The meat beat

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes:

Feeding a raw diet to your pet? And through a dog food co-op? This might sound like an awesome idea, but it is not the safest plan.

Sheila Pell at Modern Farmer writes,

Offer a dog a piece of kibble in one hand and a morsel of meat in the other. It’s that obvious choice that moves many pet parents to join a dog food co-op, and share the task of procuring fresh meats, fruits and vegetables to be shared among their pet’s food bowls. Not everyone can find one nearby, but more are cropping up all the time.IMG_5238-225x300

While feeding raw food might be preferable to the dog, taste-wise, a pet doesn’t know which foods might be contaminated with SalmonellaE. coli or other pathogens.  Domesticated animals rely on humans to make the best choices possible for their meals.

Yet, that might not always happen.

Proponents also argue that dogs evolved to eat primarily raw foods, mainly meat and bones, not starchy overcooked grains. The benefits of approximating that diet, many say, include healthier skin and coats, cleaner teeth, more energy and less poop.

Pell notes that there are dissidents,

Many veterinarians, and the FDA, discourage raw feeding due to threats from bacteria. Studies in veterinary journals have documented the risks. Some long-time raw feeders point out that bacteria (salmonella, for one) is also a problem in commercial pet food. Other risks are feeding an unbalanced diet and the potential for whole bones to cause choking, break teeth or puncture an organ.

My dog would regularly eat poop for dinner if it were up to her. Commercial dry food has had contamination issues the risk is increased when the meal is raw. Veterinarians have suggested that raw chicken can have too much phosphorous or calcium—and consuming bones, among other items, can easily get stuck in an animal’s esophagus and lead to other health issues (Thompson et al., 2012). But it’s safety that got the pet owners interested in this diet in the first place.

But pet food recalls and the local/organic food trend got pet owners interested in providing their dogs with a higher quality feed. By shortening the farm-to-bowl chain, many owners feel they can rule out many of the toxic traces of industrial food production.

Just shortening the supply chain is not the mythical answer to lessening a supposed toxic industrial food system. A nearby processor of raw food can be just as risky as a far-away processor of conventional kibble. And while dog food co-ops might use best practices, it is not a guarantee that every purveyor does as such.

I look up product contents, company histories, and prevalence of recalls, as well as how any recall was handled, before feeding my dog a new brand of food. Before joining a cooperative, I would research its processing practices, transport procedures, and operating procedures –for the health of my dog and me, since I can get sick from contaminated dog food: dry, wet, or raw.

Tainted celery linked to Gonzales farm

An outbreak of E. coli in Minnesota has been linked to celery grown in Gonzales, but the attorney representing many of the sickened people said Thursday that he is not, yet, targeting the grower.

celery.potato.saladAccording to a recently released report by the Minnesota Department of Health, 57 people were sickened and nine were hospitalized. The victims were members of a band of the Lake Superior Chippewa called Fond du Lac. Fortunately, none of the victims developed a potentially deadly kidney condition common to the identified strain: E. coli O157:H7, according to documents obtained from the MDH.

MDH found that the most common food items were the celery and onions. Potato salad, which included celery and onions, was found to be tainted with E. coli O157:H7. Cases were also identified at events where potato salad was not served, but celery was. The celery was traced back to a field adjacent to a defunct dairy operation near Gonzales, according to the MDH.

MDH concluded that the common server at five Fond du Lac events – including an Elder picnic and a wedding ceremony – between July 1 and July 17 on the reservation was Jim-N-Joe’s Northland Katering. The catering business produced invoices showing the celery was purchased from Upper Lakes Foods Inc., which provided bills of lading from Pro*Act, a Vancouver produce distributor, and Salinas-based Mann Packing.

The two distributors worked together to identify the “field of interest,” and the celery was traced back to Martignoni Ranch block 5c outside of Gonzales. Aerial views of the field show it butting up against a dairy operation, which Bill Marler, the attorney for several of the victims, described as “defunct.”

But a call placed to the dairy, M and M Dairy Inc., and to Rocci Martignoni, who is listed as president of M and M, was not immediately returned Thursday. But inspectors for the California Department of Public Health took water and soil samples from the field and did not find the pathogen.

Michael Needham, chief of the Emergency Response Unit for the California Health Department, said Thursday that his understanding was that no E.coli was discovered on the farm, but added that his report is not yet complete.

Because there is no scientific smoking gun connecting the celery in the potato salad to the farm the celery was grown on, Marler said he is reluctant to file a lawsuit against Martignoni. He is, however, filing a lawsuit against the caterer.

“I don’t feel like I have enough evidence to bring a lawsuit against the celery grower,” Marler said Thursday from his Seattle office. “But that may change as discovery proceeds and new evidence surfaces.”

Australian reporter drank camel milk for a month, here’s what happened

PJ Madam writes: This is a story about camels, their milk, and my bowel moments.

What could possibly be more interesting and attractive?

camel.milkAs a reporter on Sunday Night, I’m encouraged to get involved in the story as much as possible.

In the case of camel milk – all I had to do was drink some, right? Well, drink and document the effects, which has been a little tricky.

See, I’m one of those people who repeatedly test negative to allergies and intolerances.

According to multiple tests, I should be able to digest the main culprits: wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs and nuts.

Yet I’m embarrassed to say, my stomach tells me otherwise.

For the past 10 years, I’ve had a sensitive and weak constitution. I get cramps, sharp pain, bloating followed by the bathroom dramas.

It’s humiliating and frustrating.

Sometimes there’s a pattern. Most times, there’s not.

My doctor strongly believes I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I’ve been asked to have a colonoscopy and urged to try a food elimination diet but make every excuse under the sun to dodge both.

I like so many Australians, just watch what I eat, and put up with the symptoms.

So never in my wildest dreams did I imagine turning to camel milk to help the symptoms.

To me, the whole concept was plain weird.

Who wants to drink milk that comes from a camel?

They spit, they kick, they smell, they grunt and a whiff of their bad breath is enough to make you pass out.

I figured there was no point to investigating the health benefits of camel milk if I wasn’t drinking it myself.

For the past two months I traveled through the Middle East and outback Australia, investigating if the benefits of camel’s milk were fad or fact.

I spoke to many families who drink it to treat their child’s autism or asthma.

One man I spoke to suffers from Common Variable Immune Deficiency and swears by it being a staple in his diet.

The list doesn’t end there. The science behind the milk – known as ‘white gold’ – shows it can also help treat diabetes, cholesterol, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Crohn’s disease, hepatitis and leaky gut.

camel.milk 2Nearly everyone I met told me it has helped.

It sounded too good to be true. Annoyingly, some were even calling it a ‘super food’.

I was comfortably skeptical.

And that’s when I was given a challenge.

Tucked away among the hills in Perth is Australia’s only camel dairy farmer.

At 70, Chris O’Hora is hilariously inappropriate, very generous but incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about camel milk.

Chris O’Hora sells his camel milk raw, unpasteurized, which scientists say is better for you.

Under Australian law, selling raw milk also happens to be illegal. Chris covers his milk bottles with stickers saying “not fit for human consumption” so it’s my choice whether to drink it or not.

I chose yes. I’d been to Chris’ farm; saw the camels, where they lived, the milking process and hygiene standards so I felt very confident about drinking his milk.

That farm was cleaner than my kitchen.

Also, camels unlike cows naturally carry lower levels of dangerous bacteria that force us to pasteurize bovine milk. Despite this, Chris insists testing his milk every single day. I saw this and was more than confident about what I was about to do.

Australia has the largest population of wild camels in the world but that doesn’t mean they line up and stand still to be milked.

Catching them in the wild is difficult and expensive. Once you have one, they yield around four times less than a cow.

It also costs $25 a litre.

Raw egg mayonnaise more of a G20 threat than terrorism

As Brisbane locks down for the G20 meetings this weekend, Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Jeanette Young, stated this week that she was more concerned about the threat of raw egg mayonnaise than terrorism, with major hospitals primed to take action in the case of a mass food poisoning event.

g20.brisbane.14“I’m actually a little bit more worried about food poisoning than I am about other incidents, particularly we’ve seen quite a few outbreaks in Queensland over the last few years, mainly due to raw eggs,” Dr Young said.

We have a lot of problems with raw egg mayonnaise and we’ve seen quite a few incidents where hundreds of people have been impacted, so we certainly don’t want that to happen. I think that is a fairly realistic scenario, but very unlikely given the amount of work that’s been done. My personal view is we should all shy away from raw egg mayonnaise at all times,” she said.

Over 7000 dignitaries, foreign delegates and journalists are starting to arrive in Brisbane already in preparation for events leading up to the main G20 summit on Friday and Saturday this week.

raw.egg.mayoMany of the more high-profile guests will be bringing their own healthcare teams with them with the doctors being accredited by Queensland Health to practice medicine here. In the case of a serious illness or injury, the dignitary will be treated in a Brisbane Hospital.

I can’t imagine any of them allowing their leaders to eat a raw-egg based dish.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at

2 dead, 3 sick from Listeria; sprouts strike again

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection:

  • CDC recommends that consumers do not eat any products produced by Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. Restaurants and retailers should not sell or serve them.
  • AA051036On August 28, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. conducted a voluntary recall of mung bean sprouts due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination after FDA isolated the pathogen from samples as a result of a routine assignment.
  • During FDA inspections of the Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. facility in August and October 2014, investigators observed unsanitary conditions, many of which were present during both inspections.
  • Whole genome sequences of the Listeria strains isolated from mung bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. and environmental isolates collected at the production facility were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from five people who became ill from June through August 2014.
  •  These five ill people were reported from two states: Illinois (4) and Michigan (1).
  • All ill people were hospitalized. Two deaths were reported.
  • The two people interviewed reported eating bean sprouts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) isolated Listeria monocytogenes from mung bean sprouts and sprout irrigation water samples obtained during a routine assignment on August 13, 2014, at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. Based on this finding, FDA conducted an inspection of the facility from August 12, 2014, through September 3, 2014, and isolated Listeria monocytogenes from 25 environmental swabs obtained during the inspection. FDA also issued a report with 12 inspectional observations, citing the firm for numerous unsanitary conditions and poor equipment maintenance.

On August 28, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. agreed to conduct a voluntary recall of mung bean sprouts and notified customers by telephone. Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. ceased production of sprouts on August 28, 2014, and resumed production on September 15, 2014 after Listeria monocytogenes was not identified in finished product. From October 7, 2014, to October 31, 2014, FDA re-inspected the facility and identified Listeria monocytogenes in nine environmental swabs. FDA investigators issued another report to the firm, noting 12 inspectional observations involving unsanitary conditions and poor equipment maintenance. Nine of these observations had persisted from the previous inspection.

On October 14, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. ceased production of all products except mung bean and soy bean sprouts. FDA is working with the company to ensure that they do not produce sprouts until FDA has adequate assurances that this persistent and dangerous strain of Listeria monocytogenes is sufficiently controlled. Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is working to embargo all product at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. and the other wholesalers that presently have product. In addition, IDPH has asked local health departments to contact facilities in their jurisdictions that have received the product to have the facilities either hold the product or destroy per the CDC recommendations.

FDA performed pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS) on the isolates from mung bean sprouts and environmental samples from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. to further characterize the Listeria isolates. Compared with PFGE, WGS provides a clearer distinction of genetic differences among Listeria isolates (strains that are highly related by WGS are more likely to have a common source).

Public health investigators used PFGE and WGS to identify cases of illness that were caused by highly related strains and therefore possibly related to products made at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. This included data from PulseNet, the national subtyping network of state and local public health laboratories, CDC, and federal food regulatory laboratories that perform molecular surveillance of foodborne infections. 

Whole-genome sequences of Listeria strains isolated from five ill people were found to be highly related to sequences of the Listeria strain isolated from mung bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. These ill people have been reported from two states: Illinois (4) and Michigan (1).  They became ill from June through August 2014. All five people were hospitalized, and two deaths were reported. Two of the five people were interviewed, and both reported consuming bean sprouts in the month before becoming ill.

The high degree of genetic similarity between isolates from ill people and from mung bean sprouts and environmental samples collected at Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. shows that the food was contaminated with a strain of Listeria monocytogenes that can cause serious illness. Although limited information is available about the specific sprout products that the ill people consumed, the whole genome sequencing findings, together with the sprout consumption history of two patients and inspection findings at the firm, suggest that these illnesses could be related to products from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc.

CDC, the states involved, and FDA continue to work closely on this ongoing investigation, and new information will be provided when available.

We document at least 55 sprout-associated outbreaks occurring worldwide affecting a total of 15,233 people since 1988. A comprehensive table of sprout-related outbreaks can be found at

Wholesome Soy Products, Inc

It’s only been 18 years since Odwalla: Cider recall has producer on the defensive

When Amy provides some medical advice, I remind her she’s not a medical doctor or scientist, she’s a doctor of French professoring.

apple.cider.pressSo when a farmer says, one bad batch of unpasteurized apple cider shouldn’t scare the public away from the health benefits of the natural juice, maybe he needs to be reminded he’s a farmer.

E. coli O157 is natural; so is smallpox; I don’t want them.

I’m all for looking for expertise in weird places because we all have our own weird experiences: but that’s not a basis for public policy; scientific experimentation and peer review is about the best we’ve got at this point, although I’m open to any idea.

As the Canadian Food Inspection Agency expands the recall of unpasteurized apple cider products sold at the St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market located in Waterloo, Ontario (that’s in Canada), Dale Wilson, the owner of Osoleo Wildcrafters, one of the companies whose locally-made apple cider has been recalled after suspected cases of E. coli poisoning struck three people in Ontario told the K-W Record that it’s an overreaction to suggest people ought to steer clear of raw, or unpasteurized, apple cider. He sells much of his cider directly to consumers at markets who believe the raw, preservative-free version of the juice is better for their health.

“Here’s an accidental situation that happens maybe once a year, and suddenly becomes the hue and cry for shutting down the entire system,” he said. “There’s two sides to this story.”

To its advocates, unpasteurized apple cider is a healthy, natural food product that can help ward off colds and the flu and cleanse the digestive system. Pasteurization kills off the taste and the good bacteria that can help your body, Wilson said.

“The risks are not outweighed by any perceived health benefits,” said Chris Komorowski, food safety manager at Waterloo Region public health.

odwalla.cider.e.coliUnlike unpasteurized milk, it’s legal to sell raw cider in Ontario as long as it’s labelled properly.

Here’s the abstract from a paper Amber Luedtke and I published back in 2002:

A review of North American apple cider outbreaks caused by E. coli O157:H7 demonstrated that in the U.S., government officials, cider producers, interest groups and the public were actively involved in reforming and reducing the risk associated with unpasteurized apple cider. In Canada, media coverage was limited and government agencies inadequately managed and communicated relevant updates or new documents to the industry and the public.

Therefore, a survey was conducted with fifteen apple cider producers in Ontario, Canada, to gain a better understanding of production practices and information sources. Small, seasonal operations in Ontario produce approximately 20,000 litres of cider per year. Improper processing procedures were employed by some operators, including the use of unwashed apples and not using sanitizers or labeling products accurately.

Most did not pasteurize or have additional safety measures. Larger cider producers ran year-long, with some producing in excess of 500,000 litres of cider. Most sold to large retail stores and have implemented safety measures such as HACCP plans, cider testing and pasteurization. All producers surveyed received government information on an irregular basis, and the motivation to ensure safe, high-quality apple cider was influenced by financial stability along with consumer and market demand, rather than by government enforcement.

It was the Campy in raw milk provided by parents that sickened 38 related to a Wisconsin high school football team

When Bri­anna Win­nekins, 18, was ad­mit­ted to Chippewa Val­ley Hospi­tal in Du­rand Sept. 22, her par­ents, Karla and Brian, had no idea what was caus­ing her symp­toms, which in­cluded a 105-de­gree fever.

colbert.raw.milkIt didn’t take long be­fore more Du­rand High School stu­dents — all as­so­ci­ated with the foot­ball team — be­gan be­ing ad­mit­ted to the hos­pi­tal and a link was made be­tween the ill­ness and a team din­ner at a Du­rand church Sept. 18.

On Oct. 24, State Depart­ment of Health Ser­vices of­fi­cials an­nounced raw milk served at a potluck team meal likely caused the out­break of ill­ness among Du­rand High School foot­ball play­ers, man­agers and coaches in Septem­ber.

The out­break af­fected 38 mem­bers of the foot­ball team who at­tended the team din­ner on Sept. 18. Test­ing per­formed at the State Lab of Hy­giene and area labs and clin­ics con­firmed that the ill­ness was caused by Campy­lobac­ter je­juni bac­te­ria.

As part of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, state DHS of­fi­cials in­ter­viewed all of the foot­ball team mem­bers and coach­ing staff to as­sess ill­nesses and ask ques­tions about ac­tiv­i­ties, foods, wa­ter sources and pos­si­ble causes of the ill­ness. They dis­cov­ered the con­sump­tion of raw milk was the only com­mon­al­ity among them that could cause the ill­ness.

The team meal and drinks were pro­vided by a group of team par­ents, said Karla Win­nekins. Win­nekins said her daugh­ter was not aware that the milk she was drink­ing was raw milk.

“Our daugh­ter said, had she known it was raw milk, she would not have drank it,” Win­nekins said.

Karla Win­nekins is more pointed in her opin­ion of whether raw milk should have been avail­able at the team func­tion.

While this is the first time stu­dents and coaches as­so­ci­ated with the Du­rand foot­ball team have got­ten sick from drink­ing raw milk, Win­nekins said this is likely not the first time raw milk has been served at a team din­ner.

“It’s scary,” Win­nekins said. “I’ve read the good about raw milk, and I’ve read the bad. But just be­cause some­thing has been done in the past and it has turned out OK doesn’t make it right.”

This is the song that never ends: Regulations for sale of raw milk being considered in Ireland (paid for by taxpayers)

Regulatory standards for the sale of raw milk are being examined by the Irish Department of Agriculture, following years of uncertainty over the sale of the milk, which is not pasteurized.

SB_SongThatNeverEnds-eBookNative.480x480-75The department banned the sale of raw cow’s milk in 1996 over concerns about the health risks but EU hygiene legislation in 2006 legally permitted it.

Once the implications of EU legislation were realised, some farmers began to sell raw milk again but in 2011 the government said it would ban the sale of the milk on the advice of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.

However, last year, the Department of Health received legal advice stating it could not introduce secondary legislation under the Health Acts and it told the Department of Agriculture it was a matter for it to decide whether to introduce the primary legislation required.

Asked if it was planning to bring this legislation forward, a spokesman for the Department of Agriculture said the department was “currently assessing the options available to it to counter the risks associated with the sale of unpasteurised milk for direct human consumption”.

He said a particular option being considered was the introduction of specified regulatory standards to apply to the sale of raw milk. He did not give a time frame for the introduction of such standards. The spokesman said unpasteurised milk could contain disease-causing bacteria such as E. coli O157, salmonellosis and brucellosis.

Unpasteurized raw milk being blamed for illness that sickened dozens of Wisconsin students

A friend posted on facebook how much she enjoyed the visit to the apple cider mill – a fall tradition.

colbert.raw.milkI asked if the cider was pasteurized.

She said yes.


Not so good for the Durand High School in Wisconsin where a parent provided  unpasteurized raw milk for a team football dinner

Eight students were hospitalized, and nearly 150 middle and high school students stayed home to avoid getting sick. 

State health officials say it was Campylobacter that caused the illness, and the health department said Friday that it likely came from unpasteurized raw milk.

Reader’s Digest nosestretcher alert: 13+ things you shouldn’t eat at a restaurant

In its futile quest to compete in a 140—character universe, Reader’s Digest (Canada) included meat with the bone in as a restaurant no-no.

steak.tartareAnd I quote: “small cuts of meat, like bone-in pork or chicken breasts, are harder to cook thoroughly because their outsides easily char. This often translates to crispy on the outside and raw on the inside. Unlike undercooked beef—say, a rare burger or a steak tartare—undercooked pork and chicken are highly dangerous and could causes foodborne illnesses.”

Rare burgers and steak tartares are microbiological messes and shouldn’t be touched. Regardless of the cut, use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer and stick it in.

barfblog.Stick It In