Don’t eat poop: Traveller’s diarhhea sickened dozens on Silversea Cruises March voyage

Robert Herriman of Outbreak News Today reports that in a follow-up on the outbreak onboard the Silversea Cruises ship, Silver Spirit, last month, health officials have reported yesterday that the cause of the outbreak that sickened 37 was Enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC). outbreak on the Silver Spirit voyage from March 3 – 21 resulted in the sickening of 24 of 388 passengers and 13 of 366 crew members.

Infection occurs when a person eats food, or drinks water or ice contaminated with ETEC bacteria. Human or animal wastes (e.g., feces) are the ultimate source of ETEC contamination.

Poop soup: Don’t feed geese signs do little at Anchorage park pond

Rick Sinnott, a former Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist, writes that last summer Thom Eley watched, dumbfounded, as a couple visiting the playground at Anchorage’s Cuddy Family Midtown Park changed their child’s diaper and threw the soiled one into the park’s centerpiece.

GOOSEDOGS03PCTY-joker“The mother took the folded-and-loaded diaper,” Eley says, “and heaved it into Cuddy Pond with a kerplunk,” then hurried out of the area. The park, Eley observed, has no shortage of trash cans. But he also noted a considerable amount of trash – plastic bottles, cups, and bags – floating in a layer of scum on the pond surface. Maybe the couple thought the pond was the place to toss out a dirty diaper.

Eley’s spouse, Cherie Northon, is less worried about the poopy diaper than she is about all the duck and goose feces dissolved in the pond. When Northon raised the issue in 2012, she realized local, state, and federal agency staff familiar with the Cuddy Park pond were also concerned, but no one stepped forward to coordinate its cleanup. “Everybody complained about it,” Northon recalled, “but nobody was doing anything.”

Northon is executive director of Anchorage Waterways Council, a nonprofit that works to protect and restore water bodies and wetlands in the city. Eley is a board member.

The council is trying to focus the attention of various agencies and the public on the growing problem.

According to Northon, while water flowing into the pond had relatively low levels of bacteria in August 2015, samples taken across the pond found levels of more than 40 times higher than the maximum concentration of E. coli bacteria allowed by the state for bodies of water used for recreation. Other potentially dangerous bacteria have been found in similar concentrations. In other words, don’t touch the stuff, it’s poop soup (also loaded with Salmonella and Campylobacter)

On a recent sunny Sunday, I found the park full of people. An ice cream truck in the parking lot piped out music.

geese.control.dogsThe pond and nearby lawns were alive with Canada geese, at least 350 by my count. Small clots of geese gathered near people on the path. Many, perhaps most, of the people were feeding geese. That’s no surprise. Cuddy Park has become the city’s unofficial goose- and duck-feeding venue.

I suggest doing what gold courses do: get a couple of Australian shepherds. They love nothing more than chasing geese if there are no sheep to herd.

Risk reduction: Irradiation of strawberries

Strawberries are vulnerable to harboring microbial pathogens because they are generally not washed due to their perishable nature. The focus of this study was to quantify the reduction in infection risks associated with non-O157 Shiga toxin producing E. coli serotypes contaminated strawberries if the strawberries are exposed to low doses ∼1 kGy (kiloGray) of electron beam (eBeam) irradiation.

strawberry.irradiationA cocktail of six serotypes of non O157 E. coli namely, O26:H11, O45:H2, O103:H2, O111:NM, O121:H19, and O145 was employed. Strawberry puree rather than whole strawberries were used in this study to ensure dose uniformity that is critical for accurate interpretation of microbial reduction.

The results show that when these serotypes are exposed to ≤1 kGy eBeam dose, there is approximately 4-log reduction in their numbers when they are present within a strawberry matrix (puree). Quantitative microbial risk assessments suggest that if a typical strawberry serving (150 g) was heavily contaminated (∼105 CFU/serving size), 2 out of 10 susceptible individuals (20%) would get sick (without eBeam treatment). However, if these contaminated strawberries had been treated with 1 kGy of eBeam dose, the infection risks would have be significantly reduced to approximately 4 out of every 100,000 individuals (0.004%). Similarly, even at low levels of contamination (∼102 CFU/serving), the infection risks would be reduced from 6 out of 10,000 susceptible individuals to approximately 4 out of 100 million susceptible individuals.

Quantifying the reduction in potential infection risks from non-O157 Shiga toxin producing E. coli in strawberries by low dose electron beam processing

Food Control; Available online 7 May 2016; doi:10.1016/j.foodcont.2016.04.057

Shima Shayanfara, Kristina Menab, Suresh D. Pillaia

Waaaah: Chipotle still doesn’t get it, whinges about CDC reporting of E. coli outbreaks

According to Reuters, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has pushed back against complaints from Chipotle Mexican Grill that the health agency misinformed the public with its reporting of certain E. coli cases linked to the burrito chain.

finster.bugs.bunnyThe CDC, in a letter to a lawyer representing Chipotle, said it believes its web updates on the outbreaks served to protect and inform the public.

The CDC’s response, which was posted online this week and dated April 15, said its updates provided people who may have become sick after eating at Chipotle restaurants with information they might have needed to be diagnosed and treated for E. coli O26.

In December, Chipotle’s lawyer said in a letter to the CDC that some of the agency’s updates were confusing and unclear and that their release “only acts to create public panic.”

For a supposedly modernly hipster chain, Chipotle is purely old school when it comes to going public: patronizing, paternalistic, pathetic.

Falsified results: No prison for Calif. consultant over E. coli-tainted beef

MyNews LA reports a Downey man who falsely certified that beef being sold by his employer was free of E. coli bacteria — a lie that led to the recall of 5.7 million pounds of meat products — was sentenced Thursday to probation and home detention in what the judge called a “very difficult case.”

simpsons_lawyer-13207Jim Johnson, a four-decade veteran of the beef industry who worked as a consultant to the now-defunct Huntington Meat Packing Co., was also ordered by U.S. District Judge Fernando M. Olguin to pay a share of $307,000 in restitution.

Johnson, 68, pleaded guilty last year to a federal false-statements charge.

“There is no explanation for why he committed this crime,” Olguin said.

Huntington Meat was a Montebello-based meat processing and distribution company that sold raw ground beef used by other companies to make products such as beef patties and burrito mix. Under a food safety plan approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Huntington Meat was required to test its products for safety.

Johnson admitted that in 2010, he knowingly and willfully provided the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service with a fake Certificate of Analysis, which falsely stated that a beef sample from the company had tested negative for E. coli.

Subsequent lab results showed some of that meat was contaminated with the bacteria, which prompted food regulators to issue the recall.

There were no illnesses linked to the recalled beef, according to the USDA.

“I am truly sorry for what I have done,” Johnson told the court. “I never meant to hurt anyone.”

US federal court orders rice noodle company to stop selling

On April 27, 2016, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California entered a consent decree of permanent injunction against Kun Wo Food Products Inc., located in San Francisco, and its co-owners, Zi Xing Liu and Zi Chen Liu (“Kun Wo”), after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration documented violations of federal food safety laws. The U.S. Department of Justice handled the case on behalf of the FDA.

UnknownAccording to the complaint filed with the consent decree, FDA inspections at Kun Wo in 2015 and 2016 found unsanitary conditions in which noodles may have become contaminated. Listeria monocytogenes (L.mono) was found in the environment, and the company’s rice noodles were also at risk of contamination from Bacillus cereus, Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Staphylococcus aureus.  L. mono is a bacterium that can cause serious illness or even death in vulnerable groups including elderly adults and those with impaired immune systems (such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease and transplant patients). In pregnant women, listeriosis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature labor, and serious illness or death in newborn babies. The FDA investigators observed that company allowed employees to touch food without cleaning their hands after handling dirty machinery and equipment. The company also failed to take adequate measures to protect food against the risk of contamination from other sources, including pests and condensation.

“The FDA has an obligation to protect public health, and we will take action when we see a company repeatedly violating food safety regulations,” said Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s associate commissioner for regulatory affairs.

After the FDA’s 2015 inspection, Kun Wo made inadequate and unsuccessful corrections to its processes and facility issues. The FDA conducted an additional inspection in 2016 and found continuing and ongoing violations of current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations.

As a result of this court action, Kun Wo was ordered to cease processing and distributing food. Under the consent decree, if Kun Wo intends to resume operations, it must give the FDA at least 90 days’ advance notice and fulfill other requirements before the company can begin operating. Kun Wo must, among other things, retain an independent expert to develop a pathogen control program, retain an independent laboratory to conduct analyses of both the environment and food products, and provide employee training on sanitary food handling techniques. If Kun Wo is permitted to resume operations, the consent decree requires the company to obtain independent audits to ensure ongoing compliance.

Artisan? UK cheesemaker banned from ever making cheese again after health inspectors found deadly salmonella, E. coli and listeria in her mozzarella

An artisan cheesemaker has been banned from ever making cheese again after salmonella, E.coli and listeria was found in her mozzarella.

frances.woodHealth inspectors discovered Frances Wood’s dairy in West Cranmore, Somerset, in a filthy state with ‘high-risk’ moldy cheese laid on dirty racks with taps rusting away.

A judge branded the 70-year-old’s cheese-making operation ‘shoddy’ and ‘amateurish’ after hearing that her products contained salmonella, E.coli and the listeria bug – which kills one-third of people infected.

Wood would often travel to London’s Camden Market to sell her artisan mozzarella which she also sold to local pizza restaurants.

She ran Alham Wood Cheeses at Higher Alham Farm, where she kept buffalo and made mozzarella cheese from their milk.

The buffalo have been on the farm since 1997, with a 200-strong herd kept there.

Mendip District Council inspected her dairy several times and saw no change in the disgusting conditions.

And when they viewed her stall at Camden Market, they found the same unhygienic products.

The local authority said they tried to work with Wood to improve her cheese-making, but took legal action when it became clear she had not made any improvements to hygiene conditions at her dairy.

She was served with formal notices at the end of November 2014 and was then prosecuted for two offences under food safety and hygiene regulations.

Alham_Farm_cheeses_2Wood pleaded guilty to the charges and was fined a total of £787 and made to pay £6,000 in prosecution costs.

But a district judge also took the rare step of imposing a Hygiene Prohibition Notice, which bans Wood from ‘participating in the management of any cheese production or processing business in the future’.

He called Wood’s business ‘a shoddy operation’ which was ‘rather amateurish’.

It’s all in the friction: Hand dryers are germ-flinging BS

The benefits of paper towels versus conventional blow dryers for drying after handwashing are well-documented.

handwash_south_park(2)But what about those high-tech – and expensive – Dyson thingies that seem to be popping up everywhere.

I say, show me the data.

Caroline Weinberg writes that a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology showed that Dyson jet air dryers can fling germs as far as 10 feet from the device.

For the experiment, researchers dipped their gloved hands in a suspension of the bacteriophage MS2 (similar in structure to the contagious enteric viruses transmitted in poop). The hands were then dried by one of three methods. First up were Dyson jet air dryers, which are designed to push water off of your hands in 10 seconds with roughly the force of a jet engine. Next were warm air dryers, which blow warm air downwards and supposedly remove water via evaporation. The final competitor was paper towels, which use absorbent paper to remove water from your hands (and actually leave them dry).

The first part of the experiment looked at how many bacteria are blown back on you during the drying process. Researchers erected a vertical board roughly 16 inches away from each dryer and counted the viral particles that landed on it. Overall, the jet dryer dispersed 60 times more particles than the warm air dryer and 1,300 more than the paper towel. 70 percent of particles hit the board between 2.5 and 4.5 feet—roughly chest or stomach level on an woman of average height, or right at the face level of a small child. At the highest density point, the jet air dryer dispersed 167 times as many viral particles as the warm air dryer and 8,340 times as many as a paper towel.

dyson.air-blade-thumb-468x369-147704For the second part of the experiment, researchers studied air dispersal, or how much of the bacteria is spread into the air around the machine or towel. Airborne virus counts were consistently higher around the jet dryer both over time and distance. The jet dryer dryer propelled the virus as far as 10 feet away, with high levels recorded a full 15 minutes after use. There was no significant difference in air dispersal between warm air dryers and paper towels.

This isn’t a perfect study: Because it was done in a lab setting, researchers could not account for individual behaviors or real world differences. They also only tested one example of each hand drying device (Dyson is taking the heat here, but they are not the only makers of jet air dryers) and did so over a small number of trials. Critics of the study also rightfully point out that most people don’t dip their hands in bacteria prior to using the hand dryers: they wash their hands first. And it’s true that if one were to stick perfectly clean hands into a dryer, there would not be germs to blow around.

Unfortunately, here in the real world, 95% of people using public restrooms fail to adequately wash their hands. Sure, a small percentage may use the scientifically vetted, 42-second-long, six-step hand washing process that most effectively rids your hands of all the filthy germs you’ve picked up in the bathroom and world at large. The rest of them (OK, us) are doing a quick scrub or, worse, simply passing their hands under a running faucet for a few seconds for the illusion of cleanliness. So while the hands most people place in the dryer aren’t drenched in germs, they are likely carrying, among other things, poop particles. Poop particles that the machine then proceeds to blow all over the room, including back on the very hands you just cleaned.

handwashing.blow.dryer.09This isn’t the first time a study has suggested that hand dryers are germ cannons, either. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Hospital Infection also supports this finding—but it was dismissed by Dyson as funded by Big Paper Towel (in their defense, that study was literally funded by Big Paper Towel, i.e. the European Tissue Symposium,). Dyson would direct us, instead, to 2011 study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology that found their air dryers to be more effective at preventing the spread of germs than warm air dryers. Now it was Big Paper Towel’s turn to cry foul—that study was funded by Dyson Limited. The current study in question is funded independently by the researchers’ university (though the lead author has worked with the European Tissue Symposium in the past) lending it a hopefully uncontaminated air of legitimacy.

A few months ago, shortly after this study was published, Dyson posted an ominously narrated attack ad of sorts titled “Paper’s Dirty Secret.” Don’t listen to Big Jet Dryer’s propaganda (well, maybe listen to it, because the video is hilarious—but don’t believe it). It is true that a 2012 pilot study found unused paper towels to be contaminated with small amounts of bacteria. But paper towels have been repeatedly shown to be efficient, effective, and—perhaps most importantly—not responsible for flinging extra poop germs through the air.


5 outbreaks in 6 months will do that: Chipotle sales tank in Q1

USA Today reports that Chipotle posted a double-digit sales decline in the first quarter as the fast-casual restaurant chain works to restore its reputation after a spate of food-related illnesses hit its stores last year.

chipotle.burrito.vomitChipotle was dealt a swift blow when multiple instances of E. coli and norovirus shut down its stores and scared off customers starting last fall. The outbreaks prompted Chipotle, which built its reputation on preparing fresh food directly in stores, to adopt new food-safety policies and move more of its food preparation to a central kitchen, where it’s also testing certain ingredients for diseases.

In the earnings report out Tuesday, Chipotle said food costs accounted for more than 35% of revenue  in the quarter ended March 31, driven up by food-testing protocols and increased costs for pre-cut produce. That means for every dollar going into Chipotle’s cash registers, it spent about 35 cents on food costs.

The company has been investing heavily in marketing and promotions to entice customers back to stores. Promotional and marketing expenses totaled $55 million in the quarter, Chief Financial Officer Jack Hartung said on a conference call. The efforts appear to be working. Executives said on the call Tuesday that the company gave away more than 6 million burritos or burrito bowls in February and March. A mobile campaign offering free burritos to make up for the day Chipotle closed stores temporarily in early February to hold an all-staff meeting on food safety had a 67% redemption rate, said co-CEO Steve Ells.

diarrheaSales at stores open at least a year fell nearly 30%, and restaurant transactions fell more than 21% as Chipotle reeled from the fallout of the food-safety issues — although transaction volume improved as the quarter went on. While the promotions seem to be resonating with new customers, executives said the company is still working to get its formerly most loyal eaters back in stores.

Chipotle said total sales came to $834.5 million, down 23.4% from $1.1 billion in the year-ago quarter. That was well below analyst expectations for revenue of $863.2 million, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Chipotle shares fell about 5% in after-hours trading on the news.

26 Brits win huge payout after contracting E. coli on holiday in Egypt

A young mum dad and daughter, who nearly died after contracting E. coli on holiday in Egypt in 2012, are among holidaymakers who have won a massive pay out from Thomas Cook.

sindbad-aqua-park-hotelRoxanne Barraclough was told by doctors that she was lucky to be alive after being admitted to a hospital with excruciating kidney pain following a family break.

Medics confirmed she had contracted deadly E. coli and, if left untreated, her kidneys could have ruptured.

Roxanne, 26, was one of 26 ailing tourists who suffered life-threatening gastric symptoms, after their stays at the Sindbad Aqua Park Hotel, in Hurghada.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell has now secured the group damages in excess of £100,000 from the tour operator to cover the holidaymakers’ pain and suffering and related losses.

Credit controller Roxanne, of Blackpool, Lancs, had noticed chicken sometimes served to guests at the four-star resort was undercooked and stopped eating it.

Just three days into their trip in July 2012, Roxanne, her partner Daniel, 24 and their seven-year-old-daughter Jessica fell ill.

Daniel’s symptoms continued two weeks after the young family returned home, with Jessica suffering for five weeks after the holiday.

sindbad_aqua_park_3On their return Roxanne’s illness became so bad she went for emergency treatment at an A&E department, where she tested positive for E. coli and was quickly transferred to an infection control unit where she spent a week receiving treatment.

Doctors later told her that had she not received urgent medical care both kidneys could have ruptured.

A Thomas Cook spokeswoman apologised and said health and safety was treated with “the utmost importance”.

She added: “We know how important holidays are to our customers and how upsetting it can be when they fall unwell while overseas. We have been liaising closely with the appointed solicitor representing Ms Barraclough, as well as other customers who stayed at the hotel in 2012, and are pleased that we have reached an agreement to resolve this matter amicably with them.”