FoodNet Canada not part of surveillance system, but found E. coli-tainted beef that was recalled days after positive test

The federal system designed to keep Canadian food safe to eat failed in December to prevent ground beef contaminated with E. coli from being offered for sale to consumers.

beef.processingCBC News reports that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s December recall of 31,000 pounds of ground beef followed a positive test of a random sample by a federally-co-ordinated public health surveillance program, CBC News has learned. It was not a result of any inspection work performed by the CFIA, whose job it is to prevent tainted meat from entering the marketplace.

The recall also was not widely publicized until the morning of Dec. 2 — three or four days after the “use by” dates of the packaged meat had passed.

That timeline suggests the entire food safety system managed by CFIA failed to either detect E. coli-tainted meat in a federally regulated processing facility or recall the problem batch until after any of the fresh meat had likely been consumed or thrown out.

The details of the recall prompted an angry reaction from NDP agriculture critic Malcolm Allen.

“That’s not a safety inspection system, that’s actually just a failure,” he said. “If by the time they actually make a recall,  it’s days after the best before date, there’s nothing on the shelf to recall.  

“It’s either been bought, in people’s freezers, been consumed, or the retailer themselves removed it — not because they knew it was unsafe but because the best before date expired and they took it off the shelf themselves.”

The meat was shipped by Cargill Meat Solutions from its Calgary processing plant to Walmart stores across the four Western provinces on Nov. 19 and 20.

That facility is federally inspected, but the systems in place there apparently did not detect any E. coli.

dude.its.beefIn a statement, Cargill said it maintained a “robust food safety program.”

“We are currently reviewing our processing and testing procedures as part of our investigation to determine if any changes are appropriate,” the statement said. 

The CFIA says its investigation is ongoing. It said it was impossible to predict how long that work will take.

“We are taking all necessary steps in order to protect Canadians from the risks posed by E. coli,” the agency offered in a statement.

But those steps appear, in this case, to have not yielded effective results.

Rather, it was the work of FoodNet Canada that revealed some of Cargill’s meat had been contaminated.

The little known organization is a federally-run public health program that performs surveillance for infectious enteric disease caused by bacteria, viruses or other parasitic micro-organism such as E. coli.

It does the work in three so-called “sentinel sites” in Canada, including B.C.’s lower mainland, where it monitors public health, samples water and tests manure from farms where animals are raised for human consumption.

FoodNet also collects random samples of meat and produce from grocery stores, says Dr. Frank Pollari, the program’s manager.

“We’re just trying to see what the end product looks like, what the consumer is getting,” he said. “We randomly select the retailers, and then [staff] go out to those and select the specific package that we get, and they ship it to our labs.”

Recall 3 days after meat tested positive

Pollari says it was one of those samples of Cargill meat from a B.C. Walmart that first tested positive for E. coli.

That early result was sent to the CFIA on Nov. 28. 

That was the first of two consecutive “use by” dates with which the meat had been labelled.

CFIA says it began an investigation immediately. But, the meat was not ordered recalled until after confirmatory test results were known on Dec. 1.

Then the agency asked for a risk assessment to be performed.  The results of that analysis came back late on Dec. 1.

The news release announcing the recall to consumers was dated that same day, but was not sent out by distribution services until the next morning — three full days after the first packages of meat would have begun to pass their best before dates.

In a statement Sunday, CFIA media relations manager Guy Gravelle suggested the recall was the result of a normal process.

steak-groundbeef-istock-300“As a result of the federal system and measures we have in place, the CFIA was able to recall these products based on routine retail sampling,” Gravelle wrote in an e-mail. 

“This food recall was made before any reported illnesses and to date there have been no illnesses.”

But FoodNet, which found the bad meat, is not technically part of the food safety system. 

It is an adjunct — a surveillance program, designed to provide scientific data and public health information to the government and to the food sector.

“Our job is to feed the information back to those who can and do make the difference in putting in interventions,” Pollari said.

Federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose is responsible for the CFIA, and, ultimately, for FoodNet Canada, as well.

In a statement, her office said, “Canada has one of the safest and healthiest food systems in the world.”

Uh –huh.

Microbiologists discover how gut bacterial resources are hijacked to promote intestinal and foodborne illnesses

UT Southwestern Medical Center microbiologists have identified key bacteria in the gut whose resources are hijacked to spread harmful foodborne E. coli infections and other intestinal illnesses.

sperandio-vanessaThough many E. coli bacteria are harmless and critical to gut health, some E. coli species are harmful and can be spread through contaminated food and water, causing diarrhea and other intestinal illnesses. Among them is enterohemorrhagic E. coli or EHEC, one of the most common foodborne pathogens linked with outbreaks featured in the news, including the multistate outbreaks tied to raw sprouts and ground beef in 2014.

The UT Southwestern team discovered that EHEC uses a common gut bacterium called Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron to worsen EHEC infection. B. thetaiotaomicron is a predominant species in the gut’s microbiota, which consists of tens of trillions of microorganisms used to digest food, produce vitamins, and provide a barrier against harmful microorganisms.

“EHEC has learned to how to steal scarce resources that are made by other species in the microbiota for its own survival in the gut,” said lead author Dr. Meredith Curtis, Postdoctoral Researcher at UT Southwestern.

The research team found that B. thetaiotaomicron causes changes in the environment that promote EHEC infection, in part by enhancing EHEC colonization, according to the paper, appearing in the journal Cell Host Microbe.

e.coliO157H7“We usually think of our microbiota as a resistance barrier for pathogen colonization, but some crafty pathogens have learned how to capitalize on this role,” said Dr. Vanessa Sperandio, Professor of Microbiology and Biochemistry at UT Southwestern and senior author (left).

EHEC senses changes in sugar concentrations brought about by B. thetaiotaomicron and uses this information to turn on  virulence genes that help the infection colonize the gut, thwart recognition and killing by the host immune system, and obtain enough nutrients to survive. The group observed a similar pattern when mice were infected with their equivalent of EHEC, the gut bacterium Citrobacter rodentium. Mice whose gut microbiota consisted solely of B. thetaiotaomicron were more susceptible to infection than those that had no gut microbiota. Once again, the research group saw that B. thetaiotaomicron caused changes in the environment that promoted C. rodentium infection.

“This study opens up the door to understand how different microbiota composition among hosts may impact the course and outcome of an infection,” said Dr. Sperandio, whose lab studies how bacteria recognize the host and how this recognition might be exploited to interfere with bacterial infections. “We are testing the idea that differential gastrointestinal microbiota compositions play an important role in determining why, in an EHEC outbreak, some people only have mild diarrhea, others have bloody diarrhea and some progress to hemolytic uremic syndrome, even though all are infected with the same strain of the pathogen.”

Other UT Southwestern researchers involved in the work include Dr. Ralph DeBerardinis, Associate Professor with the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern, Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development, and Pediatrics, who holds the Joel B. Steinberg, M.D. Chair in Pediatrics and is Sowell Family Scholar in Medical Research; Dr. Zeping Hu, Assistant Professor with Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern and Pediatrics; and Claire Klimko, Research Technician. The work was carried out in collaboration with researchers at Kansas State University and supported by the National Institute of Health and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

It’s what parents do: ‘Superhero’ UK father gives son a life-saving kidney

A father has given his son a life-saving kidney as an early Christmas present.

0005507DEC09103031F12C6BBZac Stanley was just two when he contracted E .coli, causing permanent damage to his kidneys as the bacterium attacked.

His condition got worse until his kidney function was 11 per cent.

Dave Stanley, 36, stepped in to donate Zac, now eight, the life-saving kidney just in time for Christmas.

Mr Stanley said: “Giving up your kidney or an organ for your child is just what parents do.

“Afterwards, just seeing him sitting there being his cheeky self eating a banana was amazing. I couldn’t ask for any more, it is amazing to see him so well.”

Zac had to stay in Alder Hey children’s hospital in their home town of Liverpool for five months as a toddler, having dialysis for chronic kidney diease caused by the E. coli bacteria.

Nikki Berg, 27, said: “We were told he wouldn’t need the transplant until he was a teenager, but because his kidney function has deteriorated over the years he needed it sooner.

“It was a shock but such a relief when we found out Dave was a match.”

Deal to settle part of Canadian E. coli beef recall lawsuit

Lawyers have brokered a tentative deal to settle part of a class-action lawsuit filed over an E. coli outbreak and the largest meat recall in Canadian history.

XL.foodsThe lawsuit is against XL Foods Inc., which operated a meat-packing plant in southern Alberta during the tainted beef recall in 2012.

Rick Mallett, a lawyer for the Edmonton law firm behind the class action, said the settlement is to cover refunds to consumers for products that were recalled.

He said the proposed $1-million settlement, plus other costs, is to go before a judge early next year for approval.

“The parties have reached a settlement on beef refund claims subject to approval of the court,” Mallett said Tuesday following a hearing in Court of Queen’s Bench.

“It applies to anyone who purchased recalled beef — XL beef — and disposed of it and didn’t get a refund.”

XL Foods recalled more than 1.8 million kilograms of beef in Canada and the United States.

In its statement of defence the company has denied liability and the allegations contained in the class action. The plant in Brooks was sold to JBS Canada last year.

Evaluation? E. coli victims appeal to workers in LGMA training video

Coral Beach of The Packer writes that victims of the 2006 E. coli outbreak linked to fresh spinach tell their stories in a new food safety training video co-produaced by the California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement and the non-profit group STOP Foodborne Illness.

Lauren Bush tells her story in the video, describing how as a 20-year-old college student she contracted an infection from a spinach salad that ultimately sent her to the hospital with hemorrhaging and other severe symptoms.

“I’m so pleased with the video,” Bush said during a Nov. 19 Internet press conference. “I hope it reminds everyone who sees it of the importance of what they are doing. I know it must be a lot of extra work, but it does save lives.”

Dan Sutton, LGMA member and general manager of Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange, said he attended a training session a week before the press conference and watched the reactions of people seeing it for the first time.

“There was absolute silence when it was over,” Sutton said. “It had an impact.”

The video is bilingual with segments presented in Spanish and English.

Investigation of E. coli outbreak at Oregon Montessori school closed and remains a mystery

The E. coli outbreak at a West Linn Montessori school that sickened three children will remain a mystery, with health officials announcing Monday they have wrapped up the investigation without evidence pointing to the cause.

West-Linn-MontessoriInvestigators combed Heart Centered Montessori School, taking environmental samples that were tested for E. coli. All students and staff were tested as well. Those tests yielded nothing, according a news release.

Son recalls how eating raw cookie dough led to one mom’s death

His mother died an agonizing death, possibly because she ate a few bites of raw cookie dough years earlier. Simpson, of Las Vegas, recounted his mom’s painful battle with E. coli today at an FDA hearing about stricter regulations on food production.

Linda Rivera died last summer, four years after she ate a few spoonfuls of prepackaged cookie dough that was later found to be contaminated with a dangerous strain of E. coli. First, her kidneys stopped functioning and she went into septic shock. Over the years, she became sicker as more organs failed and she was in and out of the hospital for operations.

“There were moments of hope — and of despair,” Simpson, 22, said today. “She fought very hard. We knew she didn’t want to give up.”

Rivera died in July 2013 from medical complications that appeared to stem from the E. coli she was infected with years earlier, her son said.

“Eventually, her body just couldn’t take it,” said Bill Marler, Rivera’s friend and the attorney who handled her claim against Nestle, which manufactured the contaminated cookie dough in 2009.

“She was probably the most severely injured E. coli victim I have ever seen,” he added. “She suffered brain injury. She had quite a large section of her large intestines removed. She suffered so many infections while hospitalized it was incredible. She was on a ventilator for several months in a coma. She was a very sick lady.”

Through it all, Rivera’s family and Marler said, she remained strong.

“I remember the first time I met Linda, she was vomiting and retching and she was really sick, but she would apologize — ‘I am so sorry, please sit down, do you need anything to drink?’” Marler said. “That’s just the way she was. She was just the most graceful, caring person you can ever meet.”

Simpson, who recently got married, said he’s fighting for stricter food regulations so another son doesn’t have to testify about his mother’s eventual death after she ate contaminated food.

Nestle recalled its pre-made Toll House cookie dough in 2009 after dozens of E. coli illnesses were reported.

Rivera’s claim against the company was settled for an undisclosed amount, Marler said.

In a statement, Nestle said, “The fact that our product was implicated in Linda Rivera’s 2009 illness and tragic passing was obviously of grave concern to all of us at Nestle. Since then, we have implemented more stringent testing and inspection of raw materials and finished product to ensure the product meets our high quality standards. In addition, we have switched to using heat-treated flour to further enhance safety. We continue to emphasize that the cookie dough should be consumed only after baking and not eaten raw.”

‘E. coli festering in the microwave’ surprise for four beer and chips-loving Irish students

Conor, Padraig, Brian and Paddy are students at Athlone Institute of Technology, and have been supplementing their studies with a diet of beer and chips while dangerous E. coli festers in their microwave.

Doctor+in+the+House+-+Ep5+(1)The lads, all in their 20s, are blissfully unaware of the dangers of their diet and lifestyle, and the consequences of coming into contact with E. coli.

The doctors, including Dr. Nina Byrnes, Dr. Sinead Beirne and Professor Niall Moyna, learn that Conor has a family history of heart problems and is concerned for his own cardiac health.

Brian is addicted to sugar and video games, Padraig is a man who seems to be a little too fond of his pints, and Paddy is the healthiest in this not so healthy student house.

Apart from their dodgy diet, Dr. Nina Byrnes encounters something a little more disturbing.  She finds E. coli growing in their much-loved microwave and sends the swab to the lab.

“It grew a very heavy growth of bacteria called E. coli,” she says.

“At the very severe end of E. coli, there’s a particular strain of E. coli that can cause kidney failure and death and that was growing in your microwave.

Terrified by the revelation the lads are quick to sign up to an eight week exercise programme and lifestyle overhaul.  But can they ditch their beer-swilling and chip-ingesting ways?

Doctor in the House episode 5 airs Monday 10th November at 9pm on TV3.

But it’s trendy: 5 kids sick in UK linked to raw milk

The food watchdog has issued a warning about the dangers of giving unpasteurised milk to children after five youngsters were taken to hospital with E.coli poisoning.

colbert.raw.milkThe unpasteurised milk has become trendy among celebrity food writers and other advocates of unprocessed ‘raw food,’ who claim it is both tastier and healthier.

However, consumers are putting themselves at risk because the milk is not heat treated to remove dangerous bugs.

The UK Food Standards Agency said there have been incidents on three farms selling raw milk in recent weeks which led to E. coli poisoning in five children aged one to 12 and one adult aged 28.

The watchdog has now suspended sales of raw cows’ drinking milk and any product made from the milk, including cheese, at all three farms.

In a resounding show of statistical idiocy, Shane Holland, of campaigning group Slow Food UK, said: ‘Data from the US show that raw milk is many thousands of times less likely to give you food poisoning than other commonly eaten foods not deemed “risky” by the FSA.’


Another supporter of raw milk is food writer Tom Parker Bowles who has described it as ‘rich, bounteous and fulsome.’


Familiar with strict liability? Schnucks sued over E. coli outbreak

A woman from St. Charles County is seeking damages from Schnucks and three companies in its supply chain after suffering kidney failure and long-term health problems from an E. coli bacterial infection linked to romaine lettuce sold at the Arsenal Street store in St. Louis, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in St. Louis circuit court.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Romaine lettuce from salad bars at nine Schnucks locations was the most common denominator in an E. coli outbreak in the fall of 2011 that sickened 60 people in 10 states. The contamination probably occurred at a farm before the lettuce reached the stores, according to a federal health investigation.

The plaintiff, Lisa Bryant, spent a week in the hospital and required blood transfusions while being treated for the illness after eating the lettuce in October 2011. She has accrued more than $85,000 in medical bills, according to her attorney, Bill Marler of Seattle.

About a dozen lawsuits related to the outbreak have been filed against Schnucks. Lori Willis, a spokeswoman for Schnucks, said, “It is our position that Schnucks holds no liability on this matter, and we intend to aggressively defend that position in court.”