8 dead, 26 sickened in Listeria outbreak linked to Quargel cheese in Austria; genomic sequencing

A large listeriosis outbreak occurred in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic in 2009 and 2010. The outbreak was traced back to a traditional Austrian curd cheese called Quargel which was contaminated with two distinct serovar 1/2a Listeria monocytogenes strains (QOC1 and QOC2).

Quargel_cheeseQuargel is an acid curd cheese with a red smear made from skimmed pasteurized milk. Some recalled Quargel lots were highly contaminated with up to 106–108 colony forming units (CFU) of L. monocytogenes per gram of cheese.

From June 2009 to January 2010 Quargel outbreak clone 1 (hereafter: QOC1) was the cause of 14 cases, including 5 with a fatal outcome, while between December 2009 and February 2010, clone 2 (hereafter: QOC2) accounted for 20 cases, which resulted in 3 fatalities. No maternal or neonatal case had been reported. The median age of the cases was 72 years (range 57 to 89) and 76% of the patients were male. Of the 34 patients, 25 were Austrian, 8 were German and one was from the Czech Republic.

Rychli et al. report we sequenced and analysed the genomes of both outbreak strains in order to investigate the extent of genetic diversity between the two strains belonging to MLST sequence types 398 (QOC2) and 403 (QOC1). Both genomes are highly similar, but also display distinct properties: The QOC1 genome is approximately 74 kbp larger than the QOC2 genome. In addition, the strains harbour 93 (QOC1) and 45 (QOC2) genes encoding strain-specific proteins. A 21 kbp region showing highest similarity to plasmid pLMIV encoding three putative internalins is integrated in the QOC1 genome. In contrast to QOC1, strain QOC2 harbours a vip homologue, which encodes a LPXTG surface protein involved in cell invasion. In accordance, in vitro virulence assays revealed distinct differences in invasion efficiency and intracellular proliferation within different cell types. The higher virulence potential of QOC1 in non-phagocytic cells may be explained by the presence of additional internalins in the pLMIV-like region, whereas the higher invasion capability of QOC2 into phagocytic cells may be due to the presence of a vip homologue. In addition, both strains show differences in stress-related gene content. Strain QOC1 encodes a so-called stress survival islet 1, whereas strain QOC2 harbours a homologue of the uncharacterized LMOf2365_0481 gene. Consistently, QOC1 shows higher resistance to acidic, alkaline and gastric stress. In conclusion, our results show that strain QOC1 and QOC2 are distinct and did not recently evolve from a common ancestor.

French court fines former owner, director of Marcel Baey for 2010-2011 Listeria cover-up

A French court condemned the former director of salmon smoker Marcel Baey on April 8 in relation to an investigation into unreported listeria occurrences and misleading marketing material at the company in 2010 and 2011, reported La Voix du Nord.

smoked-salmon2-265x268The court also imposed a fine of €50,000 on the company’s former owners. However, that money is unlikely to ever be paid considering Marcel Baey’s assets were taken over by from receivership Poland’s Suempol in July 2013.

“This case relates to events between 2010 and 2011,” Marcel Baey’s current production manager Romain Marce told Undercurrent News following the court ruling. “It does not concern Suempol but the entity Marcel Baey. It is therefore the liquidator who is concerned.”

The authorities which uncovered the malpractices at Marcel Baey from 2010 to 2011 stressed that these were in the past, and that the company and its owners Suempol are fully compliant with regulations.

According to La Voix du Nord, the court heard that Marcel Baey had dissimulated a sanitary crisis in 2010 and 2011. The Boulogne-sur-mer-based company was also found guilty of misleading promotion on its products.

The findings were uncovered by the French agency Direction departementale de la protection des populations (DPPP), which started investigating the company following hear-say from competitors.

Listeria being sequenced to better understand food poisoning

Chances are you’ve heard of mapping genes to diagnose rare diseases, predict your risk of cancer and tell your ancestry. But to uncover food poisonings?

The nation’s disease detectives are beginning a program to try to outsmart outbreaks by routinely decoding the DNA of potentially deadly bacteria and viruses.

listeriaThe initial target is Listeria, the third-leading cause of death from food poisoning and bacteria that are especially dangerous to pregnant women. Already, the government credits the technology with helping to solve a listeria outbreak that killed one person in California and sickened seven others in Maryland.

“This really is a new way to find and fight infections,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With genome sequencing becoming faster and cheaper, the CDC is armed with $30 million from Congress to broaden its use with a program called advanced molecular detection. The hope is to solve outbreaks faster, foodborne and other types, and maybe prevent infections, too, by better understanding how they spread.

“Frankly, in public health, we have some catching up to do,” said the CDC’s Dr. Christopher Braden, who is helping to lead the work.

As a first step, federal and state officials are rapidly decoding the DNA of all the Listeria infections diagnosed in the U.S. this year, along with samples found in tainted foods or factories.

It’s the first time the technology has been used for routine disease surveillance, looking for people with matching strains who may have gotten sick from the same source.

The Listeria project began as officials were investigating some sick Maryland newborns and their mothers. Genome sequencing showed publix.deli.warningthose cases were linked to a California death, helping investigators determine which foods to focus on, said Dr. Robert Tauxe, CDC’s leading foodborne disease sleuth.

Standard tests prompted recall of the FDA’s suspect, a brand of Hispanic-style cheese. Last month, the government announced that sequencing also confirmed listeria from the recalled cheese matched germs from the patients.

“We expect to be able to match more and more of what we find in people to what we find in food,” as the project grows, Tauxe said.

Listeria lurks: Judge shuts down Brooklyn fish processing plant

A federal judge has ordered the shutdown of a Brooklyn fish processing plant that has been plagued for years by Listeria.

Judge Roslynn Mauskopf stuck a harpoon in New York City Fish, granting the government’s request for a permanent injunction against the plant located on fish artChester St. in Brownsville, which distributes smoked salmon, mackerel and herring.

Mauskopf held a bench trial last summer and determined that New York City Fish’s operators had taken insufficient corrective action after federal inspectors found that food had been prepared and packaged under unsanitary condition where it “may be contaminated by filth,” according to papers filed in Brooklyn Federal Court.

Inspectors had conducted six inspections at the plant between 2006 and 2012 when it operated as New York Fish, when the Listeria bacteria was detected. An inspection in February 2013, when the facility was renamed New York City Fish by new ownership, found many of the unsanitary conditions persisted.

Five new Listeria species found; may improve tests

Cornell researchers have discovered five new species of Listeria – including one named for Cornell – that provide new insights that could lead to better ways to detect soil bacteria in food.

To date, of the 10 previously known species of Listeria, only two are pathogenic to humans; Listeria monocytogenes is the main cause of Listeriosis, which causes illness in listeriahundreds – and death in nearly 250 – people each year in the United States through infected deli meats, seafood and produce.

The new study, published online March 5 in the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology, suggests that all five new species are benign.

The research was part of a larger study led by researchers at Colorado State University and Cornell to examine the distribution of such foodborne pathogens as Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella in agricultural and natural environments. Samples were taken from fields, soil, ponds and streams in New York, Colorado and Florida.

“Doing studies on natural diversity in produce fields helps us develop better and more precise tests to make food safer,” said Martin Wiedmann, Cornell professor of food science and the paper’s senior author.

7 sickened, 1 dead: why Delaware didn’t inspect cheese plant that caused Listeria outbreak

Delaware’s decision not to inspect cheese producers like Roos Foods in Kenton allowed the plant’s cheese operation to run with infrequent oversight before it was shut down in the wake of a deadly listeria infection outbreak.

Jeff Montgomery of Delaware online writes that unlike Maryland and other states, Delaware never sought expanded food safety inspection powers that would have led to state inspectors regularly checking the roos-foods-logo-300x187Roos cheese plant for safe and healthy operation. Instead, state rules kept blinders on local inspectors who made quarterly sanitation and compliance checks in a separate section where sour cream was produced in the same plant building that sent cheese to 10 eastern states as well as Texas and California.

The split oversight sheltered Roos Foods’ deteriorating cheese plant from more-frequent inspections, with federal inspectors visiting only three times in five years. The last regular federal inspection, in June 2013, turned up pooled water, sanitation failures and other problems.

The issue came to light earlier this month, when the Food and Drug Administration suspended Roos Foods’ approval to sell its products after one person died and seven others were sicked by listeria in cheese from Kenton. 

Dole brand Italian Blend Salad recalled in Canada due to Listeria

There’s not a lot of lettuce being grown in Canada in this winter-of-winters, so where was the Dole brand Italian Blend salad grown, or processed, that was recalled due to possible Listeria contamination?

This recall was triggered by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) test results. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of dole.italian.blend.salad.mar.14other products. If other high-risk products are recalled the CFIA will notify the public through updated Food Recall Warnings.

There have been no reported illnesses associated with the consumption of this product.

Lots of Listeria in Italian mozzarella cheese – but is it high risk?

Following a Listeria monocytogenes detection in a mozzarella cheese sampled at a dairy plant in Lazio Region, further investigations have been conducted both by the competent Authority and the food business operator (as a part of dairy factory HACCP control).

In total, 90 dairy products, 7 brine and 64 environmental samples have been tested. The prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes was 24.4% in mozzarella cheese, and 9.4% in listeriaenvironmental samples, while brines were all negatives.

Forty-seven strains of L. monocytogenes have been isolated, all belonging to 4b/4e serotype. In 12 of these, the macrorestriction profile has been determined by means of pulsed field gel electrophoresis. The profiles obtained with AscI enzyme showed a 100% similarity while those obtained with ApaI a 96.78% similarity. These characteristics of the isolated strains jointly with the production process of mozzarella cheese has allowed to hypothesise an environmental contamination.

Italian Journal of Food Safety 2014; colume 3:1708

Going public: listeriosis in Austria: report of the National Reference Centre for 2013

In 2013, 33 invasive human listeriosis disease were registered in Austria, including two pregnancies. The 28-day mortality was 24% in 2013 (8 of 33). This high lethality and occasional serious permanent damage, require efforts listeriafor earliest possible detection of any food-borne outbreaks.

The example of an outbreak with a serovar 1/2b-Klon (2 cases in 2012 and 2 in the first half of 2013) shows that increased awareness as part of an outbreak investigation, when the causative source of infection can not be definitely proven, leads to increased preventative measures (something may be lost in translation).