60 sick from Salmonella linked to Wisconsin grocery store

More than 60 people have been identified with gastrointestinal illness in connection with Supermercado Los Corrales grocery store, 3933 52nd St., according to the Kenosha County Division of Health.

Supermercado Los CorralesSalmonella, with a matching DNA fingerprint, has been found in two cases, with testing ongoing.

While the source of the outbreak is still under investigation, the grocery store is the focus of the probe.

“We’re investigating, so we are really trying to give the state the most accurate numbers, but it is still so fluid at this point,” said Gwynn Perry-Brye, clinical services director for the Kenosha County Division of Health.

Kenosha resident Diana Koeppel said her son-in-law and 3-year-old grandson started getting stomach problems May 11 after a buying pre-cooked carnitas and rice at the store on Mother’s Day. The rest of the family didn’t have any of the suspected pork.

“They eventually went to the emergency room,” Koeppel said. “My daughter was taking care of both of them and kept her two older girls away.”

The family’s leftover food and stool samples were taken for testing.

Largest food safety fine ever in US: ConAgra pleads guilty in 2006 Salmonella-in-peanut butter case that sickened thousands

By March 2007, Salmonella in Peter Pan peanut butter – owned by ConAgra — had sickened 628 people in 47 states and caused the company to shut down its Sylvester, Georgia, manufacturing facility; the contamination was likely due to a leaky roof and faulty sprinklers.

powell.talk.nude.conagra copyIn 2008, I was invited by ConAgra to speak about food safety stuff, but was in Wellington, New Zealand, and the hobbits weren’t running fast enough so the Internet was slow, so just did audio.

Naked, in bed (right, exactly as shown).

Today it was announced that ConAgra Grocery Products will plead guilty and pay $11.2 million in fines for shipping contaminated peanut butter that was linked to a Salmonella poisoning outbreak in 2006, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

In their agreement, ConAgra Grocery, a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods, admitted that its Peter Pan and private label peanut butter products were contaminated with Salmonella, leading to more than 700 cases identified nationally until 2007 by federal health officials.

While no deaths related to the outbreak were reported, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that “thousands” of other related cases went unreported.

ConAgra will pay a criminal fine of $8 million for a misdemeanor violation of the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act — the largest fine ever in a food safety case — and forfeit assets of $3.2 million.

“No company can let down its guard when it comes to these kinds of microbiological contaminants,” said DOJ principal deputy assistant attorney general Benjamin Mizer, in a statement. “Salmonellosis is a serious condition, and a food like peanut butter can deliver it straight to children and other vulnerable populations.”

Rolling_Stones_1971In February 2007, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC determined that the salmonellosis outbreak could be traced to ConAgra’s products that were made and shipped from its plant in Sylvester, Ga., starting December 2006.

ConAgra ended production at the plant following the announcement and recalled all peanut butter manufactured there since January 2004. “The company admitted in the plea agreement that samples obtained after the recall showed that peanut butter made at the Sylvester plant on nine different dates between Aug. 4, 2006, and Jan. 29, 2007, was contaminated with salmonella,” the Justice Department said.

Testing conducted after the recall also identified the same strain of salmonella in at least nine locations throughout the Sylvester plant, it said.

ConAgra also admitted that it had been aware of some risk of salmonella contamination in peanut butter given the damaged equipment at the plant. In 2004, ConAgra tested the Sylvester plant and found products that were contaminated with salmonella. It identified several possible causes, including an old peanut roaster, a storm-damaged sugar silo, and a leaky roof that allowed moisture into the plant.

“The company did not fully correct these conditions until” the outbreak, the Justice Department said.

The company’s version goes like this:

Leading food safety practices, including robust testing, new equipment and extensive training, have helped ensure that the plant has made safe and wholesome peanut butter on a daily basis. ConAgra Foods has been recognized as a leader in food safety since that time. The company and its 175 dedicated employees in Sylvester, GA., who make Peter Pan peanut butter products every day, are deeply committed to food safety.

“We did not, and never will, knowingly ship a product that is not safe for consumers. We’ve invested heavily in leading-edge food safety technology and practices over the past eight years, and we are thankful for all of the people who recognize that and are loyal Peter Pan fans,” said Dr. Al Bolles, chief technical and operations officer for ConAgra Foods. “ConAgra Foods took full responsibility in 2007, taking immediate steps to determine the potential causes of and solutions for the problem and acting quickly and definitively to inform and protect consumers. This incident brought to light previously unknown aspects of making safe peanut butter, and we have been passionate about sharing what we learned to help others join us in creating an even safer food supply. We will remain vigilant to maintain the trust we’ve worked so hard to earn from our consumers.”

Sticky fingers?

 

Wow: Grass plants can transport infectious prions

Grass plants can bind, uptake and transport infectious prions, according to researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). The research was published online in the latest issue of Cell Reports.

prion.plants.may.15Prions are the protein-based infectious agents responsible for a group of diseases called transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, which includes bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) in cattle, scrapie in sheep, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans and chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer, elk and moose. All are fatal brain diseases with incubation periods that last years.

CWD, first diagnosed in mule deer in Colorado in the late 1960s, has spread across the country into 22 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including the counties of El Paso and Hudspeth in Texas. In northeastern Colorado and southeastern Wyoming, the disease is endemic. Soto’s team sought to find out why.

“There is no proof of transmission from wild animals and plants to humans,” said lead author Claudio Soto, Ph.D., professor of neurology at UTHealth Medical School and director of the UTHealth George and Cynthia W. Mitchell Center for Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Brain Related Illnesses. “But it’s a possibility that needs to be explored and people need to be aware of it. Prions have a long incubation period.”

Soto’s team analyzed the retention of infectious prion protein and infectivity in wheat grass roots and leaves incubated with prion-contaminated brain material and discovered that even highly diluted amounts can bind to the roots and leaves. When the wheat grass was consumed by hamsters, the animals were infected with the disease. The team also learned that infectious prion proteins could be detected in plants exposed to urine and feces from prion-infected hamsters and deer.

Researchers also found that plants can uptake prions from contaminated soil and transport them to different parts of the plant, which can act as a carrier of infectivity. This suggests that plants may play an important role in environmental prion contamination and the horizontal transmission of the disease.

To minimize the risk of exposure to CWD, the CDC recommends that people avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or test positive for CWD. Hunters who field-dress deer in an affected area should wear gloves and minimize handling of the brain and spinal cord tissues.

“This research was done in experimental conditions in the lab,” Soto said of the next step. “We’re moving the research into environmental contamination now.”

First author of the paper, “Grass Plants Bind, Retain, Uptake and Transport Infectious Prions,” is post-doctoral researcher Sandra Pritzkow, Ph.D. Co-authors from UTHealth are Rodrigo Morales, Ph.D.; Fabio Moda, Ph.D.; and Uffaf Khan. Co-authors from the Prion Research Center at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Colorado State University, are Glenn C. Telling, Ph.D.; and Edward Hoover, D.V.M., Ph.D.

Almond queen takes on raw, pushes food safety

If Chapman is the canning queen, Linda Harris is the almond queen (and was on my PhD supervisory committee all those years ago).

linda.harris.storyHarris, a cooperative extension specialist who researches food safety at the University of California, Davis, told NPR, “There is no legal definition, no federal definition of the word ‘raw,’ ” and that studies show pasteurization doesn’t change the nutritional value of almonds.

She also predicts that sterilization of a lot more foods will soon be required by law.

NPR was going after the what-does-raw-really-mean angle.

All California almonds — which would be virtually all the almonds in the country — are either heat-pasteurized or treated with a fumigant. The processes, which have been required by law since 2007, are intended to prevent foodborne illness. But almond aficionados say the treatments taint the flavor and mislead consumers.

Yup, heard that before, think raw milk.

Aficionados generally don’t have PhDs in food science, but I guess it makes good press.

In a warehouse near Newman, Calif., run by the Cosmed Group, millions of almonds are heated in huge metal containers. The temperature inside the chambers gradually rises to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The goal is to ensure through steam pasteurization that the almonds don’t carry bacteria from the fields to consumers.

“As the steam is coming out, it rolls around in the chamber so it can penetrate everything,” plant manager Dianne Newell explains.

“The whole process from start to finish is about nine hours,” says Newell — though the timing can vary widely at different facilities, depending on how they choose to steam the nuts.

Handlers open hundreds of boxes destined for the steaming vats. Almonds aren’t the only crop treated here: The facility also processes sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, sun-dried tomatoes, dried apricots, dried strawberries and dried blueberries.

But almonds are the only nut, seed or dried fruit that must — by law — be pasteurized. If they’re not steamed, they must be fumigated with a chemical called propylene oxide, or PPO.

The regulation is a result of two salmonella outbreaks traced to almonds in the early 2000s. Almonds are not any more susceptible to the bacteria than other nuts and dried goods, but the Almond Board of California wanted to prevent future outbreaks. So the industry asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement a rule requiring raw almonds grown in California’s Central Valley to be pasteurized. In 2007 the USDA issued the “almond rule.”

Facepalm-inducing chicken cooking messages from FSA

I don’t know exactly how much it costs to produce a video and put on a massive media campaign in the U.K..

That’s really a question for the folks at McCann-Erickson or Holloway Harris.tumblr_mo5rk6sgpd1qf6r9co2_5001

A rudimentary calculation leads me to believe that the UK FSA spent at least a couple of million pounds on production, media buying and message placement for their current chicken hero (not to be confused with chicken gyro) campaign (below, exactly as shown).

Roughly equivalent to the cost of 300,000 digital tip-sensitive thermometers.

The very tool that they must not think that U.K. households have.

Because they never mention temperatures.

And go with the increasingly frustrating – and not science based – steaming hot, no pink meat and clear juices suggestion.

Maybe investing in thermometers instead of commercials is a better approach to the Campy issue.

Horizontal gene transfer in E. coli O104

Escherichia coli O104 is an emergent disease-causing bacterium various strains of which are becoming increasingly well known and troublesome.

beansproutsThe pathogen causes bloody diarrhea as well as and potentially fatal kidney damage, hemolytic uremic syndrome. Infection is usually through inadvertent ingestion of contaminated and incompletely cooked food or other materials, such as animals feces.

Escherichia coli is a gram negative bacterium, commonly found in the intestine of humans and other mammals. Entero-hemorrhagic strains including O157, O26, O103 and O111 and specifically the sub-strain O157:H7 is an important cause of foodborne illness in North America, the UK and Japan.

One particular strain, highlighted by Indian researchers in the International Journal of Bioinformatics Research and Applications, O104:H4, causes serious complications and has developed significant multiple-drug resistance to antibiotics. Moreover, it has acquired genes through horizontal transfer from other strains that make it even more virulent than others.

The team from Madurai Kamaraj University in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, working with colleagues at Genotypic Technology Pvt Ltd in Karnataka, have used the tools of computational molecular biology to identify 38 such horizontal gene transfer elements, prophage elements. These elements the team explains are genetic weapons that protect the bacteria from antibiotics and have been acquired from viruses, known as bacteriophages, that usually infect bacteria.

More than a quarter of the genome of this strain of E. coli comprises prophage elements, the team explains. These elements are also involved in the production of lethal compounds such as Shiga toxin, which give rise to many of the symptoms of infection. As such, they might represent new diagnostic markers or even targets for the development of novel antibiotics that circumvent the protective measures acquired by the bacteria.

Communicating food safety is tricky

Nicole Arnold, MS student at N.C. State University writes:

I never knew that I sounded like a twelve year old until I recorded myself for a video competition to take part in IFT’s first inaugural Food Communicator’s Workshop. A few snowflakes in North Carolina had shut things down; I couldn’t use a university studio so I was forced to record myself in my bedroom via YouTube.IMG_5919

Awkward.

Maybe it was because I boasted of being part of the behind the scenes of barfblog (and mentioned 40,000 subscribers) or because nobody else could bear the discomfort of recording themselves, but they chose me.

Sponsored by CanolaInfo, the IFT workshop was created to prepare and encourage students and young professionals to communicate food science information and issues through various channels. As a group, we dissected multiple media platforms, specifically the infamous Food Babe’s attack on canola oil.  The group leaders asked:

How would we respond?

What would we say if we chose to say anything at all?

What type of social media platforms would we use?

During a mock print interview, I grabbed a slip of paper out of a bowl with the words ‘artificial colors’ on it. I know a little bit more about that topic but am less- familiar with GMOs and preservatives (which others received).

With only a minute to look over the content, the interviewer asked me ‘why artificial colors are added to foods when scientific literature links it to cancer?’

I made a rookie mistake and used the oft-used phrase that the dose that makes the poison. The mock reporter’s eyes lit up.

Poison. I had said it.

An actual reporter could take that statement and run with it, indicating that my statement equated colors to poisons.

I should have talked about how safety reviews are conducted on artificial coloring and that while there are no certainties or guarantees in safety, regulators assess risk by calculating exposure and the amounts needed to cause problems. Many studies are based on mouse models – which may or may not be all that transferable to humans.  Based on the current available science, the U.S. FDA and other public health-protecting bodies throughout the world have deemed certain artificial colors as low risk.

It’s tricky, but as food communicators, our messages should be clear, concise and explain the uncertainties of the science. And shouldn’t use clichés.

Nicole Arnold is a MS student in Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences, a barfblog news team member, and is a vegetarian studying mechanically tenderized beef safety.

Here’s a video submission from Ohio State’s John Frelka.

Italian child in hospital with Listeria from homemade cheese

A child of 18 months in Vigevano, in the province of Pavia, is hospitalized in serious condition in the pediatric ward of the Policlinico San Matteo in Pavia due to listeriosis, after eating a homemade cheese made with unpasteurized milk.

cheese_mites430x300Talking with the parents of the young patient, doctors have learned in recent days that the child ate a cheese that had been prepared at home. Once arrived at San Matteo, the child has undergone brain surgery to reduce complications of meningoencephalitis.

Aussie live export cattle being killed with sledgehammer in Vietnam caught on camera, prompts calls for ban

The Australian live animal export market makes a lot of money, but cannot be condoned, since refrigeration has existed since the late 1800s.

cow.sledgehammer.vietnam.may.15According to Australian media, shocking footage has emerged of live export Australian cattle being bludgeoned to death with sledgehammers in Vietnam.

Government authorities have been investigating reports of the sickening slaughter method since March, but Animals Australia said yesterday it was the first time photographic evidence had been made public.

Video obtained by the animal welfare group shows handlers in a Vietnamese abattoir repeatedly striking beef cattle over the head with a sledgehammer to subdue and kill them.

The hidden camera vision was captured late last month in a facility in northern Vietnam.

Animals Australia spokeswoman Lisa Chalk said Vietnam was currently the second-largest export market for Australian cattle, with 178,000 animals exported there in 2014.

“The industry has called what is happening in Vietnam ‘growing pains’,” Ms Chalk said.

“Most people would disagree. It’s horrific and preventable suffering.”

Animals Australia, the organisation which earlier this year helped expose the cruel practice of live-baiting within the greyhound industry, said video showing the sledgehammer slaughters was “so shocking and distressing that a decision has been taken to not publicly release it at this time.”

Food may suck in Saudi Arabia; 2,745 restaurants shut for health violation

Samples of food items and drinks taken from more than 2,000 restaurants in Jeddah were found to be contaminated with 11 types of harmful bacteria, a municipal source has said.

saudi.arabia.foodThe shocking results of food samples, which were tested at municipal laboratories, forced the authorities to close down as many as 2,745 restaurants in the last four months, local media reported on Monday.

The bacteria found in the food samples included coliform, which thrive on contaminated food and can cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever.

It contaminates water, meat, dairy and poultry products, vegetables and fruits with an incubation period of 12 to 72 hours.