16 sick with E. coli O157 linked to blue cheese in Scotland

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) are investigating 16 confirmed cases of the same strain of E. coli O157, which may be associated with eating blue cheese made from unpasteurised milk  in Lanarkshire.

blue.cheeseOf the 16 cases, 14 are in Scotland across seven NHS boards and two are in England.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) said the company is carrying out a voluntary recall of suspected batches of the blue cheese and advised consumers who have bought the product and still have it in their fridge not to eat it.

Officials are advising anyone who purchased the cheese with batch codes C22 or D14 between mid-May and the end of July to not eat the product. 

Dr Syed Ahmed, clinical director at HPS, said: “Members of the public who purchased Dunsyre Blue cheese and still have the product in their fridges should return it to the retailer where they purchased the product or dispose of it.”

The cases developed symptoms between 2 and 15 July.

The business’ founder, Humphrey Errington, told The Scotsman they were co-operating fully with HPS’ investigation but were shocked by the initial findings.

Mr Errington said: “We don’t know for sure yet if this happened because of our cheese. We’re completely baffled by their (HPS) conclusion it is connected to Dunsyre Blue. We haven’t seen the evidence yet, only circumstantial proof that some of the 16 had eaten the cheese at hotels we supply. We have sent more than 40 samples to testing centres and all tests so far have come back negative for E. coli O157.”

Mr Errington, whose daughter Selina Cairns now runs the company, was concerned of the impact the outbreak could have on the family-run firm.

1 sick with E. coli in Colorado: Ranch Foods Direct issues recall

Good Food Concepts, LLC, doing business as Ranch Foods Direct, a Colorado Springs, Colo. establishment, is recalling approximately 2,606 pounds of non-intact beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

ranch.food.colo.jul.16The non-intact beef items were produced on June 6, 7, and 8, 2016. The following products are subject to recall:

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “EST. 27316” inside the USDA mark of inspection and “PACKED ON” dates of June 6, 7, and 8, 2016. These items were shipped to wholesale and retail locations in Colorado.

FSIS was notified of an E. coli O157:H7 illness possibly associated with ground beef consumption on July 14, 2016. Working in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the El Paso County Public Health Department, FSIS determined that there is a possible link between the ground beef products from Ranch Foods Direct and this illness. Based on epidemiological investigation, one case-patient has been identified in Colorado with an illness onset date of June 12, 2016. FSIS confirmed ground beef products originating from Ranch Foods Direct were adulterated with E. coli O157:H7 on July 25, 2016 through laboratory testing and traceback investigation. FSIS continues to work with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the El Paso County Public Health Department on this investigation and provides updated information as it becomes available.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers.

The only way to confirm that ground beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature, http://1.usa.gov/1cDxcDQ.

Media and consumers with questions regarding the recall can contact Dave Anderson, Manager, at (719) 574-0750 x 241.

14 sick in NH: Know where your E. coli O157:H7 comes from

As the number of sick in New Hampshire with E. coli O157:H7 climbs to 14, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) has announced a connection between a N.H. farm and at least eight of the cases.

pt.farm.nh.jul.16As a result, PT Farm in North Haverhill is recalling 8,800 pounds of ground beef produced between June 6 and June 16.

FSIS stated they are worried costumers may be storing contaminated ground beef in freezers.

From USDA:

PT Farm, LLC, a North Haverhill, N.H. establishment, is recalling approximately 8,800 pounds of raw beef products that may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.  

The raw, intact and non-intact beef product items (ground beef, ground beef patties and other sub-primal cuts) were produced between June 6 and June 16, 2016. The following products are subject to recall:

Various weights and various sizes of raw intact and raw non-intact “Chestnut Farms” beef products packed in cardboard boxes.

Various weights and various sizes of raw intact and raw non-intact “PT Farm” beef products packed in cardboard boxes.

Various weights and various sizes of raw intact and raw non-intact “Miles Smith Farm” beef products packed in cardboard boxes.

Various weights and various sizes of raw intact and raw non-intact “Robie Farm” beef products packed in cardboard boxes.

The products subject to recall bear establishment number “M8868” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to retail locations and for institutional use in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.                           

FSIS was notified of an E. coli O157:H7 illness cluster on July 20, 2016. Working in conjunction with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, FSIS determined that there is a link between the beef products from PT Farm and this illness cluster. Based on epidemiological investigation, 14 case-patients have been identified with illness onset dates ranging from June 15 to July 10, 2016. Traceback for 8 case-patients for whom data was available led back to a single day of production at PT Farm. This investigation is ongoing. FSIS continues to work with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services on this investigation and will provide updated information as it becomes available.

  1. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause dehydration, bloody diarrhea and abdominal cramps 2–8 days (3–4 days, on average) after exposure the organism. While most people recover within a week, some develop a type of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). This condition can occur among persons of any age but is most common in children under 5-years old and older adults. It is marked by easy bruising, pallor, and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately.

FSIS and the company are concerned that some product may be frozen and in consumers’ freezers.

Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume beef products that have been cooked to a temperature of 145° F for roasts with a three minute rest time and 160° F for ground meat. The only way to confirm that beef is cooked to a temperature high enough to kill harmful bacteria is to use a food thermometer that measures internal temperature, http://1.usa.gov/1cDxcDQ.

FDA shares data on cucumber and hot pepper testing

Tom Karst of The Packer reports the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has released preliminary results of pathogen testing of cucumbers and hot peppers.

animal.house.cucumberStarting November 2015, the agency began microbiological surveillance sampling and testing of cucumbers and hot peppers because these products have previously been involved in large-scale outbreaks, according to the FDA report. The outbreaks were linked to hospitalizations, and in the case of hot peppers, two deaths, according to the FDA.

The agency is in the midst of testing approximately 1,600 samples for Salmonella spp. and E. coli O157:H7 in cucumbers, and Salmonella spp., Shiga toxin-producing E. coli and E. coli O157:H7 in hot peppers, according to the report. 

So far, the FDA said it has tested 452 samples of hot peppers and 352 samples of cucumbers. Of those, 13 of the hot pepper samples and three cucumbers samples tested positive for Salmonella. The rest tested negative for the targeted pathogens, according to the FDA.

The FDA report said the testing continues and offered no conclusions about the results so far.

McDonald’s tries fresh beef ‘An E. coli outbreak waiting to happen’

In 1982, E. coli O157:H7, was found to be responsible for outbreaks of human illness in Oregon and Michigan after customers at McDonald’s outlets ate contaminated hamburgers, the first outbreaks linked to Shiga-toxin producing E. coli.

mclovin1-300x140McDonald’s changed the way it cooked burgers to largely eliminate the human element and instituted E. coli O157 testing of its suppliers and demanded continuous improvement.

Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, or so the saying goes.

Robert Galbraith of Reuters reports that McDonald’s has been testing fresh, never-frozen beef patties at restaurants in Dallas.

Wall Street analysts have applauded the change, but some McDonald’s franchisees say it’s a food-safety disaster waiting to happen.

In a recent survey by Nomura, two dozen franchisees warned that introducing fresh beef patties nationwide would slow down service and expose the chain to new food contamination risks.

“I have major concerns over food safety and our lack of ability to serve a large number of customers quickly,” one franchisee wrote.

Another wrote, “If we do not handle the meat perfectly there is the opportunity for bacterial invasion of our product.”

One operator brought up the E. coli outbreak that affected 14 Chipotle restaurants across the country last fall, sending the chain’s sales plunging by as much as 30%.

“An uncaring employee [could end up] doing something that puts the entire system at risk,” the franchisee wrote. “We are the lightning rod. Chipotle will be a walk in the park if we have an incident.”

McDonald’s has long relied on an extensive network of suppliers who make, freeze, and ship beef patties to its more than 14,000 restaurants in the US.

mcdonalds-600x800Expanding the fresh beef test — which is currently limited to 14 restaurants in Dallas — would require big changes to its supply chain. The potential for foodborne illnesses is higher when uncooked meat is kept at a temperature above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the USDA.

At the restaurant level, it would be a “massive learning curve for our managers and crew,” one franchisee wrote. “No doubt the biggest change in McDonald’s history. Would be a huge distraction from our ‘turnaround.'”

In the same survey, many McDonald’s franchisees also acknowledged that fresh beef would help improve the fast-food chain’s public image.

“Faster cook times, juicier product, seared product versus stewed meat,” one franchisee wrote.

Another said, “Many customers perceive unfrozen to be better for you. Perception is everything.”

Twenty-seven domestic franchisees with approximately 199 stores participated in the Nomura survey, representing a small fraction of McDonald’s 14,000 stores in the US. 

McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said last month that there isn’t currently a large enough supply of fresh beef to expand the test nationally but that the company could start expanding it gradually region by region.

 Easterbrook said a larger rollout wouldn’t require any major new equipment or expenses for franchisees.

The company just has a few small issues to work out through the test, such as finding the best system for storage and handling of the beef to avoid any cross-contamination of the fresh, uncooked meat with other food items.

“We are trying to figure out the best way to segregate equipment like spatulas and scrapers for the grill,” he said.

Are those leafy greens kept cold? Meh

Leafy green vegetables are highly susceptible to microbial contamination because they are minimally processed. Pathogenic bacteria of concern include Escherichia coliO157:H7, Salmonella spp., and Listeria monocytogenes. Leafy greens are a highly perishable commodity, and in some cases have a postharvest shelf-life limited to one week.

lettuceThis study provides an approach to optimize storage temperature of leafy greens in the supply chain, considering the cost of refrigeration, sensory quality parameters (i.e., fresh appearance, wilting, browning, and off-odor), and microbial safety using nonlinear programming (NLP).

The loss of sensory quality parameters was expressed as Arrhenius equations and pathogen growth were represented by three-phase linear (primary) and square-root (secondary) models. The objective function was refrigeration cost, which was to be minimized. The constraints were growth of pathogens and the loss of sensory characteristics. An interactive graphical user interface was developed in MATLAB.

Pathogen growth is of more concern than loss of sensory quality in fresh-cut Iceberg lettuce when considering a shelf-life of up to two days, and the model indicates is difficult to maintain sensory qualities for longer shelf-life values. Browning is of maximum concern for fresh-cut Iceberg and Romaine lettuce, whereas off-odor is the biggest concern for fresh-cut chicory.

Cost, quality, and safety: A nonlinear programming approach to optimize the temperature during supply chain of leafy greens

LWT – Food Science and Technology, Volume 73, November 2016, Pages 412–418

Abhinav Mishra, Robert L. Buchanan, Donald W. Schaffner, Abani K. Pradhan

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002364381630370X

Going public: Epidemiology works, especially when so many are sick with E. coli O157

With two dead and at least 151 sick with E. coli O157, believed to be from imported rocket (like bagged lettuce), Public Health England (PHE) says the products are still on supermarket shelves because the source of the outbreak had not been confirmed.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145Instead, officials are reiterating advice to wash vegetables, including salad leaves, thoroughly before eating them.

Washing is not going to remove much E. coli O157.

Stephen Adams of the Daily Mail writes that children are among those ill.

PHE would not say if the more than 60 patients needing hospital treatment were children or among the fatalities.

Several food wholesalers have been told to ‘stop adding some imported rocket leaves to their mixed salad products while investigations are ongoing,’ said the Food Standards Agency.

2 dead, 151 sick: UK says stop using imported rocket (lettuce), but not blaming anyone

Continuing in the fairytale theme that purveyors of food have the best interest of consumers at heart, as do taxpayer funded regulators, Public Health England have told a small number of wholesalers to stop using imported rocket leaves in their salad mixes, as investigations into a major E. coli outbreak continue.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145The outbreak had so far claimed two lives, PHE said today, with a total of 151 cases identified, 62 of which required hospital care.

Director of Public Health England, Dr Isabel Oliver, said  “PHE is using various approaches including whole genome sequencing (WGS) technologies to test samples from those affected. WGS technologies are at the forefront of improving the diagnosis of infectious diseases and this testing has indicated that the strain involved is likely to be an imported strain, possibly from the Mediterranean area.

“PHE is also working closely with the Food Standards Agency to trace, sample and test salad products grown in the UK and other parts of Europe.

“All food sample results to date have been negative for E.coli O157, but it’s important to be aware that where food has been contaminated with E.coli O157, it is not always possible to identify the bacteria on food testing.

“As an additional precautionary measure, we have advised a small number of wholesalers to cease adding some imported rocket leaves to their mixed salad products pending further investigations

The UK Food Standards Agency said in the most bureaucratic way possible – with 2 dead and 151 sick – it is continuing to work closely with PHE and local authorities to investigate an outbreak of E.coli O157. The outbreak has been linked to eating mixed salad leaves, including rocket leaves, however a specific food source has not been confirmed at this stage.

As a precaution, the FSA is reminding people of the importance of good hand and food hygiene practices. All vegetables, including salads, intended to be eaten raw should be thoroughly washed unless they are specifically labelled ‘ready to eat’. Investigations are ongoing.

Fail. Nothing about on-farm food safety.

 

Do food producers have any idea what goes in their products? Traceability, another fairytale

For all the food companies that brag about traceability, why does it take so long to figure out that your suppliers are in a recall and maybe you should be too?

HT_betty_crocker_recall_as_160712_12x5_1600The lingering, lasting recalls involving products that contain E. coli O121- tainted wheat from General Mills, Listeria-tainted frozen produce from CRF Frozen Foods in Pasco, Wash, and Listeria-tainted sunflower kernels from SunOpta, pile up daily.

Yesterday, the girlfriend of my much younger youth, Betty Crocker, recalled cake mix in Canada because it possibly contained E. coli flour from General Mills.

But how could I not lick her spoon, or sample her beater, as a child or an adult?

Randy Shore of the Vancouver Sun asked me those questions the other night during a conversation about risk, cookie dough and preaching.

I said I don’t preach, I provide information, people can do what they like, but it really sucks if your kid gets a Shiga-toxin producing E. coli like O121 because it’s a serious illness, often with lifelong consequences.

And it’s a scam that for all the prowess and profits of these companies, from Betty, to Golden Dipt brand Jalapeño Breader, to Planters Sunflower Kernels, they can’t figure out who is supplying their shit ingredients.

Markets/local/sustainable/whatever adjective are no better.

It’s food fraud.

Rick Holley, a professor emeritus of food safety at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg (that’s in Canada) told CBC News that eating foods that aren’t well cooked is sorta like the risks people take when they jaywalk and don’t cross the street at a traffic light or stop sign.

“We know only too well that there are folks who like to eat food that’s not well cooked or isn’t cooked and against the best advice, because the food we eat is not sterile — there are risks associated with it. Having said that, I enjoy my salad in the summer time. Uncooked.

“Where we need also to do some work is on maintaining and improving the levels of sanitation in all parts of the food system, food processing plants. We know from investigations that have been done both in Canada and the United States that when there are lapses in sanitation, problems occur in food processing plants. We can see it now happening in mills.”

UCM511108According to Shore at the Vancouver Sun, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned people not to eat raw cookie dough, effectively killing the fun of making cookies.

1.) How serious is the cookie dough threat?

In 2009, at least 71 people in 31 states were sickened by Nestle Tollhouse cookie dough contaminated with E. coli O157: H7. While nobody died, 11 people suffered serious complications. Nestle now uses heat-treated flour.

2.) What about homemade cookie dough?

The flour you use at home to make cookies has likely not been treated to kill salmonella and E.coli, so it should not be eaten raw. Irradiation is used to control insects in flour, not bacteria, so don’t depend on it for food safety.

3.) What about cookie dough ice cream?

Cookie dough ice cream is a guilty pleasure, but you can eat it without risk. Ben & Jerry’s cookie dough is made with pasteurized eggs and heat-treated flour. Most manufacturers, including Dreyer’s and Haagen-Dazs, use similar methods. 

4.) What will happen to me?

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, rainbow bits contaminated with E. coli O121 may not look or smell spoiled but can still make you sick. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, mild to severe abdominal cramps and watery to bloody diarrhea. In severe cases of illness, people may die.

5.) Should I panic?

While the CFIA is so far silent on the issue, the FDA warns that you should not eat or allow your children to play with raw flour products, including homemade PlayDoh. If you make cake, cookies or pancakes, don’t lick the beaters.

Julia Calderone of Consumer Reports lists her own five ways you could get an E. coli infection from flour.

They’re not that surprising to microbiology-types.

Be the bug. Follow the bug (especially animal poop).

Since December 2015, 42 people across 21 states have developed an E. coli infection after eating uncooked flour. The outbreak is caused by a potentially dangerous strain of E. coli called O121.

Like E. coli O157, which has been responsible for food poisoning outbreaks from undercooked ground beef, O121 is a toxin-producing bacteria that may cause abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhea, and possibly life-threatening kidney damage. Fortunately, so far no one who has become ill from flour or flour-based products has developed kidney damage or died, but 11 people have been hospitalized. 

Products produced at a General Mills plant in Kansas City, Missouri, in November 2015 are the culprits behind these cases of E. coli infection. The company voluntarily recalled 10 million pounds of possibly contaminated flour, including their Gold Medal, Signature Kitchens, and Gold Medal Wondra flour brands. Several cake and pancake mixes that may have used General Mills flour have also been recalled.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are currently investigating these cases of E. coli infection, and are advising consumers not to eat flour and flour-containing foods that have not been cooked or baked. Consuming raw flour is a potential hazard, says the FDA, since it isn’t meant to be a ready-to-eat product.

Some of the ways you could ingest uncooked flour may not be so obvious. Here are five sources of potentially tainted flour that you should watch out for if you want to prevent a possible associated E. coli infection. 

  1. Raw doughs and batters.Of course, cookie doughs, pizza doughs, and cake and pancake batters are risky, so you should be careful not to accidentally or intentionally eat them before they’re cooked.

But raw dough can also make you sick even if you don’t intend to eat it. For example, kneading bread dough often leaves you with floury hands. Some restaurants give children balls of uncooked dough to play with, and they could stick either the tainted ball or their contaminated fingers into their mouth. Even storing uncooked dough next to other foods could cause a problem, so be sure to handle and stash it carefully.

  1. Arts and crafts materials.Websites devoted to pantry-based projects offer recipes for modeling clays, play doughs, spray glue, paper mache, and ornaments with flour as the main ingredient. For now, avoid making these mixtures with kids, and be sure to wash your hands and work surfaces thoroughly afterward if you decide to work with them.
  2. No-cook dishes.Some flour-containing recipes for truffles, icing, and even cookies don’t involve heating or baking. So if the recipe doesn’t call for the dish to be thoroughly cooked, skip it.
  3. Contaminated cooking and eating surfaces.Flour is light and powdery, and can easily fly everywhere in your kitchen if you aren’t careful. Even miniscule amounts of tainted flour can make you sick, so be sure that foods that will be eaten raw don’t come into contact with flour-dusted counters, cutting boards, plates, and the like. Wash these—as well as your hands—in hot soapy water after using them. Be careful if you’re dredging meat or chickenin flour before cooking, so the flour doesn’t go all over the place.
  4. Containers you use to store flour.When you purchase a new bag of flour, you might dump the new flourinto a flour bin or canister that has some old, recalled flour already in it, unwittingly contaminating your new stash. If you’re not sure if the flour you currently have has been recalled, throw it out. Make sure that you thoroughly clean your storage container before using it again.

Clever: Inexpensive camera system detects foodborne Shiga toxins

Reuven Rasooly, a chemist at the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service Western Regional Research Center in Albany, California (nice tagline) has developed a simple and inexpensive system for detecting Shiga toxin, a product of pathogenic Escherichia coli O157:H7.

shiga.toxin.cameraThis particular pathogen causes about 73,000 cases of food poisoning and more than 60 deaths in the United States each year.

The new system uses a camera and a light-emitting source to detect active toxins. Tests used today cannot distinguish between the active and inactive form of Shiga toxin, Rasooly says. It’s important to tell the difference between the two, because the toxin’s active form poses a threat to humans while the inactive form does not.

“We need devices that are affordable and sensitive to reduce the sources and incidence of foodborne illness,” Rasooly says. “Equipment such as a commercial fluorometer, typically used to detect Shiga toxin and other pathogens, is too expensive for developing countries, where the risk of foodborne illness and outbreaks is greatest.”

In a study, Rasooly and his colleagues showed that the camera system was as effective in measuring Shiga toxin activity as a fluorometer. Both instruments had the same toxin detection levels. The difference is that a fluorometer costs about $35,000 while the camera only costs $300, making it an affordable alternative for diagnostic labs.

In addition, the new system can easily be adapted for detecting other foodborne toxins. Rasooly recently demonstrated that the camera system can be used to detect Aflatoxin B1, a toxin produced byAspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus.

“The toxin contaminates crops and foodstuffs worldwide, affecting 4.5 billion people,” Rasooly says.