Cause unknown: 72 sickened by Salmonella in Australian state

Matt Johnston of the Herald Sun reports that Victoria is battling a major outbreak of salmonella and bacteria-related illnesses which has experts desperately searching for a cause.

mayonnaise.raw.eggIn the past two months 72 cases of foodborne infections have been reported to the Department of Health — including 46 identified in one June week alone.

The average number of ­salmonella reports each month is about six.

Despite the outbreak, a clear pattern has not been identified and experts have been unable to pin down a suspect food source.

Health Minister Jill Hennessy has issued a blanket food-safety warning. “All Victorians should remember to take care when preparing food at home, especially during the winter months, to prevent food turning nasty,” she said.

In the first six months of this year there were 67 per cent more cases compared to the last six months of 2015.

Also, Melbourne’s opulent Langham Hotel has been charged over a salmonella outbreak that left 90 diners ­violently ill.

The high tea crisis, which was triggered by raw egg mayonnaise, put 16 people in hospital last year.

The Sunday Herald Sun can reveal Melbourne City Council has charged the hotel over its handling and service of unsafe food and noncompliance with the Food Standards Code.

The case will be heard in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in October.

E. coli (and Salmonella and Norovirus) aftermath: Chipotle sales and revenue plummet in the second quarter

Chipotle Mexican Grill reported a steep drop in second-quarter earnings Thursday and missed analysts’ estimates as the fast-casual restaurant struggles to regain its footing after a series of food safety scares, and the recent arrest of one of its executives for drug possession.

chipotle.earning.jul.16The restaurant chain’s profit plunged to $25.6 million in the quarter ended June 30, down 81% from $140.2 million from the same period a year ago. Revenue dropped to $998.4 million, off 16.6% from $1.2 billion compared to 2015. Analysts had expected sales of $1.05 billion, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Earnings per share plummeted to 87 cents versus $4.45 per share in the second quarter of last year. That was also below earnings per share estimates of 90 cents.

Sales at stores open at least a year, a key metric for the industry, fell 23.6%. That was a slightly milder drop than than the nearly 30% fall Chipotle reported in the first quarter.

It’s been a slow climb back to normalcy for the Mexican restaurant, which has been aggressively trying to court favor with its formerly loyal fans.

“Our entire company is focused on restoring customer trust and reestablishing customer frequency,” said co-CEO Steve Ellis in a statement.

The company has employed an expansive comeback strategy, including using coupons, promotional discounts and even a short animated film about the perils of big food operations to get customers back buying burritos again. It implemented new food safety standards and shook up its long-unchanged menu with a new item: chorizo, a spicy chicken and pork sausage available in select locations.

Chipotle has moved away from testing some ingredients in central kitchens for pathogens because doing so resulted in lower quality, co-Chief Executive Steve Ells said on Thursday.

south.park.dead.celebrities.chipotle“Cutting bell peppers for testing in a central kitchen degraded the peppers,” Mr. Ells said, adding that the company has reversed testing for bell peppers, lettuce and other ingredients because its new food-safety czar James Marsden has developed other interventions to sanitize ingredients. The bell peppers are now blanched in the restaurants, a process Mr. Ells said kills pathogens.

Bell peppers and lettuce are now being chopped again in the restaurants and food quality complaints have decreased, co-Chief Executive Monty Moran said.

Utah girl, 8, dies from Shiga-toxin producing E. coli

A family in American Fork is receiving an outpouring of support after an 8-year-old girl became sick last week, was rushed to a hospital but died five days later.

hannah.jolley.e.coliBrian and Melissa Jolley never imagined they would be making funeral plans for their daughter, Hannah.

“She always wanted to play with her friends, loved playing with friends,” Melissa Jolley said.

On the morning of July 14, she started showing symptoms typical of the flu. But her condition quickly deteriorated.

“Come Thursday night she had a really, really hard night. And Friday morning we could tell she was in a lot of pain,” Brian Jolley said.

Doctors at Utah Valley Hospital quickly diagnosed her with E. coli. She was later flown to Primary Children’s Hospital. Last Monday she had a seizure, and doctors determined Hannah had hemolytic uremic syndrome, a disease that destroys red blood cells.

The most common cause of HUS, particularly in children, is E. coli infection.

“We have no idea how she got the E. coli. At this point it’s not important,” Brian Jolley said. “We want answers someday. Of course, we want to know where it came from.”

Hannah died Tuesday night, and since then the show of support from the community has been non-stop. Hand-made decorations, chalk art and ribbons decorate the Jolleys’ home in American Fork. Complete strangers have phoned and emailed the family to offer support.

Going public: Maine wants to limit what you can know about disease outbreaks

Joe Lawlor of the Portland Press Herald reports the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is proposing a rule change that would allow it to more easily withhold information on the locations of outbreaks of communicable diseases like measles, chicken pox and pertussis.

public-accountabilityA rule is the same as a regulation, would have legal force behind it and implements an agency’s interpretation of a law.

Contacted Wednesday, CDC spokesman John Martins said the agency does not comment on pending rule changes.

The proposal comes a year after the Portland Press Herald filed a lawsuit in July 2015, when the Maine CDC denied the newspaper’s request for information about chicken pox outbreaks at three schools and a day-care facility during the 2014-15 school year. An outbreak is defined by the Maine CDC as a place where there are three or more cases of an infectious disease.

In a settlement agreement, the information was released to the Press Herald in October 2015, and the newspaper published the outbreak locations.

There were 84 chicken pox cases at Maine schools in 2014-15. Of those cases, 57 affected unvaccinated or undervaccinated children, according to CDC data.

In another case where public health advocates criticized the CDC for being unnecessarily secretive, the agency refused in 2014 to name the restaurant where a hepatitis A outbreak had occurred.

The Maine agency’s policy runs counter to recommendations by public health experts, who say that knowing where outbreaks occur is beneficial to the public health because some people – including infants, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems – are more susceptible to communicable diseases.

The CDC argued when denying the newspaper’s request last year that releasing the school names could jeopardize personal privacy because “indirect information” about the outbreaks could result in the public being able to identify people who had fallen ill.

But Sigmund Schutz, the Press Herald’s attorney, countered that the newspaper was not requesting personal information, and state law did not permit the CDC to deny the request.

Schutz said the new rule, if adopted, also would be in conflict with state open records laws, which do not give the agency latitude to deny requests based on unlikely scenarios that an individual could be identified.

Schutz said the newspaper will be lodging official comments objecting to the proposed rule. The public comment period ends Monday.

 

Local outbreak to national recall: Kapowsin Meats recalls pork products linked to Salmonella

Kapowsin Meats Inc., a Graham, Wash. establishment, is recalling approximately 11,658 pounds of pork products that may be contaminated with Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

pig.potty.trainThe whole roaster hogs were produced between June 13, 2016 and July 15, 2016. The following products are subject to recall:

* Varying weights of boxed/bagged Whole Hogs for Barbeque

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 1628M” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to various individuals, retail locations, institutions, and distributors in Washington.

FSIS was notified of an illness investigation in Washington on July 13, 2016. The Washington State Department of Health updated FSIS on July 19, 2016 of confirmed case-patients involved in an illness outbreak of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-. Working in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Health, local health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FSIS determined that there is a highly probable link between whole hogs for barbeque from Kapowsin Meats and this illness cluster. Based on epidemiological investigation, three Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- case-patients have been identified with illness onset dates ranging from July 5, 2016, to July 7, 2016. Traceback investigation indicated that three case-patients consumed whole hog roasters for barbeque from Kapowsin Meats. At this time, it is not known if this outbreak strain has any drug resistance; results are pending.

This investigation is ongoing. FSIS continues to work with public health partners at the Washington State Department of Health, local health and the CDC on this investigation.

Consumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after exposure to the organism. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

12 sick with E. coli in New Hampshire

New Hampshire health officials are investigating an outbreak of E. coli associated with ground beef

rare.hamburgerSince June, 12 people in the state have been infected with the same strain of E. coli after eating ground beef, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Public Health Services. The safety of ground beef is regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is assisting the state investigation.

“Ground beef is a known source of E. coli and it is important for people to avoid eating under-cooked ground beef whether at home or at a restaurant,” said Marcella Bobinsky, acting director of the state DPHS. “Young children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to severe illness with this infection.”

The people who became ill ate ground beef at a number of different locations. State health officials and the USDA are working to identify the specific source.

Ground beef should be cooked at a temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

hamburger-safe and unsafe-thumb-450x138-175

‘It came with them’ Republican convention staffers test positive for Norovirus

Nearly a dozen Republican staffers who are in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention have tested positive for norovirus, public health officials said Wednesday.

norovirusOhio public health officials confirmed reports from Tuesday that a group of staffers from the California delegation had contracted the virus, according to Stat News.

Those infected with the norovirus were part of the advance team for the California delegation, leading to concerns that the bug may spread.

“It came with them,” Erie County Health Commissioner Peter Schade told Stat News.

But public health officials have taken precautions by quarantining those who were believed to be infected, while warning others who may feel under the weather to stay in their hotels.

Urine included: Virgin boy eggs a delicacy in China

In spring, residents of Dongyang, in coastal Zhejiang Province, China, according to the N.Y. Times, chow down on eggs simmered in steaming pots of boys’ urine.

virgin.boy.eggsSold since ancient times as “virgin boy eggs,” the local delicacy was officially listed as “intangible cultural heritage” in Dongyang in 2008. Many residents believe they energize the body, improve blood circulation and prevent heat stroke. They are also a bargain at around 25 cents an egg, urine included.

Across Dongyang, a bustling city of nearly one million people, fresh urine is collected every day from buckets placed in elementary school hallways, where boys under the age of 10 are instructed to answer nature’s call — as long as they are not sick, out of concern for, um, food safety. Some vendors even carry around empty bottles and wait in parks or public bathrooms until they find a parent who is willing to let their prepubescent son participate in the custom.

Chinese medicine practitioners are divided on the supposed benefits of ingesting urine, which modern science has shown to have no nutritional value. But the locals in Dongyang are happy to shower praise on the eggs they call “the taste of spring.”

To prepare the eggs, chefs generally stick to a time-tested recipe: First, soak the eggs in pots of urine and bring to a boil. Remove the eggs, crack the shells, then return the eggs to the pot and simmer for about a day, adding more urine as necessary, sometimes with herbs. The marinade gives the egg whites a pale golden hue, while the yolks turn green. They are also quite salty, according to Wu Bei, 39, an employee at the Zhang Yuming Chinese Medicine Clinic in Dongyang.

“They taste a bit like urine, but not too much,” she said. “It’s delicious, you should try one sometime!”

THC found in Colorado town water well

Residents of a small farming community in eastern Colorado have been warned to avoid drinking the town’s water after THC, the psychoactive agent in marijuana, was found in one of its feeder wells, authorities said on Thursday.

cheechandchongA public works employee in Hugo, a town of about 800 people 90 miles southeast of Denver, detected the chemical and health officials believe it is “marijuana THC-related,” the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook posting.

“At this time, investigators are assessing the situation with state and federal authorities,” the sheriff’s office said. “Bathroom usage is still safe, but until more information is known to us, out of an abundance of caution, avoid drinking Town of Hugo water.”

Peter Perrone, a chemist and owner of the state-licensed cannabis testing facility, Gobi Analytical in suburban Denver, said he was skeptical of the reports.

“It’s virtually impossible to find THC in water in concentrated levels because cannabinoids are not water soluble,” Perrone told Reuters in a telephone interview.

Captain Michael Yowell of the sheriff’s office said he understands that some are questioning how THC could be found in the water, but that does not explain why the tests came up positive for the chemical.

“I wouldn’t be doing my job for the community if we just wrote this off,” he said.

FDA shares data on cucumber and hot pepper testing

Tom Karst of The Packer reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released preliminary results of pathogen testing of cucumbers and hot peppers.

animal.house.cucumberStarting November 2015, the agency began microbiological surveillance sampling and testing of cucumbers and hot peppers because these products have previously been involved in large-scale outbreaks, according to the FDA report. The outbreaks were linked to hospitalizations, and in the case of hot peppers, two deaths, according to the FDA.

The agency is in the midst of testing approximately 1,600 samples for Salmonella spp. and E. coli O157:H7 in cucumbers, and Salmonella spp., Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and E. coli O157:H7 in hot peppers, according to the report. 

So far, the FDA said it has tested 452 samples of hot peppers and 352 samples of cucumbers. Of those, 13 of the hot pepper samples and three cucumbers samples tested positive for Salmonella. The rest tested negative for the targeted pathogens, according to the FDA.

The FDA report said the testing continues and offered no conclusions about the results so far.