NZ hospital food safety manager rightly sacked

A food safety manager in an Auckland hospital who was fired after unsafe work practices was not unjustifiably dismissed as she claims.

simpsons.lunch.lady.09Former food service manager at North Shore Hospital Padmini Singh was employed by Compass Group from August 2009 until January 2015.

Her employment ended after she was found to have been lacking in a number of areas in food safety and a decision on a demotion for her couldn’t be reached.

Compass Group had already been warned about food safety prior to audits of Singh’s work coming up short.

An outbreak of norovirus at North Shore Hospital in 2012 was found to have most likely originated in the hospital kitchen – though this was never confirmed nor linked to Singh.

During the outbreak there were 59 cases of gastroenteritis with each patient having had the same food.

The Ministry for Primary Industries conducted an investigation and there were indications the culprit may have been a chicken and barley soup served at lunch.

Ultimately, the source of the norovirus was not determined and MPI issued a formal warning to Compass Group that it was at risk of legal action.

Operations manager Raymond Hall said this warning was related to hand hygiene practices, training and food safety documentation.


Ice fingered but epi can be ‘squishy’ 61 sickened by Norovirus at journalists’ conference

Two months after a norovirus outbreak at Bali Hai restaurant, county health officials have fingered ice as the foodborne source that sickened at least 61 people — including three in a wedding party.

norovirus-2“We’re certain it had something to do with the ice” served at the annual awards banquet of the local Society of Professional Journalists, said county spokesman Michael Workman. “We’re not certain how it got in the ice.”

In its final report to the San Diego SPJ, the county said 84 of the 172 people at the July 29 banquet returned surveys on what they ate and other issues. Fifty were sickened by norovirus type GI.1. (Eight others also reported getting ill.)

Three diners elsewhere in Bali Hai also got GI.1 — part of a wedding party of 140.

“We have to [classify it as] food poisoning,” Workman said, rather than a sick person spreading the gastrointestinal disease.

A Sept. 4 report said, “We did not link any food service workers with the illness,” but Workman on Tuesday told Times of San Diego that “we can’t say yes or no” to whether an employee caused the outbreak.

Workman stressed that Bali Hai remains “rated for high” for hygiene. “Everyone involved — from the people who attended [the banquet] and from the restaurant … did the right thing.”

County spokesman Workman saluted Bali Hai management.

“The restaurant had a great hygiene procedure, really good,” he said. “They are on the up-and-up on what they do and what they teach their employees. The employees have been there a long time. So they get it.”

But Workman acknowleged the county’s findings can be “squishy” and “it’s not an exact science.”

But: “We’re confident it’s been taken care of.”

From the duh files: Oysters may serve as link in transmission of Norovirus

Oysters appear to be an important link in the transmission of norovirus among humans, according to new research from China.

SUN0705N-Oyster7In the current study, published last month in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, researchers analyzed the genetic sequences of 1,077 samples of noroviruses found in oysters. Some sequences had been stockpiled in genetic databases since 1983.

The scientists found that 80 percent of the known human noroviruses matched those found in oysters. The majority of the matches were in oysters from coastal waters, more likely to be contaminated with human sewage.

Noroviruses mutate very quickly, as do influenza viruses, and big outbreaks usually begin after a new strain emerges. There was a “convergence” between new strains circulating in oysters and those circulating in humans, the researchers also found.

Yongjie Wang, a food science specialist at Shanghai Ocean University and lead author of the study, concluded that oysters were an important reservoir for human noroviruses — a place where they can hide between outbreaks and mutate. They also can be transmitted back to humans, presumably when oysters are eaten raw.

98 sickened: Norovirus confirmed at Calif. Chipotle

An investigation by the Ventura County Environmental Health Division (EHD) revealed that during the week of August 18, 2015, about 80 restaurant customers and 18 restaurant employees reported symptoms characteristic of a gastrointestinal illness.

norovirus-2The restaurant, in conformance with its own corporate policy, voluntarily closed the facility, threw out all remaining food products, cleaned and disinfected the facility including all food contact surfaces, and excluded all employees with symptoms from working in the restaurant. EHD staff conducted an inspection the following day to confirm that the food had been removed, the restaurant was adequately disinfected, and the 18 employees had been excluded from work.

As part of the investigation the EHD and Public Health staff interviewed affected customers and restaurant staff to determine when the illness began and what had been eaten. The EHD also ordered that all affected restaurant employees submit specimens for laboratory analysis in an attempt to determine the cause of the illnesses. As of Sep. 3, 2015, 7-out-of-18 samples tested positive for Norovirus. The employees with positive test results will continue to be excluded from the restaurant until subsequent laboratory analysis results are negative for the virus and the Public Health Division has cleared them to return to work. There have been no further reports of illness since the initial reports two weeks ago.

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.

Lemon juice and human norovirus

Brisbane is equidistant from the equator as Sarasota, Florida, and we have fabulous citrus.

lemon.lime.bittersLemon-lime-and-bitters has become my go-to drink, along with the bubbly water provided by our soda stream.

But will lemon juice reduce my risk of contracting Norovirus?


Researchers at the German Cancer Research Center say that lemon juice could be a potentially safe and practical disinfectant against Norovirus.

I wouldn’t rely on it.

Human noroviruses does not grow in cell culture, so they tested the effects of increasing concentrations of citric buffer on the so called norovirus virus-like particles, which have the same surface characteristics as real viruses. Dr Grant Hansman, head of CHS junior research group at the German Cancer Research Center noroviruses and the University of Heidelberg and his staff show that the virus particles change their shape after citrate binding. X-ray crystal structures revealed that the citrate – from lemon juice or citrate disinfectants – precisely interacts at the binding pocket on the particle that is involved in attaching to host ligands – the so-called histo-blood group antigens.

These new results may explain why citrate reduces the infectivity of noroviruses. “Maybe a few drops of lemon juice on contaminated food or surfaces may prevent the transmission of these viruses,” speculates Hansman. With his staff, he now plans to investigate if citric acid could reduce symptoms in those already infected with noroviruses.

That’s a lot of maybes.

Anna D. Koromyslova, Peter White, and Grant S. Hansman: Citrate alters norovirus particle morphology. Virology 2015, DOI: 10.1016/j.virol.2015.07.009

Heston-norvirus-isn’t-my-fault Blumenthal reopens his Fat Duck restaurant

The Daily Mail delivers what those in the biz call a BJ-piece in a fawning portrait of Heston Blumenthal, whose new menu will take diners on a ‘story-telling’ journey aimed at capturing childhood feelings of adventure when the new menu at his Fat Duck restaurant launches next month.

heston.blumenthalI have those childhood memories: being on the couch for a couple of days, watching bad game shows and barfing endlessly, much like the 529 diners and staff who were sickened by norovirus at the Fat Duck in 2009.

He has even turned to magician Derren Brown for tips on how to personalise people’s dinner choices by using auto-suggestion techniques so that diners get what they think they most crave.

Get the food safety right first, then indulge yourself with magic.

He also acknowledged that having more than 70 staff make handmade food for 40 seats at each service would likely force up the price of a meal.

Follow the money.

Bad idea: Raw oysters in nursing homes

With at least 67 sick from Vibrio parahaemolyticus linked to raw oysters in Canada and a full recall being launched by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, one has to wonder why raw oysters would be served in a nursing home.

oystersBut that’s what happened in France in 2012.

Researchers report that the presence of norovirus in shellfish is a public health concern in Europe. Here, we report the results of an investigation into a norovirus gastroenteritis outbreak following a festive lunch which affected 84 (57%) residents and staff members of a nursing home in January 2012 in France. Individuals who had eaten oysters had a significantly higher risk of developing symptoms in the following 2·5 days than those who had not, the risk increasing with the amount eaten [relative risk 2·2 (1·0–4·6) and 3·3 (1·6–6·6) for 3–4 and 5–12 oysters, respectively].

In healthy individuals during those days, 29 (32%) subsequently became ill, most of whom were staff members performing activities in close contact with residents. Genogroup II noroviruses were detected in fecal samples, in a sample of uneaten oysters and in oysters from the production area. Identifying a norovirus’s infectious dose may facilitate the health-related management of contaminated shellfish.

A norovirus oyster-related outbreak in a nursing home in France, January 2012

Epidemiology and Infection / Volume 143 / Issue 12 / September 2015, pp 2486-2493

Loury, F. S. Le Guyader, J. C. Le Saux, K. Ambert-Balay, P. Parrot and B. Hubert

My frozen berries are now all boiled for a minute, linked to thousands of sickness in EU over past decade

Frozen berries have been linked to 26 cases of food contamination in the European Union in the past nine years.

frozen.strawberryHepatitis A, norovirus (a type of viral gastroenteritis) and Shigella sonnei (a type of dysentery) infections were identified as the main threat from the berries.

That’s according to a review released last week, which showed there had been 32 independent outbreaks of disease caused by contaminated frozen berries in the EU between 1983 and 2013, with more than 15,000 cases of norovirus reported.

It comes after Australian food processor Patties Foods recalled some of its frozen berries — which it imports from China — when 34 cases of Hepatitis A were linked to the products in February.

The Weekly Times revealed in March Australia had suffered dozens of its own food safety scandals in the past decade — mostly linked to contaminated fruit.

90 sick after swimming at Pennsylvania park

I don’t know what it is about Cowans Gap State Park’s beach and lake.

cowan_gap_state_park_lake(3)In 2011, at least 18 people were sickened with E. coli O157.

Now, the beach and lake is closed again as the Pennsylvania Department of Health continues to investigate what sickened people the weekend of July 18.

The latest information from the state said more than 90 people might have fallen ill after swimming in the lake in Fulton County. The estimate in an initial news release was “more than two dozen cases.

Department of Health spokeswoman Amy Worden said Monday she did not have an update on what caused the sickness. Epidemiologists and lab technicians are studying stool samples.