As of Friday afternoon, four British Columbians who feed their pets raw food diets have all become infected with the same strain of Salmonella. The BC Centre for Disease Control said the exact source of the Salmonella is unknown, but investigations are currently underway.
The link in the previous story was wrong, but now corrected thanks to an eagle-eyed readerer.
Consumers don’t buy leafy greens and other healthy supermarket produce anticipating the food might make their families sick. Or at least, they didn’t used to.
But high profile recalls of fruits and veggies seem to be a new normal in the American food landscape. The recalls follow outbreaks of foodborne illnesses caused by microbes like E. coli. These outbreaks can send unsuspecting veggiephiles rushing to the nearest toilet or, worse yet, the hospital. Some outbreaks can even result in deaths.
The average American is still unlikely to wind up at the emergency room after eating tainted produce. Still, outbreaks have major consequences for supermarkets and growers. After outbreaks, they must regain public trust or face possible financial ruin.
Of concern is how nearby farming practices can taint produce with bacteria. This can happen when farmers apply animal manure to fields near fresh produce. Tiny particles, including bacteria, may go airborne and drift to nearby fields. But scientists weren’t sure just how likely microbes can travel from manure application sites to downwind produce.
That is, until now. New field research out of Clarkson University in upstate New York is providing an answer. Shane Rogers, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, led a research team that looked into the issue. They measured how far common bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli, are likely to travel downwind from manure application sites. They hoped to better understand how fresh produce might be contaminated by nearby animal agriculture practices.
“Our goal was to provide a logical framework to study this pathway,” Rogers said. This helped them make science-based recommendations for setback distances that protect human health.
The team used field data to understand how these bacteria travel from manure application sites to produce. The research lasted three years. They took samples at several distances from manure application sites and measured the presence of illness-causing bacteria.
The researchers used computer models to expand their understanding. “It is not possible to obtain measurements for every possible set of circumstances that may exist,” Rogers said. “The models allow us to predict produce contamination over a larger range of probable conditions than our raw measurements would provide.” These include the type of manure, the terrain of the farm, and weather conditions at the time the manure is applied.
The team also evaluated the risk of illness. This gave the team a better understanding of how likely someone is to get sick from produce when a certain amount of bacteria is present.
Combining all that data, the team found that produce fields should be set back from areas of manure application by at least 160 meters. That distance should help lower the risk of foodborne illness to acceptable levels (1 in 10,000).
Rogers emphasized that the advice is for a minimum setback. “(160 meters is) the minimum distance that produce growers should maintain between manure application activities and produce growing areas,” Rogers said. Additional distance and delay between manure application and harvest would provide further protection.
The study appears in Journal of Environmental Quality. This project was supported by National Research Initiative Competitive Grant and the Agricultural Food and Research Initiative (AFRI) from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Air Quality Program.
American Society of Agronomy
Michael A. Jahne, Shane W. Rogers, Thomas M. Holsen, Stefan J. Grimberg, Ivan P. Ramler, Seungo Kim
Journal of Environment Quality, 45 (2): Page 666 DOI:10.2134/jeq2015.04.0187
A South Australian dairy farming couple charged over a cow-sharing scheme have pleaded guilty to selling milk that did not comply with national standards.
It is illegal to sell raw milk for human consumption in South Australia, but not to drink it from your own cow.
In May last year, a magistrate found the Tylers’ “cow-share program” was a sham and convicted them of two counts of breaching the Food Act.
The couple appealed to the Supreme Court and won a retrial, which was due to start today, but instead Mr and Mrs Tyler pleaded guilty.
SA Health director of public health services Dr Kevin Buckett said the department had always held the view that the Tylers’ cow-share scheme constituted the sale of milk.
“We are pleased with this outcome and we will continue to protect the public from the risks associated with drinking raw cow’s milk,” Dr Buckett said.
Sentencing submissions are being held tomorrow.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that a total of 99 cases (59 confirmed and 40 probable) of campylobacteriosis, including 10 patients who were hospitalized, and one who died, occurred in an outbreak in northern Utah associated with a single raw milk dairy.
The outbreak was documented by epidemiologic, environmental, and laboratory evidence. Despite routine testing of raw milk showing results within acceptable limits, the milk still contained dangerous bacteria.
To limit outbreaks from raw milk consumption, more reliable routine tests are needed that do not rely solely on bacterial, coliform, and somatic cell counts. Case investigation and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns from environmental samples can support an epidemiologic link and allow implementation of control measures.
In May 2014, the Utah Public Health Laboratory (UPHL) notified the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) of specimens from three patients infected with Campylobacter jejuni yielding indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. All three patients had consumed raw (unpasteurized and nonhomogenized) milk from dairy A. In Utah, raw milk sales are legal from farm to consumer with a sales permit from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF). Raw milk dairies are required to submit monthly milk samples to UDAF for somatic cell and coliform counts, both of which are indicators of raw milk contamination. Before this cluster’s identification, dairy A’s routine test results were within acceptable levels (<400,000 somatic cells/mL and <10 coliform colony forming units/mL). Subsequent enhanced testing procedures recovered C. jejuni, a fastidious organism, in dairy A raw milk; the isolate matched the cluster pattern. UDAF suspended dairy A’s raw milk permit during August 4–October 1, and reinstated the permit when follow-up cultures were negative. Additional cases of C. jejuni infection were identified in October, and UDAF permanently revoked dairy A’s permit to sell raw milk on December 1. During May 9–November 6, 2014, a total of 99 cases of C. jejuni infection were identified. Routine somatic cell and coliform counts of raw milk do not ensure its safety. Consumers should be educated that raw milk might be unsafe even if it meets routine testing standards.
A campaign to legalize raw cow’s milk has found Far North Queensland support but health authorities have warned it is unfit for human consumption.
Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young has warned raw milk isn’t fit for human consumption.
“People who consume unpasteurized milk are at increased risk of infection due to dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria, which are capable of causing severe illness and potentially death,” she said.
“All unpasteurised milk products in Australia are required to be labelled with a statement to the effect that the product has not been pasteurized and is not for human consumption.”
Raw milk is sold as bath milk at health stores such as The Healthy Hub in Cairns, where a two-litre bottle fetches $11.50.
Meanwhile, New Zealand food safety minister Jo Goodhew is making no apologies for tough new regulations for raw milk producers.
Mrs. Goodhew said new rules simply brought the milk into line with other products being sold to the public for consumption, and aimed to keep people safe.
“It does only put these producers on a par with other food producers who sell high-risk products such as, for instance, shellfish.”
Selling raw milk is currently illegal in Australia, but farmers can drink their own milk.
The Tyler family, who farm at Willunga Hill, about an hour out of Adelaide, now supply the niche product to about 700 investors in South Australia.
Raw milk is a premium product and sells for at least three times the farm-gate milk price.
“We’re just providing an alternative rather than dairy farmers being locked in as slaves for the big corporations,” Mr Tyler said.
Working within the legislation has not been easy, with authorities charging Mr Tyler for selling raw milk illegally.
After an appeal to the Supreme Court a mistrial was declared, and a new trial will begin later this year.
“In 15 years of testing, we’ve never had a pathogen in our milk,” Mr Tyler said.
But authorities say raw milk poses a health risk, especially to children.
A Victorian child died in 2014 after drinking raw milk marketed as bath milk, and in that state a bittering agent is now added to discourage consumption.
The regulator, Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ), said raw milk was more likely to contain deadly bacteria like E. coli, salmonella and listeria.
West Virginia health officials won’t penalize a state lawmaker who illegally handed out raw milk at the Capitol.
A letter from the Bureau for Public Health last week says Del. Scott Cadle clearly violated state law by offering raw milk to the public on March 3. The letter to Cadle stated that he wouldn’t be fined because it was a first offense, but asked him not to sell or distribute raw milk again.
According to the letter, Cadle offered raw milk to anyone who wished to try it at the end of a March 3 floor session.
The letter says one other House delegate and several others became sick around the time they drank the raw milk. There also had been a stomach illness circulating at the Capitol. An investigation into whether people got sick because of raw milk continues.
A bill allowing for herd sharing agreements and the consumption of raw milk was passed during the session, and signed into law by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
In an effort to understand and eventually reduce the incidence of foodborne illnesses, University of Illinois researchers studied the ability of pathogenic viruses to adhere to fresh produce surfaces.
“We chose 24 of the most common salad vegetables in the U.S. and assayed them to see if there was any relationship between the morphology and chemistry of the leaf or fruit surface and the adherence of viral particles, before and after a washing treatment,” says U of I geneticist Jack Juvik.
The researchers inoculated leafy salad greens and tomatoes with a swine virus that mimics human rotavirus, a common pathogen responsible for diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and abdominal pain. After exposing the vegetable surfaces to the virus, the researchers rinsed the vegetables twice with a standard saline solution.
“We correlated virus adherence to roughness of the surface at different scales. We also looked at the chemistry of the proteins and waxes associated with the leaf cuticle – a waxy layer that protects the plant against diseases and reduces water loss,” Juvik explains. “Before this, no one had tested the relationship between chemistry and surface texture on the adherence of virus particles.”
The researchers found a thousand-fold difference in the number of viral particles adhering to different types of leafy greens and tomatoes. Vegetables with three-dimensional crystalline wax structures on the leaf cuticle harbored significantly fewer virus particles after rinsing. This was counterintuitive, as it was expected that small virus particles could “hide” in the rough structures of these cuticles.
“I was surprised, too,” Juvik says. “But normally, viruses adhere to oxygen groups, like OH, which are associated with proteins and carbohydrates on the surface. When the wax completely covers the surface, it becomes totally hydrophobic, which renders the whole leaf surface harder for viruses to attach to. Furthermore, rinsing those leaves with water gives the viruses the OH groups they’re looking for, so they’re easier to wash away.”
Produce is exposed to viruses and other pathogens in a number of ways, including contaminated irrigation water, animal wastes, and handling by sick workers. But because salad vegetables are consumed fresh, pathogens cannot be killed by cooking or most other sterilization methods.
“Viruses are literally everywhere, causing many opportunities for infection. But the information from this study can be used down the road to select or breed for varieties that might have the capacity to reduce adherence of these particles,” Juvik explains.
The researchers have already repeated the study using the bacterium E. coli, but they plan to look at even more vegetable varieties and pathogens in future studies.
The article, “Influence of epicuticular physiochemical properties on porcine rotavirus adsorption to 24 leafy green vegetables and tomatoes” was published in PLOS One. The study was led by Lu Lu, whose co-authors included Juvik, Kang-Mo Ku, Sindy Paola Palma-Salgado, Andrew Page Storm, Hao Feng, and Thanh Nguyen, all from the University of Illinois. The project received funding from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith today warned the public about the danger of consuming illegally manufactured Mexican-style soft cheeses, often sold by street vendors.
“These cheeses are often made with raw, unpasteurized milk and under unsanitary conditions,” said Dr. Smith. “We are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of reported Salmonella cases, particularly in the Hispanic community.”
Since November 2015, at least 50 patients have been infected with three different strains of Salmonella. No deaths have been reported, but hospitalization has been required in several cases. The investigation into these cases is ongoing, but several patients have reported consuming potentially unpasteurized Mexican-style cheese purchased from street vendors before they became ill.
The European Commission has issued an alert over possible Escherichia coli (E. coli) in sheep milk cheese made in Romania.
The Commission decided to issue such an alert after a notification from Italy. The Italian authorities confirmed on Thursday that cheese infected with E. coli caused intestinal infection in a 14-month old Romanian baby admitted to a hospital in Florence, reports local Mediafax. The cheese is believed to have come from Romanian dairy producer Lactate Bradet SRL, headquartered in Arges county.
Referring to this incident, Romanian Agriculture Minister Achim Irimescu said that the contamination of Romanian cheese with E. coli is an accident, and people should still have confidence in Romanian products, local Agerpres reports.
Lactate Bradet has recently been at the core of a media scandal after Romanian authorities said its dairy products caused the E. coli infection that resulted in the illness and even death of several children from Arges county. However, the Cantacuzino research institute in Bucharest later showed that the Bradet cheese was not the source of infection.
The situation escalated on Friday, March 18, when the management of the Sanitary-Veterinary and Food Safety Authority (ANSVSA) announced that over 20 tons of Bradet dairy products have been withdrawn from the Romanian market. A similar decision was also taken in Spain (over 1 ton) and Italy (546 kg), reports local Mediafax.
Authorities have withdrawn from the market all the products Bradet made in February, according to the food safety authority, which also recommended people not to consume these products.