There’s a camera everywhere: NY rat-in-kitchen photo leads health department to shut down Prosperity Dumpling in Chinatown

A popular dumpling restaurant in Manhattan has been shut down after a photo of a rat in the kitchen surfaced online, prompting the health department to do a surprise inspection.

The New York City Department of Health closed Prosperity Dumpling on Eldridge Street in Chinatown Thursday night.

An anonymous tipster sent a photo to the website, gothamist.com, of a back alley area where food is prepared at the restaurant. In the shot, a rat can be clearly seen on the ground. The person who took the photo said it was taken Sunday evening and that the photo had been sent to the health department.

The restaurant received an “A” grade in its most recent inspection on May 28, although the restaurant inspection cites “live roaches present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas” as one of its sanitary violations.

I said I quit, but really didn’t: Nevada health type walks out amid tensions over restaurant inspections

Disagreement over how restaurants are being regulated boiled over at a Southern Nevada Health District board meeting Thursday with an official offering her resignation and walking out after she was criticized by her staff.

Jacqueline Reszetar'sSouthern Nevada Health District Director of Environmental Health Jacqueline Reszetar’s staff thinks the department is too business friendly in its approach to restaurant inspections, according to Brian Shepherd, chief of staff for Service Employees International Union local 1107, which represents health district workers.

Reszetar also was criticized for making culturally insensitive comments, though it wasn’t clear what she is accused of saying.

“Excuse me, but today I will give you my resignation, today. You’re safe,” Reszetar said to her employees, according to a recording of the meeting. “You can go back to the environmental health that you feel comfortable with. I’m done today. Thank you very much.”

After the meeting, Reszetar said she had not quit. Dr. Joseph Iser, chief medical officer for the district, said resignations can only be submitted in writing.

Shepherd said employees in the restaurant inspection division have very little confidence in management, and Reszetar’s conduct emphasizes how difficult the work environment is.

 

Microbiologists: Avoid raw oysters

Oysters not only transmit human norovirus; they also serve as a major reservoir for these pathogens, according to research published August 28 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology. “

steamed.oystersMore than 80 percent of human norovirus genotypes were detected in oyster samples or oyster-related outbreaks,” said corresponding author Yongjie Wang, PhD.

“The results highlight oysters’ important role in the persistence of norovirus in the environment, and its transmission to humans, and they demonstrate the need for surveillance of human norovirus in oyster samples,” said Wang, who is Professor in the College of Food Science and Technology, Shanghai Ocean University, Shanghai, China.

In the study, the investigators downloaded all oyster-related norovirus sequences deposited during 1983-2014 into the National Center for Biotechnology’s GenBank database, and into the Noronet outbreak database. They conducted genotyping and phylogenic analyses, and mapped the norovirus’s genetic diversity and geographic distribution over time.

In earlier research, the investigators found that 90 percent of human norovirus sequences in China came from coastal regions. The current research showed that the same is true all over the world, except in tropical regions, from which sequences are absent.

Oysters’s status as reservoirs and vectors for human norovirus transmission is likely abetted by their presence in coastal waters, which are frequently contaminated by human waste, said Wang. Previous research suggests that noroviruses can persist for weeks in oyster tissues, and commercial depuration fails to expunge them.

Norovirus causes stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. It is extremely contagious, and infects more than 6 percent of the US population, annually, resulting in around 20 million cases, including 56,000-71,000 hospitalizations and 570-800 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even touching a contaminated surface can result in infection.

Wang advised that people who eat oysters and other shellfish should eat them fully cooked, and never raw. He also urged development of a reliable method for detecting noroviruses in oysters, and a worldwide oyster-related norovirus outbreak surveillance network.

After Listeria, Jeni’s Splendid founder calls for more industry self-regulation

From the duh files.

Listeria contamination last spring at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams taught company founder Jeni Britton Bauer one lesson: The food industry can’t rely solely on state and federal inspectors to protect consumers.

listeria4The industry also needs to take an active role.

“What has to change is how businesses view our responsibilities,” Bauer said Thursday during what was billed as a “true confessions” talk at Lowcountry Local First’s Good Business Summit in Charleston.

“Do we rely on their periodics (inspections)? Do we rely on our health inspectors any more?” Bauer said. “Absolutely no. Because we know that they are not experts in food safety, they are experts in the law and those are totally different things.

 “The responsibility is on business … to make healthy things, to keep people healthy.”

What Bauer didn’t know at the time, she said, was that the FDA had known about the Listeria problem long before it went public.

“They knew about it for like three weeks, crazy, before it ever got to us, which is very weird,” Bauer said.

FDA spokeswoman Lauren Sucher said she could not immediately verify if that timeline was accurate. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture is the agency that discovered the contamination and officials from that agency have declined to say when the sample was collected.

Been there. Done that.

Audits and inspections are never enough: A critique to enhance food safety

30.aug.12

Food Control

D.A. Powell, S. Erdozain, C. Dodd, R. Costa, K. Morley, B.J. Chapman

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0956713512004409?v=s5

Abstract

Internal and external food safety audits are conducted to assess the safety and quality of food including on-farm production, manufacturing practices, sanitation, and hygiene. Some auditors are direct stakeholders that are employed by food establishments to conduct internal audits, while other auditors may represent the interests of a second-party purchaser or a third-party auditing agency. Some buyers conduct their own audits or additional testing, while some buyers trust the results of third-party audits or inspections. Third-party auditors, however, use various food safety audit standards and most do not have a vested interest in the products being sold. Audits are conducted under a proprietary standard, while food safety inspections are generally conducted within a legal framework. There have been many foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food processors that have passed third-party audits and inspections, raising questions about the utility of both. Supporters argue third-party audits are a way to ensure food safety in an era of dwindling economic resources. Critics contend that while external audits and inspections can be a valuable tool to help ensure safe food, such activities represent only a snapshot in time. This paper identifies limitations of food safety inspections and audits and provides recommendations for strengthening the system, based on developing a strong food safety culture, including risk-based verification steps, throughout the food safety system.

Going public, Dutch style

Mandatory notification can be a useful tool to support infectious disease prevention and control.

silence.commGuidelines are needed to help policymakers decide whether mandatory notification of an infectious disease is appropriate. We developed a decision aid, based on a range of criteria previously used in the Netherlands or in other regions to help decide whether to make a disease notifiable.

Criteria were categorised as being effective, feasible and necessary with regard to the relevance of mandatory notification. Expert panels piloted the decision aid. Here we illustrate its use for three diseases (Vibrio vulnificus infection, chronic Q fever and dengue fever) for which mandatory notification was requested. For dengue fever, the expert panel advised mandatory notification; for V. vulnificus infection and chronic Q fever, the expert panel concluded that mandatory notification was not (yet) justified.

Use of the decision aid led to a structured, transparent decision making process and a thorough assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of mandatory notification of these diseases. It also helped identify knowledge gaps that required further research before a decision could be made. We therefore recommend use of this aid for public health policy making.

 To notify or not to notify: decision aid for policy makers on whether to make an infectious disease mandatorily notifiable

Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 34, 27 August 2015

P Bijkerk, EB Fanoy, K Kardamanidis, SM van der Plas, MJ te Wierik, ME Kretzschmar, GB Haringhuizen, HJ van Vliet, MA van der Sande

http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=21216

‘Some pink or no pink?’ Hamburger safety BS

Food safety friend Michéle writes:

As part of my daily public health mission, I track foodborne outbreaks and teach food safety. I do the later to try to reduce the former.  Anywhere, anytime, anyway I can introduce it into conversation.  Because everyone should be served safe food.

hamburger-safe and unsafe-thumb-450x138-175Recently, on a rare night out, I was trying to order a hamburger from a small regional restaurant.

The conversation progressed like this:

Waiter:  Do you want that burger with ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink?’

Me:  Can you tell me what temperature equals ‘some pink’?

Waiter:  We don’t cook to a temperature.  We cook to ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink’.

Me:  Color is not an indicator of doneness.   Please ask the chef to cook my burger to 155 degrees F.

Waiter:  Our burgers have no dyes. We can only do ‘some pink’ or ‘no pink’.

meatwad.raw.hamburgerAs a food safety professional, I was concerned with this.   As I mentioned to the waiter, “some pink or no pink” is not an indicator of doneness.  Numerous meat chemistry factors play a role in influencing color and can result in premature browning, which is why color is not a reliable indicator.

So I reached out to the restaurant’s customer service representative via Twitter and email, asking about their beef procedures. Ever the educator, I even provided resources for them to review, in case it proved helpful to their response.   www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/ehsnet/plain_language/restaurants-ground-beef-handling-cooking.pdf

To their credit, the company seemed happy to respond and explain their hamburger handling processes, and I received a reply from their “Chief Strategy Officer.” Unfortunately their explanation of safe meat handling was NOT correct, and definitely NOT food safe:

From their email:

“The dangers in ground beef have to do with the grinding process, the potential contamination comes from the exterior of the animal. Steak is safe to eat raw because it is only the interior of the animal and it does not get ground up with any exterior parts of the animal. The bacteria cannot pass into the internal flesh unless it is ground in. We grind in house  so there is no surface coming in contact with our beef.”

The email goes on to explain:

“We don’t sell our hamburgers based on temperature because we hand-form our burgers and therefore they have different internal temperatures throughout the patty as there are different thicknesses. We cook our burgers based on time, less time for a pink and more time for no pink. The terms do somewhat relate to the color but are more ways to describe less cooked and more cooked.”

rare.hamburgerOuch!  That’s scary. Shouldn’t their cook terms be related to a number of degrees, not a hue of red?

Unfortunately, they are not alone. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many restaurants prepare and cook beef in ways that could lead to undercooking, and that about one-in-10 restaurant hamburgers are undercooked. Their recommendations are that establishments should measure the final temperature of ground beef using a thermometer or using standard cooking methods that always cook ground beef to 155°F for 15 second to prevent foodborne illness. FDA agrees.

Beef, even beef ground on-site, it not without risk. E. coli normally lives in the intestines of animals and the infectious dose is very low.  (According to BugCounter Don Schaffner dose response models for pathogenic E. coli indicate even a single cell holds the probability of causing illness.) E. coli on the outside of a  hunk of beef such as chuck, roast or steak can be mixed into the middle of a burger – the place that takes the longest to reach 155 degrees F and become safe.  Irradiation or cold pasteurization can reduce risk, but other food safety assurance steps must also be in place.

In the company’s discussion of their hamburger handling process, there is no mention of cross-contamination controls. Sanitation. Active managerial oversight. Strict supplier control. Microbial testing and certificates of analysis. Handwashing?

They did, however assure me that  “The FDA does allow for the sale of rare meat so long as you print warning about potential foodborne illness on your menu which we have.”  

True. But advisories and Ddsclaimers don’t make for a safer food product. Or negate an establishment’s responsibility to take the numerical temperature of food.   

Color is a lousy indicator.  Make safe food.  Stick it in.  Use a thermometer.

barfblog.Stick It In

 

 

152 sick with Salmonella from whole pigs: Kapowsin Meats expands recall of pork product

This release is being reissued to expand the August 13, 2015 recall to include additional products. Details of this release were also updated to reflect a change in poundage, epidemiological informational and distribution area.

pig.roast.appleKapowsin Meats, a Graham, Wash. establishment, is recalling approximately 523,380 pounds of pork products that may be contaminated with Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:-, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today.

FSIS has been conducting intensified sampling at Kapowsin Meats while this establishment took steps to address sanitary conditions at their facility after the original recall on August 13, 2015. Sampling revealed positive results for Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- on Whole Hogs for Barbeque, associated pork products and throughout the establishment. FSIS has deemed sanitary improvement efforts made by the Kapowsin Meats insufficient, and the scope of this recall has been expanded to include all products associated with contaminated source material. The establishment has voluntarily suspended operations.

The whole hogs and associated items were produced on various dates between April 18, 2015 and August 26, 2015. The following products are subject to recall:

Varying weights of boxed/bagged Whole Hogs for Barbeque

Varying weights of boxed/bagged fabricated pork products including various pork offal products, pork blood and pork trim. 

The product subject to recall bears the establishment number “Est. 1628” inside the USDA mark of inspection. The product was shipped to various individuals, retail locations, institutions, and distributors in Alaska, Oregon and Washington.        

On July 15, 2015, the Washington State Department of Health notified FSIS of an investigation of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- illnesses. Working in conjunction with the Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), FSIS determined that there is a link between whole hogs for barbeque and pork products from Kapowsin Meats and these illnesses. Traceback investigation has identified 36 case-patients who consumed whole hogs for barbeque or pork products from this establishment prior to illness onset. These illnesses are part of a larger illness investigation. Based on epidemiological evidence, 152 case-patients have been identified in Washington with illness onset dates ranging from April 25, 2015 to August 12, 2015. FSIS continues to work with our public health partners on this ongoing investigation.                        

pig.sexConsumption of food contaminated with Salmonella can cause salmonellosis, one of the most common bacterial foodborne illnesses. The most common symptoms of salmonellosis are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. Most people recover without treatment. In some persons, however, the diarrhea may be so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized. Older adults, infants, and persons with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a severe illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact their health care provider.

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, and should throw them away or return the products to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify recalling firms notify their customers of the recall and that steps are taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

 FSIS advises all consumers to safely prepare their raw meat products, including fresh and frozen, and only consume pork and whole hogs for barbeque that have been cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145° F with a three minute rest time. The only way to confirm that whole hogs for barbeque are 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. For whole hogs for barbeque make sure to check the internal temperature with a food thermometer in several places. Check the temperature frequently and replenish wood or coals to make sure the fire stays hot. Remove only enough meat from the carcass as you can serve within 1-2 hours.

Media and consumers with questions regarding the recall can contact John Anderson, Owner, at (253) 847-1777.

Consumers with food safety questions can “Ask Karen,” the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.askkaren.gov. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. The online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/reportproblem.

587 sick: CDC and FDA try to contain cyclosporiasis outbreak

As the numbers of those sickened with cyclosporiasis reached 495 in the U.S. and 92 in Canada, the only lead appears to be cilantro imported from Mexico.

cilantroCyclospora is a microscopic single-celled parasite that is passed in people’s feces. If it comes in contact with food or water, it can infect the people who consume it. This causes an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis.

Previous foodborne illness outbreaks of Cyclospora, in Canada and U.S. have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce, such as pre-packaged salad mix, basil, cilantro, berries, mesclun lettuce and snow peas.

To date, no multi-jurisdictional outbreaks have been linked to produce grown in Canada.

Soil may protect onions from E. coli

Early research indicates one of the best protections for onions against irrigation water-borne bacteria, such as E. coli, may be the soil itself.

onionThat research is being conducted at the Malheur Experiment Station by Joy Waite-Cusic, assistant professor of Food Safety Systems at Oregon State University.

Onions in the research plot have been irrigated with water inoculated with E. coli, some to extreme highs, Waite-Cusic said. The E. coli was applied during the last irrigation. In the sample of onions taken from the plots, the majority of them did not test positive for the bacteria, Waite-Cusic said.

In one of the latest samplings, onions were harvested one afternoon, put in bags and tested the next morning. Only 16 out of 150 onions tested positive for E. coli, Waite-Cusic said, and this from rows where the irrigation water had been artificially inoculated with 100,000 colony-forming units of generic E. coli for 100 milliliters of water.

“The soil does a good job of filtering,” experiment station superintendent Clint Shock said.

Testing showed that there was less E. coli as the water moved from the furrow or drop tape through the soil to the onion bulb.

We’re just hosts on a viral planet: Hepatitis A in seals version

Scientists in the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health have discovered a new virus in seals that is the closest known relative of the human hepatitis A virus. The finding provides new clues on the emergence of hepatitis A. The research appears in the July/August issue of mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

seal.ball“Until now, we didn’t know that hepatitis A had any close relatives, and we thought that only humans and other primates could be infected by such viruses,” said lead author Simon Anthony, assistant professor of Epidemiology. “Our findings show that these so-called ‘hepatoviruses’ are not in fact restricted to primates, and suggest that many more may also exist in other wildlife species.”

Hepatitis A viral infection, which impacts 1.4 million people worldwide annually, can cause mild to severe illness. It is a highly contagious disease that is usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route, either through person-to-person contact or through consumption of food or water. “Our data suggest that hepatitis A and this new virus share a common ancestor, which means that a spillover event must have occurred at some point in the past,” said Anthony. “It raises the question of whether hepatitis A originated in animals, like many other viruses that are now adapted to humans.”

The researchers discovered the new virus while investigating a deadly strain of avian influenza that killed over 150 harbor seals off the coast of New England in 2011. In an effort to determine what viruses might co-occur with influenza, researchers performed deep sequencing of all the viruses present in three of the marine mammals. They discovered a new virus that was genetically similar to hepatitis A and named it phopivirus. An analysis of additional animals living off the coast of New England (29 harbor seals, 6 harp seals and 2 grey seals) identified phopivirus in 7 more animals. The researchers say the virus appears to be fairly common in seals based on the juvenile animals examined for their study, and so far there is no evidence that it causes them any harm. However, they caution that further research is needed in mature seals, because if it acts anything like hepatitis A it might only cause disease in adults.

In the natural history of phopivirus and hepatitis A, it is unclear whether a common ancestor (virus) spilled over from humans to seals, vice versa, or from a third unrelated host that has not yet been identified. However various factors, including the fact that the virus was found in different species of seals, suggest that the virus has been present in seals for a fairly long time. The researchers next plan to look at species that have close interactions with seals to see if they can find other wildlife reservoirs of hepatitis A-like viruses. “Coyotes regularly scavenge dead seals along the coast, so it would be very interesting to examine coyotes to see if they have any similar viruses,” said Katie Pugliares, a senior biologist at the New England Aquarium in Boston who was also involved in the study. Another project might study humans who eat seal meat to see if the seal virus has ever spilled over.

The vast majority of emerging infectious diseases in humans have origins in wildlife. In recent years, scientists in the Center for Infection and Immunity led by Simon Anthony have been working with partners at the EcoHealth Alliance, University of California Davis, and others under the auspices of the United States Agency for International Development’s PREDICT program to identify potential zoonotic viral threats to human health. “Our goal”, said W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center and John Snow Professor of Epidemiology, is “to try to understand drivers of infectious disease emergence thereby enhancing pandemic preparedness.”