Clean up after canines in Canada

Lynda, clean up after your dog.

Lynda is my sister, and she lives with her family in Sudbury (that’s in Canada) which is like Kansas in that it’s snowing on April 23/13.

Police in Sudbury, Ontario, said they are on the lookout for rogue dog owners who let their pets poop on other people`s lawns — and don`t
dog-poop-scooppick it up.

Officers with the Rainbow District Animal Control office get about 100 complaint calls about dog poop every year.

To deal with it, they send officers in unmarked patrol cars to look for owners who let their dogs poop and run, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., said Friday.”

The Rainbow District? Is this a gay dog rights issue?

Bleach is a friend: Oregon schools using ‘inappropriate’ cleaning products as norovirus spreads

When someone barfs, especially in a closed area like a daycare or school or other facilities, it’s crucial the vomit be cleaned up quickly to limit the spread of aerosolized viral particles.

And to use the right chemicals.

The Douglas County Health Department says the recent outbreaks that shut down Fir Grove in Roseburg and the entire Oakland School District were both identified as norovirus.

According to Caroline Regan, Douglas County Environmental Health Specialist, the results of testing so far indicate that the Oakland outbreak was found more in students who ate in the cafeteria. That facility is shared by all three Oakland Schools.

In a release sent out Monday afternoon, authorities say that at both schools, “inappropriate” cleaning supplies were used.  They say that the products used were not able to disinfect norovirus.

The schools have implemented new products that are bleach based and will kill the virus.

Bathrooms and other surfaces potentially contaminated with vomit or stool should be disinfected with a 5000 ppm bleach solution (1:10 dilution of household bleach).

Best Western goes high-tech to clean

When I think Best Western, I think free wi-fi.

Maybe I should be thinking, cleaner rooms.

There’s a certain snobbery about hotel rooms similar to restaurants: dives are dirty, fancy ones are clean.

Decades of restaurant inspection data show bacteria and other bugs don’t discriminate; they’re equal-opportunity contaminants. Data from hotels is starting to show the same (don’t let the bed bugs bite).

The best thing about Best Western is they’re marketing cleanliness. Just like food providers should be doing.

USA Today reports Best Western Hotels, in response to what it says is travelers’ insistence on cleanliness, is equipping its housekeeping crews with black lights to detect biological matter otherwise unseen by the human eye, and ultraviolet light wands to zap it.

For possibly the dirtiest object in your room — the TV remote control — there will be disposable wraps.

Best Western says it’s taking the steps partly because research from Booz & Company shows that travelers desire a hotel’s cleanliness over customer service, style and design.

But it’s also reacting to the times, in which hotels and supermarkets place hand sanitizer in visible places for germ-obsessed customers (Australia, you paying attention yet?).

People also have become more skeptical about cleanliness because of headlines about E. coli, norovirus and bird flu, says Ron Pohl, a Best Western vice president.

If the hygiene hypothesis is real, does it matter?

The most frequently asked question with public and scientific crowds at any food safety jamfest I’ve done over the past 20 years: Is food too clean?

It comes from that adage, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

But what if it kills you? Or causes irreparable damage, like 8-year-old Brit, Elisabeth Willoughby, who contracted toxocariasis, probably from contact with dog doo while crawling in the park as an infant. Her right eye was permanently scarred by the roundworm parasite.

Watching daughter Sorenne slowly recover from whatever made her stronger the other night via 14 vomits and five diarrheal episodes reinforced, to me, how little is known.

The concept of exposing people to germs at an early age to build immunity is known as the hygiene hypothesis.

I’m not an immunologist, but the idea makes biological sense; I do, however, get concerned with the details, and generalizations.

Medical types have suggested that the hygiene hypothesis explains the global increase of allergic and autoimmune diseases in urban settings. It has also been suggested that the hypothesis explains the changes that have occurred in society and environmental exposures, such as giving antibiotics early in life.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) reported in Science last month that exposing germ-free mice to microbes during their first weeks of life, but not when exposed later in adult life, led to a normalized immune system and prevention of diseases.

Moreover, the protection provided by early-life exposure to microbes was long-lasting, as predicted by the hygiene hypothesis.

"These studies show the critical importance of proper immune conditioning by microbes during the earliest periods of life," said Richard Blumberg, MD, chief for the BWH Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Endoscopy, and co-senior study author, in collaboration with Dennis Kasper, MD, director of BWH’s Channing Laboratory and co-senior study author. "Also now knowing a potential mechanism will allow scientists to potentially identify the microbial factors important in determining protection from allergic and autoimmune diseases later in life."

Does that mean if your kid gets an infectious disease later in life, parents are negligent for not exposing them to a little infectious disease earlier in life?

It all sounds romantically agrarian – a little dirt is good for you – until specifics get in the way; specifics like, it’s your kid.

My answer to questioning minds goes something like this:

We know immune systems take several years to develop in young children, and things start to go downhill after 55. (Freedom 55?) A little dirt may be good for kids, but there will always be some who, through genetics, environment and other unknowns, will be more susceptible to disease than others. And we’re not smart enough to know who those individuals are. The good ole’ days usually included stories about a family that lost a kid. And it was probably some kind of infectious disease. Western societies have enough science and enough affluence to decide, one is too many.

Then there’s the policy. I can’t image the agriculture minister or secretary announcing that investments in a lot of this food safety stuff would be better spent on other societal priorities. We’ve done a cost-benefit analysis and decided it’s better for everyone to get a little sick. We’re going to lose a few, and we don’t know who those few (or many) are, but it’s a cost-effective approach.

T. Olszak, D. An, S. Zeissig, M. P. Vera, J. Richter, A. Franke, J. N. Glickman, R. Siebert, R. M. Baron, D. L. Kasper, R. S. Blumberg. Microbial exposure during early life has persistent effects on natural killer T cell function. Science, 2012; DOI: 10.1126/science.1219328

Secret of safe sprouts is in the seeds

The secret to keeping sprouts free of foodborne pathogens lies in industry’s intense attention to cleanliness of seeds.

"Once seeds have germinated, it’s too late. Sprouts are extremely complex structures with a forest-like root system that conceals microorganisms. Just a few E. coli cells can grow to a substantial population during germination and sprouting, and it’s very difficult to get rid of them all," said Hao Feng, a University of Illinois associate professor of food and bioprocess engineering.

Feng’s study is the cover story of the August 2011 issue of the Journal of Food Science. Two other papers that detail his work with sprouts will appear in upcoming issue of that journal and in the Journal of Food Protection.

In his experiments, Feng used both the FDA-recommended dose of chlorine to kill microorganisms and a new sanitizer that was a combination of surfactant and organic acid. He used a laser-scanning confocal microscope to look at micro-slices of seeds, then employed computer software to get a three-dimensional view of their surface structure. This allowed him to calculate each seed’s surface roughness.

Although E. coli could be eliminated on the alfalfa seeds because of their relatively smooth surface, broccoli and radish seeds have rough surfaces. Their texture renders these rougher seeds more susceptible to the attachment of pathogens and makes these microorganisms very difficult to remove, he said.

Feng assured consumers that sprouts are carefully tested for the presence of pathogens. "When there is one positive result, the entire batch is thrown out," he said.

Feng said this research demonstrates the importance of eliminating all pathogens on seeds before sprouting.

"The food industry must maintain very strict control in the sprout production process, focusing on the cleanliness of seeds and expending money and effort on prevention. Then consumers can be assured that these nutritious food products are safe to eat," Feng said.

But with no food safety marketing at retail, how do consumers know which sprouts came from safe(erer) seeds?

Jennifer Lopez’s son had a $6,000 poop in her pool

The 3-year-old son of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony had a poop in their pool and it cost $6,000 to clean.

Oh The Scandal reports that Marc told Jay Leno this week, “He had an accident in the pool. It got into the filtration system and they charged us to clean it. That was expensive. He took a $6,000 dump in the pool!”
 

Diners at mercy of dodgy staff

A woman who discovered a caterpillar in her salad had the same meal returned, minus the bug.

More than half of a group of birthday diners were struck down with symptoms of norovirus, after eating a buffet meal on August 14 last year. The restaurant involved was required to close for cleaning.

A man ate half his steak-and-mushroom pie before finding it was filled with mould. He returned the pie and was given a refund. A warning letter was sent to the owner.

Those are some of the findings from a review of food poisoning incidents by the New Zealand Herald based on papers released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry papers under the Official Information Act.

The papers also reveal some scary behind-the-scenes behavior at restaurants.

Investigations in the wake of complaints show basic hygiene and food-safety practices were not carried out at some outlets:

At one, staff did not wash their hands before preparing seafood.

A food handler worked with an open wound on his arm.

At a kebab shop, investigators found cooked meat was shaved directly on to the drip tray and the same utensils were used for different meats.

MAF spokesman Geoff Allen said he did not see trends developing but he said careful preparation was needed at home and people should choose restaurants carefully.

A new way to clean the greens

The New York Times is reporting tonight that the produce industry — rocked by several major recalls in recent years linked to outbreaks of salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria — has been searching for a better way to wash the lettuce, spinach and other greens it bags and sells in grocery stores and to restaurants.

Now, the nation’s leading producer of bagged salad greens, Fresh Express, says that washing them in a mild acid solution accomplishes the task.

The company plans to announce on Friday that it is abandoning the standard industry practice of washing leafy greens with chlorine and has begun using the acid mixture, which it claims is many times more effective in killing bacteria. The new wash solution, called FreshRinse, contains organic acids commonly used in the food industry, including lactic acid, a compound found in milk.

Mike Burness, vice president of global quality and food safety at Chiquita Brands International, which owns Fresh Express, said,

“We do believe it provides a much higher level of effectiveness versus the chlorine sanitizers in use today. This technology was developed to raise the bar.”

Mr. Burness said the breakthrough came when researchers at the company combined lactic acid with another organic acid, peracetic acid. The two together, he said, worked much better than either one separately and also achieved markedly better results than chlorine.

Fresh Express issued three separate recalls this year of packaged salad greens after random testing found salmonella, E. coli and listeria in bags of its products.
Fresh Express said that its new cleaning mixture was 750 times as effective as chlorine in killing bacteria suspended in wash water. It is also at least nine times as effective as chlorine in killing bacteria that has become attached to the leaves of produce.

Mr. Burness said that lettuce and other greens were cut up in the company’s plants, washed in water containing the acid mixture, typically for 20 to 40 seconds, then rinsed, dried and bagged. He said another advantage is that the acid wash did not bleach the greens, making them pale in color, as chlorine can.
The company said that it planned to license the mixture for use by other producers.

Fresh Express has not published its research, so food safety experts said on Thursday that they were unable to adequately evaluate the company’s claims.
Fresh Express said that it had informed the F.D.A. about its use of the acid wash mixture, but that it was not required to get approval for the switch because the ingredients were already approved for use in the food industry.

 

Restaurant cleaning cloths pose health risk, says study

I have a number of anecdotal studies going on whenever I go to the supermarket, a restaurant, a baby doctor, and other places.

When we go to a roadhouse-style restaurant, I often watch the servers clean the table with some sort of cloth, and I’ll ask, what is the cloth cleaned with or soaked in? They usually point to some sorta sanitary solution, but aren’t too knowledgeable about how often it’s changed or cleaned. Same with those aprons the chefs are always wiping their hands on – I have dreams of large sample sizes.

The U.K. Health Protection Agency does have some resources so set about to sample those clothes used to wipe down tables in restaurants and takeaways and found they are often contaminated with E coli, listeria and other potentially dangerous bacteria.

The Guardian reports that cloths used to clean surfaces where food is prepared need to be changed regularly or thoroughly disinfected to prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

HPA researchers sampled 133 cloths used for cleaning in 120 restaurants and takeaways in the north-east of England. They told the HPA’s annual conference at the University of Warwick today that 56% of the cloths contained unacceptable levels of bacteria. The most common were enterobacteriaceae (found on 86 cloths) E coli (21), Staphylococcus aureus (six) and listeria (five).

Only a third of restaurant kitchens (32%) were following the recommendation to use disposable cloths and change them regularly. The remainder had reusable cloths; in 15% of the kitchens, staff were unsure how often they were replaced.

John Harford, of the HPA’s food, water and environmental microbiology laboratory, said there was no reason to suppose restaurant kitchens in the north-east operated differently from those elsewhere in the country. He pointed to the potentially serious consequences for those eating food in or from such restaurants, adding,

"We have had certain outbreaks of food poisoning at a restaurant where we have isolated salmonella from the person who has eaten the meal and we have found salmonella on the cloth in the kitchen as well.”

While most restaurants disinfected their reusable cloths every 10 to 24 hours, a number of restaurants left it longer than 24 hours and some did not know how often their cloths were disinfected.
 

Norovirus sickens up to 200; Harvard club closed again

Don’t them Harvard boys know nothin’?

Never reopen a place until you’re sure the norovirus has been taken care of and all employees are healthy.

Following reports of a small norovirus outbreak linked to the Harvard Faculty Club last week, the Boston Globe reports this morning that as many as 200 people may have been affected by a norovirus outbreak, forcing the restaurant and lodge to close for a second time.

The club, which closed last week because of concerns about the virus, shut down again Tuesday as about 100 people reported becoming ill after eating at the club between Easter brunch Sunday and Tuesday morning.

To be fair, everyone is saying the right things, but noro outbreaks are often far more serious and insidious than people realize.

Louise Rice, director of public nursing for the city, explained Harvard voluntarily closed the club when the first wave of illnesses was reported last week, and the club brought in an outside cleaning crew to scrub the building down, The city inspected the club, and Rice said the building was “spotless.’’

The city also screened full- and part-time employees at the club, about 100 of them, before it reopened Sunday, she said.

But by Tuesday morning, Harvard notified the city that a number of people had reported becoming ill after eating at the club between Easter Brunch and Tuesday morning.

There seems to be some sort of disconnect between words and actions.