‘Doesn’t have all the industrialized stuff in it’ Raw goats milk in Alaska

After we won the hockey final yesterday, several of the parents said to me or Amy, “we didn’t expect that. Our team dominated.”

goats-1-600x450We were up 6-0 before the other team knew what was happening.

On the drive home Amy said, I told them, Doug probably had a plan (which I did). I appear sorta dopey (which is easy), but do the homework and know the game.

And sometimes get lucky.

Watching the raw milk comings-and-goings is something like that.

The majority of producers invoke the gosh-shucks-raw-is-just-natural line, without adding that smallpox is also natural. And E. coli.

The regulators seem lost in this rhetorical garden, portrayed as villains, even though the are relied upon to clean up the mess when things go bad.

Victor Nelson and his wife, Tabitha, have been supplying raw milk from their dairy goats to people in Petersburg, reported KFSK-FM.

The couple raises chickens, pigs and goats on a few acres of land at Point Agassiz, an area across the sound from Petersburg. They’re the only family living out there year-round, surrounded by craggy peaks, cedar trees and glaciers.

“We started with two goats and just for raising quality milk that doesn’t have all that industrialized stuff in it and people kept asking us so we decided to buy a few more and a few more,” said Tabitha Nelson.

They have more than 30 now.

The Nelsons say people go crazy for the fresh milk — “We could never meet the whole demand for Petersburg,” said Tabitha — but there are limitations on how they can sell it.

In Alaska, you can only buy raw dairy products like the Nelsons’ unpasteurized goat milk through a herd share agreement, so the customers in Petersburg are partial owners of the goats.

Unpasteurized dairy products are heavily regulated because they’ve been known to carry disease-causing microorganisms like E. coli. In 2013, a campylobacter outbreak on the Kenai peninsula was linked to raw milk.

6 sick from Vibrio in oysters in Mass.

State health and fishery officials are extending the closure of several oyster beds in Boston’s South Shore area because of illnesses linked to seasonal shellfish bacteria.

SUN0705N-Oyster7The beds in Duxbury Bay, Kingston Bay, Bluefish River, Back River and Plymouth Harbor have been under a 7-day precautionary closure since last week. Tuesday’s announcement extends that until Oct. 8. It could be extended again if more illnesses arise.

The Massachusetts Department of Health and the state Division of Marine Fisheries say six illnesses linked to contaminated oysters have been confirmed. The illnesses are blamed on the Vibrio bacteria that thrive in warmer ocean waters.

Food safety silliness: 30-second food safety stories

There once was a dentist name Price.

He thought raw milk was all very nice.

miley.cyrus.tongueHe helped invent the Paleo diet.

And even, I’m told, Miley Cyrus likes it.

So it must be true.


But I want my food, like my medicine, to be based in 2015.

Not 1939.

30-second food safety stories.

Don’t get me started on microorganisms.

Someone I know posted this on Facebook today: carrots being sold from a truck

Names and locations have been changed to protect, uh, identities.


So many questions.

Where did the carrots come from? Where did they go? How was $20 arrived at as the price? Does this fit into someone’s food safety plan?

In unrelated news, CDC estimates that about half of the foodborne illness in the U.S. is attributed to produce.

3 dead from Salmonella in cucumbers

Authorities say a Pima County, Arizona, woman who had a serious underlying health condition has died after eating tainted cucumbers.

cucumberCounty Health Department officials didn’t immediately release the woman’s name or age Friday but said the woman is one of 16 local cases linked to Salmonella poona cases caused by cucumbers grown in Mexico and sold by California-based companies.

They say she died while being treated at a Tucson-area for an illness linked to the Salmonella outbreak.

64 sick: Tomatoes fingered as Salmonella source in Minnesota Chipotle outbreak

As the number of Americans sick from Salmonella linked to Mexican cucumbers reached 418, tomatoes have been identified as the source of a Salmonella outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145So much for the wife’s tomato and cucumber salad, with olive oil and salt.

The Minnesota Department of Health reports tomatoes have been identified as the source of the Salmonella Newport outbreak that has sickened dozens of people who ate at Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota since late August. Investigators are working with state and federal partners to trace the tomatoes back to the farm of origin.

Since the outbreak was reported last week, additional illnesses have been confirmed by MDH.  A total of 64 cases and 22 locations now have been linked to the outbreak [locations are listed below]. Nine people have been hospitalized; all are recovering. Meal dates for the cases range from August 16 to August 28 and people became ill between August 19 and September 3. The cases range in age from 10 to 69 years and are from 13 metro counties and several greater Minnesota counties.

“We expected to see additional cases because it can take up to 10 days for symptoms of Salmonella to appear, another few days to a week before people go to their doctors and the cases get reported to us,” said MDH Epidemiologist Dana Eikmeier. “However, there is no longer a risk of Salmonella from this particular product at Chipotle.”  The company has switched suppliers for its tomatoes and implicated product was removed from stores.

Duh alert: Salmonella outbreak investigation at Australian hospital rules out imported fish (check the egg dishes)

Testing has ruled out imported fish as the source of a Salmonella outbreak at Burnside Hospital in Adelaide, SA Health says.

fish.headsEleven patients have developed gastroenteritis caused by Salmonella since July, one needing re-admission for more treatment.

A statement from the hospital last week said the presence of the bacteria was confirmed at the hospital on September 8 and all recent and current patients had been informed about the issue.

Imported fish was identified as a possible source of the outbreak, but SA Health said testing had now ruled that out.

Cross-contamination from eggs is under investigation as a possible cause of the outbreak, for which the hospital apologized last week.

sprout.salad.aust.aug.15“The hospital has meticulously followed all advice provided by SA Health and the Eastern Health Authority in our efforts to reduce the possibility of others contracting the illness,” it said.

And that advice is not to use pasteurized eggs in dishes for those in a hospital – those immunocompromised – and serve raw alfalfa sprouts (pic from a Brisbane hospital, left).

Some advice: don’t serve raw sprouts and only use pasteurized eggs.

Minimize risk: Tracking shellfish contamination

Some shellfish, especially raw oysters, may contain dangerous levels of the pathogen Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp), a cousin of the bug that causes cholera.

Raw oystersWhen ingested, Vp can cause the food poisoning called vibriosis, which usually entails an unpleasant three days of nausea, diarrhea, fever and chills. In rare cases and among vulnerable populations—the very young, very old or those with weakened immune systems—the bacterium can cause a more serious blood infection. Vp, which can also cause skin infections, leads to about 30 hospitalizations and kills one to two people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Massachusetts, 58 cases of Vp-related illnesses were reported to the Department of Public Health in 2013, up from 13 cases in 2011. The state banned oyster harvesting in waters off Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket as well as off the towns of Plymouth, Kingston, Duxbury and Marshfield that year. The last two years waters in New York, Oregon and Washington State have been closed to oystering.

Vp occurs naturally in most marine ecosystems, but it typically has only been linked to disease in warm coastal areas, such as the Gulf of Mexico. The recent emergence of Vp-associated illness linked to seafood from waters off Alaska, Long Island and Massachusetts has made public health officials and others sit up and take notice, says Meghan Hartwick, who received a master’s degree in conservation medicine from Cummings School in 2012 and now works to predict and control future outbreaks.

oysters.grillWhy has Vp-related illness spread to more northern latitudes? Some scientists speculate it might have to do with climate change and rising ocean temperatures. “When we see these kinds of outbreaks in historically cold-water areas, it’s really unusual,” says Hartwick, who is studying the Vibrio species as a Ph.D. student in biology at the University of New Hampshire.

Hartwick hopes to develop a predictive mathematical model that can warn public health officials and shellfish growers when Vp outbreaks might occur. She helped implement such an environmental surveillance tool for cholera in Vellore, India, as part of her conservation medicine program at Tufts.

Nationwide, Vibrio parahaemolyticus cases are also on the rise. The Centers for Disease Control reports a 115 percent increase since 1996, when the agency started tracking Vp-associated illnesses. Of the 431 cases the CDC confirmed in 2012, six were fatal. Officials also suspect that Vp is vastly underreported, by as much as tenfold.

Hartwick is studying the Vibrio population in the Great Bay tidal estuary on the New Hampshire coast that empties into the Gulf of Maine. Collaborating with UNH colleagues with expertise in microbial ecology, genetics, molecular evolution and remote sensing, Hartwick is trying to understand the role the bacteria plays within Great Bay’s ecosystem.

The “sole goal [of Vp] in life is not to be a human pathogen,” she says. “Vp is an intrinsic part of the flora and fauna of most marine and estuarine ecosystems.”

In the spring and summer, Hartwick collects water and sediment samples and gathers data about water temperature, salinity, pH levels and anything else that might affect the bacteria’s numbers. Over time, she hopes to map how much and which species of Vibrio bacteria are present in Great Bay during the summer, as well as what factors might promote an outbreak.

In addition to developing a Vibrio early-warning tool, Hartwick and the UNH team, including her advisor, bacteriologist Stephen Jones, are working with shellfish growers to figure out how to prevent future outbreaks. After all, no one wants to sell food that makes people sick, she says.

“We’re not blindly throwing a dart and hoping it solves the problem,” Hartwick says. “We’re asking, ‘What is the problem, and what’s the best way to address it,’ so there are no unnecessary burdens placed on the shellfish industry, and there’s also no unnecessary illness. It’s sustainable science contributing to sustainable policy.”

Now into a second summer of collecting samples in Great Bay, Hartwick says she eventually would like to do work in sustainable development on a global scale. Disrupting ecosystems is one of the surest ways to trigger epidemics, such as cholera, she says, and disease is one of the heaviest economic burdens developing nations have to bear.

“If a developing nation can navigate that, it can jump ahead economically,” she says. “It’s hard for me not to think, ‘How can we conserve the environment and improve human health and the economy and education—everything at once?’ My approach is to minimize disease.”

Thoroughly cook salad: 40 sick with E. coli O157 linked to leafy greens in UK

Public Health England (PHE), Public Health Wales (PHW) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are investigating an outbreak of E. coli across England and Wales.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145As of September 8, there are 40 confirmed cases.

Initial investigations have indicated that pre-packed salad is the most likely cause of the outbreak.  Dr Anjila Shah from PHE’s North West’s Cheshire and Merseyside Health Protection team said: “We have been working with colleagues nationally and with the Food Standards Agency to investigate the cause of this outbreak.

“To date seven cases have been confirmed across the Cheshire and Merseyside area and public health measures have been put in place to prevent further infection.

“Investigations into these cases is on-going so it is not possible to speculate further as to the cause and source of the infection.”

Paul Cleary, consultant epidemiologist for Public Health England said: “The public can protect themselves from getting, and spreading E. coli through good hygiene practices. 

“This is particularly important when handling or preparing food, as consuming contaminated food or water are common sources of infection. 

“Foods that require cooking should be cooked thoroughly and all fruits and vegetables eaten raw should be washed to help remove bacteria from the outside. 

“Ready-to-eat pre-packed salads do not generally need to be re-washed unless it states otherwise on the packet.”

Food safety dominates first day of Florida tomato conference

Doug Ohlemeier of The Packer writes that during the opening day of the Florida Joint Tomato Conference, participants heard how the state’s tomato good agricultural practices and tomato best management practices are helping ensure safe shipments.

tomatoSince implementation of TGAPS, tomatoes haven’t experienced any recalls or outbreaks, Keith Schneider, associate professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition with the Gainesville-based University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said during a Sept. 8 tomato safety session.

He also noted the Sept. 4 multi-state salmonella outbreak of Mexican cucumbers distributed by San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce.

“All commodities are potential sources of foodborne illnesses,” Schneider said. “No one’s exempt. There is the recall in cucumbers for salmonella. Even things not traditionally associated with foodborne outbreaks (are subject to recalls). Those can be problematic. But I think we’re getting better with tomatoes and the record of tomatoes clearly speaks to that.”

In nine years of state tomato production inspections, the Tallahassee-based Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has issued 163 corrective actions, 120 failed audits and given 831 audit approvals, which means the farms and packinghouses passed the first time, said Steve Eguino, an agency certification specialist.

The average audit time is 3 1/2 hours and during the 2014-15 season, the agency conducted audits at 76 fields, five greenhouses, 81 packinghouses and 12 repacking operations, he said.

David Gombas, senior vce president of food safety and technology for the Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association, said, “I’m getting tired of talking with folks that don’t have it. They did a mock recall last year with an auditor and think that’s enough, but it’s like deer in the headlights. It will always be more expensive doing it that way than having one in advance.”