I must be drunk: A pink chicken is the mascot for a Food Standards Scotland campaign

I like the train. Some of my most memorable conversations happen on the train.

scotland.pinkchicken-fss_largeThe three of us bid adieu to Montpellier and returned to Paris for a couple of days before the pilgrimage back to Australia, home of carp herpes and koala chlamydia (see next post, when I write it).

The shaggy-haired dude sitting beside me finally spoke up in perfect London English, and said, I couldn’t help but overhearing, but yes, you should move your knapsack, let me help you.

You speak English?

Turns out Dr. Mark has a PhD in the maths, and is post-docing in Montpellier on the maths.

He was off to the Glastonbury music festival, worried about trenchfoot, I told him to watch out for Campylobacter and E. coli O157, and Amy told him that one of this years’ headliners, Muse, has complaints about Salmonella and bird shit. Something about Sorenne being a product of science also came up.

When we needed a conversational hiatus, I returned to watching John Oliver skewer his native UK for wanting to leave the European Union (warning, video hilarious but extremely not suitable for family viewing).

And even the Brits don’t want to stay together, what with Scotland doing its own thing, including a Food Standards Scotland agency.

Scottish independence was supposed to be something about Celtic pride, or pride in Sean Connery impersonations on mock Jeopardy, but if Food Standards Scotland attempt at independent food safety communications – if it’s not Scottish, it’s craaaaaaap – are an indicator, bring on the whiskey and go back to sleep.

In my best John Oliver voice, the new FSS mascot is a pink chicken.

A f*cking pink chicken.

Read this, if you can.

Foodborne illness remains an important public health problem for Scotland, resulting in disruption to the workforce and burdens on health services which have consequences for the Scottish economy.

Prior to the establishment of Food Standards Scotland (FSS), we worked as part of the Food Standards Agency to develop, implement and evaluate interventions for improving the safety of the food chain and help consumers to understand the steps that they need to take to protect themselves and their families from foodborne illness.

We’re now consulting on a draft of our proposal for a new Foodborne Illness Strategy for Scotland which sets out the approach we think we will need to take over the next five years to protect the safety of foods produced and sold in Scotland and reduce the risks of foodborne illness to the people of Scotland. … It will take a targeted approach by developing interventions for containing and eradicating contaminants at the key foodborne transmission pathways that have the potential to lead to illness in humans. Workstreams will be developed to evaluate the impact of interventions at all stages, based on uptake and evidence for efficacy.

It’s still a f*cking pink chicken.

Did the PR team get loaded and watched Dumbo and woke inspired by pink elephants?

These food safety geniuses know color is a lousy indicator of food safety, yet issued a companion press release which said, Food poisoning can wreck your summer barbecue. Keep pink chicken – and nasty food bugs – off the menu. …The bigger the piece of chicken, the more time it needs.

“Check chicken is steaming hot right through before dishing up.

“Looks can deceive. Charred chicken on the outside may still be pink inside. Check it’s cooked right through. 

“Turning chicken regularly helps it cook evenly. And you’ll impress your guests with your fancy tongs action.

“You’re good to go when the chicken is steaming hot in the middle, there’s no pink chicken to be seen and the juices run clear.

“To make sure, use a meat thermometer. Chicken should be a minimum of 75 °C in the centre.”

The thermometer is an after thought to tong juggling and piping hot, but is the only way to determine if that bird is safe to eat (75C).

FSS also threw in this line, apparently written by a Scot who migrated to the Ozarks and returned home with the word “reckon” in his or her vocabulary.

At least 6000 people in Scotland suffer Campylobacter poisoning every year. Some reckon the number could be 9 times that. It’s the most common cause of food poisoning.

And it’s still a f*cking pink chicken.

Best wishes at Glastonbury, Dr. Mark, and figuring out what you’ll do if Britain does leave the EU.

56 sickened with campy in chicken liver pate in 2013 at Aust. National University: the scientific write-up

In Oct. 2013, 56 students were stricken by Campylobacter linked to poorly prepared liver pate and severed at an end-of-year celebration at Burgmann College, part of Australian National University.

chicken-liver-pate-2The Canaberra Times reported in 2014 some of the students planned to sue Scolarest, the company that feeds the college of 350 students.

No idea if that ever went anywhere.

But here’s that scientific paper that was recently published.

In October 2013, public health authorities were notified of a suspected outbreak of gastroenteritis in students and guests following a catered function at a university residential college. A retrospective cohort study was undertaken to examine whether foods served at the function caused illness.

A total of 56 cases of gastroenteritis, including seven laboratory-confirmed cases of Campylobacter jejuni infection, were identified in 235 eligible respondents. Univariate analysis showed a significant association with a chicken liver pâté entrée [relative risk (RR) 3·64, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2·03–6·52, P < 0·001], which retained significance after adjustment for confounding via multivariable analysis (adjusted RR 2·80, 95% CI 1·26–6·19, P = 0·01). C. jejuni and C. coli were also isolated in chicken liver pâté recovered from the college’s kitchen.

Subsequent whole genome multilocus sequence typing (wgMLST) of clinical and food-derived C. jejuni isolates showed three genetically distinct sequence types (STs) comprising ST528, ST535 (both clinically derived) and ST991 (food derived).

The study demonstrates the value of utilizing complementary sources of evidence, including genomic data, to support public health investigations. The use of wgMLST highlights the potential for significant C. jejuni diversity in epidemiologically related human and food isolates recovered during outbreaks linked to poultry liver.

A large outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni infection in a university college caused by chicken liver pâté, Australia, 2013

Epidemiology and Infection; May 2016

DOI: 10.1017/S0950268816001187

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304019390_A_large_outbreak_of_Campylobacter_jejuni_infection_in_a_university_college_caused_by_chicken_liver_pate_Australia_2013

Blame celebrity chefs and lack of thermometer use: Campy increases in undercooked chicken livers

In the United Kingdom, outbreaks of Campylobacter infection are increasingly attributed to undercooked chicken livers, yet many recipes, including those of top chefs, advocate short cooking times and serving livers pink.

chicken-liver-pate-2During 2015, we studied preferences of chefs and the public in the United Kingdom and investigated the link between liver rareness and survival of Campylobacter. We used photographs to assess chefs’ ability to identify chicken livers meeting safe cooking guidelines.

To investigate the microbiological safety of livers chefs they preferred to serve, we modeled Campylobacter survival in infected chicken livers cooked to various temperatures. Most chefs correctly identified safely cooked livers but overestimated the public’s preference for rareness and thus preferred to serve them more rare.

We estimated that 19%–52% of livers served commercially in the United Kingdom fail to reach 70°C and that predicted Campylobacter survival rates are 48%–98%. These findings indicate that cooking trends are linked to increasing Campylobacter infections.

Restaurant cooking trends and increased risk for Camplyobacter infection

Emerging Infectious Disease Journal, Volume 22, Number 7, July 2016, DOI: 10.3201/eid2207.151775

A.K. Jones, D. Rigby, M. Burton, C. Millman, N.J. Williams, T.R. Jones, P. Wigley, S.J. O’Brien, P. Cross

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/22/7/15-1775_article

Birds: Crowds of crows spread Campylobacter

Crows are smart, highly social animals that congregate in flocks of tens of thousands. Such large, highly concentrated populations can easily spread disease — not only amongst their own species, but quite possibly to humans, either via livestock, or directly.

tippi_2431543kOn the campus of the University of California, Davis, during winter, approximately half of the 6,000 American crows that congregated at the study site carried Campylobacter jejuni, which is the leading cause of gastroenteritis in humans in industrialized countries, which could contribute to the spread of disease. The research is published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The investigators posited that the crows’ daily wanderings contributed to C. jejuni’s spread. To track the crows, they trapped a small number of individuals and attached tiny GPS devices to diminutive backpacks. They affixed these to the birds with harnesses that looped around each wing to attach at the breast. The additional weight represented less than one twentieth that of the crows.

The crows’ favored destinations were areas with easy access to food, such as a dairy barn, and a primate research center. “This movement pattern, coupled with high infection rates, suggests that crows could play an important role in transmission from wild birds to domestic animals and, ultimately, to humans,” said first author Conor Taff, PhD.

Crows are also strong flyers, and able to spread contamination far from the roost.

Crows’ social behavior also probably contributes to the pathogen’s spread. Their communal winter roosts can pack thousands of crows into a few trees each night, said Taff, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, who conducted some of the research while he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Davis. And crowds of crows, opportunistic omnivores, forage together, defecating where they eat. “These things together probably explain why crows have such high prevalence of infection compared to other wild birds,” said Taff.

Crows’ opportunistic foraging frequently leads them to live in proximity to humans, and to livestock, putting us at risk for infection. Among other places, crows forage at livestock feedlots and in fields containing particular crops.

Nonetheless, data is lacking on the prevalence of crow-borne strains of C. Jejuni that have the potential either to infect humans, or to easily mutate to infect humans. (A coauthor on this paper, Allison M. Weis of the School of Veterinary Medicine, Pathogen Genome Project, University of California, Davis, is working on that issue.) Nor is it clear whether Campylobacter sickens crows — another issue which team members are investigating.

“Our study is just a start, but our results suggest that integrative work that combines microbiology, ecology, and behavior is likely to be important in controlling cross-species transmission of Campylobacter,” said Taff. “Since wild birds may be an important source of initial poultry infection, it is important to understand how infection persists in wild birds and how their behavior might contribute to domestic animal infection. Our movement data are particularly interesting in this regard, because we found that crows were making heavy use of some areas with domestic animals.”

“Understanding how both this behavior and infection rates vary across the year might make it possible to devise mitigation strategies that exclude wild animals from interacting with domestic animals in certain places or at certain times of the year,” said Taff.

“Our study is among the first to combine extensive sampling and whole genome sequencing of C. jejuni with relevant information on host ecology, movement, and social behavior,” the investigators write.

“Whether crows represent a major source of domestic animal and, ultimately, human C. jejuni infection remains uncertain, but our study indicates that data on infection prevalence and molecular characteristics of isolates alone will be insufficient for understanding C. jejuni transmission dynamics,” the investigators write. They suggest that more work is needed combining genomics, ecology, and movement and social behavior of the birds. They also note that roost sizes have increased as locations have shifted from rural to increasingly urban over the last 50 years.

Sneaky: Campy in UK chickens declines, but is an artifact

The UK Food Standards Agency says the latest data show 9.3% of chickens tested positive for the highest level of contamination in this quarter, down from 21.8% for the three months from December 2014 to February 2015*.

chickenCampylobacter was present on 50% of chicken samples, down from 71% in the equivalent quarter of the previous year. We tested 1,009 samples of fresh whole chilled UK-produced chickens and packaging this quarter.

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said, “One of the reasons the survey results are lower this quarter is because of the decision taken by a number of retailers and their suppliers to remove neck skin from the bird before it goes on sale. This is good news for the consumer because the neck skin is the most contaminated part of the chicken. However it is also the part of the bird that we have been testing in our survey and this means that comparisons with previous results are not as reliable as we would like.

Therefore, this quarter, we are giving an overall figure for the amount of campylobacter on chicken and not breaking the figures down by retailer as we normally do. We have also stopped this survey and will begin a new one in the summer, with a different method of testing campylobacter levels on chicken. sFirst results from this survey, which will rank retailers, are due in January 2017.”

Alex Neil , director of policy and campaigns at Which?, said: “Despite the work by the regulator and the industry to reduce campylobacter in chickens, levels remain too high and it still poses a significant risk to the public.

“We want to see much greater transparency from the supermarkets on their own testing and the action they are taking to keep their customers safe from this bug.”

 

Poop soup: Don’t feed geese signs do little at Anchorage park pond

Rick Sinnott, a former Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist, writes that last summer Thom Eley watched, dumbfounded, as a couple visiting the playground at Anchorage’s Cuddy Family Midtown Park changed their child’s diaper and threw the soiled one into the park’s centerpiece.

GOOSEDOGS03PCTY-joker“The mother took the folded-and-loaded diaper,” Eley says, “and heaved it into Cuddy Pond with a kerplunk,” then hurried out of the area. The park, Eley observed, has no shortage of trash cans. But he also noted a considerable amount of trash – plastic bottles, cups, and bags – floating in a layer of scum on the pond surface. Maybe the couple thought the pond was the place to toss out a dirty diaper.

Eley’s spouse, Cherie Northon, is less worried about the poopy diaper than she is about all the duck and goose feces dissolved in the pond. When Northon raised the issue in 2012, she realized local, state, and federal agency staff familiar with the Cuddy Park pond were also concerned, but no one stepped forward to coordinate its cleanup. “Everybody complained about it,” Northon recalled, “but nobody was doing anything.”

Northon is executive director of Anchorage Waterways Council, a nonprofit that works to protect and restore water bodies and wetlands in the city. Eley is a board member.

The council is trying to focus the attention of various agencies and the public on the growing problem.

According to Northon, while water flowing into the pond had relatively low levels of bacteria in August 2015, samples taken across the pond found levels of more than 40 times higher than the maximum concentration of E. coli bacteria allowed by the state for bodies of water used for recreation. Other potentially dangerous bacteria have been found in similar concentrations. In other words, don’t touch the stuff, it’s poop soup (also loaded with Salmonella and Campylobacter)

On a recent sunny Sunday, I found the park full of people. An ice cream truck in the parking lot piped out music.

geese.control.dogsThe pond and nearby lawns were alive with Canada geese, at least 350 by my count. Small clots of geese gathered near people on the path. Many, perhaps most, of the people were feeding geese. That’s no surprise. Cuddy Park has become the city’s unofficial goose- and duck-feeding venue.

I suggest doing what gold courses do: get a couple of Australian shepherds. They love nothing more than chasing geese if there are no sheep to herd.

Pathogens? In NZ milk? Never …

Zoonotic bacteria such as Campylobacter, Listeria, and Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli have been found in bulk tank milk in many countries, and the consumption of raw milk has been implicated in outbreaks of disease in New Zealand.

milk.pathogens.nzFecal contamination at milking is probably the most common source of pathogenic bacteria in bulk tank milk.

Raw milk was collected from 80 New Zealand dairy farms during 2011 and 2012 and tested periodically for Campylobacter, E. coli O157, Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella. Milk quality data such as coliform counts, total bacterial counts, and somatic cell counts also were collected. By treating the total bacterial count as a proxy for fecal contamination of milk and utilizing farm and animal level prevalence and shedding rates of each pathogen, a predictive model for the level of pathogenic bacteria in bulk tank raw milk was developed. The model utilizes a mixture distribution to combine the low level of contamination inherent in the milking process with isolated contamination events associated with significantly higher pathogen levels. By simulating the sampling and testing process, the predictive model was validated against the observed prevalence of each pathogen in the survey.

The predicted prevalence was similar to the observed prevalence for E. coli O157 and Salmonella, although the predicted prevalence was higher than that observed in samples tested for Campylobacter.

Estimating bacterial pathogen levels in New Zealand bulk tank milk

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 5, May 2016, pp. 696-889, pp. 771-780(10)

Marshall, J. C.; Soboleva, T. K.; Jamieson, P.; French, N. P.

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/iafp/jfp/2016/00000079/00000005/art00011

Flyslayer: Flies transport Campylobacter in the kitchen

I hate flies.

As a kid I would occupy myself for hours in my grandfather’s barn, swatting to death as many flies as I could. Sure it was futile, and a good indicator of life-long neuroses, but I sure like killing them.

fly.slayer.may.16Many of the houses in Brisbane don’t have screens. We paid extra to have screens installed in our new townhome. But the neurotic cats have to hang out on the balcony so the screens sometimes stay open and flies swoop in to soil my lovingly prepared meals.

My daughter calls me Flyslayer.

My partner bought me this battery-charged, tennis-racquet sized flyswatter so I can zap flies mid-flight.

Here’s why:

The house fly, Musca domestica, has been implicated as a vector of Campylobacter spp., a major cause of human disease. Little is known whether house flies serve as biological amplifying hosts or mechanical vectors for the.flyCampylobacter jejuni.

We investigated the period after C. jejuni had been ingested by house flies in which viable C. jejuni colonies could be isolated from whole bodies, the vomitus and the excreta of adult M. domestica and evaluated the activation of innate immune responses of house flies to ingested C. jejuni over time. C. jejuni could be cultured from infected houseflies soon after ingestion but no countable C. jejuni colonies were observed > 24 hours post-ingestion. We detected viable C. jejuni in house fly vomitus and excreta up to 4 hours after ingestion, but no viable bacteria were detected ≥ 8 hours. Suppression subtractive hybridization identified pathogen-induced gene expression in the intestinal tracts of adult house flies 4-24 hours after ingesting C. jejuni. We measured the expression of immune regulatory (thor, JNK, and spheroide) and effector (cecropin, diptericin, attacin, defensin and lysozyme) genes in C. jejuni-infected and -uninfected house flies using quantitative real time PCR. Some house fly factor, or combination of factors, eliminates C. jejuni within 24 hours post-ingestion.

Because C. jejuni is not amplified within the body of the housefly, this insect likely serves as a mechanical vector rather than as a true biological, amplifying vector for C. jejuni, and adds to our understanding of insect-pathogen interactions. 

Campylobacter jejuni in Musca domestica: An examination of survival and transmission potential in light of the innate immune responses of the house flies

Insect Science. doi: 10.1111/1744-7917.12353.

Gill, S. Bahrndorff, and C. Lowenberger

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27134186

‘We closely audit all resorts’ Campy ruins UK couple’s holiday

A Heanor holidaymaker is taking legal action against a travel company after he contracted food poisoning which turned birthday celebration into a “nightmare.”

traditional-food-stallJames Gratton, 51, and his wife Paula, 50 were staying in a four star hotel in Marrakech, Morocco when he ate incorrectly prepared poultry which gave him Campylobacter.

James, a HGV driver, said: “We booked this holiday as a way of celebrating my birthday and we’d been looking forward to it for a long time.

“But, in truth, it turned into a nightmare for both of us.

“I suffered terrible symptoms at the hotel, during our flight home and when I got back to the UK. The illness meant half the holiday was ruined for both of us.

“I had to take some extra time of work to recover from the symptoms and I still don’t feel completely right.

“We hope that by taking legal action we’ll find out what caused me to fall ill and how I came to test positive for Campylobacter.

“What was supposed to be an enjoyable and relaxing trip turned into a bit of a nightmare and spoilt what should have been a celebratory holiday.”

A First Choice spokesperson said: “First Choice is sorry to hear of Mr and Mrs Gratton’s experience.

“As this is now subject to legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further.

“We closely audit all resorts to which we operate to ensure that health, hygiene and comfort levels are maintained in line with industry standards.”

Raw is risky: Campylobacter infections associated with raw milk consumption sicken 99 in Utah, 2014

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that a total of 99 cases (59 confirmed and 40 probable) of campylobacteriosis, including 10 patients who were hospitalized, and one who died, occurred in an outbreak in northern Utah associated with a single raw milk dairy.

raw.milk.death.1917The outbreak was documented by epidemiologic, environmental, and laboratory evidence. Despite routine testing of raw milk showing results within acceptable limits, the milk still contained dangerous bacteria.

To limit outbreaks from raw milk consumption, more reliable routine tests are needed that do not rely solely on bacterial, coliform, and somatic cell counts. Case investigation and pulsed-field gel electrophoresis patterns from environmental samples can support an epidemiologic link and allow implementation of control measures.

In May 2014, the Utah Public Health Laboratory (UPHL) notified the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) of specimens from three patients infected with Campylobacter jejuni yielding indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. All three patients had consumed raw (unpasteurized and nonhomogenized) milk from dairy A. In Utah, raw milk sales are legal from farm to consumer with a sales permit from the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF). Raw milk dairies are required to submit monthly milk samples to UDAF for somatic cell and coliform counts, both of which are indicators of raw milk contamination. Before this cluster’s identification, dairy A’s routine test results were within acceptable levels (<400,000 somatic cells/mL and <10 coliform colony forming units/mL). Subsequent enhanced testing procedures recovered C. jejuni, a fastidious organism, in dairy A raw milk; the isolate matched the cluster pattern. UDAF suspended dairy A’s raw milk permit during August 4–October 1, and reinstated the permit when follow-up cultures were negative. Additional cases of C. jejuni infection were identified in October, and UDAF permanently revoked dairy A’s permit to sell raw milk on December 1. During May 9–November 6, 2014, a total of 99 cases of C. jejuni infection were identified. Routine somatic cell and coliform counts of raw milk do not ensure its safety. Consumers should be educated that raw milk might be unsafe even if it meets routine testing standards.