Iowa editorial says egg conviction insufficient

Iowa egg producers Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son, Peter, stood in a Sioux City courtroom April 13 and were sentenced for their role in the nation’s largest egg-related salmonella outbreak.

egg.dirty.feb.12That outbreak, which sickened at least 56,000 people (2,000 confirmed) and led to a record-setting recall of more than half a billion eggs, stands as one of the worst cases of corporate negligence in Iowa history.

At the hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett said the DeCosters “created a work environment where employees not only felt comfortable disregarding regulations and bribing USDA officials, but may have even felt pressure to do so.”

Given the magnitude of those crimes, and the tens of thousands of people who suffered as a result, the sentence that was handed down seems seriously lacking: The DeCosters were each fined $100,000 and sentenced to 90 days in jail, with a year of supervised release.

But the fact is, it’s not often that corporate executives are held criminally responsible for their companies’ actions, even when the nation’s food chain is poisoned. Most cases are resolved with corporate fines, and in this case the DeCosters’ Quality Egg had to pay almost $7 million in fines, restitution and forfeitures.

What’s more worrisome than the 90-day sentences is the fact that the DeCosters flouted federal regulations for years without ever being caught. The regulatory system that is supposed to prevent — not simply respond to — violations of food-safety regulations failed us completely. It wasn’t until consumers started becoming ill that investigators took any sort of meaningful action against the DeCosters.

According to federal authorities, the company deliberately and routinely provided false paperwork to an independent auditing firm that periodically inspected the plant and reviewed the company’s records to ensure the eggs were safe. On the eve of each impending audit, workers were given blank, signed audit forms and told to fabricate data for the reports. This went on for at least three years, at a time when the DeCosters were producing more than 1 million eggs per day.

For at least eight years, Quality Egg regularly shipped its customers eggs that were labeled with falsified processing dates and expiration dates to conceal the fact that the eggs were old. According to court records, this mislabeling of DeCoster eggs “was a common practice, and was well known among several Quality Egg employees.”

In 2010, federal inspectors conducted on-site visits to the company’s egg-laying facilities and feed mill. Inside, they found frogs; wild birds; a chicken skeleton; mice, beetles, maggots and flies; and manure that was piled to the rafters inside one building. Salmonella contamination was pervasive and widespread “throughout the entirety” of the Decosters’ Wright County egg operations.

On at least two occasions, Quality Egg officials bribed a USDA inspector to overlook regulatory violations — in one case, paying $300 from the company’s petty cash account.

Given the DeCosters’ long history of alleged regulatory violations related to salmonella outbreaks, the minimum wage, pollution, workplace safety, animal cruelty, child labor and the hiring of undocumented immigrants, government regulators should have been particularly vigilant in their oversight of this family’s Iowa operation. But they were not.

34 kids sickened with Salmonella from caterer in Paris

From 24 December 2012 to 8 January 2013, the Paris Mother and Child Health Protection Service reported 10 cases of salmonellosis in children attending four nurseries located in the 7th borough of Paris. Following this event, the National Reference Center for Salmonella reported an increase of salmonellosis cases in Paris in December 2012 and identified rare strain in several cases.

parisThirty-four cases of salmonellosis were identified during the investigations (30 confirmed cases and 4 probable cases), including 10 children attending four nurseries, and 24 community cases. The outbreak lasted 10 weeks and was due to 2 strains of Salmonella: serotype Typhimurium belonging to Crispol type 51 (CT51) and serotype 4,12:i:-, a monophasic variant of serotype Typhimurium and CT1. Cases were interviewed on their food consumption. Most of them reported having consumed products bought from a caterer located in the 7th borough of Paris several days before the onset of symptoms. A random inspection in the caterer’s premises from the Paris Health Protection authorities revealed many infringements to food hygiene. Among samples collected in the caterer’ shop, 2 S. Typhimurium CT51 and S. 4,12:i:- CT1 strains were found on the surfaces and in the food.

This investigation emphasized the importance of maintaining strict hygienic conditions and temperature control in catering outlets. It also emphasized the Mother and Child Health Protection Service’s role through observation and early reporting. This report was the “visible” part of a larger epidemic event that included both cases attending daycare centers and in the community which occurred simultaneously.

But puppies are so cute: Puppy Starter Kit due to possible Salmonella health risk

Nylabone Products, of Neptune, NJ is recalling one lot of its 1.69 oz. package of the Puppy Starter Kit dog chews, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

Nylabone_Puppy_Starter_KitSalmonella can affect animals ingesting the product and there is risk to humans from handling contaminated products, especially if they have not thoroughly washed their hands after having contact with the products or any surfaces exposed to these products.

The recalled Puppy Starter Kit consists of one lot of dog chews that were distributed nationwide, to Canada, and through one domestic online mail order facility.

The product comes in a 1.69 oz. package marked with Lot #21935, UPC 0-18214-81291-3, located on the back of the package, and with an expiration date of 3/22/18 also stamped on the back of the package.

The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by the company revealed the presence of Salmonella in one lot of 1.69 oz. packages of the Puppy Starter Kit.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

Who says I don’t play well with others: Kansas State veterinarian outlines safety guidelines for kids handling animals

Do you have kids who love to find frogs and turtles in the wild or snuggle with baby chicks and ducklings? Kansas State University veterinarians say it’s great to encourage children to become interested in animals at a young age, but there are certain precautions and guidelines you should know.

uq.petting.zoo.1.aug.11“We want kids to be excited about animals, but it’s really important for parents to remember that safety should always come first,” said Kate KuKanich, associate professor of internal medicine in the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine. “We want to make sure all of these experiences that kids have with animals are safe, healthy and positive experiences, which is why everyone should follow the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention recommendations about interacting with animals.”

According to the CDC, parents should closely monitor which animals young kids come into contact with, and kids under the age of 5 should not be allowed to touch reptiles like turtles, snakes and lizards; amphibians like frogs, toads, salamanders and newts; and young poultry like chicks, ducklings and goslings. All of these animals are carriers and shedders of salmonella, which can cause illness in children and immunosuppressed adults.

“Salmonella is so common in reptiles that reports have shown that more than 90 percent of our reptiles may be carrying and shedding the bacteria — and they often don’t show symptoms,” KuKanich said. “Having young children wash their hands after petting the animal isn’t enough protection from salmonella because of the possibility of cross-contamination. Children who pet these animals often have risky behaviors, such as wiping their hands on their shirt, pants or the counter, or putting their hands in their mouth before washing. All of these actions can lead to the spread of the bacteria and ultimately, illness.”

More than 70,000 people become sick from salmonella through contact with reptiles each year in the U.S., with the main signs of salmonellosis being fever and bloody diarrhea.

“It’s just not worth the risk of letting toddlers handle, pet or even be in the same room with these animals,” KuKanich said.

That doesn’t mean animals can’t be part of young children’s lives. Kukanich says some fun animals that young kids can learn about and safely pet — as long as these animals are healthy — include pocket pets, adult dogs and cats, and adult farm animals.

ekka.petting.zooPetting zoos and farms can provide an excellent opportunity for children to learn and interact with animals. A recent study from KuKanich; Gonzalo Erdozain, a 2014 Kansas State University Doctor of Veterinary Medicine graduate; and colleagues found three main ways to reduce the risk of transmission of infection in these settings: knowing the risks involved with interacting with animals, including the potential diseases and how they spread; taking the proper sanitary measure of washing your hands; and being aware of risky behaviors that could lead to illness.

“Young kids are more prone to risky behaviors around animals, such as putting their hands in their mouths right after petting an animal or letting a pacifier touch an animal before going into their mouth,” Erdozain said. “Parents and teachers should supervise kids closely to minimize these behaviors, encourage hand-washing and help ensure all animal encounters are safe as well as fun.”

Previous research by Erdozain, KuKanich and colleagues found that of 574 visitors attending petting zoos in Kansas and Missouri, only 37 percent attempted any kind of hand hygiene.

“Think about how many kids pick up a turtle or toad they find in the yard and then don’t wash their hands immediately after handling the animal,” Erdozain said. “Properly washing your hands is the best way to decrease the chances of getting sick after petting or handling an animal.”

Proper hand-washing includes wetting hands, applying soap, rubbing for at least 15 seconds, rinsing with a significant flow of running water and drying with paper towels — not on clothes. KuKanich suggests teaching kids to sing a song while washing their hands to ensure they wash long enough.

The study, “Best Practices for Planning Events Encouraging Human-Animal Interactions,” was published in the journal Zoonoses and Public Health. Authors include Erdozain; KuKanich; Ben Chapman, North Carolina State University; and Doug Powell, powellfoodsafety.com.

Salmonella kills 5 in Serbian nursing home

Another person with salmonella poisoning is being treated at the hospital in Cacak, central Serbia, Director Dr. Radoslav Milosevic said on Wednesday.

salm.nursing.homeHowever, the new patient, an 85-year-old man, did not come from a nursing home in the village of Vranici where five elderly persons died of this form of food poisoning during the past week.

According to Milosevic, the patient is “a neighbor” of the Dvoje nursing home.

He added that the condition of two other patients the hospital is treating for the same disease has deteriorated.

Currently, the Cacak hospital is treating nine salmonella poisoning patients, while one more has been admitted to the Uzice Health Care Center.

The nursing home salmonella epidemic was reported on April 16. 41 persons have been infected, among them the staff and two locals. Five persons have passed away.

Multistate outbreak of multiple Salmonella serotype infections linked to sprouted chia seed powder – United States, 2014

To be presented at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 64th Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) conference April 20-23 in Atlanta.

chia.mr.tBackground: Salmonella causes 1.2 million infections and 380 deaths annually in the United States. On 5/6/2014, PulseNet, the national molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance, identified a cluster of Salmonella Newport infections with the same novel outbreak strain. US states, FDA, Canada, and CDC investigated to identify the source and prevent additional illnesses.

Methods: We defined a case as infection with an outbreak strain with onset 1/1/2014–7/22/2014. We conducted open-ended interviews to identify common exposures in the week prior to onset, administered supplemental questionnaires to refine hypotheses, collected products for testing, and performed traceback investigations.

Results: We identified 31 case-patients in 16 states; 22% (5/23) were hospitalized. Ninety percent (19/21) of case-patients reported consuming chia seeds or powder; 79% (15/19) of those specifically reported consuming chia seed powder of variable brand names. Traceback identified a Canadian firm as the common supplier for the sprouted chia seed powder. Multiple products containing sprouted chia seed powder from this firm were recalled and FDA denied admission of these products into the US until testing could confirm the products were no longer contaminated. During the investigation, testing of chia-containing products yielded two more Salmonella strains (Hartford and Oranienburg) that also caused illnesses; these were included in the outbreak.

Conclusions: Epidemiologic, traceback, and laboratory evidence identified sprouted chia seed powder processed at a single firm as the outbreak source. Although sprouted chia seeds are a novel Salmonella outbreak vehicle, this investigation highlights the well-documented risks for foodborne illness associated with the sprouting process. Firms choosing to produce sprouted seed products should follow available guidance to reduce the risk of bacterial contamination.

Outbreak of Salmonella Newport infections linked to cucumbers – United States, 2014

To be presented at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 64th Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) conference April 20-23 in Atlanta.

animal.house.cucumber (1)Background: Salmonella causes approximately 1 million foodborne infections and 400 deaths annually in the United States. In August 2014, PulseNet, the national molecular subtyping network for foodborne disease surveillance, detected a multistate cluster of Salmonella Newport (SN) infections with an indistinguishable pulse-field gel electrophoresis pattern. This strain has previously been linked to tomatoes from the Delmarva Peninsula of the Eastern US. We investigated to identify the source and prevent further illnesses. Methods: A case was defined as an illness with the outbreak strain with onset from 5/20/2014- 9/30/2014. Information was collected on travel, restaurant, and food exposures in the 7 days before illness onset using a structured questionnaire. Reported food frequencies were compared to the 2006-2007 FoodNet Population Survey. A non-regulatory traceback was performed to identify the source of food items consumed in illness sub-clusters. Whole genome sequencing (WGS) was conducted to further characterize relatedness of Salmonella isolates.

Results: A total of 275 cases from 29 states and DC were identified; 34% (48/141) were hospitalized and 1 death was reported. A significantly higher percentage of ill persons consumed cucumbers in the week before illness onset than expected, (62% vs. 46.9%, p=0.002). Traceback of 8 illness subclusters led to a common cucumber grower in the Delmarva region of Maryland. WGS analysis showed that genetic sequences of clinical isolates from MD and DE were highly related but distinct from a NY sub-cluster.

Conclusions: Epidemiologic and traceback evidence suggest cucumbers were a major source of illness in this outbreak. This is the first multistate outbreak of SN infections linked to a produce item from the Delmarva Peninsula other than tomatoes, suggesting an environmental reservoir may be responsible for recurring outbreaks.

Why I don’t eat sushi: 25 sick with rare Salmonella in Calif

A rare strain of salmonella has been reported in Ventura County and appears connected to sushi and other raw fish, possibly tuna, public health officials said Monday.

sushiAbout 25 cases have been reported in California and other states. There have been four cases in Ventura County, seven in Los Angeles County and one in Santa Barbara County. Other cases have reported in Orange and Riverside counties.

Many of the seven out-of-state cases involve travel to Southern California.

And while the investigation of the exact cause continues, officials say all 10 people who completed a food questionnaire said they ate sushi. Many said they ate raw tuna.

About 20 percent of the patients hit by the illness have been hospitalized.

The species of salmonella is called paratyphi, Levin said. The particular strain being reported had never been seen in animals or people before last month.

Hope there’s a good public health system: Ethiopians are risking Salmonella to eat raw meat delicacies

Instead of chocolate, Ethiopia marks Orthodox Easter Sunday weeks after the Gregorian calendar celebration, with mass animal slaughter and a meat binge of epic proportions. Goat hides piled up to a metre high line busy city corners while goat heads, ox horns, and entrails overflow from neighborhood bins.

raw.meat.ethiopiaRevelling in the meat fest is Beza Selemon. Tradition dictates that the 22-year-old accountant should be at home breaking a 56-day vegan fast with her family. Instead she’s in town eating raw minced meat out of her boyfriend Dawit’s hand—a sign of affection in Ethiopian culture.

Beza and Dawit are a new breed of Ethiopians; those from the booming capital Addis Ababa (affectionately known as “Addisynnians”) who are snubbing Easter at home with the family in favour of joining friends at restaurants to enjoy a variety of raw meat dishes.

The aromatic doro wat, a saucy chicken stew, is traditionally eaten to break the fast but the most prized delicacy in Ethiopia is raw meat. It’s fair to say that Ethiopians are flesh obsessed. Ox is the most common meat consumed raw but the more expensive goat is gaining momentum.

Despite official health warnings, Ethiopians still prefer to buy their animals live and slaughter them at home. It’s a sign of respect for visitors and a practice they believe keeps the meat fresh.

Beza and Dawit are celebrating the end of fasting season by eating a highly desirable delicacy called kitfo, a dish consisting of raw minced ox meat.

“When I eat raw meat in the morning, I can go the whole day without eating anything else,” says Dawit. “It has good nutritional value so it makes me feel strong.”

And her friends are not alone. Fast food such as burgers and fries are now voraciously consumed in Ethiopia especially by the younger generations in Addis.

Ethiopia might have been associated with famines over feasts in the past but the country is now the “lion of Africa” enjoying rapid economic growth. Despite this, per capita income remains some of the lowest in the world and nowhere is this contrast more apparent than in the sprawling capital of Addis Ababa, where sub-Saharan Africa’s first metro train network is nearing completion.

As the wealth of the urban population grows, so too does the appetite for raw meat. Some raw meat dishes can cost up to 240birr (£8) per kilo, a price that is out of reach for most Ethiopians. Even for those that can afford it, raw meat dishes are reserved for special occasions.

CSI UV goggles? How to tell if an egg is bad

Friend of the barfblog and current Welsh tourist, Don Schaffner of Rutgers University, has a few things to say about egg safety, especially: most of those so-called tests are BS.

nsw.egg.label.oct.14According to SafeBee, there are lots of egg tests on the Internet. You’re supposed to place an egg in a bowl of cold water, for instance. If it floats, it’s old. If it sinks, it’s fresh. If it sinks but stands on its pointed end, it’s supposedly a caution: eat it now before it goes bad. 

The theory behind the float test? Egg shells are porous, and as time goes on the egg’s liquid evaporates through the porous shell and air enters. That makes the eggs more buoyant, so some say the older an egg, the more it floats. 

Forget this test, says Don Schaffner, PhD, a food scientist at Rutgers the State University of New Jersey. “Eggs do take in air as they age, but the size of the air cell in the egg varies from egg to egg. So a freshly laid egg and an older egg may react similarly.” There is too much variability in air cell size from egg to egg to make this a valid test, he says. 

Other Internet advice calls for cracking the egg open and inspecting the yolk and albumen (the white part). If it’s a fresh egg, the yolk should be bright yellow or orange, and the white should not spread much. 

Schaffner gives a thumbs-down to this test as well. “The color of the yolk is primarily determined by what they feed the chickens,” he says. “It may change over time, but it will vary from egg to egg.”

As for the white part: “An older egg will have a white that spreads more than a fresher egg,” he says. “But that has nothing to do with the fact that the egg is spoiled or not, it’s a chemical, physical change in the egg.” 

Another popular idea is to give your egg the sound test. In a quiet space, hold the egg up to your ear and shake it. If it sloshes, the egg has gone bad, the story goes. That sloshing is said to indicate a watery, old yolk.  

Shaffner says this sound test has no credibility. “Eggs do slosh around,” he says. Sloshing doesn’t indicate spoilage, however, he says. He does have another use for the sound test: “That would be a good way to see if the egg is hardboiled or not.”

powell.egg.nov.14The best test to see if an egg is OK to eat? Get the egg in question and have your nose ready. “As far as I know the only way to know an egg is bad is to crack it open and see if it smells.” Of course, you can always examine the egg as you smell, he says. “If it looks strange, I wouldn’t consume it, but odor is the real tip off.” 

Never mind that your refrigerator has a special spot for eggs built into the door. Keep them in the carton, Schaffner and others say. “We know the door is not as good,” he says.

Instead, put the eggs, still in the carton, in the coldest part of the refrigerator. On the door, the temperatures may fluctuate when the door is opened and closed. Keeping the eggs in the carton also means you can refer to the sell-by date. Eggs — even hard-boiled eggs — should not be left out at room temperature more than two hours, as dangerous bacteria can grow. 

“Salmonella is the organism we are most worried about,” Schaffner says. It could be inside the egg if it was infected before it was laid, or it could be on the shell.

Cook whole eggs to about 144 to 158 degrees F; egg whites, 144 to 149; yolks, 149 to 158. Cooking eggs sunny side up or over easy is more of a Salmonella risk than cooking them more thoroughly, Schaffner says.