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.


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


‘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.

Aus/NZ health types stand strong for safe milk

A campaign to legalize raw cow’s milk has found Far North Queensland support but health authorities have warned it is unfit for human consumption.

colbert.raw.milkTablelands dairy farmers have been drinking milk straight from the vat all their lives and believe the unpasteurised product could be safely sold to the public if regulated properly.

Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young has warned raw milk isn’t fit for human consumption.

“People who consume ­unpasteurized milk are at ­increased risk of infection due to dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria, which are capable of causing severe illness and potentially death,” she said.

“All unpasteurised milk products in Australia are ­required to be labelled with a statement to the effect that the product has not been pasteurized and is not for human ­consumption.”

Raw milk is sold as bath milk at health stores such as The Healthy Hub in Cairns, where a two-litre bottle fetches $11.50.

Meanwhile, New Zealand food safety minister Jo Goodhew is making no apologies for tough new regulations for raw milk producers.

Mrs. Goodhew said new rules simply brought the milk into line with other products being sold to the public for consumption, and aimed to keep people safe.

“It does only put these producers on a par with other food producers who sell high-risk products such as, for instance, shellfish.”

Salmonella low, Campylobacter high in Denmark

A total of 925 patients were notified with salmonella in 2015, marking the first time in 30 years the number is lower than 1,000. More than half of the patients were infected abroad.

Denmark_travel_guide_-_7th_editionSalmonella Enteritidis, which was previously the most common salmonella type, is now rare in Denmark. Previously, this type was found in Danish eggs and chickens, but it has now been nearly eradicated from Danish food production. Nevertheless, the other common salmonella type, Salmonella Typhimurium, and its monophasic variant are still seen frequently in Danish food products. Unusually, we only recorded few outbreaks of salmonella in 2014 and nearly none in 2015.

In contrast, more than 4,300 cases of Campylobacter were recorded in the past year, largely attributed to better detection.

Pulsenet prevents 276,000 foodborne illnesses a year

An elderly woman in Phoenix. A Toledo toddler. An accountant in Indianapolis. All poisoned by food. Quickly uncovering that their illnesses are connected can make all the difference in halting a deadly

pulsenet-lab-network-575pxAbout 276,000 cases of foodborne illness are avoided each year because of PulseNet, a 20-year-old network coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, new research has found. PulseNet links U.S. public health laboratories so that they can speedily share details about E. coli, Salmonella and other bacterial illnesses.

The averted illnesses translate to $507 million in annual savings on medical bills and lost productivity, according to a study led by Robert L. Scharff of The Ohio State University and Craig Hedberg of the University of Minnesota.

PulseNet has created a climate that encourages better business practices and swift response to trouble, Scharff said, and that likely explains most of the avoided illnesses in the study.

In the face of public scrutiny, lawsuits and lost revenue, businesses have responded with better self-policing, he said.

“Companies are saying, ‘We can’t have this risk. This risk is too big for us,'” said Scharff, an associate professor of consumer sciences.

“What’s exciting for me is this shows the power of information in the market to force change on industry. It’s not just a way of tracking illness, but of allowing markets to work better.”

Scharff worked with experts from the CDC and elsewhere to assign a value to PulseNet, both in terms of illnesses prevented and dollars saved. The team analyzed data from 1994 to 2009.

The results, published in conjunction with PulseNet’s 20th anniversary, appear in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

pulsenetPulseNet’s annual price tag is $7.3 million, according to the analysis. The network includes 83 state and federal laboratories where microbiologists uncover DNA fingerprints of illness-causing bacteria that tie cases together and confirm outbreaks.

“If more agencies used information as a tool instead of trying to fight the markets, I think we would all be better off,” said Scharff, also an economist who is part of Ohio State’s Food Innovation Center.

Tainted food is responsible for about 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths in the United States each year.

PulseNet’s purpose is to use DNA fingerprinting techniques to link illnesses that are likely to have a shared cause, even if the cases are widely dispersed. Food moves far and wide in the modern world and the first clues of an outbreak aren’t always clustered geographically.

Until now, health officials have not been able to assign a value to the service.

“PulseNet has been very impactful. We’ve known this for many years, but it’s been anecdotal. This gives us some hard figures,” said John Besser, deputy chief of the CDC’s enteric diseases laboratory branch.

PulseNet identifies about 1,750 clusters of disease a year, including nearly 250 that span multiple states.

“PulseNet is an integral part of our food-safety system and it helps improve the quality and safety of all the food that we eat,” said Besser, who formerly worked with PulseNet in Minnesota, one of the first states to embrace the program.

“Part of that effect is containing outbreaks, but a really significant portion of the benefit is giving feedback to the food industry and the regulatory agencies so they can make food safer,” he said.

Besser said he’s hopeful the federal government will be able to sustain PulseNet as changes in laboratory testing methods evolve. Placing a value on the service should help, he said.

To participate in PulseNet, state, county and city labs evaluate samples from people sickened by food and look for the DNA fingerprint of the bacteria, molecular subtyping that goes deeper than simply naming the responsible pathogen.

genetic-pfge-329pxSalmonella cases, for example, arise all the time. And most are sporadic, meaning the strain of bacteria in one person’s stool sample isn’t likely to match the strain in the sample across town, or across the country. When they do match, there could be big trouble.

Scharff and his colleagues found that in states that put more DNA data into the system, the chance of future illnesses declined significantly.

Their work focused on E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella – the bacteria that have been analyzed by the network the longest. The team used two models. One was designed to capture indirect effects of PulseNet – the food contamination that never happened because the network exists.

This was possible because states have adopted PulseNet to differing degrees and at different times, opening the door for a calculation based on how rates of illness differ by PulseNet participation level.

“The more that a state uploads into the system, the lower reported illnesses will be,” Scharff said.

The second model estimated the direct effects of product recalls when outbreaks arise and are linked to a specific food. Faster identification of outbreaks, resulting in more timely recalls, led to 16,994 fewer Salmonella cases and 2,819 fewer E. coli cases a year at a savings of $37 million, the study found.

Though the study provides estimates of illness reduction, it’s unclear how many illnesses are being prevented because of improvements in fields, factories and slaughterhouses or how many are avoided due to better-informed government and consumer actions.

It is also impossible to know about spillover effects – reductions in foodborne illnesses from pathogens not included in this analysis.

“The calculations probably underestimate the impact of PulseNet,” Scharff said. “We did not examine whether illnesses from pathogens outside of the three in question were reduced as a result of industry efforts, though they likely were.”

The economic model also may not fully include all of the costs.

“We used a very conservative economic method of measuring health costs,” he said. The study did not assign a dollar value to losses from premature death and reduced quality of life, a number that could be quite large, the researchers wrote.

On the other side, “we aren’t able to estimate the cost to industry from remedial actions,” he said. “These could be significant for affected companies, but are lower than the costs of having foodborne illnesses associated with their products.”

Seek and ye shall find: Shiga-toxin producing E. coli sources of most USDA outbreaks

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) works closely with federal, state, and local public health partners to investigate foodborne illness outbreaks associated with its regulated products.

regulators-younggunmountupTo provide insight into outbreaks associated with meat and poultry, outbreaks reported to FSIS during fiscal years 2007 through 2012 were evaluated.

Outbreaks were classified according to the strength of evidence linking them to an FSIS-regulated product and by their epidemiological, etiological, and vehicle characteristics. Differences in outbreak characteristics between the period 2007 through 2009 and the period 2010 through 2012 were assessed using a chi-square test or Mann-Whitney U test.

Of the 163 reported outbreaks eligible for analysis, 89 (55%) were identified as possibly linked to FSIS-regulated products and 74 (45%) were definitively linked to FSIS-regulated products. Overall, these outbreaks were associated with 4,132 illnesses, 772 hospitalizations, and 19 deaths.

Shiga toxin–producing Escherichia coli was associated with the greatest proportion of reported outbreaks (55%), followed by Salmonella enterica (34%) and Listeria monocytogenes (7%). Meat and poultry products commercially sold as raw were linked to 125 (77%) outbreaks, and of these, 105 (80%) involved beef. Over the study period, the number of reported outbreaks definitively linked to FSIS-regulated products (P = 0.03) declined, while the proportion of culture-confirmed cases (P = 0.0001) increased.

Our findings provide insight into the characteristics of outbreaks associated with meat and poultry products.

Foodborne outbreaks reported to the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service, fiscal years 2007 through 2012

Journal of Food Protection, Number 3, March 2016, Pages 442-447, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-15-376

Robertson, A. Green, L. Allen, T. Ihry, P. White, W. S. Chen, A. Douris, and J. Levine


It’s expensive to barf


To estimate the annual cost to patients, the health service and society of infectious intestinal disease (IID) from Campylobacter, norovirus and rotavirus.


Secondary data analysis.


The United Kingdom population, 2008–9.

Main outcome measures

Cases and frequency of health services usage due to these three pathogens; associated healthcare costs; direct, out-of-pocket expenses; indirect costs to patients and caregivers.


The median estimated costs to patients and the health service at 2008–9 prices were: Campylobacter £50 million (95% CI: £33m–£75m), norovirus £81 million (95% CI: £63m–£106m), rotavirus £25m (95% CI: £18m–£35m). The costs per case were approximately £30 for norovirus and rotavirus, and £85 for Campylobacter. This was mostly borne by patients and caregivers through lost income or out-of-pocket expenditure. The cost of Campylobacter-related Guillain-Barré syndrome hospitalisation was £1.26 million (95% CI: £0.4m–£4.2m).


Norovirus causes greater economic burden than Campylobacter and rotavirus combined. Efforts to control IID must prioritise norovirus. For Campylobacter, estimated costs should be considered in the context of expenditure to control this pathogen in agriculture, food production and retail. Our estimates, prior to routine rotavirus immunisation in the UK, provide a baseline vaccine cost-effectiveness analyses.

Economic cost of Campylobacter, Norovirus and Rotavirus disease in the United Kingdom

PLoS ONE 11(2): e0138526. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138526

Clarence C Tam and Sarah J O’Brien