Crypto hits NSW pools

As we chill (sweat) in the sleepy haven of South Golden Beach in New South Wales for a brief Christmas break, health authorities report Cryptosporidium has sickened at least 200 people in December and are warning people with diarrhea to stay out of shared pools.

sorenne-south-golden-beach-16The Sydney Morning Herald reports almost half of the cases were in children under 10-years-old. 

Health authorities have issued the warning urging people to stay out of shared swimming pools and water parks.

The biggest outbreak of cryptosporidiois was recorded in Sydney in 1998, when there were more than 1,000 confirmed cases.

Sydney was forced to boil its drinking water because it was found to be infected with the pathogens cryptosporidium and giardia.

Name change? 86 sick with Salmonella from Red Dirt Melons in Australia

Sorenne had scooter day today at school.

It’s all part of the active lifestyle thingy the school does – and our school is really good at it, because driving just doesn’t makes sense for the locals – but Sorenne’s scooter has seen better days and now she’s an avid bike rider.

cantaloupe.salmonellaShe still got a sausage on white bread – breakfast of champions – and some fruit for her efforts.

The fruit this morning consisted of watermelon and orange slices. I asked the co-ordinator if she considered rockmelon — otherwise known as cantaloupe – and she said, I did last week, but then just didn’t.

And then I heard the news last night.

Food safety Doug, who ruins all the fun for the other kids, gave her a big thumbs up.

Later today, it was confirmed that at least 86 people in Australia have contracted an “exceedingly rare” form of salmonella linked to the consumption of rockmelon.

Red Dirt Melons – a Northern Territories-based supplier – is recalling its rockmelons after Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) launched an investigation into a spike in salmonella cases in a number of Australian states. 

Whole rockmelons, as well as pre-sliced melons, can carry the bacteria, and should be avoided, health authorities said. 

There have been 86 reported cases of Salmonella Hvittingfoss (S. Hittingfoss) nationally – 43 cases in NSW – in the two weeks to August 1.

It’s a sizeable jump compared to the two cases per month on average in NSW over the last five years.

The people affected by the recent outbreak range in ages, but 49 per cent of cases in NSW were children under five years old.

Victorian authorities are investigating eight suspected cases of salmonella poisoning that may be linked to the fruit.

Red Dirt Melons have begun a recall of their rockmelons after the Salmonella bacteria was detected by health authorities in South Australia on August 2.

Woolworths removed all Red Dirt rockmelons from its stores on Monday evening when they were told of the possible link, a spokesman for the supermarket giant said.

The chain has also suspended any future supply from Red Dirt until the food authorities provide further guidance.

Rockmelons could become contaminated with salmonella due to water contamination, contact with fertiliser, pests or animals, or if the rockmelons were not cleaned properly before sale, The NSW Food Authority said.

Rockmelons have been linked to salmonella poisonings in the past, including in the US in the 1950s, 1960s and in 2002.

The Hvittingfoss strain turned up in Sydney and Adelaide in the past few weeks, according to the Australian Melon Association. Food Standards Australia New Zealand says authorities are investigating and has warned pregnant woman, infants and the elderly not to eat the fruit.

Industry, state and federal authorities are expected to discuss the issue in a teleconference on Wednesday afternoon.

“We want more details so consumers can find out which parts of Australia are not impacted,” melon association spokeswoman Dianne Fullelove told AAP.

“We would like to have our supply chain moving. At the moment it’s virtually stopped.”

Nicevmessage of safety and compassion.

The fruit has previously been linked to salmonella, with 50 cases linked to the Saintpaul strain reported in NSW in 2006. In America in 2011, rockmelon contaminated with listeria was linked to more than 20 deaths (33 – dp).

This chart of Salmonella-in-cantaloupe outbreaks will be updated in the next couple of days. Cantaloupe Related Outbreaks

cantaloupe.infosheet

Depends if you’re in the capital region or NSW: Norovirus outbreak in Australia

Alexandra Back of the Canberra Times reports an isolation ward has been set up at Calvary Hospital and visitors are being discouraged as the hospital works to contain a gastro outbreak.

norovirus-2An intensive care patient was diagnosed with the highly contagious norovirus – that causes fever, cramping, vomiting and diarrhea – Friday last week.

Calvary Hospital chief executive Karen Edwards said there were 16 suspected cases of the virus and the patients were isolated.

The general medical ward 5W has been closed to new admissions and staff movement across the hospital was being restricted.

But one man said his wife, who had a caesarean birth under general anaesthetic two days ago, was rushed out on Thursday, a day early. He was concerned because she was still in a lot of pain.

“My concern is the continuance of care. The whole thing is, there were no options provided, in essence, we’re told they are getting everyone out by 11.30.”

Neighboring NSW Health issued a public health warning after an above average number of people went to emergency with gastro.

ACT Health said viral gastro cases weren’t notifiable in the capital, but the government had not seen a recent spike in cases.

Fail: Restaurant inspection disclosure programs that remain voluntary

Toronto, Los Angeles and New York City, along with hundreds of jurisdictions have figured this out: public health should disclose public health ratings, at the door, when people make up their mind about entering an establishment to brisbane.stars.scoresspend their money.

But the UK and several Australian states go through this convulsed process where they have scores on doors, but restaurants only have to post them if they want to, and who knows about food in school or hospital cafeterias.

The Brits were never ones for public disclosure (see Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk, 1997, or Yes, Minister).

Australian newspapers are reporting that customers are demanding voluntary food hygiene ratings become mandatory across New South Wales restaurants.

Same in the UK.

As someone who has been involved in these public disclosure efforts, including NSW’s back in the day, and advocated mandatory public disclosure from the beginning, it’s painful to watch the contortions.

According to The Border Mail, “Some retail food businesses in NSW display their  rating in the window, but only if their council signs up to the program and only if the business is happy with its rating.

Councils and industry groups are calling on the NSW Food Authority initiative, Scores on Doors, which issues certificates with three, four and five-star ratings during routine health inspections, to be made mandatory to standardise food safety across NSW and give customers more consistent information about hygiene at food establishments.

Since the program was launched in 2010, only about one-third of local governments in NSW have adopted the system.

North Sydney Council is the latest to announce that from July 1, following annual food safety inspections, it will begin issuing certificates that eateries can then choose to display.

“If a restaurant is displaying the purple and green poster, it has met minimum hygiene and food safety standards during the last food inspection. If it’s not displaying one, they can ask why,” North Sydney mayor Jilly Gibson said.

Wok On Inn at The Rocks, which scored five stars, has been displaying the certificate since the end of last year, and waiter Sunny Dongdang said he thinks that all businesses should be required to do so.

The best places will always come forward.

Public disclosure: Australian Scores on Doors video launched

We’ve signed up for our first hockey tournament (the ice kind) in New South Wales at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour in October, so I’ll be looking for scores. I’m coaching, the kid is playing, and Amy is volunteering.

sorenne.hockeyBega Valley Shire Council and local food businesses are being congratulated for joining the recently refreshed and improved Scores on Doors program, a star rating system based on the outcome of a routine unannounced food hygiene and safety inspection of a food business.

Speaking at the Food Regulation Partnership food retail meeting in Merimbula today, Thursday 31 July 2014, the NSW Food Authority’s Director of Compliance, Investigation and Enforcement Peter Day said the council’s decision to join the program was already proving a drawcard for the area’s food businesses and their customers – locals and visitors alike.

Mr Day said in recognition of the Bega Valley Shire region’s commitment to the program the NSW Food Authority was taking the opportunity to launch a new video promoting the Scores on Doors program during its regional visit to Merimbula.

Bega Valley Shire Mayor Cr Bill Taylor said of the 250 eligible food businesses in the various villages and towns across the Bega Valley Shire 30 had already signed up to the program.

“The Scores on Doors initiative is an effective marketing tool for each of the areas within our shire to promote the standard and quality of the hygiene and food safety of local food businesses,” Cr Taylor said.

“Joining the Scores on Doors program represents a great opportunity for them to collectively promote our shire’s level of food safety compliance to locals and visitors alike.

“I applaud those businesses that have already signed up and encourage those who haven’t yet to get on board.”

Further information about the Scores on Doors program and other food safety initiatives can be found at www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/scoresondoors.

Australian food safety lab staff walk off job

About 100 staff from NSW’s public food safety lab have walked off the job for an afternoon claiming plans to axe the facility could put the community at risk.

food.lab.testingThe food testing branch of the Forensic Analytical Science Services (FASS) is set to be shut down after the Food Authority didn’t renew its contract, flagging a move to private tender.

About 17 scientists and technical officers from the Lidcombe lab in Sydney’s west are set to lose their jobs.

Operation Trident: crackdown on Australian black market oyster trade

There will be a crackdown on black market oysters in the Australian state of New South Wales, and consumers are being warned to avoid stolen seafood this festive period.

Department of Primary Industries director of compliance Glenn Tritton said Operation Trident was designed to deter oyster theft trident-keeper~100and protect consumers against unsafe black market produce during the festive season.

“Operation Trident is a multi-phase operation targeting all facets of illegal seafood theft – from on the water to ending up either being sold illegally in pubs, on plates in restaurants and even on the dinner table in your own home,” Mr Tritton said.

“Expert DPI fisheries officers work in conjunction with the NSW Authority and NSW Police, and in consultation with NSW Farmers, during this peak season for seafood and oyster consumption.

“The high-tech operation includes ongoing covert and overt operations up and down the NSW coast that aim to break up the black market which is responsible for ripping off hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of oysters across NSW each year.”

NSW Food Authority’s chief scientist Dr Lisa Szabo said the black market oyster trade not only impacted the livelihood of primary producers, but could pose a health risk to consumers as well.

“Stolen oysters might not come from an area covered by the NSW SUN0705N-Oyster7Shellfish Program,” Dr Szabo said.

“Only buy oysters from reputable retailers as these oysters have been monitored for their safety.

“Most illegal seafood is stored in the backs of unrefrigerated trucks.

“We strongly advise against anyone consuming seafood if they don’t know where it has come from.”

 

Food safety in the Australian stars

The issue of food safety and hygiene in Australia’s foodservice industry has continued to have a high profile with any story of food poisoning or foodservice businesses breaching laws, as well as programs like the NSW Food Authority’s “name and shame” register, guaranteeing it remains in the spotlight.

But around Australia, according to Hospitality Magazine, there are growing moves by councils and food authorities to shift the focus into more positive territory with the growth of so called “Scores on Doors” programs that, rather than holding up the bad operators, recognize the outstanding ones publicly.

In New South Wales a year long trial of the government’s voluntary Scores on Doors program, based on a star rating system, was completed in August and is now under review, but early reports from stakeholders are giving it the thumbs up for its achievements in lifting awareness and foodservice business food safety compliance. And in South Australia the government is gearing up to launch a state-wide pilot of a similar program following a major review of the effects of such initiatives in Australia and overseas.

At the same time the joint Australian and New Zealand body, the Food Regulations Standing Committee is currently working on developing a national approach for a food safety disclosure system.

Friendly science-based fairy tales to help us sleep

Myths and fairy tales are what people tell themselves at night to make the uglies go away and get some sleep.

One of the favorites of regulators is that they work in a science-based organization.

The U.K. Food Standards Agency issued its annual science report yesterday, “written in a style accessible to a wide audience,” because they want to be heard by the plebes, but fail to endorse thermometers to ensure food is safely cooked.

Same with the New South Wales Food Authority in Australia, which said yesterday that to limit bacterial spread from raw meat, wash hands in “hot soapy water” and cook poultry, minced meats, and sausages until well done, right through to the centre. No pink should be left visible. Juices should run clear after cooking.”

Water temperature doesn’t matter when washing hands and color is a lousy indicator of anything. That’s why I get to be the cook at the kids’ sausage sizzles, with my tip-sensitive digital thermometer.

Apparently not another raw egg outbreak in Australia

This is why I put question marks on some headlines: because something doesn’t seem quite right.

A story dated June 7, 2012 and published by ThePoultrySite – my favorite read while exfoliating in the bath – had this lede:

AUSTRALIA – Currently the NSW Food Authority is investigating 49 cases of Salmonella poisoning, suspected to be from consuming foods containing raw egg.

I dutifully blogged the news, not so much the research, but that there was yet another outbreakof salmonella in eggs which, given the track-record in Australia, would be far from surprising.

An answer arrived a week later in the form of an e-mail from the New South Wales Food Authority: “The information the Poultry CRC used was actually from a media alert posted on our website in 2007 – http://foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/news/alerts-recalls/alert-eggs-and-food-poisoning/.

Oops. Sorry. A table of raw-egg related outbreaks in Australia is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia.