1-in-8 new Canadian estimate of annual foodborne illness rate

For years it was 1-in-4.

One out of every four people would get sick from the food and water they consumed every year in the U.S., culminating in the 76 million sick people per year.

burden.foodborne.reportingThe Canadians and Australians eventually did their own estimates and came up with 1-in-3.

Then the Americans revised their number to 1-in-6, or 48 million people barfing per year.

Now the Canadians have revised their number to 1-in-8.

This doesn’t mean food is safer or worse, just that better estimates make more accurate estimations – and these are still vast estimations.

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that each year roughly one-in-eight Canadians (or four million people) get sick due to domestically acquired food-borne diseases. This estimate provides the most accurate picture yet of which foodborne bacteria, viruses, and parasites are causing the most illnesses in Canada, as well as estimating the number of foodborne illnesses without a known cause.

In general, to be captured in a Canadian surveillance system, a sick individual must: seek care; have a sample (stool, urine or blood) requested; and submit a sample for testing. In addition, the sample must be tested with a test capable of identifying the causative agent; and finally the positive test result must be reported to the surveillance system. Surveillance systems only capture a small portion of total illnesses given all these necessary steps (i.e. there is under-diagnosis and under-reporting taking place). 

Ottawa quiet on reason for Mexico’s beef inspections last year

In the interest of open and honest communication, no one from the federal government will say why Mexican officials quietly inspected six Canadian slaughterhouses last year, part of an audit related to what one company called a border “issue.”

The Globe and Mail got confirmation of the inspections as Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes his first official visit to Mexico. Representatives of Canada’s beef industry meat_and_you_simpsons(2)are among those who have joined Mr. Harper on the trip. Industry and government officials were reluctant to discuss the unpublicized inspections, but one major beef producer, Cargill Inc., said six facilities were inspected by Mexican officials in October as part of a “beef plant audit,” including Cargill’s beef plant in Guelph, Ont. The reason remains unclear.

“This situation was not related to food safety,” Cargill spokesman Michael Martin said, referring questions to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The agency confirmed inspections took place, but gave few details.

Canada is disappointed with those who don’t follow food safety rules, so they are going to make those who disappoint really, really pay.

Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health, announced the intention to introduce new penalties for businesses that fail to respect Canadian meat safety canada.south.parkrequirements.

“Consumers want a strong and reliable food inspection system on which they can depend to provide safe food,” said Minister Ambrose. “Introducing these new penalties demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that Canada’s stringent food safety requirements are being followed.”

These fines, known as Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs), provide Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) inspectors with an additional enforcement option when working with the meat industry. For example, they may be applied if a company withholds information, such as a positive E. coli test result, or records that are needed as part of a food safety investigation, or if a company is regularly identified for not complying with requirements.

“Administrative Monetary Penalties are an important element of a modern and effective inspection system,” said Dr. Martine Dubuc, Chief Food Safety Officer for Canada and vice-president, science, CFIA. “They provide an additional option for dealing with the small number of food producers that fail to follow federal food safety regulations.”

6 sick: federal health types publicly absent in Canadian E. coli burger outbreak

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced late Wednesday night that certain Compliments brand Super 8 Beef Burgers were being recalled because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7.

They said people were sick but wouldn’t say how many; that’s up to either the e.coli.O157.belmont.oct.13Public Health Agency of Canada or Health Canada (who knows the difference).

The silence has been deafening.

However, a spokesman for Ontario’s health ministry told the Weyburn Review there have been six confirmed cases of illness in that province associated with the beef in question. Of the six people, four were hospitalized; of the four, one is still in hospital. All are recovering, the ministry said.

1 dead, 10 sick from E. coli O157 in Canadian raw milk cheese; govt says wash hands

One person has died and 10 have become ill in B.C. and Alberta after eating E. coli tainted products from Gort’s Gouda Cheese Farm of Salmon Arm, B.C.

A statement from Health Canada said there were four cases of illness in B.C. and seven in Alberta.

“One of the cases in British Columbia has died, and the cause of death is currently under investigation,” said the Health Canada gort's.cheese.O157statement.

One person is still recovering in hospital and several cases remain under investigation, said B.C. Centre for Disease Control epidemiologist Dr. Eleni Galanis.

The illnesses began in July, with the majority of infected people displaying symptoms in late August to early September. 

Farm owner and operator Kathy Wikkerink said she was devastated by the news.

“We feel like we … we have hurt these people and it’s totally unintentionally … we were totally unaware of this bacteria being in any of our products,” she said.

“We only have raw milk cheese sales … people come here for raw milk cheese,” adding the farm will only make pasteurized cheese for the time being. 

It is illegal to sell unpasteurized milk, but cheese made from unpasteurized milk is legal for sale in Canada.

Officials advise that if you have eaten this cheese and feel well, there is no need to do anything further.

All sizes of the raw milk cheeses listed below are affected by the recall:

  • Medium Gouda Cheese Quaso de Prato.
  • Aged Quaso de Prato.
  • X Aged Quaso de Prato.
  • Cumin Quaso de Prato.
  • Greek Blend: Onion, Paprika, Parsley, Pepper, Thyme, Oregano Quaso de Prato.
  • Gouda Cheese with Jalapeno Peppers Quaso de Prato.
  • Smoked Gouda Cheese Quaso de Prato.
  • Gouda Cheese with Red Peppers, Ginger, Onions & Garlic Quaso de Prato.
  • Peppercorn, Ginger, Paprika, Onion & Garlic Quaso de Prato.
  • Parsley, Celery, Onion, Garlic, Dill & Chives Quaso de Prato.
  • Maasdammer.
  • Beaufort.
  • Parmesan.
  • Mazouda.

​An alert from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency states the affected products have lot codes 122 to 138 and were sold at the manufacturer’s outlet, at retail stores in Alberta and B.C, and through Internet sales from May 27 to Sept. 14, 2013, inclusive.

Some product packages may not bear a lot code or indicate that the cheese was made with raw milk, and CFIA advises consumers who are unsure if they have purchased the affected product to contact their retailer.

The Public Health Agency of Canada said in a release, “We want to remind Canadians to follow proper hygiene and safe food handling and preparation practices to prevent the spread of all foodborne illness including E. coli for example:

• wash your hands before and after cooking;

• keep knives, counters and cutting boards clean;

• keep raw meats separate from other foods when you store them; and,

• refrigerate or freeze left-overs promptly.      

The best they can do, for a raw milk cheese outbreak.

Duh; XL Foods recall was product of preventable errors, lack of food safety culture

Oh Canada. Why stand on guard for mediocrity?

In 1985, 19 of 55 sickened at a London, Ontario nursing home were killed by E. coli O157:H7 in their roast beef sandwiches.

The Ontario government called for mandatory training for food service types in health care institutions. The same ones that thought it was a good idea to serve mediocritychilled deli meats to immunocomprimised elderly folks in 2008 that lead to 23 deaths from Listeria.

I needed 36 hours of training to coach little girls hockey; no one needs anything to kill people with food.

In 2000, seven died and 2,500 were sickened in the town of Walkerton, Ontario, population 5,000, when E. coli O157:H7 got into the drinking water supply and the local manager added chlorine to the system based on smell.

In 2012, XL Foods in Alberta sickened 18 people with E. coli O157:H7, and led to the largest beef recall in Canadian history, and the plant was subsequently bought by JBS of Brazil.

Following in the tradition of Walkerton and Maple Leaf’s listeria, an independent review panel has concluded the outbreak was caused by mediocrity.

Perhaps I’m paraphrasing.

The Globe and Mail isn’t.

The largest beef recall in Canadian history happened because a massive Alberta producer regularly failed to clean its equipment properly, reacted too slowly once it realized it was shipping contaminated meat, and on-site government inspectors failed to notice key problems at the plant.

“It was all preventable,” concludes an independent review of the 2012 XL Foods Inc. beef recall, in which 1,800 products were removed from the Canadian and U.S. markets and 18 consumers became sick.

According to the report, the company did not practice what to do in the event of a major recall, and its staff failed to ensure equipment was regularly and mediocrity-mediocrity-lazy-slob-beer-mediocre-demotivational-posters-1335853439properly cleaned. Canadian Food Inspection Agency workers at the plant failed to notice the problems. These and many other issues persisted four years after the government promised sweeping food-safety reforms in response to the 2008 listeria bacteria contamination at Maple Leaf Foods that took the lives of 23 Canadians and led to serious illness in 57 others who ate tainted meat products.

“It was not that long ago,” the report notes in reference to the 2008 recall. “Canada’s food-safety system – then, as now – is recognized as one of the best in the world. Yet, a mere four years later, Canadians found themselves asking how this could have happened once again.”

No, Canada exists in a bubble, with comfortable fairy tales about the best health care in the world and the safest food in the world.

Any outside observer could look at the available data and say, What ….?

The panel said “it was a series of inadequate responses by two key players in the food-safety continuum that played the most critical part leading to the September, 2012, event at XL Foods Inc. – plant and CFIA staff.”

Will Canadian reporters please stop quoting union officials, government types and industry apologists – and they are abundant – because they are all complicit in the rewarding of mediocrity, even when a lot of people get sick.

The panel was chaired by Ronald Lewis and included two other doctors, André Corriveau and Ronald Usborne. They report the root cause of the problem was likely an animal that was heavily contaminated with E. coli-157:H7.

“As the contaminated carcass moved through the plant, the bacteria became lodged in or on a piece of equipment within the establishment,” the report states. “It seems likely that sanitation was inadequate.”

The report is highly critical of XL Foods Inc. for its poor communication with both the CFIA and the public, particularly for not providing CFIA with information about the contamination quickly after it was discovered. The no-mediocrity-300x3003company was sold earlier this year to JBS South America of Brazil. However, the independent review also found several issues with the performance of the CFIA.

“For its part, CFIA was clearly not monitoring the company’s [Food Safety Enhancement Program] and identifying deficiencies as carefully as they should have been,” the report states.

The report makes 30 recommendations for reform, including a call for Health Canada to give “prompt consideration” to approving irradiation of Canadian beef products. It also calls on the Minister of Health to assess the effectiveness of the CFIA’s activities related to its meat program.

Here’s a different suggestion: anyone that produces food for public consumption assumes a responsibility of safety; the best companies will brag about their safety shield, rather than hide behind the cloak of shitty government inspection.

At a news conference, the inexplicably still employed federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz spouted some recycled shit about a new inspection verification system with a team of 30 inspectors at a cost $16-million over three years, and promised to act on all the recommendations because “Canadian consumers remain our No. 1 priority when it comes to food safety. As we all know, no system is perfect.”

Pump up the mediocrity.

Paul Mayer, vice-president at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, told a telephone news conference that these teams will be “a second set of eyes” to check both the food companies and the front-line CFIA staff. That speaks to the chief recommendation the study team made – that the companies and CFIA need to foster a culture of food safety.

Food safety culture has definitely jumped the shark

If the first set of eyes isn’t working, why would a second?

Pump, pump, pump up the mediocrity.

As  Jim Romahn writes, the company clearly comes off worst, but the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, producers and retailers all share some responsibility for the biggest beef recall in Canadian history – 4,000 tonnes of beef, 1,800 products distributed across Canada and into the United States. Exports to 20 nations were impacted, especially to Japan and Hong Kong.

Meat and any food suppliers or producers should market safety at retail. There’s been too much faith, too many sick peope, and too many repetitive reports sayig the same thing. Let consumers choose, and brag about food safety.

Or wait till the next outbreak and appoint a panel to come to the same Groundhog Day conclusions.

Alberta’s cattle industry sort of recovers a decade after mad cow outbreak

On March 20, 1996, British Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell rose in the House to inform colleagues that scientists had discovered a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease (CJD) in 10 victims, and that they could not rule out mad.cows.mother's.milka link with consumption of beef from cattle with bovine spongiform encephalapthy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease.

Overnight, the British beef market collapsed and politicians quickly learned how to enunciate BSE and CJD. Within days, the European Union banned exports of British beef; consumption of beef fell throughout Europe, especially in France and Germany, and in Japan, where suspicion of foreign food runs high. The triumvirate of uncertain science, risk and politics was played out in media headlines.

To refer to the events of 1996 as the BSE crisis is a misnomer, just as scientists are quick to point out that mad cow disease should more appropriately be called sad cow disease or unco-ordinated cow disease.  Rather, the announcement of March 20, 1996 was the culmination of 15 years of mismanagement, political bravado and a gross underestimation of the public’s capacity to deal with risk.  More important than any of the several lessons to be drawn from the BSE fiasco is this: the risk of no-risk messages.  For 10 years the British government and leading scientific advisors insisted there was no risk — or that the risk was so infintesimly small that it could be said there was no risk — of BSE leading to a similar malady in humans, CJD, even in the face of contradictory evidence.  The no-risk message contributed to the devastating economic and social effects on Britons, a nation of madison.men.cowbeefeaters, the slaughter of over 1 million British cattle, and a decrease in global consumption of beef, especially in Japan, at a cost of billions of dollars.

The Canadian Minister of Agriculture was quite adamant there was no risk of BSE developing in Canada.

In July 1996, Dr Norman Willis, Director General, Animal and Plant Health, Agriculture and Agrifood Canada, told the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s annual convention that “Actions were taken out of sheer paranoia, with people significantly hyped by the media.  We took actions that went way beyond ones that were scientifically  justified. … We wouldn’t have political interference.  We wouldn’t  have non-science factors influence the actions we took.  BSE blew that all away. … Canada and other trading countries couldn’t hold with science-based  decisions.  There was just too much at stake by way of trade.’’

Canada’s initial dragging to the grown-up’s table of BSE risk management, and apparent lax enforcement of feed regulations for years afterwards led to the inevitable: On May 20, 2003, Canada announced its first home-grown case of BSE.

The eight-year old cow from Alberta had been condemned at slaughter, was sent for rendering and did not enter the food chain.

The first few chapters of the story about the discovery of BSE in Canada were positive.

BSE was bound to show up eventually and the surveillance system set up in 1992 sorta worked. The inspector who pulled a sickly looking eight-year-old cow from the slaughter line prevented it from entering the food chain.

The line in Canada was, this is not the UK, and I was on TV at 5 a.m. the next morning, saying the U.K., had some 186,000 cattle test positive and millions preemptively slaughtered. The significant question was, will Canadian numbers of BSE-positives remain in the dozens or the tens-of-thousands (or something like that).

And yes, producers, processors and government should have been fully aware of the risk rather than act stunned when it happened.

Ten years on, with the perspective that time often offers, my statements seem accurate but naïve.

Canada has since reported 18 cases of BSE, and, just like other aspects of food safety, those in charge talk a good line, but do they know what really bbq_bse_cross_contaminationhappens on farms (or anywhere) day-in, day-out.

And are they interested? Because being interested costs money.

Ian Gray of the Edmonton Journal wrote a 10-year-retrospective piece on the first homegrown BSE case today, beginning with:

In January 2003, Marwyn Peaster’s cow fell down.

The six-year-old Black Angus was one of a small herd Peaster had bought the year before for his grain farm and feedlot near Wanham, in Alberta’s Peace Country.

Believing the cow had pneumonia, Peaster made the fateful decision to send it to a local abattoir instead of calling for a veterinarian or disposing of it on his own property. The vet at the slaughterhouse went by the book and condemned the “downer” cow, so there’d be no chance it could be used for human consumption.

The carcass then went to a rendering plant, but the head was sent to a provincial laboratory in Edmonton for testing. As there was no perceived urgency, there it sat, until May 16, 2003.

Three and a half months after it was shipped, the head was finally tested at the provincial lab and, to the disbelief and horror of everyone involved, registered positive for BSE. The results were confirmed by federal and international laboratories and were announced to the public on May 20.

As of May 1, 2013, vCJD had killed 237 people worldwide.

The attack on Peaster  reached its peak that September with the now infamous remark by then-premier Ralph Klein that “any self-respecting rancher would have shot, shovelled and shut up, but he (Peaster) didn’t do that.”

Peaster has since moved back to the U.S. and is living in the farming community of Ontario, Oregon, where he has a small trucking company. True to form, he has no desire to comment on the 10th anniversary of the discovery of BSE in Canada, in which he was a key, if unwilling, player.

Mad cow no longer dominates the food safety headlines, and that’s good. The potential is always there, and requires good risk management, but a lot more people get sick from lots of other things associated with beef (although vCJD is a terrible way to die).

As the elementary school year wound down in June, 2003, in Ontario, Canada, 
the school three of my four daughters attended had a barbeque for students, staff 
and parents. 
The earlier discovery of Canada’s first domestic case of bovine spongiform 
encephalopathy which received 
extensive media coverage, was of concern to some parents and school
 officials, so a note was sent home to parents, assuring them that the
 hamburgers and hot dogs to be consumed came from a supplier of so-called
 natural, beef and was therefore safe from BSE.

At this particular BBQ, several of the well-meaning volunteer cooks were
 observed to handle the raw, natural hamburger patties with tongs that were
 then used to place re-heated wieners into hot dog buns, possibly
 cross-contaminating the wieners with any number of pathogenic microorganisms
HappyCow[1]such as E. coli O157:H7, salmonella or listeria, and subsequently served to
 parents and children.

About the same time, a bunch of industry folks hosted a BBQ on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, to demonstrate the safety of Canadian beef to politicos.

I watched the servers cook burgers, not use thermometers, and cross-contaminate everything in sight.

I asked, where is the hamburger form?

Don’t worry, it’s not from Alberta, no mad cow here.

Are these pre-cooked?

Nah, they’ve been sitting in the (non-refrigerated) truck for a few hours.

I always wondered if anyone got sick after that feast.

Fewer barfing: estimates of foodborne illness in Canada

Following the lead of the U.S., Canada has significantly reduced its estimate of annual foodborne illness rates – the number of people barfing each year from food – from 11 million to 4 million, or 1-in-8 people each year.

The current U.S. estimate is 48 million annual cases or 1-in-6 people, down from 76 million or 1-in-4 people.

In both cases, the downward estimates reflect changes in methodologies rather than actual decreases in illness; or maybe there are fewer people barfing, it’s restaurant_food_crap_garbage_10-297x300impossible to compare.

A paper was published in Foodborne Pathogens and Disease yesterday (abstract below) and highlights published in a press release, with excerpts below.

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that each year roughly one in eight Canadians (or four million people) get sick due to domestically acquired food-borne diseases. This estimate provides the most accurate picture yet of which food-borne bacteria, viruses, and parasites (“pathogens” – why the dick fingers?) are causing the most illnesses in Canada, as well as estimating the number of foodborne illnesses without a known cause.

In general, Canada has a very safe food supply; however, this estimate shows that there is still work to be done to prevent and control foodborne illness in Canada, to focus efforts on pathogens which cause the greatest burden and to better understand foodborne illness without a known cause.

The Agency has estimates for two major groups of foodborne illnesses:

Known foodborne pathogens: There are 30 pathogens known to cause foodborne illness. Many of these pathogens are tracked by public health systems that monitor cases of illness.

To estimate the total number of food-borne illnesses, the Agency estimated the number of illnesses caused by both known foodborne pathogens and unspecified agents.

In general, to be captured in a Canadian surveillance system a sick individual must: seek care; have a sample (stool, urine or blood) requested; and submit a sample for testing. In addition, the sample must be tested with a test capable of identifying the causative agent; and finally the positive test result must be reported to the surveillance system. Surveillance systems only capture a small portion of total illnesses given all these necessary steps (i.e. there is under-diagnosis and under-reporting taking place).

The Agency’s 2013 estimates of illnesses from food-borne diseases in Canada are more accurate than the estimates published in 2008 of 11 million episodes of foodborne illness each year based on better data and methodologies. The 2008 estimates used values from earlier United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates applied to a Canadian estimate of the average number of esti-fig5-engepisodes of acute gastrointestinal illness per person occurring each year. In addition, the methodology used for the 2013 estimates is different from that used in 2008. As a result of these differences, no strict side-by-side comparison can be made between the two sets of estimates. The 2013 estimates do not mean that there is less foodborne illness occurring, but rather, that more accurate estimates are now possible.

Estimates of the burden of foodborne illness in Canada for 30 specified pathogens and unspecified agents, circa 2006


Foodborne Pathogens and Disease

M. Kate Thomas, Regan Murray, Logan Flockhart, Katarina Pintar, Frank Pollari, Aamir Fazil, Andrea Nesbitt, and Barbara Marshall



Estimates of foodborne illness are important for setting food safety priorities and making public health policies. The objective of this analysis is to estimate domestically acquired, foodborne illness in Canada, while identifying data gaps and areas for further research. Estimates of illness due to 30 pathogens and unspecified agents were based on data from the 2000–2010 time period from Canadian surveillance systems, relevant international literature, and the Canadian census population for 2006. The modeling approach required accounting for under-reporting and underdiagnosis and to estimate the proportion of illness domestically acquired and through foodborne transmission. To account for uncertainty, Monte Carlo simulations were performed to generate a mean estimate and 90% credible interval. It is estimated that each year there are 1.6 million (1.2–2.0 million) and 2.4 million (1.8–3.0 million) episodes of domestically acquired foodborne illness related to 30 known pathogens and unspecified agents, respectively, for a total estimate of 4.0 million (3.1–5.0 million) episodes of domestically acquired foodborne illness in Canada. Norovirus, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter spp., and nontyphoidal Salmonella spp. are the leading pathogens and account for approximately 90% of the pathogen-specific total. Approximately one in eight Canadians experience an episode of domestically acquired foodborne illness each year in Canada. These estimates cannot be compared with prior crude estimates 

Canadian family to sue Tanimura & Antle for Romaine lettuce E. coli death

Earlier this year, Matt McClure of the Calgary Herald wrote the faraway fields of California were the source last year of lettuce tainted with a potentially-fatal bacteria that sickened scores of Canadians in at least three outbreaks.

Media attention focused on a recent surge of 30 illnesses in the eastern half of the country linked to E. coli-tainted iceberg lettuce distributed to fast-food restaurants, and another outbreak last spring involving 23 Screen-Shot-2013-04-26-at-4.17.50-PM-191x300patients in New Brunswick and Quebec who ate bagged romaine lettuce that was laden with the bacteria.

But federal documents — not made public until Feb. 2013 — also show a Calgary senior was one of at least three patients who fell sick in a separate outbreak last summer that was also linked to tainted lettuce.

The 84-year-old woman — whom the Herald has agreed not to identify — died last month after being in and out of hospital for months following a severe infection from a strain of E. coli O157: H7 that was a genetic match to the bacteria found in a package of Tanimura and Antle brand lettuce.

“You assume the companies providing a product have all the controls in place to make sure it’s safe,” the woman’s daughter said.

“For our family, that assumption proved deadly.”

And now the family is suing, with the help of Bill Marler and friends (details at http://www.marlerblog.com/case-news/canadian-family-to-sue-tanimura-antle-for-romaine-lettuce-e-coli-death/#.UX8VqpWGQ5Q).

Tanimura and Antle did not respond to a request for an interview about its food safety program in Feb. and how its tainted shipment of lettuce to Canada last summer was only detected when a CFIA official took a random swab at an import facility in Winnipeg.

Leafy greens cone of slience.

A table of leafy green outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/leafy-greens-related-outbreaks.

Canada takes on social farting

It’s no mistake that South Park’s flatulent duo, Terrance and Phillip, are Canadian.

Todd Wasserman of Mashable writes that flatulence is a fairly taboo subject for U.S. advertising. Not so in Canada, apparently. This public service terrance.phillip.fartannouncement from Ontario Ministry Health likens social smoking to passing gas in public.

The intention appears to be to shed the spotlight on lame justifications for “social smoking.” In execution, it’s hard to get past the voluble sound effects. However, it may make some Canadians a bit more self-aware the next time they ask someone to go out for a “smoke.”

More likely, Canadians will respond by farting more openly, embracing their heritage, making it their own. Or, maybe that’s just my family.