Campy sucks: UK mother to sue Thomas Cook after bout of holiday food poisoning

A mother who was forced to miss two months of work after being struck down by food poisoning on a family holiday is calling on the EU to do more to prevent tainted meat from reaching the dinner plate.

tiara-beach-hotel-1Helen Witts, from Pontyclun, Wales, said her symptoms – vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps – were so severe she had to take eight weeks of sick leave from her job as a school driver assistant.

The 51-year-old contracted campylobacter and was diagnosed shortly after returning from Sunny Beach, Bulgaria, where she stayed at the Tiara Beach Club Hotel.

Helen fell ill on the penultimate day of her trip with her 58-year-old partner, Colin, and 15-year-old son, Liam, last August.

She said she used her own medication to ease her stomach cramps, but her condition worsened when she returned home to Wales.

A Thomas Cook spokesperson told MailOnline Travel: ‘Thomas Cook takes health and hygiene issues very seriously and maintaining the safety of our customers is our number one priority.”

Uh-huh

Campy isn’t kosher and kosher doesn’t mean microbiologically safe: NYC investigating reports of food poisoning at synagogue dinner

New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is investigating reports of food sickness following an event at a Manhattan synagogue dedicated to exotic kosher cuisine.

kosher.dinner.may.15The May 5 dinner, held at Congregation Shearith Israel, known as the Spanish-Portuguese synagogue, was meant to highlight animals and other foods that are kosher but rarely consumed by observant Jews, such as oxtail, locusts, quail eggs and organ meat from calves, chickens, ducks and other animals. The so-called Halakhic Dinner combined the exotic dishes with Jewish teachings about them and was led by the synagogue’s rabbi, Meir Soloveichik. Similar dinners have taken place in past years.

After the dinner, about 20 people reported gastrointestinal distress, according to Vos Is Neias, an Orthodox blog and news site. The blog cited Dani Klein, who runs the YeahThatsKosher blog and attended the dinner, as saying that his wife tested positive after the dinner for campylobacter, a bacteria associated with raw or uncooked poultry, unpasteurized dairy products or contaminated water, poultry or produce.

A spokesman for the city’s Department of Health, Christopher Miller, told JTA, “We’re investigating and working with the synagogue.”

“Did you know that giraffes are kosher? How about locusts? They are!” read a promotion for the event on Shearith Israel’s website. “Rabbi Soloveichik will entertain and enlighten with a special lecture over dinner. We’ll learn about some far out there kosher foods, and we’ll eat a few of them too. Goat, venison, bison and squab are just a few of the expected featured ingredients. Come hungry and adventurous.”

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.

Campylobacter jejuni infection associated with raw milk consumption – Utah, 2014

To be presented at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 64th Annual Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) conference April 20-23 in Atlanta.

colbert.raw.milkSummary: Despite routine testing, raw milk from a Utah dairy sickened 99 people with Campylobacter; 1 died and 10 were hospitalized. A 2-month shutdown failed to stop the outbreak and the dairy’s raw milk permit was revoked.

Abstract:

Background: In Utah, raw milk sales are legal from farm to consumer. Despite routine bacterial and coliform

counts by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), raw milk-related illnesses occur. In May 2014, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) identified a cluster of 3 Campylobacter jejuni infections with indistinguishable pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) patterns. All patients reported consuming Dairy A’s raw milk. Routine testing of UDAF-licensed Dairy A’s raw milk was acceptable. We investigated to identify a source and prevent additional infections.

Methods: UDAF used onsite milk neutralization technique to preserve C. jejuni during testing. Utah’s electronic disease surveillance system identified cases. Confirmed illness was defined as diarrhea caused by C. jejuni matching the cluster PFGE pattern. Probable illness was diarrhea and contact with a confirmed patient or raw milk purchased from Dairy A. Confirmed patients were interviewed by using a standardized questionnaire.

Results: During May 9–July 31, a total of 89 (52 confirmed and 37 probable) cases were identified. Eleven (21.2%) confirmed patients were hospitalized; 1 died. Twenty-five (48.1%) confirmed patients reported having consumed Dairy A raw milk. Fifteen (28.8%) confirmed patients reported having eaten queso fresco. Dairy A’s raw milk yielded C. jejuni with the cluster PFGE pattern. UDAF suspended Dairy A’s raw milk permit on August 4 for 2 months. Additional cases occurred in November; UDAF revoked Dairy A’s raw milk permit on December 1.

Conclusions: Routine testing of raw milk does not ensure its safety. Mandatory reporting, timely sample collection, pathogen testing, and onsite milk neutralization likely led to C. jejuni detection. Linking case and raw milk PFGE patterns might identify the source and allow implementation of control measures.

Not just a UK problem and naturopaths are nuts: Campylobacteriosis outbreak associated with consuming undercooked chicken liver pâté — Ohio and Oregon, December 2013–January 2014

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that on January 8, 2014, the Ohio Department of Health notified the Oregon Public Health Division (OPHD) of campylobacteriosis in two Ohio residents recently returned from Oregon.

pate.beet.dp.mar.12The travelers reported consuming chicken liver pâté* at an Oregon restaurant. On January 10, OPHD received additional reports of campylobacteriosis in two persons who had consumed chicken liver pâté at another Oregon restaurant. Campylobacter jejuni was isolated in cultures of fecal specimens from three patients. OPHD investigated to determine the sources of the illnesses and to institute preventive measures.

Both restaurants reported using undercooked chicken livers to prepare their pâté; an environmental health investigation revealed that the livers were purchased from the same U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)–regulated establishment in the state of Washington. The establishment reported that livers were rinsed with a chlorine solution before packaging. However, culture of five of nine raw liver samples from both restaurants and from the establishment yielded C. jejuni; none of three pâté samples from the restaurants yielded C. jejuni. One human stool specimen and three liver samples were typed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE); the human isolate and one liver sample had indistinguishable PFGE patterns when digested by the restriction enzyme SmaI. The human isolate was susceptible to all antimicrobials tested by CDC’s National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System.

A presumptive case was defined as diarrhea lasting >2 days, within 7 days after consumption of undercooked chicken liver; a confirmed case was defined as laboratory evidence of C. jejuni infection within 7 days after consumption of undercooked chicken liver. In all, three laboratory-confirmed and two presumptive cases of campylobacteriosis following consumption of chicken livers were reported in Ohio and Oregon. Illness onsets ranged from December 24, 2013, to January 17, 2014. Patient age range was 31–76 years; three were women. Based on OPHD’s recommendation, both restaurants voluntarily stopped serving liver. The FSIS-regulated establishment also voluntarily stopped selling chicken livers.

This is the second multistate outbreak of campylobacteriosis associated with consumption of undercooked chicken liver reported in the United States (1). Outbreaks caused by chicken liver pâté are well documented in Europe (2,3). Chicken livers and pâté should be considered inherently risky foods, given the methods by which they are routinely prepared. Pâté made with chicken liver is often undercooked to preserve texture. Consumers might be unable to discern whether pâté is cooked thoroughly because partially cooked livers might be blended with other ingredients and chilled. At FSIS-regulated establishments, such as the one involved in this outbreak, livers are inspected to ensure that they are free from visible signs of disease, but they are not required to be free from bacteria (4). A recent study isolated Campylobacter from 77% of chicken livers cultured (5). Washing is insufficient to render chicken livers safe for consumption; they should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

barfblog.Stick It InDuring the outbreak investigation, OPHD learned of a campylobacteriosis case in a Washington state resident who had eaten raw chicken livers that had been chopped into pill-sized pieces and frozen, as prescribed by a naturopathic physician. The livers were from the same establishment that supplied the Oregon restaurants. No isolate from the case was available for subtyping, but culture of frozen pieces of liver collected from this patient yielded C. jejuni.

This report illustrates that follow-up of possible outbreaks identified by routine interviewing by health departments can identify sources of illnesses and result in control measures that protect public health. Campylobacter is thought to be the most common bacterial cause of diarrheal illness in the United States (6), and infection is now nationally notifiable.

1Oregon Public Health Division; 2Division of Foodborne, Waterborne, and Environmental Diseases, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC; 3Washington State Department of Health; 4Ohio Department of Health (Corresponding author: Magdalena K. Scott, magdalena.k.scott@state.or.us, 971-673-1111)

References

CDC. Multistate outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni infections associated with undercooked chicken livers—northeastern United States, 2012. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2013;62:874–6.

O’Leary MC, Harding O, Fisher L, Cowden J. A continuous common-source outbreak of campylobacteriosis associated with changes to the preparation of chicken liver pâté. Epidemiol Infect 2009;137:383–8.

Little CL, Gormley FJ, Rawal N, Richardson JF. A recipe for disaster: outbreaks of campylobacteriosis associated with poultry liver pâté in England and Wales. Epidemiol Infect 2010;138:1691–4.

Food Safety and Inspection Service, US Department of Agriculture. Giblets and food safety. Available at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/poultry-preparation/giblets-and-food-safety/ct_index.

Noormohamed A, Fakhr MK. Incidence and antimicrobial resistance profiling of Campylobacter in retail chicken livers and gizzards. Foodborne Pathog Dis 2012;9:617–24.

Scallan E, Hoekstra RM, Angulo FJ, et al. Foodborne illness acquired in the United States—major pathogens. Emerg Infect Dis 2011;17:7–15.

* A spreadable paste made from cooked ground meat (often poultry livers) combined with various other ingredients.

German survey shows Salmonella falling but no drop in Campylobacter

A survey of foodborne pathogens in poultry meat in Germany and the incidence of illness has shown that the number of cases of Salmonella poisoning are falling but there is no decrease in the number of cases of poisoning from Campylobacter.

chicken.thermThe survey by the safety authority – the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) – showed that it is not possible to prevent the contamination of poultry carcases.

The report says that despite every effort to control pathogens that come from livestock, they may still be present in food.

“The results of our report show that we must continue to control zoonoses in poultry production and identify them at slaughter,” said BfR president Prof Andreas Hensel.

“Control measures are essential in food preparation in the kitchen and food hygiene precautions have to be taken to protect consumers from food poisoning.”

BfR said that through the report appropriate measures can be identified for the prevention and reduction of zoonotic agents at all stages of the production process.

The study looked at the figures for 2013, and found that there were about 19,000 cases of salmonellosis reported in Germany in the year.

However, it found that both the number of food poisoning cases and the number of contaminated food samples was falling.

The BfR report said that extensive control of Salmonella in the poultry flocks had led to fewer flocks proving positive to Salmonella, but the report warns that Salmonella is still fund in poultry meat, because of contamination during slaughter and cross contamination with other livestock species.

The most common disease caused by zoonotic contamination was campylobacteriosis with about 63,600 cases reported in Germany in 2013.

The study showed that the most common cause of food poisoning from campylobacter was poultry and the slaughter process is the most common way that poultry meat is contaminated with both Salmonella and Campylobacter.

However, BfR said that at present there are not any sufficiently effective ways of preventing transmission of the pathogens from the birds’ feathers and intestinal tract to the meat.

The report said that other pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes and verotoxin-producing E.coli (VTEC) are rarely detected in food.

However, it says that the relevance to humans is less in the number of cases that are reported but in the severity of the illness they cause.

Listeria contamination in 2013 in Germany with bacteria counts above 100cfu/g was most commonly found in fish products and in rare cases in dairy products such a yoghurt. It was also found in vegetables.

VTEC, which is mainly found in cattle, was found in beef products during the year in Germany.

BfR said that overall the report shows that Germany has appropriate tools to warn about the dangers of foodborne pathogens in the production process and also the tools to tackle incidents when they occur.

However, it also shows that despite all the good efforts of the food producers and processors food will still contain pathogens – in restaurants, community facilities and in the family home.

The agency stresses that the results show the importance of good food and kitchen hygiene to prevent foodborne diseases.

Food Safety 101: What is Campylobacter (and What Are We Doing About It)? Via The Abstract

I’m collaborating with Matt Shipman, public information officer at NC State University and curator of The Abstract, on a set of food safety-related posts from other NCSU folks as we roll toward WHO’s World Health Day on April 7– which is focused this year on food safety. Here’s a post on Listeria’s history with produce by Hannah Bolinger, a graduate student in NC State’s Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences (and former barfblog news team member).

Campylobacters are spiral-shaped bacteria that often colonize the intestines of animals grown for food (as well as other animals) — and they can cause acute diarrheal disease (called campylobacteriosis) in humans.

Hannah Bolinger. Photo courtesy of Hannah Bolinger.

These bacteria, especially the species C. jejuni and C. coli, are a leading bacterial cause of foodborne disease, resulting in an estimated 800,000 cases of illness annually in the United States alone. Campylobacteriosis is most commonly attributed to the consumption of undercooked poultry, unpasteurized milk, and untreated water. These products generally become vehicles for Campylobacter via fecal contamination. For instance, Campylobacter in the intestines of poultry can contaminate poultry carcasses during the evisceration process at the slaughterhouse, and milk can become contaminated by animal feces as a result of unsanitary procedures during milking.

Symptoms of campylobacteriosis generally last from two to 10 days and include severe abdominal cramping, diarrhea (sometimes bloody) and vomiting. Symptoms usually subside without medical treatment. But there can be severe autoimmune complications, such as reactive arthritis and Guillain-Barré syndrome (a form of paralysis) may follow as many as 1 in every 1,000 C. jejuni infections.

Immunocompromised patients or those in which the bacteria have entered the bloodstream can benefit from treatment with antibiotics including macrolides (e.g. erythromycin or azithromycin) or fluoroquinolones (e.g. ciprofloxacin). However, we are observing increased resistance in Campylobacter to a number of antibiotics.

The best ways to prevent campylobacteriosis are to: practice safe food handling techniques in the kitchen (especially in regard to preventing cross-contamination of ready-to-eat foods with raw poultry); thoroughly cook (to 165°F — use  a meat thermometer!) poultry and other meat products; and avoid unpasteurized dairy products and untreated water. [Editor’s note: the “raw milk” point is particularly timely, as unpasteurized milk was recently linked to an outbreak of campylbacteriosis in California.]

For more tips on safe food handling techniques, you can visit http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/basics/separate/

NC State is actively involved in research on this issue and has partnered with the food industry to better understand and control Campylobacter.   Food safety researcher Sophia Kathariou’s lab has partnered with poultry science researcher Donna Carver to conduct research on how growers can produce turkeys that are free of Campylobacter or only carry the bacterium in small amounts.

Between 60-80 percent of poultry flocks worldwide are positive for Campylobacter, so simply reducing this number could have a major effect on public health. Additionally, these NC State researchers are investigating antibiotic resistance trends in Campylobacter from commercial turkey flocks.

The research being done at NC State will add to our base of knowledge about the genes responsible for resistance, how prevalent resistance is in Campylobacter found in our food supply, and how to eliminate or reduce Campylobacter from poultry flocks. Such knowledge is critically needed for development of science-based strategies to enhance the safety of food and reduce the public health threat posed by antimicrobial resistance in foodborne pathogens such as Campylobacter.

Note: This year’s World Health Day focuses on food safety. Previous posts in this series address the health and economic importance of food safety and listeriosis.

Campylobacter testing in NZ

The New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries said since performance targets for Campylobacter were introduced in 2008, setting contamination limits for poultry processors, the number of notified cases of people infected with campylobacter had halved.

chicken.campy.vaccineThere had also been a significant reduction in birds testing positive for the bacteria.

Two years ago, the Ministry introduced a campylobacter detection limit and it was now reviewing the effectiveness of that and seeking feed-back on options, which included tightening up limits.

Poultry Industry Association executive director Michael Brooks said it had worked with the Ministry for years on this and the review was part of ongoing efforts to lower the infection rate.

UK supermarkets block efforts to tackle Campylobacter

Government can’t do much to hold food producers accountable, but consumers can. That’s why microbial food safety should be marketed at retail, so consumers can vote with their dollars (or pounds).

campy.chickenThe UK Food Standards Agency has declared that supermarkets are blocking efforts to tackle Campylobacter, which is found in up to 79 per cent of raw birds on sale.

Levels are dangerously high in 19 per cent of chickens and the agency has demanded this figure should be below 10 per cent by year’s end.

It says however that Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Waitrose and the Co-op are failing to help. Only Marks & Spencer is giving updates on its plans and progress in tackling campylobacter.

Professor Paul Wiles of the FSA said the industry’s response had been ‘unacceptable’.

Chief executive Catherine Brown said supermarkets had ‘pushed back’ against providing information and claimed the stores were unhappy over the FSA’s publication of campylobacter league tables.

To date, only M&S has given the FSA details of its comprehensive plan to tackle campylobacter, which involves changes on farms and in slaughterhouses.

6 sick with campy: California warns of raw milk

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director and State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith today warned consumers that the consumption of unpasteurized (raw) dairy products may cause serious illness. Six Northern California residents have recently been diagnosed with campylobacteriosis, a bacterial infection that can come from consuming contaminated raw milk.

raw.milk.claravaleA recent investigation conducted by CDPH identified multiple bottles of Claravale Farm raw milk that tested positive for Campylobacter. Under the direction of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Claravale Farm has initiated a recall of the affected product.

Although the sale of raw milk from some dairies is legal in California, CDPH does not recommend drinking raw milk or raw milk products or giving raw milk, colostrum, raw cream or other raw milk products to children. Raw milk products sold in California are required to carry a warning label:

“WARNING: Raw (unpasteurized) milk and raw milk dairy products may contain disease-causing microorganisms. Persons at highest risk of disease from these organisms include newborns and infants; the elderly; pregnant women; those taking corticosteroids, antibiotics or antacids; and those having chronic illnesses or other conditions that weaken their immunity.”