Going public (not): E. coli outbreak at Chicago restaurant sickened over 100 in June

In June, 2016, people started getting sick after dining at Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill at 300 W. 26th St., Chicago.

carbon-live-mexican-grillBy July 1, at least 25 people were sick with Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, and the restaurant closed.

Five months later, and cilantro has been fingered as the source.

By the end of the outbreak, 68 people were sickened, 22 of whom were hospitalized. All have since been treated and released.

According to a report from the department of health, cilantro was identified as “food vehicle” that likely caused the outbreak. 

All prepared food was disposed, food handling practices were reviewed, and all staff who handle food were tested at least twice for the bacteria,” according to a release from Healthy Chicago, an initiative of the Chicago Department of Health, said at the time the outbreak was reported. 

Carbón withdrew from the Taste of Chicago so that it could turn “its full attention to addressing the issues at its Bridgeport location,” health officials said.

The owners also closed their second location at 810 N. Marshfield “out of an abundance of caution.” That location reopened July 9, health officials said. 

Two lawsuits stemming from the outbreak were filed against the restaurant, one seeking more than $90,000 in damages.

That’s the PR version.

The team at Marler’s Seattle law firm had previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request and found more than 100 people were sickened and that 16 of 40 food-handling employees of Carbón Live Fire Mexican Grill tested positive for E. coli soon after the restaurant’s two locations voluntarily closed for cleaning July 1.

Lab tests confirmed 69 people were sickened during the outbreak, with another 37 probable cases. Of the sick people, 22 had symptoms so severe that they required hospitalization. Illness onset dates ranged from June 3 to July 23.

Cilantro is the suspected source of the E. coli based on percentages of sick people who ate menu items made with the fresh produce item. Inspectors collected 12 food items, including cilantro, but none of the food returned positive results for E. coli bacteria. The cilantro was sourced from Illinois and Mexico, according to traceback information provided to the health department.

“Lettuce was associated with illness in both multivariable models but was consumed by only 44 percent of cases,” according to the health department report.

“In comparison, cilantro was consumed by 87 percent of cases, and either cilantro or salsa fresca (which included cilantro) were consumed by 95 percent of cases.”

The report references “several critical violations” observed during a July 1 inspection, such as improper temperatures for several food items including red and green salsas, tequila lime sauce, raw fish, guacamole and cheese. Inspectors also noted improper hand hygiene practices among food handlers.

New blood tests can detect prions

Tine Hesman Saey of Science News reports a new blood test can detect even tiny amounts of infectious proteins called prions, two new studies show.

prion-test-dec-16Incurable prion diseases, such as mad cow disease (BSE) in cattle and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) in people, result from a normal brain protein called PrP twisting into a disease-causing “prion” shape that kills nerve cells in the brain. As many as 30,000 people in the United Kingdom may be carriers of prions that cause vCJD, presumably picked up by eating BSE-tainted beef. Health officials worry infected people could unwittingly pass prions to others through blood transfusions. Four such cases have already been recorded. But until now, there has been no way to screen blood for the infectious proteins.

In the test, described December 21 in Science Translational Medicine, magnetic nanobeads coated with plasminogen — a protein that prions grab onto — trap prions. Washing the beads gets rid of the rest of the substances in the blood. Researchers then add normal PrP to the beads. If any prions are stuck to the beads, the infectious proteins will convert PrP to the prion form, which will also stick to the beads. After many rounds, the researchers could amplify the signal enough to detect vCJD prions in all the people in the studies known to have the disease.

No healthy people or people with other degenerative brain diseases (including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s) in either study had evidence of the infectious proteins in their blood. And only one of 83 people with a sporadic form of Creutzfeld-Jakob disease tested positive. Those results indicate that the test is specific to the vCJD prion form, so a different test is needed to detect the sporadic disease. 

In two cases, researchers detected prions in frozen blood samples collected 31 months and 16 months before people developed vCJD symptoms.

6 sick with Campy linked to raw milk in UK

Six cases of campylobacter have so far been linked to people consuming unpasteurised milk from Low Sizergh Barn Farm in Kendal.

low-sizergh-barn-farm-in-kendalSouth Lakeland Council said it had launched a joint investigation with the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The farm said it was co-operating with the inquiry and had suspended sales of raw milk from a vending machine.

Public Health England (PHE) also asked anyone who had bought raw milk from the farm or visited its tearoom in the past two months to complete an online questionnaire.

The farm, which began offering unpasteurised milk from its vending machine in March, sells about 70 litres a day.

In August the farm won a National Trust fine farm produce award for its unpasteurised milk.

Reinfection of cattle with E. coli

Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC), like E. coli O157:H7 are frequently detected in bovine faecal samples at slaughter. Cattle do not show clinical symptoms upon infection, but for humans the consequences after consuming contaminated beef can be severe.

epa01322503 View of some of the more than 7,000 cattle that arrived to Liniers Market in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 22 April 2008, to be slaughtered. Argentinean government and the biggest agriculture organizations had been discussing, this morning, the situation of milk sector that is one of the most conflictive topics on the negotiations with cow meat, grains and regional economies. EPA/CEZARO DE LUCA

The immune response against EHEC in cattle cannot always clear the infection as persistent colonization and shedding in infected animals over a period of months often occurs. In previous infection trials, we observed a primary immune response after infection which was unable to protect cattle from re-infection. These results may reflect a suppression of certain immune pathways, making cattle more prone to persistent colonization after re-infection.

To test this, RNA-Seq was used for transcriptome analysis of recto-anal junction tissue and ileal Peyer’s patches in nine Holstein-Friesian calves in response to a primary and secondary Escherichia coli O157:H7 infection with the Shiga toxin (Stx) negative NCTC12900 strain. Non-infected calves served as controls.

In tissue of the recto-anal junction, only 15 genes were found to be significantly affected by a first infection compared to 1159 genes in the ileal Peyer’s patches. Whereas, re-infection significantly changed the expression of 10 and 17 genes in the recto-anal junction tissue and the Peyer’s patches, respectively. A significant downregulation of 69 immunostimulatory genes and a significant upregulation of seven immune suppressing genes was observed.

Although the recto-anal junction is a major site of colonization, this area does not seem to be modulated upon infection to the same extent as ileal Peyer’s patches as the changes in gene expression were remarkably higher in the ileal Peyer’s patches than in the recto-anal junction during a primary but not a secondary infection. We can conclude that the main effect on the transcriptome was immunosuppression by E. coli O157:H7 (Stx) due to an upregulation of immune suppressive effects (7/12 genes) or a downregulation of immunostimulatory effects (69/94 genes) in the ileal Peyer’s patches. These data might indicate that a primary infection promotes a re-infection with EHEC by suppressing the immune function.

Potential immunosuppressive effects of Escherichia coli O157:H7 experimental infection on the bovine host

BMC Genomics; 2016; 17:1049; DOI: 10.1186/s12864-016-3374-y; Published: 21 December 2016

E. Kieckens, J. Rybarczyk, R. W. Li, D. Vanrompay, and E. Cox

http://bmcgenomics.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12864-016-3374-y

Crypto hits NSW pools

As we chill (sweat) in the sleepy haven of South Golden Beach in New South Wales for a brief Christmas break, health authorities report Cryptosporidium has sickened at least 200 people in December and are warning people with diarrhea to stay out of shared pools.

sorenne-south-golden-beach-16The Sydney Morning Herald reports almost half of the cases were in children under 10-years-old. 

Health authorities have issued the warning urging people to stay out of shared swimming pools and water parks.

The biggest outbreak of cryptosporidiois was recorded in Sydney in 1998, when there were more than 1,000 confirmed cases.

Sydney was forced to boil its drinking water because it was found to be infected with the pathogens cryptosporidium and giardia.

Golden Ponds to reopen after bad gravy sickens 260

Golden Ponds Restaurant in suburban Rochester, New York – Rochester, who goes to Rochester — has been cleared by the health department to reopen, after 260 people were sickened after eating Thanksgiving dinner.

doug-turkey-cater_-nov_-16-300x225The restaurant will most likely be open for business starting next Tuesday, according to the owner.

The Monroe County Department of Health shut the restaurant down the day after Thanksgiving, after 60 people initially reported illnesses following eating food from Golden Ponds.

According to the health department, lab results point to an outbreak of Clostridium perfringens.

Officials say it is “most likely” that the gravy served was the source of the bacteria. They also noted that lapses in food safety practices were observed during their investigation.

Golden Ponds had previously been inspected several times in the months leading up to the outbreak, and had violations including food being stored at improper temperatures.

107 hospitalized after spaghetti meal in Philippines

Thanks to one of our readers for forwarding the following item by Odessa O. Leyson of The Freeman:

spaghetti-cebu-philepinnesAt least 107 residents of Sitio Tawagan in the mountain barangay of Sirao, Cebu City landed in the hospital Tuesday due to diarrhea and severe dehydration.

Nagiel Bañacia, head of the city’s disaster team, said the city health office is now looking into information that the residents suffered from the ailments after eating spaghetti given by an owner of a flower farm there.

Bañacia is withholding the identity of the farm owner until investigation is concluded.

He said the disaster team had to go up the barangay Tuesday night after receiving reports several of those affected were medicating themselves. Many residents have already sought help at the Guba Community Hospital at this point.

The Guba Community Hospital can accommodate only 50 patients, which was why four other doctors, eight nurses, and medical technologists had to be deployed there.

Bañacia said the city government will shoulder the hospital expenses using the disaster fund.

 

Food fraud ‘Plastic rice’ seized in Nigeria

Martin Patience of BBC News reports Nigeria has confiscated 2.5 tonnes of “plastic rice” smuggled into the country by unscrupulous businessmen, the customs service says.

plastic-riceLagos customs chief Haruna Mamudu said the fake rice was intended to be sold in markets during the festive season.

He said the rice was very sticky after it was boiled and “only God knows what would have happened” if people ate it.

It is not clear where the seized sacks came from but rice made from plastic pellets was found in China last year.

Rice is the most popular staple food in Nigeria.

The BBC’s Peter Okwoche says it is the only foodstuff that crosses cultural and ethnic lines across the country.

Whoever made this fake rice did an exceptionally good job – on first impression it would have fooled me. When I ran the grains through my fingers nothing felt out of the ordinary.

But when I smelt a handful of the “rice” there was a faint chemical odour. Customs officials say when they cooked up the rice it was too sticky – and it was then abundantly clear this was no ordinary batch.

They’ve sent a sample to the laboratories to determine exactly what the “rice” is made of.

They are also warning the public not to consume the mystery foodstuff as it could be dangerous.

Fake food scandals are thankfully rare in Nigeria when you compare it to countries such as China.

The big scandal here is fake pharmaceutical drugs that kill a huge number of people every year.

A total of 102 sacks, each containing 25kg (55lb), was seized.

Mr Mamudu did not explain how the plastic rice was made but said it had been branded as “Best Tomato Rice.”

Filthy food habits cost Perth Woolworths $100,000

I prefer to shop at Coles, but there is a few things I get from Woolies, especially since it’s on the way to and from school. She has a preference for tiger bread (I know it’s just white bread with stripes, but it’s on her way to swimming which is a decent bike ride, followed by an hour of laps, so for an 8-year-old, I’m not concerned about the empty calories.

woolworths-crusty-tiger-breadEmma Young of The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Woolworths at Madeley’s Kingsway City must cough up $100,000-plus after numerous public health offences.

The conviction will result in a fine of $95,000 and costs of $7000 to Woolworths, which the City of Wanneroo began inspecting in October 2015 after a member of the public complained about their Woolworths brand Crusty Tiger Loaf, which was found to be ‘unsuitable for sale.’

“The inspection found that Woolworths were not in compliance with a number of food standard codes,” planning and sustainability director Mark Dickson said.

Woolworths was found to have failed to ensure its food handlers were skilled in food safety and food hygiene. It also failed to store food to protect it from contamination, failed to keep the store and its equipment clean and failed to “process only safe and suitable food”. 

Evidence of pests was also found.

Woolworths pleaded guilty to all charges.

“The City’s follow-up inspections found that the issues were rectified,” Mr Dickson said.

No more tiger bread.