About 400 sick: Vomit bug hits hundreds of UK Wahaca staff and customers, forcing it to shut nine restaurants

And this is why MasterChef sucks.

Hundreds of staff and diners at UK Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca have been struck down with suspected norovirus.

wahaca_carousel_1Public health chiefs tonight confirmed they had launched a national probe into the outbreak.

In total, 205 workers and 160 customers have fallen ill in vomiting bug cases linked to the popular restaurant chain.

Wahaca was founded by Thomasina Miers, who won MasterChef in 2005. It has 25 venues across the UK.

Nine of its restaurants across the UK were voluntarily shut down in the wake of the outbreak. Five have since reopened.

One of the restaurants affected was the chain’s branch in Canary Wharf, East London.

One diner struck down after visiting the venue said: “It was horrendous. I felt terrible. It took three days for me to recover.

“A friend I went with was ill on the Tube, they didn’t manage to make it home, it came on that quickly.”

A message to customers on the official website for the Canary Wharf restaurant today said: “We’re really sorry but due to unforeseen circumstances, we’ve had to close today.

“We hope to be open up again soon (and continue making money while you barf), please keep an eye here for updates.”

Public Health England has confirmed to the Daily Mirror that it had launched a major probe into the outbreak.

Raw milk cheese can really suck

Fresh cheeses are a main garnish of Mexican food. Consumption of artisanal fresh cheeses is very common and most of them are made from unpasteurised cow milk.

unknownA total of 52 fresh unpasteurised cheeses of five different types were purchased from a variety of suppliers from Tabasco, Mexico. Using the most probable number method, 67% and 63% of samples were positive for faecal coliforms and E. coli, respectively; revealing their low microbiological quality.

General hygienic conditions and practices of traditional cheese manufacturers were poor; most establishments had unclean cement floors, all lacked windows and doors screens, and none of the food-handlers wore aprons, surgical masks or bouffant caps. After analysing all E. coli isolates (121 strains) for the presence of 26 virulence genes, results showed that 9 (17%) samples were contaminated with diarrheagenic E. coli strains, 8 harboured non-O157 Shiga toxin producing E. coli (STEC), and one sample contained both STEC and diffusely ad-herent E. coli strains. All STEC strains carried the stx1 gene. Potential uropathogenic E. coli (UPEC) strains were isolated from 15 (29%) samples; the most frequent gene combination was fimA-agn43. Two samples were contaminated with Salmonella. The results demonstrated that unpasteurised fresh cheeses produced in Tabasco are of poor microbiological quality and may frequently harbour foodborne pathogens.

Food safety authorities in Mexico need to conduct more rigorous surveillance of fresh cheeses. Furthermore, simple and inexpensive measures as establishing programs emphasizing good hand milking practices and hygienic manufacturing procedures may have a major effect on improving the microbiological quality of these food items.

Mexican unpasteurised fresh cheeses are contaminated with Salmonella spp., non-O157 Shiga toxin producing Escherichia coli and potential uropathogenic E. coli strains: A public health risk

International Journal of Food Microbiology 237 (2016) 10–16, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2016.08.018

R Guzman-Hernandez, A Contreras-Rodriguez, R Hernandez-Velez, I Perez-Martinez, A Lopez-Merino, MB Zaidi, T Estrada-Garcia

Mystery Mexican-style restaurant chain ‘A’ source of Salmonella Hartford and Baildon; 155 sick across US since April

On July 12, 2010, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and research partners presented data and a press release that concluded nearly 1 out of every 25 restaurant-associated foodborne outbreaks with identified food sources between 1998 and 2008 could be traced back to contaminated salsa or guacamole, more than double the rate during the previous decade.

Today, CDC revealed there are two multistate outbreaks of Salmonella infections, each involving a different Salmonella serotype: Hartford and Baildon, and that the sick people have been showing up since April and the numbers peaked in June.

Salsa and guac must be on the CDC’s mind because they’ve fingered “a Mexican-style fast food restaurant chain, Restaurant Chain A,” as associated with some illnesses. And if it’s been narrowed to a single chain restaurant, it’s probably a supply issue; salsa safety begins with the ingredients, on the farm.

Among persons eating at Restaurant Chain A, no specific food item or ingredient was found to be associated with illness for either outbreak. The numbers of new cases for the Salmonella Hartford outbreak have declined substantially since a peak in early June 2010. The numbers of new cases for the Salmonella Baildon outbreak have declined substantially since a peak in late June 2010. The number of new cases of illness associated with these outbreak strains appears to have returned to baseline, indicating the outbreaks are not ongoing.

In both outbreaks, the FDA worked with CDC and state partners to conduct a traceback investigation. The tracebacks focused on produce that ill individuals reported eating and that had been implicated in previous outbreaks of salmonellosis. The extensive traceback effort was initiated to determine if a common source or supplier could be identified to help focus the epidemiologic investigations. No common food source was identified in either traceback. The FDA also sampled and tested produce items and did not find either outbreak strain. As with previous outbreaks in which contaminated produce may be the factor, produce tracebacks present substantial challenges because of the short shelf life of the product and the industry’s comingling of product from multiple sources.

CDC stressed:

• There are over 2,500 serotypes of Salmonella.Hartford and Baildon are very rare serotypes of Salmonella.

• CDC used its Emergency Operation Center facilities and mobilized employee and student volunteers to conduct two large case-control studies within several weeks of each other. These studies involve calling thousands of U.S. residents to screen them for eligibility into the study and, once determined eligible, interviewing them about the foods they had eaten during a certain period. These studies are not possible unless people who are called agree to be interviewed. CDC thanks every person who participated in these telephone interviews.

• The Mexican-style fast food Restaurant Chain A, as well as their food suppliers and distributors, were very cooperative in providing extensive information to public health officials as various leads were explored.
 

FDA going to court to close NEW JERSEY cheese manufacturer for repeat listeria problems

I’m still not sure of the difference between insanitary and unsanitary, like insane and unsane, but the dictionary says insanitary means, “so dirty or ridden with germs as to be a danger to health,” whereas sanitary is defined as, “of or relating to the conditions that affect hygiene and health,” and the word unsanitary does not exist.

Perhaps a linguist can settle this. In the meantime …

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced intentions to ask a federal court to shut down a New Jersey cheese manufacturer with an alleged history of operating under insanitary conditions and producing cheese contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a complaint for permanent injunction against Quesos Mi Pueblito and two of its officers, Felix Sanchez and Jesus Galvez. The complaint alleges that recent inspections by the FDA and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services found Listeria-contaminated cheese and insanitary conditions at the Passaic company.

If entered by the court, the injunction would stop the company and its officers from manufacturing and distributing food until they can bring their operations into full compliance with FDA food safety regulations and produce cheese that does not test positive for the presence of Listeria. The complaint for permanent injunction was filed in the U.S. District Court – District of New Jersey.