal of this study was to develop a farm-to-table quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) model to predict the public health risk associated with consumption of fresh pork in the United States.

T. gondii prevalence in pigs was derived through a meta-analysis of existing data, and the concentration of the infectious life stage (bradyzoites) was calculated for each pork cut from an infected pig. Logistic regression and log-linear regression models were developed to predict the reduction of T. gondii during further processing and consumer preparation, respectively. A mouse-derived exponential dose-response model was used to predict infection risk in humans. The estimated mean probability of infection per serving of fresh pork products ranges from 3.2 × 10−7 to 9.5 × 10−6, corresponding to a predicted approximately 94,600 new infections annually in the U.S. population due to fresh pork ingestion. Approximately 957 new infections per year were estimated to occur in pregnant women, corresponding to 277 cases of congenital toxoplasmosis per year due to fresh pork ingestion.

In the context of available data, sensitivity analysis suggested that cooking is the most important parameter impacting human health risk. This study provides a scientific basis for risk management and also could serve as a baseline model to quantify infection risk from T. gondii and other parasites associated with meat products.

Quantifying the risk of human Toxoplasma gondii infection due to consumption of fresh pork in the United States

Food Control, Volume 73, Part B, March 2017, Pages 1210–1222

Miao Guo, Elisabetta Lambertini, Robert L. Buchanan, Jitender P. Dubey, Dolores E. Hill, H. Ray Gamble, Jeffrey L. Jones, Abani K. Pradhan

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713516305825

Campy increasing in Sweden

An unusually high number of people have been struck by Campylobacter in Sweden this winter, resulting in a less than festive combination of vomiting, diarrhea and stomach pains.

vomit-birdThe number of infections usually peaks during the late summer months then drops off, but this year has yet to see a notable downward curve, Sweden’s Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten) warns.

The growth coincides with an increase in campylobacter among flocks of chicken in Sweden, and fresh chicken is therefore thought to be a culprit.

 “The explanation we have right now is that we eat a lot of chicken. We eat a lot of fresh chicken, and campylobacter can be found in the fresh chicken to a certain extent,” Folkhälsomyndigheten spokesperson Britta Björkholm noted.

“If you’re not careful with your hygiene you risk coming down with it,” she added.

Between August and November 2016 twice as many cases were reported as normal, and that pattern has continued into the last month of the year.

About 100 cases are usually reported in December, but in December 2016 the number was almost 300 by the middle of the month.

“People are not being sufficiently careful about separating raw chicken from utensils and work surfaces,” Björkholm insisted.

Irony can be ironic: 70 staff members ill after NM Department of Health luncheon

Andrew Oxford of The New Mexican reports that epidemiologists at the state Department of Health are investigating their agency’s own annual holiday luncheon after dozens of employees reported falling ill after the party last week.

barfAbout 70 staff members claim to have experienced gastrointestinal issues following the catered event at the Harold Runnels Building attended by more than 200 employees, according to a spokesman.

Health Secretary Lynn Gallagher wrote in an email to staff Monday that investigators have not identified a specific food from the party that may have caused the outbreak.

A team from the department’s Epidemiology and Response Division “believes that there may have been cross-contamination of menu items served during the luncheon,” she wrote.

Epidemiologists were still waiting for laboratory test results as of Monday, but Gallagher told staff the outbreak appears to have been caused by Bacillus cereus or Clostridium perfringens, toxins that can cause foodborne illness.

“We will work to take appropriate steps to address food handling procedures with the caterer and prevent such problems in the future,” wrote, Gallagher.

Spokesman Paul Rhien said the event was catered by a local business, but he did not specify which one when asked by a reporter to identify the company.

Tragic Thanksgiving outbreak linked to Clostridium perfringens 

It’s deja vu all over again. In November 2015 over 40 fell ill with Clostridium perfringens in my home state of North Carolina following a Thanksgiving community meal.

The caterer failed to keep the hot foods hot according to the investigation report in MMWR:

Turkeys were cooked approximately 10 hours before lunch, placed in warming pans, and plated in individual servings. Food was then delivered by automobile, which required multiple trips. After cooking and during transport, food sat either in warming pans or at ambient temperature for up to 8 hours. No temperature monitoring was conducted after cooking.

Today, according to the LA Times, perfringens has been linked to another Thanksgiving outbreak. This one was fatal.thanksgiving-dinner-1_0

Health officials say common foodborne bacteria caused an illness that left three people dead and sickened 22 others who attended a Thanksgiving dinner at an events hall in Antioch, Calif.

Officials identified the three people who died as 43-year-old Christopher Cappetti, 59-year-old Chooi Keng Cheah, and 69-year-old Jane Evans. All were residents of assisted living facilities in Antioch.

From a Contra Costa County press release:

A laboratory at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) confirmed the presence of the bacteria in stool samples taken from people sickened by food served at the Nov. 24 holiday celebration, held by a community church at Antioch’s American Legion auditorium.

“Our investigation was not able to determine exactly what people ate that made them sick. But after extensive interviews we found most of the ill people ate turkey and mashed potatoes and they all ate around the same time. Some dishes served at the event, including cooked turkey, were brought to the site after they were prepared in private homes,” said Dr. Marilyn Underwood, CCHS Environmental Health director.

 

We’re all hosts on a viral planet virome edition

The X-files movie was on the other night – the 1998 one – featuring bad dialogue, overwrought music, mysterious scientists and a mutated virus originally delivered by extraterrestrials.

bacteriophageAt the same time I was reading how scientists at the Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA) in Spain have carried out a comprehensive analysis of several viromes from different habitats to explore whether bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) harbor antibiotic resistance genes.

The team demonstrated that while human-associated viromes do not or rarely carry resistance genes, viromes from non-human sources (e.g., pig feces, raw sewage, and freshwater and marine environments) contain a large reservoir of resistance genes. Their work is described in the journal Environmental Pollution (1).

“These findings suggest that phages may play a more significant role in the acquisition and mobilization of antibiotic resistance genes than previously expected”, says Dr. Jose L. Balcazar, a Ramon y Cajal research scientist and senior author of the study.

Of course they do: We’re all hosts on a viral planet.

In this study, several viromes (community of viruses) from humans, animals, and different environments worldwide were screened for sequences similar to those associated with antibiotic resistance genes. The results showed that genes encoding major facilitator superfamily transporters and beta-lactamases were found in all analysed viromes regardless their origin. The presence of these resistance genes in bacteriophages is of particular concern, because these genes may eventually be transferred to bacteria, making them resistant to antibiotics. Considering that bacteriophages have the potential to transfer genetic material between bacteria, they play an important role in the evolution and ecology of bacterial species. However, the contribution of bacteriophages to the acquisition and spread of antibiotic resistance has been partially explored in environmental settings. So these findings suggest that the role of bacteriophages should be taken into account in the development of strategies for tackling antibiotic resistance. This work was funded by the first joint call of the Water Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness.

Published articles

Lekunberri I., Subirats J., Borrego C.M., Balcazar J.L. (2016) “Exploring the contribution of bacteriophages to antibiotic resistance”. Environmental Pollution. DOI: 10.1016/j.envpol.2016.11.059

 “Wastewater treatment plant discharges can promote the development of antibiotic resistance in streams” [PDF]. Science for Environment Policy of the European Commission DG Environment News Alert Service.

250 sick in Sweden: Global College evacuated after gastroenteritis

At least 250 of 680 students at Global College in Sweden were sick when it was decided to close the school Wednesday.

globala-gymnasiet“We think it’s about common stomach bug. There is no connection to the school food,” said Acting Vice Chancellor Emma Frankl.

It is unclear how long it will keep the school closed. A crisis team has been set up.

“We obviously need advice from those who can assess the situation. The only thing we are certain at present is that it does not have with school meals to make, which would surely just all have suffered, says Emma Frankl.

Not quite.

But I look forward to the investigators’ response.

260 sick after Thanksgiving meal in New York

The health department says it has now received 260 reports of illness related to Golden Ponds restaurant.

golden-pondsThe Monroe County Health Department says the updated number comes after speaking with 80 people who made reports. Spokesman John Ricci says those people mentioned family members and friends who also got sick after eating at the restaurant.

The restaurant was closed down last month after people started reporting getting sick after eating there on Thanksgiving. News10NBC found Golden Ponds had 106 violations since 2009.

golden-pond

Chlorine works, focus on public health: NZ campy-in-water inquiry wraps up with 16 draft recommendations

I served on one of those water inquires, back in Canada after the 2000 outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that killed seven and sickened 2,300 residents in Walkerton, Ontario, Canada, a town of about 5,000.

Walkerton Water Tower

Walkerton Water Tower

It was decent work, but what surprised me most was the actions taken by various social actors in the aftermath of the outbreak: protect themselves, public health be damned.

The number of higher-ups who wanted to meet with me to express why they did what they did, in a private chat, had absolutely no influence on my conclusions, and was sorta repulsive.

Maybe I was naïve.

Still am (I’m the full professor from Kansas State University who got fired for bad attendance with  — nothing, except my family, and that makes a good Hollywood tale).

In August, 2016, about 5,530 or 39 per cent of Havelock North, New Zealand’s population reported gastroenteritis from Camplylobacter in the water supply, 1,072 of those confirmed cases.

Nicki Harper of the New Zealand Herald reports a government inquiry into contamination of a Hawke’s Bay water supply has made 16 draft recommendations.

The inquiry into the Hastings District Council’s request to re-activate a Brookvale Road bore to augment Havelock North’s peak summer water supply retired today with a set of draft recommendations.

Before wrapping up proceedings, inquiry panel chair Lyn Stevens QC thanked the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) and Hastings District Council (HDC) for the efforts they made that resulted in the regional council dropping its prosecution of the Hastings council.

This agreement came after the first day of hearings on Monday, when pressure was applied by the panel to re-consider the charges.

After extensive questioning on Monday, the regional council agreed to withdraw the charges relating to breaches of the Hastings District Council’s resource consent conditions for taking water from Brookvale bores 1 and 2 – opting to instead consider issuing infringement notices.

Mr Stevens said, “The panel has noted a level of defensiveness in some of the evidence filed to date.

“I’m not being critical of any organisation or witness but wish to emphasise the overriding interest with this inquiry is the public interest, while we look to fulfil the terms of reference to determine the possible causes of contamination.”

A set of 16 draft recommendations were issued and Mr Stevens said the joint working group would be an important conduit to implement them.

The aim was to have the bore re-opened at the end of January before Havelock North water use reached peak demand in February.

Among the recommendations was a directive that the working group – comprising representation from HDC, HBRC, the DHB and drinking water assessors – meet regularly and share information of any potential drinking water safety risk.

For at least 12 months from December 12, the bore would receive cartridge filtration, UV and chlorine treatment, and a regime of regular montioring be implemented.

It was also recommended that the HDC draft an Emergency Response Plan before Bore 3 was brought on line.

Pinto defense: Consumer group says more than half of NZ chickens have campy

Meeting government standards is about the worst thing any group can say when it comes to trust.

chickenAlmost all food purchases are an act of faith-based food safety.

The Pinto, an American car that had a tendency to explode when hit from behind, also met all government standards.

More than half the supermarket chickens in a Consumer NZ study carried Campylobacter, but the poultry association says the test was much stricter than official requirements.

The study of 40 chickens found 65 per cent (26 chickens) tested positive for Campylobacter, Consumer NZ said.

Fourty chickens don’t mean statistical shit, especially if they were from the same grower.

But already, the industry and the government are defending NZ poultry, without a lot of data.

More posturing.

Like blowing up real good.

Poultry Industry Association director Michael Brooks said chicken only accounted for 40 per cent of New Zealand’s campylobacter cases.

Some might consider that a lot.

Radio New Zealand reported that Brooks said, “The important thing is to remember that cooking kills campylobacter, and that it’s important to have good hygiene practices when handling a raw product. Safe storage practices and cooking it thoroughly will prevent the risk of illness.”

It’s about lowering loads. All that Campy into a kitchen means cross-contamination is rife.

In a statement, MPI director of systems audit, assurance and monitoring Allan Kinsella said the ministry had considered a retail testing programme but decided it was unnecessary.

Mandatory testing for broiler chicken carcasses was introduced in 2006, she said, and had been so successful it had led to a more than 50 percent reduction in foodborne campylobacter cases between 2007 and 2015.

The posturing on either side is a scam.

When will someone step forward and credibly say, in NZ, we should have fewer people barfing?

Fermentations: A microbiological orgasm for food and drink

Third-year university in 1983, and things started to click.

I was bored, angst-ridden and wondering what am I doing here.

home-made preserves for the winter isolated on white background

home-made preserves for the winter isolated on white background

Then I took an industrial microbiology class.

Fermentations.

(And no, Michael Pollan didn’t invent bragging about fermentations either).

The next year I took a virology class and suddenly realized: we humans are hosts on a microbiological planet.

The way these bugs move genes around, invade others, and have been crucial to the evolution of humans has intrigued me ever since.

Kim Painter of USA Today writes that Americans used to find yogurt yucky. But the creamy dairy food long ago joined beer and cheese on the list of our favorite things produced by fermentation — an ancient preservation process in which bacteria transform food and drink, creating new flavors and, many consumers believe, enhanced health benefits.

So maybe it’s not surprising that thousands of people now show up at fermentation festivals around the country to make sauerkraut and sample kombucha teas, Korean kimchi and Japanese natto. The same folks flock to pop-up “kraut mobs” and study books such as Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation, both by the movement’s guru, Sandor Katz.

“I would say that virtually every event I do these days is at capacity, and I’m not accepting every invitation. I can’t physically do it,” Katz says. He spoke from China, where he was on a quest for more fermentation wisdom.

Fermentation is the hottest trend in plant-based eating, according to recent survey of registered dietitians by The Monday Campaigns, a non-profit organization that promotes healthy lifestyles.

Jeremy Ogusky, a Boston pottery maker, sees it firsthand as founder of Boston Ferments, the host group for a summer festival that drew a few hundred people four years ago and 14,000 this year.  “It’s just grown every year,” he says. “It’s kind of crazy.”

And what about safety, especially for foods fermented at home?  After all, the process typically requires leaving jars of foodstuffs sitting out for weeks, without the final sanitizing steps used in standard canning. (Heat processing can be added for some foods, but purists generally frown on that.)

The history of fermentation, especially with vegetables, is mostly reassuring. When properly done, fermentation produces acids that kill most worrisome microorganisms, says my barfblog.com friend, who also shares a love of fermentations, Benjamin Chapman, an associate professor and food safety extension specialist at North Carolina State University.

“We have lots of data showing that if you get the correct pH drop, the correct acidity level, you can create a really, really low risk product,” he says. But he says risks are not zero, and some cases of home fermenters making mistakes and creating unsafe foods have been reported. That’s why he urges people to use only long-tested recipes and techniques.