But what does it really mean? Campylobacteriosis cases stable, listeriosis cases continue to rise in EU

Campylobacteriosis infections reported in humans have now stabilised, after several years of an increasing trend, but it is still the most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU. Listeriosis and VTEC infections in humans have increased, while reported salmonellosis and yersiniosis cases have decreased. These are some of the key findings of the European Union Summary Report on Trends and Sources of Zoonoses, Zoonotic Agents and Foodborne Outbreaks in 2013.

surveillance“The stabilisation of campylobacteriosis cases and the continuing downward trend of salmonellosis is good news, but we should not lower our guard as reporting of other diseases such as listeriosis and VTEC infections is going up,” says Marta Hugas, Head of Department of EFSA’s Risk Assessment and Scientific Assistance Department, who stresses the importance of monitoring foodborne illnesses in Europe.

Last year’s report showed that human cases of campylobacteriosis decreased slightly for the first time in five years. The 2013 figures have stabilised to the levels reported in 2012. Nevertheless, with  214,779  cases, campylobacteriosis remains the most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU. In food , the causative agent, Campylobacter, is mostly found in chicken meat.

Listeriosis cases increased by 8.6 percent between 2012 and 2013 and have been increasing over the pastfive years. Although the number of confirmed cases is relatively low at 1,763, these are of particular concern as the reported Listeria infections are mostly severe, invasive forms of the disease with higher death rates than for the other foodborne diseases.  “The rise of reported invasive listeriosis cases is of great concern as the infection is acquired mostly from ready-to-eat food and it may lead to death, particularly among the increasing population of elderly people and patients with weakened immunity in Europe”, says Mike Catchpole, the Chief Scientist at ECDC. Despite the rise of listeriosis cases reported in humans, Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterium that causes listeriosis in humans and animals, was seldom detected above the legal safety limits in ready-to-eat foods.

Reported cases of verocytotoxin-producing E. coli (VTEC) infection rose by 5.9 percent – possibly an effect of increased awareness in Member States following the outbreak in 2011, which translated into better testing and reporting. No trends were observed on the presence of VTEC in food and animals.  

Salmonellosis cases fell for the eighth year in a row, with 82,694 cases –a 7.9 percent decrease in the notification rate compared with 2012. The report attributes the decrease to Salmonella control programmes in poultry and notes that most Member States met their reduction goals for prevalence in poultry for 2013. In fresh poultry meat, compliance with EU Salmonella criteria increased – a signal that Member States’ investments in control measures are working. 

Yersiniosis, the third most commonly reported zoonotic disease in the EU with 6,471 cases, has been decreasing over the past five years and declined by 2.8 percent compared with 2012.  

The EFSA-ECDC report covers 16 zoonoses and foodborne outbreaks. It is based on data collected by 32 European countries (28 Member States and four non-Member States) and helps the European Commission and EU Member States to monitor, control and prevent zoonotic diseases.

2 dead, 3 sick from Listeria in Wholesome (?) Soy bean sprouts (final update)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that on November 7, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products Inc. of Chicago, Ill., agreed to close their facility and to cease production and distribution of sprouts. The facility is no longer in production.

UnknownSprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products Inc. are likely no longer available for purchase or consumption given the 5-day shelf life reported by the facility.

On August 28, 2014, Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. conducted a voluntary recall of mung bean sprouts due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination after FDA isolated the pathogen from samples as a result of a routine assignment.

During FDA inspections of the Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. facility in August and October 2014, investigators observed unsanitary conditions, many of which were present during both inspections.

Whole genome sequences of the Listeria strains isolated from mung bean sprouts produced by Wholesome Soy Products, Inc. and environmental isolates collected at the production facility were found to be highly related to sequences of Listeria strains isolated from five people who became ill from June through August 2014.

These five ill people were reported from two states: Illinois (4) and Michigan (1).

amy.sprouts.guelph.05All ill people were hospitalized. Two deaths were reported.

The two people interviewed reported eating bean sprouts.

Although limited information is available about the specific sprout products that ill people consumed, the whole genome sequencing findings, together with the sprout consumption history of two patients and inspection findings at the firm, suggest that these illnesses could be related to products from Wholesome Soy Products, Inc.

CDC recommends that consumers, restaurants, and other retailers always follow food safety practices to avoid illness from contaminated sprouts.

Make sure that children, older adults, pregnant women, and persons with weakened immune systems avoid eating raw sprouts of any kind (including alfalfa, clover, radish, and mung bean sprouts).

Cook sprouts thoroughly to reduce the risk of illness. Cooking sprouts thoroughly kills any harmful bacteria.

Placental breach mechanism for Listeria revealed

The host blood-brain and placental barriers act as critical ramparts to infections from microbial pathogens, yet some have evolved mechanisms to breach the cellular obstacles that lie in their path. Unlocking the underlying mechanisms of host barrier permissiveness to microbes is critical to understanding the etiology of many infectious diseases.

amy.pregnant.listeriaThe common foodborne bacteria Listeria monocytogenes (Lm) can survive and proliferate within the intestinal lumen of the host, which then often progresses to the bacteria traversing the blood-brain barrier, causing meningitis and encephalitis, as well as the placental barrier, resulting in severe neonatal infection or miscarriage.

Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Paris have discovered the protein pathways that are responsible for allowing Listeria to circumvent host barriers. The results from this study were published today in the Journal of Experimental Medicine within an article entitled “PI3-kinase activation is critical for host barrier permissiveness to Listeria monocytogenes”.

Listeria relies on two surface proteins called internalins, InlA and InlB, to guide them across mucosal tissue barriers. These proteins bind to receptors on the surface of host cells and are required for the bacteria to traverse the placenta, but InlA alone can thrust it across the intestine. The underlying difference between InlA and InlB is still being investigated. 

The scientists discovered that the invasion process was dependent upon the enzymatic activity of the host cell phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway. Marc Lecuit, M.D., Ph.D., Head of the Biology of Infections Unit at the Pasteur Institute and senior author on the study, and his colleagues found that although PI3K is turned on by both of Listeria’s internalins, only InlB has an inherent mechanism for flipping the switch. 

“We show that Lm intestinal target cells exhibit a constitutive PI3-K activity, rendering InlB dispensable for InlA-dependent Lm intestinal barrier crossing. In contrast, the placental barrier does not exhibit constitutive PI3-K activity, making InlB necessary for InlA-dependent Lm placental invasion,” the paper noted.

jaucelynn.pregnantSince many organisms share evolutionarily conserved mechanisms for successful survival and proliferation, these findings may offer  much needed insight into how other pathogenic organisms are able to take up pervasive residence inside host tissues.    

“These results illustrate how microbial pathogens have evolved to invade mammalian tissues, taking advantage of both similarities and differences of host barriers. They also suggest that the absence of placental constitutive PI3-K activity may reinforce its barrier function toward pathogens, with the exception of those that have evolved ways to stimulate it exogenously, like Lm,” the authors concluded.

Market microbial food safety? How a web of oversight still couldn’t prevent an outbreak

Molly Rosbach of theYakima Herald-Republic writes: Three people sickened, one dead, and many questions still unanswered.

ucm430733-300x168On the evening of Jan. 16 at the end of the work day, the state Department of Health issued a food-recall alert, warning that anyone who had recently purchased Queseria Bendita cheese should throw it out because of a listeria outbreak. The cheesemaker had been linked to three cases of listeriosis after the

Queseria Bendita was linked to a similar outbreak five years ago, when five people were hospitalized for listeriosis in Washington and Oregon. No one died, but two pregnant women in Oregon were infected, causing premature births, Oregon health officials said at the time.

Since the most recent recall, retailers have pulled Queseria Bendita products. While the cheese shop owners maintain that investigators have not found listeria in their cheese, but only in the Third Street facility — implying their products are safe — experts say the evidence is clear.

“One of the things I’m hearing — ‘Because they didn’t find it in the cheese, it’s not from these guys’ — no, it’s not true,” said Dr. Scott Lindquist, the state communicable disease epidemiologist. “This is not a common strain, and to have three patients in the state have it, and to have it in this Queseria Bendita, is not a coincidence.”

The case of Queseria Bendita illustrates how painstakingly difficult it can be to track down a foodborne illness and efficiently notify the consuming public of the danger: Roughly six weeks passed between the reported illnesses and the recall.

And despite new food-safety laws and multiple regulatory agencies to enforce them, inspections of high-risk food manufacturers are intermittent at best. When they do take place, the inspections may be superficial and unable to detect a culprit like listeria, which is good at hiding and not easy to eradicate.

While the family-owned company is vowing to clean up and come back, trust could be hard to regain.

Several different agencies share responsibility for food safety. The Yakima Health District, for example, periodically checks Queseria Bendita’s refrigerators — not the cheese or cheese-making equipment — to make sure already-packaged products are cold enough.

The state Health Department, the first to hear about the three infected patients from medical providers, investigated the illnesses and notified the Food and Drug Administration, which took over the investigation.

The state Department of Agriculture licenses Queseria Bendita, along with 3,000 other food processors in the state, and tries to have inspectors on-site at least once a year, though there is no law requiring a certain number of visits.

Agriculture Department officials inspected the cheese shop most recently in June 2014 and November 2013, and it passed both times. Those inspections, however, are limited: Officials check that employees follow general sanitation practices and that the floors and equipment look clean.

The Agriculture Department also conducts random product sampling statewide, rotating through different food products in different weeks. Thus it may have tested Queseria Bendita cheeses in recent years, but it has no record of environmental sampling at the Yakima facility since 2010, said Kirk Robinson, assistant director of food safety and consumer services.

“Sometimes, even doing product sampling, you’re not always going to catch it at that time,” Robinson said. “You try to do the best you can.”

The FDA has jurisdiction when a company’s distribution crosses state lines, so it also inspects the food-processing side of the cheese shop. FDA guidelines say high-risk facilities — those with known safety risks and a history of foodborne illness — must be inspected at least once within the first five years of the Food Safety Modernization Act, passed by Congress in 2010, and then at least once every three years going forward. FDA did not have mandatory recall authority until passage of the act.

Records show the last time the FDA inspected Queseria Bendita was January 2011, which was within the agency’s recommended guidelines.

“They might have damaged their reputation enough that they’ll never sell again,” he said.

Based on his experience with companies of all sizes, Bill Marler, a prominent Seattle attorney who has handled foodborne illness cases for more than two decades, said he wouldn’t call Queseria Bendita a bad actor, as listeria is so difficult to control.

But, “Companies that produce food have a moral and legal responsibility to produce food that doesn’t sicken and kill its customers,” he said. “So they’re responsible for what they sell.”

But what about listeria risks? FDA says fish consumption in large amount is the best food during pregnancy

Daughter 2-of-5 is pregnant with my second grandson (I’m old).

What I’ve found through all these pregnancies is the enormous amount of conflicting advice provided to the moms-to-be.

jaucelynn.pregnantIt’s stressful enough being pregnant (not that I would know) without having Dr.-this-that giving bogus advice.

The Westside Story (whatever that is) writes that conflicting research works have been done on the nutritional benefits of consuming large amounts of fish during pregnancy and after that. Some studies have shown that fish is among the best foods that a pregnant and breastfeeding mom needs to take for the benefit of her baby and her own. However, some other studies raised questions about fish consumption, citing that some fish could actually have an adverse impact on the brain development of a baby. According to the latest research by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), fish is good and eating large amounts of it is even better.

Good for brain development

What these stories lack is the potential Listeria risk in any refrigerated ready-to-eat foods like smoked salmon.

My kid’s got a biology degree and we’ve talked about this.

There’s a significant risk difference between refrigerated ready-to-eat foods and whole fish cooked to 145F as measured by a tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

Listeria in pet food: J.J. Fuds, Inc. issues recall

J.J. Fuds in Valparaiso, Indiana, is recalling a select lot and product of J.J. Fuds Chicken Tender Chunks Pet Food because it has the potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

listeria.pet.food.jan.15The recalled product was distributed regionally in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois to wholesale and retail customers. The product can be identified by the batch ID code (manufactured date) and UPC code printed on the back of the individual plastic bag or on the master case label. This product is a frozen raw poultry product (see Safe Handling Instructions on package) and has a shelf life of one year if kept frozen. 

7 dead, 28 sick: Vietnam recalls US apples due to Listeria concern

The Vietnam Food Administration has ordered a recall of Granny Smith and Gala apples imported from the U.S. after they were linked with listeriosis that killed three people (seven – dp) and hospitalized many others in the US.

apples-granny-smith-165384The agency said in a statement Tuesday that it has ordered all importers to recall the products.

It is monitoring food poisoning cases to identify possible Listeria monocytogenes infection for timely treatment.

Smoothies recalled for Listeria risk

Inventure Foods, Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona, has issued a precautionary recall of its RADER FARMS® Fresh Start Smoothie Blend, Fresh Start Sunrise Refresh Fusion, and Fresh Start Daily Power Fusion because of a potential to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

listeria.smoothie.recallThese recalled blends themselves did not test positive for Listeria monocytogenes.  However, Listeria moncytogenes was detected on spinach and/or kale ingredients on another lot which is currently placed on hold.  These spinach and kale ingredients used to manufacture the recalled blends were supplied by the same outside party.

Fresh Start Smoothie Blend is distributed in 48 oz. (3 lbs.) packages at Costco in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan of Canada.

The Fresh Start Sunrise Refresh Fusion and Fresh Start Daily Power Fusion products are distributed in 35 oz. packages at Walmart in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

The packages carry the Rader Farms and 

1 dead, 2 sick from Listeria in Washington: Cheesemaker vows to reopen

A Yakima cheesemaker linked to a listeria outbreak that killed one person reacted with prayer and a promise to reopen.

ucm430733“This is going to pass,” said Venedita Montes, the 71-year-old owner of Queseria Bendita. “We are going to clean, we are going to fight.”

At the recommendation of state and federal health officials, Montes and her family on Friday voluntarily recalled their products and temporarily ceased making cheese until they hire an environmental specialist to help them wipe out a particular strain of listeria that also caused problems for them four years ago.

Interviewed Saturday, they were unsure how long they would be closed, but Montes promised her customers she would resume and continue “as long as my feet are still on the ground.”

Her daughter, Sandra Aguilar, who has helped manage the company since it opened in 2000, translated for her mother, who first learned the craft as a 10-year-old girl in Mexico.

Queseria Bendita is Spanish for “Blessed Cheese.”

The state Department of Health responds to between 11 and 29 cases of listeriosis per year, but the three cases linked to Queseria Bendita shared the exact genetic structure as each other and the five cases in 2010 traced to the company, said Dr. Scott Lindquist, state communicable disease epidemiologist and deputy health officer, in a phone interview Saturday afternoon.

7 dead, 28 sick: Listeria tainted apples appear in Thailand, no ban

Thai authorities have confirmed the existence of listeriosis-associated apples imported from the U.S. to Thailand, advising the public to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables before consumption.

caramel.appleThe Director-General of the Department of Medical Science (DMSC) Apichai Mongkol have addressed the warning issued from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the recall of the apples from Bidart Bros. as the FDA have confirmed a contamination of Listeria in the apples.

Produce contaminated by Listeriosis have been confirmed in Thailand at the Laem Chabang port in Rayong province through a cargo vessel, as warned in the FDA’s document.

Two strains of Listeria monocytogenes were confirmed in the Bidart Bros apple processing plant near Bakersfield, California, the FDA said.

“Those same strains were also found in Bidart Bros. apples collected from a retailer,” the FDA said in a statement on Friday.