‘How the hell were we supposed to know’ Canberra restaurant not guilty of 2013 Salmonella outbreak that sickened at least 160

Australia still has an egg problem.

It’s not helped by restaurants and inspectors looking the other way because they allegedly know raw eggs are better in mayo or aioli.

garlic_aioliThis is the problem with UK bureaucrats say cook things until piping hot when any scientist knows a combination of temperature and time and measured using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer is the only way to ensure safety.

Same for Australian bureau-types, who are the first to say, we don’t have the kind of Salmonella that can get into eggs,like that nasty North America, but don’t use dirty or cracked ones.

Last I looked, Salmonella was a microorganism, that needs to be seen with the help of a microscope, so dirt is a poor, subjective measurement.

The other aspect is that government regulations are a minimal standard. Any company providing food should go far above the bare necessities of government.

The Pinto automobile, which had a tendency to explode when hit from behind, also met government standards.

In May, 2013, at least 162 people who went out for a Mother’s Day meal at the Copa Brazilian in Canberra, Australia, were sickened with Salmonella.

Featured on the menu was a potato salad with a raw egg aioli in a $45 all-you-can eat deal.

An ACT Health investigation traced the raw eggs to a Victorian supplier.

The Copa was eventually closed and sold in 2014.

But a court case was on-going, and as reported by Alexandra Back of the Canberra Times, the Copa, owned by, Zeffirelli Pizza Restaurant Pty Ltd, was found not guilty today of serving unsafe food.

The Copa team argued they believed the food was safe to eat.

copa.canberraDefence lawyer Tim Sharman told the court the owners held a positive and reasonable belief the eggs were safe. He said the eggs came from a primary industry and chain of suppliers that was regulated, and the owner’s were entitled to rely on that regulation.

He said the possibility of a “bad egg” was beyond the owners’ control.

The court heard evidence how a crack in the shell invisible to the eye would allow salmonella to develop inside, but not be seen or smelled.

Further, at the time, the ACT had no guidelines or rules governing how to handle raw egg products, unlike other jurisdictions, Mr Sharman said.

The court was told staff were “disturbed” to hear of the outbreak.

But this was a business, and food poisoning was a risk restaurateurs should be aware of, prosecutor Michael Reardon told the court.

And there was a safer alternative in pasteurised egg products, he said, giving the owners ability to control for the risk of salmonella.

Cameron Moffat, an epidemiologist who at the time was with the ACT Health Service, said the use of products such as raw egg mayonnaise in restaurants was “in vogue”, and causing some problems.

Radomir Krsteski, manager of the microbiology unit at ACT Health, also gave evidence at the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday.

He said pasteurisation – a process of heating the egg products – was the safest way to ensure an egg would be free of salmonella.

He also explained how a “bad egg” with a hairline crack and kept in conditions favourable to the bacteria, could become contaminated with salmonella without someone’s knowledge.

Maybe there’ some Salmonella-night-vision goggles I don’t know about. But do restaurant owners really want to make people sick, and do they really want to lose their business?

A selection of egg-related outbreaks in Australia can be found here.

Food fraud: You call this cheese? It’s not real Parmigiano

Provenance of processed foods is a significant quality attribute for many consumers and one for which they are willing to pay a price premium. As a consequence, the fraudulent mislabeling or adulteration of high-value foods now occurs on a global scale.

Regulatory authorities and food businesses are focusing greater efforts in combating food fraud which can have serious ramifications for both revenue and reputation. A number of provenance verification schemes have been established in other countries with the express purpose of protecting the denomination of quality associated with particular food products. This includes the Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano protected designation of origin status for artisan cheeses in Italy. There is currently no such scheme for artisan or “farmhouse” cheeses produced on the island of Ireland and yet it is desirable to facilitate a system of provenance confirmation which can provide confidence to consumers in the true geographical origin of artisan cheeses branded as produced on the island of Ireland.

It is therefore prudent at this point in time to investigate analytical methods that could be applied to provide consumers with the necessary assurance of the claimed island of Ireland origin of such products. The concentration and relative ratios of key analytes in a food products such as cheese are mainly influenced by animal diet and geographic location. Several reports from other countries or regions have shown that the use of multivariate analysis of analytical data comprising elemental and isotopic ratio values can provide confirmation of claimed geographic provenance. Given that food animals on the island of Ireland are largely fed a grass-based diet and reside within a discrete insular geographical area, there is potential for developing robust fingerprint models that can characterise indigenous farmhouse cheeses. Ultimately, the development of robust models will require the demonstration of two properties: (a) models should correctly classify the provenance of all island of Ireland-produced artisan cheeses as originating on the island of Ireland, and (b) models should correctly identify that farmhouse cheeses produced outside the island of Ireland are not of island of Ireland provenance. These two objectives are inseparable in the context of the provenance testing desired and must be demonstrated before any such model can be confidently used in practice.

Before this juncture is reached the application of analytical methodologies for the purposes of robust fingerprinting must be investigated. This project was a technology viability study that set out to do just that. The strategy pursued generated a considerable quantity of baseline analytical data on the elemental and isotopic composition of island of Ireland artisanal cheese as well as a selection of artisanal cheeses from Great Britain and mainland Europe. While it was not possible to confirm the geographic provenance of island of Ireland artisanal cheeses with 100% accuracy, nonetheless trends in some of the data, especially the isotope data, suggest the possibility of effective segregation of island of Ireland from mainland European, if not Great Britain, cheeses. Therefore the analytical methodologies investigated have been scoped out for this purpose and can now be taken forward and applied in more focused investigations involving artisan cheeses and other foods produced on the island of Ireland. A number of key recommendations have been made in this regard.

New Food Safety Infosheet: Hepatitis A illnesses linked to frozen berries in Australia

Australian public health officials have identified an outbreak of hepatitis A and linked illnesses to consuming Nanna’s frozen berries sold by Patties Foods.

Food safety infosheet highlights:

–  Health officials have confirmed 20 illnesses to date.

– The berries were produced by Patties Foods, which has issued a recall on three products.Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 9.13.39 PM

– Officials expect cases to increase as the incubation period of the virus ranges from 15-50 days and those who are infected may not yet be showing symptoms.

Click here to download the food safety infosheet.

Contaminated ground beef linked linked to E. coli O157:H7 outbreak

Food Safety Infosheet highlights:

– Wolverine Packing Company in Detroit has issued a recall of 1.8 million pounds of ground beef products marked with the establishment number of EST.2574B.

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– 11 ill including (2 hospitalizations) after eating at restaurants that served recalled beef.

– Cook all ground beef products (fresh and frozen) to 155ºF for 15 seconds or 160ºF. Use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer to check that food has reached a safe temperature.

– Communicate the risks of consuming undercooked beef to restaurant patrons. The information should include messages about consequences and pathogens.

This infosheet was generated as part of a large USDA grant focusing on reducing the risk of Shigatoxin-producing E. coli related to beef.

Six cases of campylobacteriosis linked to chicken liver

Food safety infosheet highlights:

-At least 6 people who consumed raw or undercooked chicken livers, mostly chicken liver pâté have been infected with Campylobacter in Washington and Oregon.Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 6.57.43 PM

– A recent study found that about 77% of raw chicken livers are contaminated with Campylobacter.

– Multiple outbreaks of Campylobacter infections linked to chicken livers have been reported in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Click here to download.

Nearly 60 ill with Clostridium perfringens at outdoor school in Oregon

Food Safety Infosheet Highlights:

– Multnomah County, Oregon, health officials, 60 students developed stomach pains, vomiting, and diarrhea after eating beef stroganoff.Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 12.41.18 PM
– C. perfringens spores often survive cooking but are not a problem until the food is held at an improper temperature.
– These spores can germinate into cells which then can multiply to food poisoning levels if food is held between 41°F and 135°F for more than four hours.Foodsafetyinfosheet-10-28-15
– Use a tip sensitive digital thermometer to measure temperature and monitor throughout service and cooling.

Click here to download.

New food safety infosheet: 103 cases of salmonellosis linked to North Carolina church fundraiser meal

When it comes to food safety temporary events can be problematic. Outbreaks have been linked to food festivals, community dinners and church fundraisers. The newest food safety infosheet is based on a September 2013 outbreak linked to a Shelby, North Carolina church fundraiser.Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 10.36.50 AM

Food Safety Infosheet Highlights:

– At least 13 individuals who ate at a barbecue event were hospitalized with symptoms including abdominal cramping, diarrhea and vomiting.
– All preparers should know safe cooking/cooling temperatures and procedures. Hold meals and ingredients requiring temperature control either below 41°F or above 135°F.
– Purchase ingredients from commercial food businesses instead of homemade/donated foods and ask about food safety systems for suppliers.
– Community dinners can be great fundraisers but are often held at temporary sites and staffed by volunteers unfamiliar with safe food handling practices for large meals.

Download the infosheet here.

Norovirus is a problem for restaurants

– The virus can be introduced into a site by ill patrons or food handlers and can remain on surface for weeks. foodsafetyinfosheet-2-19-13
– Proper handwashing, excluding ill staff (for at least two days after disappearance of symptoms), and properly cleaning and sanitizing after vomit events can reduce risk.
– Two 2010 outbreaks of norovirus were linked to an Auckland, New Zealand caterer and eventually traced to one food handler. The individual had been ill with norovirus and prepared meals soon after recovering from symptoms.

Click here to download.

Over 50 norovirus illnesses linked to ill food handlers

Food Safety Infosheet Highlights:

– Mankato, MN civic center catering company linked to virus outbreak at two separate events

– Investigators trace outbreak to multiple food handlers who were ill

– Don’t handle food while ill; especially if you have symptoms like diarrhea (when transmission is likely) or vomiting (as virus particles may be spread to hands, clothes and other surfaces).

Click here to download.