E. coli O111 felled two toddlers at Maine fair

State health officials said this afternoon that two toddlers who fell ill with an E. coli infection had the same strain of the dangerous bacteria.

Colton-Guay“The strain and molecular typing from each patient was identical, making it highly likely that the cases acquired the illness from same source,” said Dr. Siiri Bennett, the state epidemiologist for the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “We cannot say with certainty what that common exposure might have been.”

The strain, known as O111, is one of many strains that can be responsible for an illness” such hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a particular strain of E. coli.

One of the toddlers, 20-month-old Colton James-Brian Guay, died this week, while another, Myles Herschaft, remained in fair condition this afternoon at Maine Medical Center. Myles, 17 months, of Auburn, also suffered from hemolytic uremic syndrome.

The state is still investigating the source of the E. coli infection, although the families of the toddlers have publicly said that they both visited the petting zoo at the Oxford County Fair in late September.

Predicting food fraud, EU style

Because food fraud can harm human health and erode consumer trust, it is imperative that it is detected at an early stage. Therefore the aim of this study was to predict the expected food fraud type for imported products for which the product category and country of origin are known in order to target enforcement activities.

food.fraud.adulterationFor this purpose we used a Bayesian Network (BN) model that was developed based on adulteration/fraud notifications as reported in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) in the period 2000–2013. In this period 749 food fraud notifications were reported and were categorised in 6 different fraud types (i) improper, fraudulent, missing or absent health certificates, (ii) illegal importation, (iii) tampering, (iv) improper, expired, fraudulent or missing common entry documents or import declarations, (v) expiration date, (vi) mislabelling. The data were then used to develop a BN model. The constructed BN model was validated using 88 food fraud notifications reported in RASFF in 2014. The proposed model predicted 80% of food fraud types correctly when food fraud type, country and food category had been reported previously in RASFF. The model predicted 52% of all 88 food fraud types correctly when the country of origin or the product-country combination had not been recorded before in the RASFF database.

The presented model can aid the risk manager/controller in border inspection posts in deciding which fraud type to check when importing products.

Prediction of food fraud type using data from Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and Bayesian network modelling

Food Control, Volume 61, March 2016, Pages 180–187

Yamine Bouzembrak, Hans J.P. Marvin


54 sickened: Salmonella outbreak at UK Chinese takeaway put two people in IC

A Salmonella outbreak which infected 54 people, putting two in intensive care, was traced to a Kirkby takeaway.

woks.cookingdPoor hygiene procedures at Wok’s Cooking, in Richard Hesketh Drive, Westvale, are believed to have allowed the potentially deadly bacteria to pass from eggs sourced from a European supplier to other food in July last year.

Hidayet Tayar, who has owned the business for nine years, was ordered to pay £12,000 in fines and costs at Liverpool Magistrates’ Court today.

Tayar, 54, of Ness Grove, Kirkby, pleaded guilty to four counts of failing to comply with EU provisions concerning food safety and hygiene, under the Food Safety and Hygiene Regulations 2013.

Peter McCaughley, prosecuting on behalf of Knowsley council, said the youngest victim of the outbreak was a two-year-old toddler and the oldest was aged 74.

The court heard Knowsley Council Food Safety Officers were alerted to the problem on July 14, 2014, by a couple treated in hospital for suspected food poisoning after eating at Wok’s Cooking.

The premises were inspected by council officers the following day.

Salmonella major killer of young children in Africa


Invasive Salmonella infections in sub-Saharan Africa are a major cause of child illness and deaths, a new body of research into this usually overlooked infectious disease has revealed.

salm.africaIn the West, Salmonella is commonly thought of as a bacterium responsible for relatively benign cases of food poisoning. However, a supplement to the leading infectious diseases journal Clinical Infectious Diseases now exposes the unacceptable toll of sickness and death caused by invasive Salmonella infections in sub-Saharan Africa.

The supplement, sponsored by New Zealand’s University of Otago and supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a key output of a project to better understand the disease burden of this major cause of child death in sub-Saharan Africa.

Guest edited by Professor John Crump, Co-Director of the University’s Centre for International Health, and by Professor Robert Heyderman, Professor of Infectious Diseases and International Health, at University College London, the supplement emerged from a consensus meeting of experts held in Malawi last year, supported by the Wellcome Trust and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The supplement includes 19 scientific papers that describe the toll of invasive Salmonella infections in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, and Tanzania.

It also includes papers on the application of genetic fingerprinting and mathematical modeling to understand disease sources and modes of transmission, as well as vaccines and other prevention measures.

“Invasive Salmonella infections include typhoid fever, a disease that is widely appreciated by the public, but also non-typhoidal Salmonella (often abbreviated as NTS) that tends to be thought of as a cause of diarrhoeal disease in the west but in sub-Saharan Africa it is the leading cause of sepsis or blood poisoning,” said Professor Crump.
“NTS occurs in infants and young children, particularly those with malaria and malnutrition, and in HIV-infected adults. About 20 percent of those who get Salmonella blood poisoning will die.”

“The papers in the supplement demonstrate not only that typhoid fever is underappreciated problem in Africa, but also bring to the fore considerable new data to underpin the first-ever global disease burden estimates for invasive NTS disease that were published earlier this year. The estimates were that in 2010, NTS caused 3.4 million illnesses and 681,000 deaths worldwide, with the majority in sub-Saharan Africa,’ said Professor Heyderman.

“This collection of papers support other evidence that invasive Salmonella is a leading cause of severe bacterial disease in Africa, urgently requiring investment in both vaccine and non-vaccine control measures.”

One of the papers from western Kenya shows that the majority of NTS strains are now resistant to most antibiotics available in Africa.

“With options for treatment diminishing, we must renew our efforts to prevent these severe bacterial infections,” said Professor Heyderman.

The data published in this supplement will be available to the scientific community, including groups at the World Health Organization and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation who are responsible for estimating the global burden of diseases.

“These data are key to improving estimates of typhoid fever in Africa and adding invasive non-typhoidal Salmonella disease to the global causes of illness and death. Currently, the number of illnesses and deaths associated with Salmonella diarrhea are counted, but not the number of Salmonella sepsis illnesses and deaths,” said Professor Crump.

30 sick: Praise the Lord and pass the Salmonella at Texas church

At least 30 people, including some who were admitted to area hospitals, were reported sick due to a Salmonella outbreak after a community meal Sunday at a Parker County church. 

countryhamMany members of Bethesda United Methodist Church north of Garner have visited area emergency rooms in recent days with symptoms of food poisoning, including kidney issues and dehydration.

One woman was admitted to the intensive care unit of an area hospital and several children were among those hospitalized, according to family members.

Texas Department of State Health Services spokeswoman Christine Mann said the state is investigating a salmonella outbreak in connection with the church luncheon.

“Seems that everyone is on the slow road to recovery, so praise the Lord,” Youth Pastor Spencer Row wrote on the church’s public Facebook group Thursday afternoon. “Unfortunately, the situation that has taken place in our church has grabbed the attention of our local media. At this time, we as church staff, believe it is in the church’s best interest to allow our conference to handle this situation. We have taken the necessary steps to provide assistance internally.”

You may need some food safety advice – science not faith.


Woman speaks out: 150 sickened at bicoastal Fig and Olive Salmonella outbreak

A Studio City woman said she is still recovering a month after getting salmonella poisoning at the popular West Hollywood restaurant Fig & Olive, and wants to let others know how she found out she was infected.

fig.oliveJust one of 12 people connected to a salmonella outbreak at the restaurant on Melrose Place, Nikky Berteau found out about the outbreak from the health department, which was able to get her the care that she needed.

The agency was able to find her because she happened to call and make reservations, leaving her name and phone number in the restaurant’s records.

“My stomach starts to hurt, cramps,” she recalled. “I was nauseous, throwing up. I had a severe headache. Everything bad you could think of was happening at that point.”

She never connected her illness to the pricey $600 dinner she and her friends and family enjoyed two days earlier. She assumed it was a stomach virus.

“Basically just locked up in my room in bed throwing up,” Berteau said. 

Finally she went to a hospital, was tested, put on antibiotics and sent home.

“It just kept getting worse,” she said.

She learned there had been multiple cases involving people across the country, more than 150 linked to Fig & Olive restaurants on both coasts.

She also found an attorney.

“He immediately filed a complaint in federal court,” Berteau said.

Berteau said she has not heard from Fig & Olive since the illness struck. 

Australia still has an egg problem: Salmonella outbreak at Brisbane’s South Bank Surf Club investigated

Once again, Australian diners are barfing because chefs think they know better about Salmonella in eggs.

garlic_aioliThe South Bank Surf Club in Brisbane was inspected after complaints from diners who had confirmed cases of food poisoning.

Restaurant management told The Courier-Mail that Queensland Health and Brisbane City Council had contacted the business after several sick people came forward.

The manager said the cause had been identified as “a bad batch of eggs’’ provided by a supplier. They said the eggs had been used in sauces served with seafood platters.

“We’ve been caught out, unfortunately. Our customers’ wellbeing is our priority and anyone with concerns can get in touch with us,” they said. “To rectify the problem, we are not making sauces in-house.’’

This is something I wrote for the local paper a few months ago.

In 2013, at least 50 people, mainly children, were sickened with E. coli O157 at the Ekka. Scientific or public follow-up? Nothing.

Queensland Health has been warned repeatedly about Q-fever outbreaks at the Ekka related to the birthing of goats. Follow-up? Nothing.

In 2013, at least 130 people, including 55 nursing home patients were stricken by Norovirus in Ipswich and on the Sunshine Coast. Follow-up? Nothing.

In Nov. 2013, at least 220 people were felled by Salmonella and one was killed at Melbourne Cup functions, all linked to raw egg based dishes served by Piccalilli Catering. Follow-up? Nothing. (I even wrote to then health minister Lawrence Springborg; no response, guess he was busy with parliament).

In Jan. 2015, at least 130 diners were stricken with Salmonella after dining at Brisbane’s Chin Chin Chinese Restaurant. Dozens were hospitalized. Follow-up? Nothing.

In March, 2015, 250 teachers were stricken with Salmonella at a conference, and an additional 20 people were sickened on the Gold Coast from the same egg supplier. Follow-up? Nothing.

As a food safety professor in Canada and the U.S. who relocated to Brisbane four years ago to support my French professor wife, I look at these outbreaks and wonder: what does Queensland Health do? What does Safefood Queensland do?

I believe in science, however fallible it may be, and my church is the (ice) hockey arena.

I also believe in public disclosure, especially because these investigators are working on the Queensland tax dollar. These are hopelessly ineffective agencies — and I’ve seen a lot of agencies —  but these are the worst, especially in terms of public disclosure.

Surf Club GangNot the people, but the structure and confines in which they work for a pay cheque.

Now we’re told that hundreds of Brisbane restaurants, cafes, bakeries and caterers are operating below legal safety standards.

Brisbane City Council says it is waging war on shoddy operators in light of a massive jump in food poisoning outbreaks.

That’s a war of attrition.

Instead, Brisbane, and Queensland, could make a few simple changes to hold the purveyors of food accountable.

Mandate training.

Make restaurant inspection disclosure mandatory instead of the current voluntary.

And create a culture that values microbiologically safe food (the kind that doesn’t make you barf).

I was coaching an (ice) hockey game at the Gold Coast on the weekend, and the restaurant we went to afterwards was advertising a petting zoo – at the restaurant.

This is a microbiologically horrible idea.

Same with the petting zoos at kids’ schools and in malls, like the one in Fairfield.

Queensland is on track to suffer its worst year on record for salmonellosis, which has infected more than 2,500 people – mostly in the southeast – since the start of the year.

The state is also recording spikes in other gastrointestinal illness cases such as Campylobacter (1,993), cryptosporidiosis (604) and yersiniosis (180).

Data from the council’s Eat Safe star-rating system, shows almost 10 per cent of Brisbane’s 6000-plus food operators were operating below legal safety standards.

Queensland taxpayers deserve answers to some basic questions about all of the aforementioned outbreaks:

  • How did the outbreak happen;
  • was this commodity sourced from a food safety accredited supplier;
  • did handling by the caterer contribute to this outbreak;
  • what is Queensland Health’s policy on use of raw eggs in dishes to be consumed raw;
  • is this policy enforced;
  • is the investigation closed and if so, why and when was it closed;
  • will an outbreak investigation report be created and publicized;
  • why was the previous update erased from the Department’s website and on whose authority; and,
  • what is Queensland Health’s policy on providing information to the public.

This isn’t CSI, with its groovy UV lights that make great television but lousy science.

This also isn’t rocket surgery: publicly release all surveillance data on raw eggs in Queensland (or Australia), publicly release the menu items at the Queensland Convention Center and the Grocer and Grind on the Gold Coast where two of their own chefs got sick, and tell chefs to stop using raw eggs in dishes they have to so expertly craft from scratch like aioli or mayonnaise.

This is nothing new and we have been documenting the problem for years because it is a global food safety embarrassment. The solutions are there. It’s time for leadership.

A table of Australian egg outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-10-9-15.xlsx

Flies, worms and crickets crawl onto EU policymakers’ menu

Houseflies, crickets and silkworms can be safe, nutritious and more environmentally friendly alternatives to chicken, beef or pork, research carried out for the European Commission finds.
the.flyStill, they are less likely to be found on European restaurant menus than in animal feed, carefully controlled to prevent the kind of prions, or abnormal proteins, blamed for mad cow disease.

The Commission, the EU executive, is working on revised legislation on novel foods, after a previous proposal failed because of opposition to animal cloning.

It asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to research the safety of eating insects.

In a scientific opinion published on Thursday, EFSA said the use of insects as a source of food and feed potentially had important environmental, economic and food security benefits.

Farming of insects can lead to lower emissions of greenhouse gases and ammonia than cattle or pigs and higher efficiency in converting feed to protein, the report said.

43 sickened: Yersinia in raw milk in Finland

In March 2014, a Yersinia pseudotuberculosis (YP) outbreak was detected by a municipal authority in southern Finland.

napoleon.raw.milkWe conducted epidemiological, microbiological and traceback investigations to identify the source. We defined a case as a person with YP infection notified to the National Infectious Disease Registry between February and April 2014, or their household member, with abdominal pain and fever ≥ 38 °C or erythema nodosum. Healthy household members were used as household-matched controls. We identified 43 cases and 50 controls. The illness was strongly associated with the consumption of raw milk from a single producer. The odds ratio of illness increased with the amount of raw milk consumed. Also previously healthy adults became infected by consuming raw milk. Identical YP strains were identified from cases’ stool samples, raw milk sampled from a case’s refrigerator and from the milk filter at the producer’s farm. The producer fulfilled the legal requirements for raw milk production and voluntarily recalled the raw milk and stopped its production.

We advised consumers to heat the raw milk to 72 °C for 15 s. Current legislation for raw milk producers should be reviewed and public awareness of health risks linked to raw milk consumption should be increased.

 Outbreak of Yersinia Pseudotuberculosis O:1 Infection Associated With Raw Milk Consumption, Finland, Spring 2014

Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 40, 08 October 2015

T Pärn, S Hallanvuo, S Salmenlinna, A Pihlajasaari, S Heikkinen, H Telkki-Nykänen, M Hakkinen,  J Ollgren, S Huusko, R Rimhanen-Finne


Cheap Trick in RR Hall of Fame? Bad as FSA cooking advice

There was this one time, I went to a Cheap Trick concert in Toronto.

We got pulled over by undercover narcs because my girlfriend in the front passenger seat was bragging to everyone around she was smoking a dube in 1979.

The girls cried a lot, and we got off without an infraction.

But Cheap Trick’s nomination to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is as ridiculous as this video from the UK Food Standards Agency on how to cook chicken.