2000 sickened: Salmonella egg victims sought by feds, 4 years later

In 2010, eggs produced by farms owned by Jack DeCoster in Iowa sickened at least 2,000 people with Salmonella. The companies recalled 550 million eggs nationwide.

eggsalmonellaIn June, 2014, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, 79, and Peter DeCoster, 50, agreed to pay $7 million in fines and forfeitures as part of a federal criminal case.

Prosecutors allege Quality Egg on at least two occasions in 2010, including April 12, 2010, offered money to a “public official with intent to influence an official act.”

On April 12, 2010, Quality Egg employees offered a USDA inspector $300 to release eggs for sale that had failed to meet federal standards, according to criminal charges filed in 2012 against Tony Wasmund, a former Quality Egg employee.

Wasmund, 63, of Willmar, Minn., pleaded guilty in September 2012 to conspiring to bribe an egg inspector. His sentencing has been rescheduled four times, leading to speculation prosecutors were using his testimony against the DeCosters.

Today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa asked anyone from the public who got sick from the DeCoster- Salmonella eggs to come forward.

Anyone sickened by those eggs or otherwise hurt by the incident has the right to submit a Victim Impact Statement during the sentencing phase to explain how the crime affected them physically, emotionally or financially.  Impact Statements can be submitted online at www.justice.gov/usao/ian.

Australia still has an egg problem: report shows Salmonella surge in Australia in 2012

The ACT – that’s the Australian Capital Territory, similar to Washington, D.C. –recorded its highest ever number of salmonella cases in 2012, with a report revealing there were eight outbreaks between 2011 and 2012.

egg.farmThe ACT Chief Health Officer’s report, released on Friday, reveals there were 233 cases reported in 2012, a 47 per cent increase on the number of cases in 2011. The report is based on data collected between July 2010 and June 2012.

There were eight outbreaks of foodborne salmonellosis in the ACT during 2011 and 2012. More than 125 people fell ill and 17 were hospitalised.

Eggs were identified as the “probably food vehicle” in five of the outbreaks.

Salmonellosis, an infection caused by the bacterium Salmonella, can cause patients to become seriously ill with symptoms including abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, nausea and vomiting. In serious cases the bacteria enter the blood stream and can cause pneumonia, septic arthritis and meningitis.

The report indicated there was a higher than expected number of cases, especially between January to May 2012 and a spike in December 2012.

“Increases in notifications are not unexpected at these times, reflecting both the seasonality associated with salmonellosis in Australia and its potential as an outbreak agent,” the report said.

Acting Chief Health Officer Andrew Pengilley said salmonella cases had generally increased around Australia.

“Most salmonella cases are not related to outbreaks and are individual, where people don’t have a clear idea where they might have contracted the bacteria,” he said.

“It can reflect food preparation at home or food transport issues such as food getting warm before it’s eaten. It’s important that people be aware of those risks in their own kitchen because that’s certainly another place you can get salmonella.”

The report also revealed there were 16 food-poisoning outbreaks between July 2010 and June 2012. Two were caused by food eaten at private residences, one each from a catered event and a festival, while the rest were traced to registered food businesses.

Maybe it’s the ridiculous desire of Australian food joints to use raw eggs. That kind of clear speaking ain’t going to come from Dr. Bureaucrat, and more people will get sick.

The figures in the report do not include salmonella cases for last year when Canberra had its biggest salmonella outbreak. About 140 diners fell ill and 15 were admitted to hospital after eating home-made mayonnaise – made using raw eggs later found to contain salmonella – at Copa Brazilian Churrasco restaurant in May last year.

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx.

Sydney has highest rate of salmonellosis in five years

Maybe it’s the raw egg concoctions?

Incidences of Salmonella rose by 13 per cent compared with the five-year average, according to NSW OzFoodNet figures obtained exclusively by The Daily Telegraph.

mayonnaise.raw_.egg_-300x225“There has been an Australia-wide trend of an increase in salmonellosis, which has persisted into 2014,” NSW Ministry of Health director of communicable diseases Dr Vicky Sheppeard said. “It is not clear why this has occurred.”

Raw egg smoothies, chocolate eclairs or profiteroles, beef tacos and fried ice-cream have emerged as the foods responsible for most reported admissions to NSW hospitals for cases of enteric disease.

Chicken burgers, Vietnamese rolls and beef and Guinness pies are other foods sending people to hospital.

The NSW OzFoodNet annual report blamed “a very hot and dry period in late September (2013)  which may have contributed to the highest ever number of salmonellosis notifications for the month of October.” Last year was the warmest on record for NSW maximum temperatures, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, and it has predicted a warmer than average winter this year.

With warmer temperatures predicted, Dr Sheppeard conceded they were “a potential risk for increased cases of salmonellosis.”

A table of raw egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-3-3-14.xlsx.

I wrote the Queensland Minister of Health to express my concerns a couple of  months ago, after 220 people were sickened and one died from Salmonella in raw egg dishes served at catered functions for the Melbourne Cup on Nov. 5, 2013.

No response.

2000 sickened: fines and possible jail for Salmonella-in-egg owners

In 2010, eggs produced by farms owned by Jack DeCoster in Iowa sickened at least 2,000 people with Salmonella. The companies recalled 550 million eggs nationwide.

Today, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, 79, and Peter DeCoster, 50, agreed to pay $7 million in fines and forfeitures as part of a federal criminal case scheduled for hearing Tuesday.

egg.farmProsecutors allege Quality Egg on at least two occasions in 2010, including April 12, 2010, offered money to a “public official with intent to influence an official act.”

On April 12, 2010, Quality Egg employees offered a USDA inspector $300 to release eggs for sale that had failed to meet federal standards, according to criminal charges filed in 2012 against Tony Wasmund, a former Quality Egg employee.

Wasmund, 63, of Willmar, Minn., pleaded guilty in September 2012 to conspiring to bribe an egg inspector. His sentencing has been rescheduled four times, leading to speculation prosecutors were using his testimony against the DeCosters.

The trial information also states Quality Egg knowingly sold eggs between Jan. 1, 2006, and Aug. 12, 2010, that were mislabeled to appear fresher than they were.

Who takes eggs through an airport? Alleged smuggler stopped in Sydney

Anyone who has been to Australia knows, don’t mess with customs folks.

A Czech man who allegedly tried to smuggle 16 bird eggs into Australia by hiding them in his pants has been charged.

imagesThe 39-year-old was frisked at Sydney Airport by customs officers after arriving from Dubai on Tuesday.

“Officers … allegedly found 16 small eggs concealed in his groin area,” Customs NSW commander Tim Fitzgerald said.

Government vets are trying to identify the species of bird.

Federal prosecutors charge Iowa egg company, 2 executives in 2010 salmonella outbreak

In 2010, eggs produced by farms owned by Jack DeCoster in Iowa sickened at least 2,000 people with Salmonella.

Federal prosecutors have now filed charges against disgraced egg industry titan Austin “Jack” DeCoster and his son Peter DeCoster with introducing adulterated food into interstate commerce, a misdemeanor.

egg.dirty.feb.12Their company, Quality Egg LLC, is charged with introducing misbranded food into interstate commerce, a felony. The document says Quality Egg sold products for years with labeling that “made the eggs appear to be not as old as they actually were.”

The company is also charged with bribing a U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector.

The charges were filed in a document called an information, which suggests they’ve reached plea agreements.

Dubai has an egg problem

Dubai apparently has an egg problem too, as authorities are urging residents to take extra precautions when ordering high-risk food from restaurants, especially the many egg-based dishes that are not fully cooked.

Raw_eggSultan Al Tahir, head of food inspection section, emphasized that eggs should be stored in refrigerators all along the food chain from the farm until they are cooked.

“In the kitchen, eggs should be broken carefully in a segregated area to prevent contamination of other ready to eat food. Egg products should be cooked well to a minimum temperature of 75 degrees Celsius as per our regulations. Eggs that are stored at ambient temperatures should not be consumed and our inspectors have been instructed to discard eggs that have not been stored or cooked properly,” he said.

Safer eggs: new technique uses radio waves to zap Salmonella

According to the Department of Agriculture, about one out of every 20,000 chicken eggs produced in the U.S. has a high risk of being contaminated with Salmonella bacteria. Not all kinds of Salmonella are harmful, but some are, notably S. enteritidis, which has been associated with eating raw or undercooked eggs. This salm.egg.gevekeand other pathogenic Salmonella strains can cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, and—in some instances—death.

Those most vulnerable to salmonellosis are infants, preschoolers, pregnant women, the elderly, and anyone who has a compromised immune system.

Properly cooking chicken eggs—such as by hard-boiling them—kills Salmonella.

So does pasteurizing them. Right now, a hot-water-immersion process is apparently the only technique used commercially in this country to pasteurize fresh “shell” eggs (eggs that are sold in-the-shell, instead of as a liquid product, for example). Many supermarkets offer these eggs as a specialty item in their dairy case.

But the hour-long immersion process may change qualities of these raw eggs, perhaps making them less satisfactory to discerning home cooks and restaurant chefs alike. Studies led by Agricultural Research Service chemical engineer Dave Geveke have resulted in a better, faster way to pasteurize raw shell eggs without ruining their taste, texture, color, or other important characteristics.

Geveke’s tests with some 4,000 fresh shell eggs indicate that heating them with the energy from radio waves, or what’s known as radiofrequency (RF) heating, followed by a comparatively brief hot-water bath, can kill harmful microbes without lessening the quality of the treated eggs.

Each raw egg is positioned between two electrodes that send radio waves back and forth through it. Meantime, the egg is slowly rotated, and its shell is cooled by spraying it with water—to offset some of the heat created by the radio waves.

Unlike conventional heating, RF heating warms the egg from the inside out. That’s critical to the success of the process. It means that the dense, heat-tolerant yolk, at the center of the egg, receives more heat than the delicate, heat-sensitive white (albumen).

The hot-water bath comes next. The warmth of the bath helps the yolk retain heat, to complete the pasteurization. The heat from the water also pasteurizes the white, without overprocessing it.

From start to finish, the treatment takes around 20 minutes, making it about three times faster than the hot-water-immersion technique. And in tests using a research strain of Salmonella, Geveke showed that the RF-based process killed 99.999 percent of the Salmonella cells.

Before the treatment, Geveke’s team artificially infected the eggs by poking a small hole in the top of each, injecting the Salmonella into the egg via a glass syringe, then sealing the hole with a droplet of quick-setting epoxy glue. In nature, a hen’s eggs can become contaminated with Salmonella if her ovaries are infected with it.

The idea of using RF heating to kill pathogens in foods isn’t new. But using RF heating to kill pathogens in eggs is novel. And Geveke and his colleagues are evidently the first to pair RF heating with a hot-water bath to pasteurize raw shell eggs.

A provision of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code may contribute to growth of the raw-pasteurized-egg market. Already adopted by some states, the code specifies use of raw pasteurized eggs, or other pasteurized egg product, in place of unpasteurized eggs when foods such as Caesar salad are served to at-risk populations or to people who receive meals through “custodial care-giving environments” such as nursing homes, hospitals, or eldercare centers.

Though the specialty market is an obvious application of the RF-heating process, it could of course be used to pasteurize all of the more than 221 million fresh shell eggs produced in the United States every day. This would undoubtedly add to processors’ costs, but might be a convenience for shoppers and would add an extra margin of safety to all fresh shell eggs—not just the specialty product, Geveke points out.

Commercial use of the RF-based method is at least a year or so away. Geveke expects to begin pilot-scale tests this year. After that, regulatory approval would be needed. 

Culture of indifference; 220 sick from Salmonella in latest Australian egg outbreak; microbial food safety problems on rise

Australia has more than an egg problem – it has a microbial food safety problem.

And the public availability of food safety information is embarrassingly sparse, creating a culture of indifference.

As the number sickened by Salmonella linked to raw-egg based dishes at Torquay’s Bottle of Milk restaurant climbed to 220, OzFoodNet, the national foodborne disease monitoring American Hustle: Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper walking in streetnetwork, reports the number of Australians struck down by food poisoning has leapt almost 80 per cent in a decade and the number of outbreaks linked to restaurants has more than doubled.

In the decade to 2011, the number of Australians affected by foodborne gastroenteritis increased 79 per cent. In 2011, 150 outbreaks affected 2,241 people compared with 86 affecting 1,768 people in 2001. The rate of hospitalization has trebled since 2001.

The figures capture only a fraction of infections since most victims don’t go to a doctor, experts say. A 2002 estimate of people affected by food poisoning put the number at 5.4 million cases of gastro and 120 deaths a year at a cost of $1.25 billion.

Martyn Kirk, a senior lecturer in epidemiology at the Australian National University and former OzFoodNet senior epidemiologist, warns that any foods prepared without the bacterial ”kill step” of cooking increase the risk of bacteria spreading, and that Salmonella is linked to multiple food sources.

”It’s definitely not always the chicken … We’ve had outbreaks of salmonella linked to rockmelon, papaya, cucumbers – and we know that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” he says.

Raw or minimally cooked eggs are the single largest cause of foodborne illness in Australia. But fresh produce has been increasingly implicated in outbreaks as health-conscious raw.eggsconsumers favour salads, raw vegetables and minimally processed foods with lower salt and fat contents.

In the Bottle of Milk outbreak, suspect eggs were traced back to the Green Eggs farm in Great Western. Sales have been restricted until food safety is improved.

In recent days a handful of salmonella cases have also emerged among diners at St Kilda’s Newmarket Hotel, which had also sourced eggs from the Green Eggs farm.

Victorian chief health officer Rosemary Lester said other salmonella cases not linked to the two restaurants had also emerged and were being investigated.

Late last year, Piccalilli Catering was identified as the Brisbane catering company at the centre of another salmonella outbreak, which contributed to the death of one elderly lady and 220 others falling ill.

“We are deeply upset and distressed by this outcome. We always pride ourselves on sourcing the freshest Australian ingredients for our kitchens. We feel very disappointed bottle.of.milk.feb.14and let down that the normally reliable fresh food supply chain has failed us – and our clients – on this occasion,” Piccalilli Catering co-owner, Helen Grace, said at the time.

Until someone develops Salmonella-spotting goggles, Australian food service needs to use pasteurized eggs in homemade mayonnaise and aioli, or commercial sources. Having this conversation with an Australian restaurant chef is like walking into 1978.

Don’t leave eggs in direct sunlight; UK butchers warned over egg displays

The British Egg Industry Council has written to leading butchers organisations to warn them of the dangers of displaying eggs in shop windows.

Fluctuating temperatures are likely to lead to degradation of the quality of eggs kept in direct sunlight, potentially resulting in customer complaints and creating unnecessary problems for butchers.

Eggs should also be stored correctly (dry and out of direct sunlight) to minimise the risk from salmonella, should this be present. The problems will increase over the summer egg.window.butcher.ukmonths, but even in the winter months there can be issues, particularly when there is direct sunlight on the shop window.

If eggs containing salmonella are stored incorrectly, this will lead to the salmonella present multiplying rapidly, which increases the health threat to consumers. Although British Lion eggs have been extensively tested for salmonella – in the most recent Food Standards Agency tests salmonella was not recovered from inside any British Lion eggs – there is still a risk from non-Lion imported eggs.

In addition, although British Lion eggs carry a best before date on the shell, there is no legal requirement to date-stamp eggs and, unless stock is rotated carefully, both the quality and safety of eggs may be impaired.