36 sickened: Sprouts are a known cause of foodborne illness

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), several states, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigated a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Reading and Salmonella Abony infections.

amy-sprouts-guelph-05Thirty-six people infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Reading or Salmonella Abony were reported from nine states.

Seven ill people were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicated that alfalfa sprouts supplied by Sprouts Extraordinaire of Denver, Colorado were the likely source of this outbreak.

On August 5, 2016, Sprouts Extraordinaire recalled alfalfa sprout products from the market due to possible Salmonella contamination.

This outbreak appears to be over. However, sprouts are known to cause foodborne illness and outbreaks

Public health investigators used the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may have been part of this outbreak. PulseNet, coordinated by CDC, is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories. PulseNet performs DNA fingerprinting on Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using techniques called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks.

Thirty-six people infected with the outbreak strains were reported from nine states. Of those ill people, 30 were infected with Salmonella Reading, 1 was infected with Salmonella Abony, and 5 were infected with both.  A list of the states and the number of cases in each can be found on the Case Count Map page.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from May 21, 2016 to September 10, 2016. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 72, with a median age of 30. Fifty-six percent of ill people were female. Seven ill people reported being hospitalized, and no deaths were reported.

This outbreak appears to be over. However, sprouts are known to cause foodborne illness and outbreaks.

Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicated that alfalfa sprouts supplied by Sprouts Extraordinaire of Denver, Colorado were the likely source of this outbreak.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. Of the 31 ill people who were interviewed, 18 (58%) reported eating or possibly eating alfalfa sprouts in the week before illness started. This proportion is significantly higher than results from a 2006 survey of healthy people, in which 3% reported eating raw alfalfa sprouts on a sandwich in the week before they were interviewed. Ill people in the current outbreak reported eating raw sprouts on sandwiches from several restaurants.

sprout-salad-aust-aug-15Federal, state, and local health and regulatory officials performed a traceback investigation from five restaurants where ill people reported eating alfalfa sprouts. This investigation indicated that Sprouts Extraordinaire supplied alfalfa sprouts to all five of these locations.

On August 5, 2016, Sprouts Extraordinaire recalled its alfalfa sprout products from the market due to possible Salmonella contamination. These products were sold in boxes labeled “5-lb Living Alfalfa.” Read the Advice to Restaurants, Retailers and Consumers.

This outbreak appears to be over. However, sprouts are known to cause foodborne illness and outbreaks. More information about steps to reduce your risk of getting sick from eating sprouts is available on the Advice to Restaurants, Retailers and Consumers page.

At A Glance

Case Count: 36

States: 9

Deaths: 0

Hospitalizations: 7

A table of sprout-related outbreaks is available at: http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Sprout-associated-outbreaks-2-23-16.xlsx

E. coli O157 victim sues over outbreak at Vietnamese restaurant in Colorado

The Denver Post reports the family of a 14-year-old Denver boy hospitalized weeks ago after ingesting E.coli-tainted food filed suit Thursday in Arapahoe County against the Vietnamese restaurant where he ate, alleging a pattern of recklessness in how food is prepared and handled.

noah.thompson.pho_.75-1The restaurant, Pho 75 on South Havana Street in Aurora, was allowed to re-open Wednesday, five days after it was shuttered by Tri-County Health Department officials who determined four people — all of them under 18 — were infected with the same strain of E. coli-O157:H7 after eating there sometime between May 24 and June 10.

Officials said the restaurant Tuesday passed an inspection for cleanliness and that employees were trained in proper food handling practices.

The illnesses occurred just three months after health officials cited the restaurant for a number of foodborne safety risks during a routine inspection, then gave Pho 75 employees extensive training on safe-food handling, officials confirmed Thursday.

“Rather than just check the box, we really spent some time in there to teach them,” said Brian Hlavacek, director of environmental health at Tri-County. “We really did quite a bit of teaching and education on the trends we were seeing and we spent the extra time with them.”

But because Colorado is like Canberra, mere mortals who spent their money on a meal at Pho 75 wouldn’t know the restaurant had a history of sucking at safety, because the governor got rid of restaurant inspection disclosure at the door.

Noah Thompson ate there on May 24 with his parents, who also were sickened though not to the extent Thompson suffered, the lawsuit alleges.

Thompson remains hospitalized with complications from hemolytic uremic syndrome, a sometimes-lethal affliction that comes from ingesting E. coli-tainted food. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to HUS, for which there is no cure.

Thompson’s father, Marc Thompson, told The Denver Post his son nearly needed a blood transfusion and is finally improving. He said the experience “really scared us and made us think twice about what we’re eating.”

Attorneys for the family said vegetables were the common ingredient in the foods they ate at Pho 75, and that each ordered a different item. Thompson had eaten a noodle bowl, attorneys said.

“From what I see from the (inspection) reports, it’s no surprise there was an outbreak,” said Seattle attorney Bill Marler, who is representing Thompson. “Perhaps the question is why were they still open?”

Colorado restaurant closed, linked to E. coli O157 outbreak

As the Colorado governor essentially got rid of restaurant inspection disclosure at the door, Kent Erdahl of Fox 31 Denver reports that 14-year-old Noah Thompson has spent the entire month of June in the ICU at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

noah.thompson.pho.75“This has been a real struggle for us as a family,” said Marc Thompson, Noah’s father.

That struggle began when Marc Thompson took his family to eat at Pho 75 on May 24. Within hours he and his wife felt stomach pain and had digestive problems, but a few days later Noah experienced much more severe symptoms.

“They immediately admitted him into the emergency room as he was going into kidney failure,” Marc Thompson said. “He had severe pancreatitis.”

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment tells the Problem Solvers that they are investigating an outbreak of E. coli O157 at Pho 75. Noah is the only person hospitalized, but there are three more confirmed cases and the potential for others that have gone unreported.

The Department of Health also indicated that the restaurant is working with the Tri-County Health Department to address the issue. The restaurant closed voluntarily Friday.

When the Problem Solvers visited Pho 75 on Saturday, it was closed but the sign on the door notified customers that it was simply for remodeling.

Though the doors were locked, there were three men eating at tables inside but none of them would come to the door to speak about the E. coli outbreak.

When the Problem Solvers visited the other Pho 75 location a few miles away, which shares the same owner, an employee inside had a different answer.

Employee: “(The owner) is on a vacation right now. They went back to Vietnam for a week.”

The restaurant is well known to health inspectors and the Problem Solvers, getting an ‘F’ on our Restaurant Report Card in 2014.

According to Tri-County Health inspection records, Pho 75 continues to rack up critical violations, specifically for “Food Borne Illness Risk”. The violations range from issues with the storage of raw meat to employee hygiene.

Best public restroom in the U.S. named; handwashing tools not shown

Powell famously rated Guelph bathrooms in the 1980s while editor of the University of Guelph’s campus paper, The Ontarion. His idea was resurrected by supply and uniform company, Cintas and according to the Denver Post, a Minturn, Colorado restroom has won the most artsy award (or something like that).20150917__Minturn_bathroom_1~p1

Holding back chuckles, [Minturn planning director Janet] Hawkison said there has been a great sense of humor and jokes around town about being known for their toilets. The town is just happy that a project that was such a big part of the community had its time to shine.

The two restrooms, one for men and one for women, sit a few feet apart and feature fabricated wood pieces — 320 different pieces total — on the sides where they face each other to mimic an adit, or an entrance to a mine in honor of Minturn’s rich mining history. Inside the bathrooms, walls are painted turquoise and copper and feature steel butterflies on the ceiling. Conception, design and construction were all done locally.

Curious parties want to see the award winning handwashing tools and signs.

Dave’s not here: Denver health officials issue food safety advisory for marijuana pills

Denver health officials have issued a food safety advisory for RX Green’s “Autopilot” capsules, a marijuana-infused product.

daves.not.hereThe city’s health department says any of the manufacturer’s Omega-3 and THC pills made before Sept. 17 should be discarded. The products have a license number of 404R-00109 on their package.

“The advisory is due to concerns regarding the manufacturing process and lack of temperature controls in place to prevent bacterial growth,” Denver’s Department of Environmental Health said in an advisory on Friday. “There have been no reports of illness at this time.”

“This advisory has been issued as a result of a food safety inspection.”

Josh Meacham, spokesman for RX Green, said the advisory is based on an incomplete analysis by Denver health officials, explaining that an inspector failed to fully analyze the marijuana operation’s standard procedures.

“We stand by our product 100 percent,” he said.

Marijuana-infused salmon in Denver deli? Inspector calls foul

On April 20, Rosenberg’s Bagels and Delicatessen in Denver made a marijuana-infused salmon for a private 4/20 party. Once the Denver Department of Environmental Health saw the video, a food inspector visited the restaurant at 27th Avenue and Welton Street in Five Points.

smoke.salmon.marijuana“A regulated food establishment is not allowed to prepare marijuana foods in their kitchen,” said Danica Lee, food safety section manager for the Denver Department of Health. “We did issue a cease-and-desist order to make the facility understand that they cannot do that any longer.”

The YouTube video shows where science meets cooking, as a salmon is infused with marijuana, then put in the kitchen’s smoker.

“We certainly did check to make sure that they had cleaned the equipment properly and taken care of the issue, and that they’re aware of what they can and can’t do moving forward,” said Lee. “It is important that even when a facility is closed and not operating that they’re not doing anything in that kitchen that’s in violation of the food code.”

“We took our deep clean, which uses both bleach and heavy duty oven cleaner, and scrubbed every aspect of the oven, as well as did a high-temperature burn,” said Rosenberg’s owner Joshua Pollack.

Pollack spoke with 7NEWS shortly after a food inspector came by to make sure there was no more pot baking going on.

“The store was completely shut down because we’re closed on Mondays. None of it was sold. I was all for private consumption. Everyone was 21 years or older,” said Pollack. “Nothing here is infused. We don’t sell any infused products.”

9 sickened with E. coli O157 in Oct. 2013 linked to imported cucumbers served at Jimmy John’s in Denver

I’m sure university departmental meetings across the U.S. continue to chomp down on catered Jimmy John’s sandwiches, even though they have a terrible food safety record:

cucumber282 sick from Norovirus in Garden City, Kansas, in 2014;

29 sick from E. coli O26 on clover sprouts in early 2012; and,

140 sick from Salmonella on alfalfa sprouts in 2011.

Now, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment reports that in Oct. 2013, an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 sickened nine people, including 1 probable case and 8 laboratory-confirmed cases with matching pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and multiple-locus variable number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) patterns from E. coli O157:H7 isolated from stool.

All 9 cases reported eating sandwiches at Denver-area Jimmy John’s locations in early October 2013. The outbreak investigation consisted of case finding and interviews, 2 separate case-control studies, environmental investigations, produce traceback, and laboratory testing.

348sThe results of this investigation indicate that consumption of Jimmy John’s sandwiches containing cucumbers imported from Mexico was the likely cause of the outbreak. To our knowledge, this is the first E. coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with cucumbers reported in the United States. Public health and food safety officials should be aware that cucumbers may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, which could cause sporadic E. coli O157:H7 infections as well as outbreaks. As of the date of this report, no other cases of E. coli O157:H7 with the PFGE pattern combination seen in this outbreak were reported in Colorado. 

Spitting leads to F at Colorado restaurant

A Wheat Ridge grill earned an “F” on Restaurant Report Card for where an employee was spitting.

spitting.restaurantLong Shots Bar & Grill failed for 16 critical health code violations marked during two unannounced inspections in October and April.

The violations in October included, “Bottle of liquor at the bar contained fruit flies, employee observed to rinse mouth and spit in the food preparation sink” and “employees observed to be eating in the kitchen.” The inspector also noted, “Food preparation employees observed to repeat the same critical violations on numerous routine inspections.”

Long Shots sent us a statement that said in part, “Since the noted violations, we have revised our current training protocol and implemented a new training regimen. This regimen will be strictly enforced. We are confident that the procedures implemented will not only correct any violations seen in the past, but will undoubtedly prevent any reoccurrences.” The restaurant, located at 4400 Ward Road, passed a follow up inspection in October.

8 sick; E. coli outbreak linked to Jimmy John’s in Denver

An outbreak linked to raw sprouts in the U.S. that sickened 140 people occurred between November 2010 into 2011, involving sandwich franchise, Jimmy John’s (CDC, 2011; Illinois Department of Public Health, 2010).

The owner of the Montana Jimmy John’s outlet, Dan Stevens, expressed confidence in his sprouts claiming that because the sprouts amy.sprouts.guelph.05were locally grown they would not be contaminated, although the source of the contaminated sprouts had not yet been identified (KRTV, 2010).

By the end of December 2010 a sprout supplier, Tiny Greens Farm, was implicated in the outbreak (Food and Drug Administration, 2010).

Jimmy John’s owner, John Liautaud, responded by stating the sandwich chain would replace alfalfa sprouts with clover sprouts since they were allegedly easier to clean (Associated Press, 2011c). However, a week earlier a separate outbreak had been identified in Washington and Oregon in which eight people were infected with salmonella after eating sandwiches containing clover sprouts from a Jimmy John’s restaurant (Oregon Department of Human Services, 2011; Terry, 2011). This retailer was apparently not aware of the risks associated with sprouts, or even outbreaks associated with his franchisees.

The FDA inspection of the Tiny Greens facility found numerous issues which may have led to pathogen contamination, including “the company grew sprouts in soil from the organic material decomposed outside without using any monitored kill step on it,” mold was found in the mung-bean sprouting room, and the antimicrobial treatment for seeds was not demonstrated to be equivalent to the recommended FDA treatment (Roos, 2011).

Months later, Bill Bagby Jr, owner of Tiny Greens, was quoted as saying “after the changes we made, it’s next to impossible for anything to happen,” hindering communication efforts by being defensive and overconfident (Des Garennes, 2011; Sandman & Lanard, 2011). Interestingly, Bagby also expressed confidence in sprouts following the German outbreak, commenting that for many like him, the nutritional jimmy.johns_.sprouts-300x225benefits outweigh the risk: “Sprouts are kind of a magical thing. That’s why I would advise people to only buy sprouts from someone who has a (food safety) program in place (that includes outside auditors). We did not have (independent auditors) for about one year, and that was the time the problems happened. The FDA determined that unsanitary conditions could have been a potential source of cross-contamination and so we have made a lot of changes since then.”

At a food safety meeting in Taiwan yesterday, attendees were, of course, served up a huge bowl of raw alfalfa sprouts.

Today, Fox 31 Denver learned exclusively, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the CDC and the FDA are all investigating an E. coli outbreak in the Denver metropolitan area.

In the second week of October three Jimmy John’s restaurants in the Denver Metro area reportedly served up sandwiches that sickened eight people with E. coli bacteria.

“We believe that their illness came from a produce item that was on those sandwiches that they ate,” said Alicia Cronquit, epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Cronquist said all eight cases were reported between October 18th and 22nd, and all of the people impacted ate at Jimmy John’s between October 7th and 15th.

The Department of Public Health has not closed down the three restaurants, and will not identify their locations because Cronquist says they do not believe the restaurants are at fault.

“Our leading hypothesis for what’s happened is that there was a contaminated produce item that was distributed to the stores,” Cronquist said. “We have not identified any food handling issues at the particular establishments that we think would contribute to illness.”

A local teenager is among those still hospitalized from the E. coli in Denver. Family friends reached out to Fox31 Denver looking for answers as to why the public had not been notified. We took that question to state health officials and they told us it’s because the tainted food no longer appears to be a threat.

When contacted by Fox 31 News a Jimmy John’s corporate representative declined to comment on the outbreak.

 

Go on a restaurant inspection ride-along with a Denver health-type

9news reports that “Restaurant Impossible,” “Bar Rescue” and “The Health Inspectors” are just a few of the shows that are on television right now that show rat-ridden, cockroach infested facilities and restaurants.

Because of that, the Denver EnvironmentalHealth Department wants consumers to know that’s not common place. They’re now offering a free, food-inspection ride-along program where people can go on a restaurant inspection and see what it’s really like.

To find more information about the ride-along program go to denvergov.org/phi.

You can also look for a favorite facility online by visiting www.denvergov.org/phi and searching by name, or even the approximately vicinity the facility is located in if you can’t remember.