50% of chicken breast Campy positive, irrigation water source of dangerous E. coli: FoodNet Canada 2014 short report

FoodNet Canada tracks illnesses of the gut, commonly known as food poisoning, in Canadians, and traces them back to their sources, such as food, water and animals. These data are analyzed to help determine which sources are causing the most illness among Canadians and help us track illnesses and their causes over time.

smallIn the 2014 surveillance year, FoodNet Canada was active in three sites (partially or throughout the entire year) in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta. In each location, or “sentinel site,” enhanced human disease surveillance is performed in parallel with active surveillance for specific bacteria, viruses and parasites in the possible sources to which the ill may have been exposed.

The purpose of this report is to present the preliminary findings from the 2014 surveillance year in the sentinel sites. This report will be followed by a comprehensive annual report which will include more extensive analyses of temporal trends and subtyping information for an integrated perspective on enteric disease from exposure to illness.

With the expansion to three sites in 2014, FoodNet Canada is able to provide more valuable information on enteric disease in Canada. This information on enteric disease continues to be essential to the development of robust food and water safety policies in Canada.

  • In 2014, Campylobacterand Salmonella remained the most common causes of human enteric illness in the sentinel sites.
  • Campylobacterwas the most prevalent pathogen found on skinless chicken breast in all sites with close to one-half of all samples testing positive. Across all three sites,Salmonella is the most commonly found pathogen in chicken nuggets, with more than one-quarter of all samples testing positive. Salmonella prevalence on skinless chicken breast ranged across the sites from 15% – 26%. In ground beef, VTEC remains at a low prevalence. Pork chops appear to contain the pathogens of interest (Campylobacter,Salmonella, and Listeria monocytogenes) at relatively low levels.
  • Fresh-cut fruit sampling showed that these products are rarely positive for the parasites, viruses and bacteria tested.
  • On farm, Salmonellawas commonly found in broiler chickens in all sites. Salmonella was also found in turkey in the BC site, but at a lower prevalence than in the broiler chickens. In turkey in the BC site, Campylobacter was again the most common pathogen found in 2014, as in 2013. Campylobacter was also commonly found in beef and dairy manure samples in the ON site, as in previous years. Campylobacter prevalence in broiler chickens was variable across the sites, ranging from 8.7% – 22%.
  • VTEC was found in about one quarter of irrigation water samples in the BC and AB sites.
  • Results from the 2014 FoodNet Canada sampling year have demonstrated that retail meat products, particularly chicken products, remain an important source of human enteric pathogens. Some of this contamination is likely due to high levels on farm and other points along the farm to store continuum. Fresh-cut fruit does not appear to be an important source of enteric disease for Canadians, while irrigation water has the potential to be a source of VTEC in particular. Continued monitoring of human cases and potential sources in the sentinel sites is important to help further understand enteric disease in Canada and detect emerging trends. This information will help protect Canadians and help to develop future public health policy.

To obtain a copy of the full report, please contact: phac-FoodNet.Canada-aspc@phac-aspc.gc.ca

Why can’t it be posted on the Internet?

Watch the chickens; predict the campy

When I had campylobacteriosis I didn’t want to move much for fear of unleashing what was in my bowels. According to Yahoo News, chickens infected with campy also move less.

Using cameras to track how the birds move around can predict which flocks are at risk of being infected, according to research by Oxford University.images-1

Lead author of the study Dr Frances Colles, from Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, said: “Humans consume nearly 60 billion chickens a year, more than any other animal.

“At the same time, there is a worldwide epidemic of human gastroenteric disease caused by campylobacter.

“It is estimated that up to four fifths of this disease originates from contaminated chicken meat.”

The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, showed campylobacter-positive birds had less movement and different behaviour to those without the bacteria.

Professor Marian Dawkins, Professor of Animal Behaviour at Oxford University, said: “The findings are compatible with the growing evidence that campylobacter may be detrimental to chickens’ health, rather than simply being harmless gut bacteria.

“Use of this optical flow information has the potential to make a major impact on the management of commercial chicken flocks, for the benefit of producers, consumers and the birds themselves.”

Researchers collected data for 31 commercial broiler flocks and tested for the presence of campylobacter at different ages.

Campylobacter in turkeys – Italian edition

In this retrospective study, typing ability, discriminatory power, and concordance between typing results obtained on 123 Campylobacter jejuni turkey isolates, collected in 1998, within 14 different farms, applying multilocus sequence typing (MLST), pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), antibiotic resistance profile, and virulence gene pattern, were assessed and compared.

therm.turkey.oct.13Overall, 33 sequence types, 28 pulsotypes, 10 resistotypes, and 5 pathotypes were identified. MLST and PFGE showed the better discriminatory ability (i.e., Simpson’s diversity index >0.90) as well as unidirectional (i.e., Wallace and adjusted Wallace coefficients >0.86) and bidirectional (i.e., adjusted Rand coefficient >0.60) concordance.

Moreover, both methods showed a good unidirectional and bidirectional concordance with the resistotype. On the contrary, the congruence of both genotyping methods and resistotype with the pathotype seemed due to chance alone. A clonal relationship was identified among 66.7% of the isolates. Furthermore, 59.7% of the investigated isolates were resistant to two or more antimicrobials and 92% to tetracycline.

All the isolates harbored cadF and pldA genes, whereas a flaA gene product and a cdtB gene product were amplified from 85.4% and 79.7% of the isolates, respectively, using the primers designed by Bang et al. (2003).

mr-bean-turkeyThe results of this study clarify the level of genetic diversity among the C. jejuni originating from turkeys. MLST level of correlation with PFGE, resistotype, and pathotype is assessed. This result supports the selection of type and number of typing methods to use in epidemiological studies. Finally, the identification of clonal complexes (i.e., groups of profiles differing by no more than one gene from at least one other profile of the group using the entire Campylobacter MLST database) shared between turkey and human isolates suggests that turkeys could be a possible source of Campylobacter infection.

Typing of Campylobacter jejuni isolated from turkey by genotypic methods, antimicrobial susceptibility, and virulence gene patterns: a retrospective study

Gerardo Manfreda, Antonio Parisi, Alessandra De Cesare, Domenico Mion, Silvia Piva, and Renato G. Zanoni

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease



Lower campy limits: NZ govt insists poultry safety system is robust

Public health researcher Michael Baker said the illness was an epidemic here but it would be easy to fix.

roast.chicken.june.10The University of Otago professor wants to see a lower allowable limit for Campylobacter contamination on poultry. He also wants data to be published showing which companies have the best and worst rates of contamination and better warning labels on packaging.

Prof Baker said that would lower the high rates of infection in New Zealand.

But a government spokesman claimed the current food safety system was robust, and did protect people from hazards like campylobacter.

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) deputy director-general Scott Gallagher said the ministry was not considering any further measures.

Last year about 6,800 people got sick with campylobacter, with poultry to blame in half those cases, official figures showed.

But Prof Baker believed the number was much higher. More than 30,000 people each year get ill from eating chicken, he said.

“Our current campylobacter epidemic from fresh poultry is the biggest food safety problem in New Zealand.”

The Poultry Industry Association is backing Prof Baker’s calls for changes to the way chicken is prepared for sale, and a spokesman said the industry was working hard to lower the rates of contamination and infection.

Lowering the regulatory limit for campylobacter on fresh poultry was a good idea, the association’s executive director Michael Brooks said, and the association has proposed a new limit to MPI.

barfblog.Stick It InHowever, Mr Brooks said he did not support Prof Baker’s call for naming companies that have the best and worst rates of contamination.

But Mr Brooks said those measures only worked if there were also good food safety practices in people’s homes, such as careful preparation and proper cooking.

Caterer and chef Ruth Pretty recommended using a thermometer to guage the correct cooking temperature of the poultry.

“People worry, they don’t want to overcook it but they… (worry they’ve undercooked it) and they do that thing, you take it out of the oven or off the BBQ and you think, ‘is it cooked, isn’t it cooked, are the juices running clear’ and all that,” Ms Pretty said.

“But if you have a thermometer – you don’t have to have a fancy thermometer, it (can be) any thermometer – that you can insert into the cooked product.”

“Once you get (into) a system like that – which is how all chefs actually work – you’ll be fine, you’re always going to have your chicken cooked.”

Incidence of campy in pets and petting zoos

Animal contact is a potential transmission route for campylobacteriosis, and both domestic household pet and petting zoo exposures have been identified as potential sources of exposure.

courtlynn.petting.zooResearch has typically focussed on the prevalence, concentration, and transmission of zoonoses from farm animals to humans, yet there are gaps in our understanding of these factors among animals in contact with the public who don’t live on or visit farms.

This study aims to quantify, through a systematic review and meta-analysis, the prevalence and concentration of Campylobacter carriage in household pets and petting zoo animals. Four databases were accessed for the systematic review (PubMed, CAB direct, ProQuest, and Web of Science) for papers published in English from 1992–2012, and studies were included if they examined the animal population of interest, assessed prevalence or concentration with fecal, hair coat, oral, or urine exposure routes (although only articles that examined fecal routes were found), and if the research was based in Canada, USA, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Studies were reviewed for qualitative synthesis and meta-analysis by two reviewers, compiled into a database, and relevant studies were used to create a weighted mean prevalence value. There were insufficient data to run a meta-analysis of concentration values, a noted study limitation.

The mean prevalence of Campylobacter in petting zoo animals is 6.5% based on 7 studies, and in household pets the mean is 24.7% based on 34 studies. Our estimated concentration values were: 7.65x103cfu/g for petting zoo animals, and 2.9x105cfu/g for household pets. These results indicate that Campylobacter prevalence and concentration are lower in petting zoo animals compared with household pets and that both of these animal sources have a lower prevalence compared with farm animals that do not come into contact with the public.

There is a lack of studies on Campylobacter in petting zoos and/or fair animals in Canada and abroad. Within this literature, knowledge gaps were identified, and include: a lack of concentration data reported in the literature for Campylobacter spp. in animal feces, a distinction between ill and diarrheic pets in the reported studies, noted differences in shedding and concentrations for various subtypes of Campylobacter, and consistent reporting between studies.


A systematic review and meta-analysis of the Campylobacter spp. prevalence and concentration in household pets and petting zoo animals for use in exposure assessments


PLoS ONE 10(12): e0144976

Pintar KDM, Christidis T, Thomas MK, Anderson M, Nesbitt A, Keithlin J, et al.



Better surveillance or worserer food? Increasing foodborne infections in the EU in 2014

Human cases of campylobacteriosis and listeriosis continued to rise in the EU in 2014, showing an increasing trend since 2008.

bureaucrat.pink.flyod“It is worrying that Campylobacter and Listeria infections are still rising in the European Union,” Mike Catchpole, Chief Scientist at ECDC said, “this situation highlights the importance of enhancing listeriosis surveillance through molecular typing, work currently developed by ECDC and EFSA, and strengthening the EU-wide Campylobacter control measures at EU-level”.

There were 2,161 confirmed cases of Listeriosis infections in 2014, a rise of 16% compared with 2013. Although the number of cases are relatively low, the rise of reported listeriosis cases is of particular concern as the surveillance of these infections is focused on severe forms of the disease, with higher death rates than for other foodborne diseases, particularly among the elderly, and patients with a weak immune system.

Campylobacteriosis remains the most commonly reported food-borne disease in the EU and has been so since 2005. The number of confirmed cases in the EU in 2014 was 236,851, an increase of 10%, compared with 2013. This increase can partly be explained by improvements in the surveillance system and/or improved diagnostics for campylobacteriosis in several Member States. In food, Campylobacter was mostly found in chicken meat.

Confirmed cases of salmonellosis, the second most commonly reported food-borne disease in the EU, increased slightly for the first time over the period 2008–2014, due to changes in the number of Member States reporting. However, there has been a statistically significant downward trend of salmonellosis in the seven-year period of 2008–2014. This is mainly due to the successful Salmonella control programmes put in place for poultry by EU Member States and the European Commission.

New US food safety meat measures

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service on Monday announced a new measure that will greatly improve the ability to trace cases of foodborne illness to their source.

paper.trailThe measure, which will require retailers to keep detailed records of the materials they use to make ground beef, was prompted in large part by events in Portland, Maine.

In 2011, a Salmonella outbreak resulted in several illnesses in Maine and parts of the Northeastern region of the U.S. The Food Safety and Inspection Service was able to trace the illnesses to Hannaford, a supermarket that, like many retailers, had used cuts of meat from various sources to make ground beef.

While the Food Safety and Inspection Service was able to trace the illnesses back to the supermarket that sold it, a lack of information about the source of the materials used to make the ground beef prevented us from going back further to the establishment that produced them. Doing so would have enabled us to ensure that the same unsafe meat was not being used by other retailers in the area.

This outbreak got the attention of Maine lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and then-U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, all of whom pushed for changes to the recordkeeping requirements.

The USDA FSIS version is below:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) today is publishing revised guidelines to assist poultry processors in controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in raw food products and prevent cases of foodborne illness. This updated document is the fourth edition of the “FSIS Compliance Guideline for Controlling Salmonella and Campylobacter in Raw Poultry” and is intended to offer poultry companies best practices for minimizing pathogen levels and meeting FSIS’ food safety requirements.

“These guidelines take into account the latest science and practical considerations, including lessons learned from foodborne illness outbreaks in the last several years, to assist establishments in producing safer food,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza. “This new guide is one piece of FSIS’ Salmonella Action Plan and our effort to reduce Salmonella illnesses attributed to meat and poultry products by 25 percent in order to meet the nation’s Healthy People 2020 goals. By following the newer guidelines, poultry facilities can help us reach this important public health target.” 

The new guide makes science-based suggestions for interventions that poultry companies can take on the farm (known as pre-harvest), sanitary dressing procedures, further processing practices, antimicrobial interventions, and other management practices. These prevention and control measures represent the best practice recommendations of FSIS based on scientific and practical considerations. This guidance is particularly important in light of Salmonella outbreaks involving poultry products.

FSIS is seeking comment on the guidelines, which were last updated in 2010. A downloadable version of the compliance guidance is available at: www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/compliance-guides-index. The guidelines are also posted at the Federal eRulemaking Portal at: www.regulations.gov where comments can be submitted.

While rates of foodborne illness overall have fallen over the course of this century, Salmonella rates have remained relatively stagnant, prompting FSIS to take an all-hands on deck approach to addressing the pathogen in meat and poultry products. The guidance, along with development of new performance standards for raw chicken breasts, legs and wings as well as for ground and other comminuted chicken and turkey products unveiled in January, are a major step in FSIS’ Salmonella Action Plan. FSIS’ science-based risk assessment estimates that implementation of the new performance standards will lead to an average of 50,000 prevented illnesses annually.

Over the past six years, USDA has collaborated extensively with other federal partners to safeguard America’s food supply, prevent foodborne illnesses and improve consumers’ knowledge about the food they eat. USDA’s FSIS is working to strengthen federal food safety efforts and develop strategies that emphasize a three-dimensional approach to prevent foodborne illness: prioritizing prevention; strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and improving response and recovery.

Food safety is not simple, so stop saying it

It’s not simple.

Food safety is not simple.

food-safety-1But wanker organizations and bureaucrats around the world insist it is.


Food safety is not simple.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has launched its festive food safety campaign, urging Christmas cooks to follow simple food safety tips when preparing meals.

The campaign uses tongue-in-cheek humour to get the food safety message across, featuring Santa Claus stricken by a bout of food poisoning. 

Geoff Ogle said there are number of simple things that people could do to help reduce food poisoning infections. He added: “These should include allowing adequate time to defrost your turkey in the bottom of your fridge or somewhere cold: large turkeys can take a couple of days. If it’s not completely de-frosted it can mean inconsistent cooking through the bird and won’t get rid of bugs like campylobacter which can cause food poisoning.

“Also make sure it’s cooked through until the juices run clear, store leftovers in the fridge and eat them within two days unless they’ve been frozen, and re-heat them just once. And keep your fridge temperature at 0-5°C.”

Use a thermometer. Juices running clear is terrible advice.

But food safety is simple.

And if you get sick, it’s your fault.

30 sick with Campy at private school in New Jersey

The Warren County Health Department has confirmed the presence of several Campylobacter infections at Blair Academy, a private high school in Blairstown, where about 80 per cent of its 460 students board at the school.

blair.academy.njPeter Summers, Warren County health officer, said that “a few” of the tests that were sent out to labs came back positive for campylobacter after approximately 30 people had reported becoming ill since mid-November.

Officials at Blair Academy could not be reached for comment, but Summers said he believed parents of students were notified of the infection within the last week or so.

Not the headline Batz would have used: Which U.S. foods are most likely to get you sick

Friend of the barfblog.com Michael Batz, says there is a difference between “which foods are most likely to get you sick?” and “which foods cause the greatest burden in the U.S.?”

So he provided commentary on a story he helped create.

The story ran in Fortune, and claimed the U.S. economy will take a $15.5 billion dollar food safety hit through lost income, lost revenue, healthcare-related costs and some intangibles, like “pain and suffering,” according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Research shows the most common foodborne pathogen is norovirus, which is the leading cause of gastroenteritis. The most deadly is listeria; though it is rare, with just 123 confirmed cases in 2013, 24 led to death. The most expensive is salmonella, which is quite common — 7,277 cases in 2013, but with a small fraction (127) resulting in death.

How worried should Americans be about the safety of the food supply? Which foods are most likely to get Americans sick? A deep dive into the data offers a look at where the risks lie.

To identify the most dangerous foods, the Emerging Pathogen Institute, a research institute at the University of Florida, compiled a greatest hits of dangerous pathogen/food pairings. Using a methodology that combined the likelihood of contracting an illness and the illness’s severity to calculate total disease burden, the group identified a Top Ten list of combinations.

Rank Food and Pathogen Cost Illnesses Hospitalizations Deaths
1 Poultry (campylobacter) $1,257m 608,231 6,091 55
2 Pork (toxoplasma) $1,219M 35,537 1,815 134
3 Deli meats (listeria) $1,086M 651 595 104
4 Poultry (salmonella) $712M 221,045 4,159 81
5 Dairy products (listeria) $724M 434 397 70
6 Complex Foods (salmonella) $630M 195,655 3,682 72
6 Complex foods (norovirus) $914M 2,494,222 6,696 68
8 Produce (salmonella) $548M 170,264 3,204 63
8 Beef (toxoplasma) $689M 20,086 1,026 76
10 Eggs (salmonella) $370M 115,003 2,164 42

 The top pairings don’t necessarily map to the major outbreaks of disease; only four of the top ten outbreaks in 2014 were from pairings on the list. J. Glenn Morris, director of the Emerging Pathogen Institute, told Fortune that, outbreaks are “a small fraction” of the total number of foodborne illnesses. In most cases, foodborne illnesses are limited to a small group of people, which makes it difficult for authorities to track.

cdc.fbi.illnessBatz explains the which-foods-cause-the-greatest-burden-in-the-U.S. is about everyone. It is the summary row in a table with 300 million lines, each row representing a different person. Each row could be considered something like individual risk.

(You think you’re a special snowflake? Nope, you’re just a row in the giant spreadsheet of life.)

Our individual risks differ so greatly. Unless you’re pregnant, you don’t need to worry about transmitting Listeria monocytogenes or Toxoplasma gondii to your fetus. Your risks go up when you’re immunocompromised, particularly for some bugs. The young and old face increased risks, though again, every disease is different. People of different ages and genders have different food consumption patterns, too.

And even then, that one row represents risks faced at every meal over the course of a year. Some foods have much higher risks per serving, yet we don’t eat them that often. We consume other foods with lower risks per serving in very high quantities. When you’re telling someone which foods are riskiest, which do you mean? It’s tricky.

Five or so years ago, my colleagues and I published the results of trying to just get at that summary row. Or to be more specific, we tried to say something about which pathogens, which foods, and which pathogen-food pairs cause the greatest public health impact. This kind of information is, I believe, important for getting a handle on the landscape of foodborne disease, to help guide our efforts to reduce the burden.

fbi.batz.pie.chart.nov.15The report had a punchy “top ten” type title and got some attention (for which I’m thankful). But the attention has always come with a price, and that price is that when work like this is written up, it’s almost always presented to readers as some version of which foods to avoid.

I get it, I really do. It’s natural to frame things to readers this way, to take research and make it personally relevant to them. But it kind of butchers the work, and can do as much to misinform as to educate.

So kudos to Tamar Haspal of Fortune for mostly getting it right in an article that presents risks at the broad, national level. Boo to whoever wrote the headline, which conflates population and individual risk and asks “which foods are most likely to make you sick?”

Translating research is always tricky, and I’m never quoted quite to my satisfaction (I can’t get none). In the article, I say we value mortality at $8.7 million per life lost because “there’s also a social welfare value to a life.” Well, that’s not quite right, and I’m doubtful I put it quite that way, and my economist friends are likely groaning at the phrasing, but it’s fine. It’s mostly right, anyway. You have to learn to turn the other cheek.

But other things I just can’t let go. Like the fact that, for the record, I hate pie charts.