Morimoto restaurant linked to Salmonella

My roommate Owen and I used to watch Iron Chef, the original dubbed version, while we ate late night Chinese food after going to the bar. I always liked the Morimoto the best. He was sort of the Bill Belichick of the show. He never smiled and always had his game face on. Serious about fancy food.

Fancy food ain’t safe food though; according to the Napa Valley Register Morimoto’s Napa joint has been linked to six cases of salmonellosis.

Several people reported getting sick with salmonella after eating at Morimoto Napa last month, according to Napa County Public Health.

There are at least six confirmed cases of salmonella-related food borne illnesses in customers who dined at the restaurant on Main Street between Oct. 10 and Oct. 12, said Dr. Karen Relucio, the county’s chief public health officer.

Relucio confirmed that the restaurant has been cooperative. During their investigation, she said, officials found that the restaurant was very clean and organized with strict operating procedures.

I ate at Morimoto’s Disney Springs restaurant earlier this year and there was a lot of sushi and sashimi on the menu. Maybe it’s the frozen kind.

Over 100 ill with noro at USC

Norovirus kind of sucks, unless you are a virologist. The perfect human pathogen (a term coined by my NoroCORE colleague and all-around good guy, Aron Hall) is shed at a crazy high rate of virus particles per gram of vomit or feces and sticks around in the environment for a long time. So outbreaks tend to persist and hit college campuses where lots of people live and eat together.

Like USC, where, according to LAist, a lot of students are sick.la-sp-usc-recruiting-update-20141021

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has confirmed that they are currently investigating a norovirus outbreak at the University of Southern California. A representative from the Department of Public Health told LAist that 103 cases have been reported since October 26, which is when the university reached out to the department about the situation. 

The university has asked students to remain home from classes or social events until they’ve been symptom free for at least 24 hours, according to a post on the USC Engemann Student Health Center website. This isn’t the first time the student body has been struck down by the virus—in 2008 hundreds of cases were reported in 2008, and there were a number of outbreaks around the L.A. area last year, as well.

Brae Surgeoner, Doug and I had a paper published in the Journal of Environmental Health about some research we conducted in the Winter of 2006. The study came about because a whole bunch of kids in the University of Guelph’s residence system started puking from an apparent norovirus outbreak. There were lots of handwashing signs up and we wanted to know whether they changed hygiene behavior (especially if kids were using the tools available when entering the cafeteria). Turns out that students weren’t doing as good of a job at hand hygiene as they reported to us.

Maybe IBM is good at some stuff: Grocery scanner data to speed investigations during early foodborne illness outbreaks

Foodborne illnesses, like salmonella, E. coli and norovirus infections, are a major public health concern affecting more than one out of six Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)1. During a foodborne illness outbreak, rapidly identifying the contaminated food source is vital to minimizing illness, loss and impact on society.

ibm.nerdsToday, IBM Research – Almaden announced its scientists have discovered that analyzing retail-scanner data from grocery stores against maps of confirmed cases of foodborne illness can speed early investigations. In the study, researchers demonstrated that with as few as 10 medical-examination reports of foodborne illness they can narrow down the investigation to 12 suspected food products in just a few hours.

In the study, researchers created a data-analytics methodology to review spatio-temporal data, including geographic location and possible time of consumption, for hundreds of grocery product categories. Researchers also analyzed each product for its shelf life, geographic location of consumption and likelihood of harboring a particular pathogen – then mapped the information to the known location of illness outbreaks. The system then ranked all grocery products by likelihood of contamination in a list from which public health officials could test the top 12 suspected foods for contamination and alert the public accordingly.

A traditional investigation can take from weeks to months and the timing can significantly influence the economic and health impact of a disease outbreak. The typical process employs interviews and questionnaires to trace the contamination source. In 2011, an outbreak of E. coli in Europe took more than 60 days to identify the source, imported fenugreek seeds. By the time the investigation was completed, all the sprouts produced from the seeds had been consumed. Nearly 4,000 people became ill in 16 countries and more than 50 people died before public health officials could pinpoint the source, according to the European Food Safety Authority2.

“When there’s an outbreak of foodborne illness, the biggest challenge facing public health officials is the speed at which they can identify the contaminated food source and alert the public,” said Kun Hu, public health research scientist, IBM Research – Almaden in San Jose, Calif. “While traditional methods like interviews and surveys are still necessary, analyzing big data from retail grocery scanners can significantly narrow down the list of contaminants in hours for further lab testing. Our study shows that Big Data and analytics can profoundly reduce investigation time and human error and have a huge impact on public health.”

Already, the method in this study has been applied to an actual E.  coli  illness outbreak in Norway. With just 17 confirmed cases of infection, public health officials were able to use this methodology to analyze grocery-scanner data related to more than 2,600 possible food products and create a short-list of 10 possible contaminants. Further lab analysis pinpointed the source of contamination down to the batch and lot numbers of the specific product – sausage.

 

An outbreak can be the horrible gift that keeps on giving

For victims, reminders of an outbreak may be daily and can include long term sequelae from foodborne pathogens like Salmonella.

Folks on the industry talk crisis, recall, restoration and recovery. The events aren’t usually managed quickly. It can take years.jellyofthemonth

According to AP, almost a decade ago ConAgra’s Peter Pan peanut butter was linked to over 600 illnesses; and the fallout continues.

After years of investigation and legal negotiations, federal prosecutors announced last year that Chicago-based ConAgra had agreed to pay $11.2 million — a sum that includes the highest fine ever in a U.S. food safety case — and plead guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of shipping adulterated food. Investigators linked peanut butter produced in Sylvester, Georgia, to 626 people sickened by salmonella before a February 2007 recall removed Peter Pan from store shelves for months.

The charge and accompanying plea deal were revealed May 20, 2015. More than 14 months later, a federal judge has yet to hold a formal plea hearing or approve the settlement.

That could soon change. U.S. District Judge W. Louis Sands has ordered a teleconference with ConAgra attorneys and prosecutors on Thursday to schedule a plea date. Prosecutors told the judge in a legal filing July 29 both sides are ready to proceed after a year spent reaching out to possible victims so they could file claims for financial restitution.

“These criminal cases resonate across the world in food safety and I’m certainly an advocate of continuing to do this,” said Bill Marler, a Seattle-based attorney who specializes in food safety and represented 2,000 clients in civil suits against ConAgra after the Peter Pan outbreak. “But I think a little more prompt justice is called for. Something that goes on for a decade doesn’t necessarily make the most sense.”

30 cases of salmonellosis linked to Sprouts Extraordinaire

According to CDC, sprouts are back at it again with the illnesses.

I don’t eat them, but if I did, I would want to know a whole lot about the seed source and who was growing them – fairly hard to do when they arrive as garnish on a salad or on a sandwich.

CDC is collaborating with public health officials in several states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Reading and Salmonella Abony infections.Alfalfa-sprouts

Thirty people infected with the outbreak strains have been reported from nine states. Of those ill people, 24 were infected with Salmonella Reading, 1 was infected with Salmonella Abony, and 5 were infected with both.

Illnesses started on dates ranging from May 21, 2016 to July 20, 2016. Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 72, with a median age of 30. Fifty-three percent of ill people are female. Five ill people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic and traceback evidence available at this time indicate that alfalfa sprouts supplied by Sprouts Extraordinaire of Denver, Colorado are the likely source of this outbreak.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about the foods they ate and other exposures in the week before they became ill. Of the 27 ill people who were interviewed, 17 (63%) reported eating or possibly eating alfalfa sprouts in the week before illness started. This proportion is significantly higher than results from a 2006 survey of healthy people, in which 3% reported eating sprouts on a sandwich in the week before they were interviewed. Ill people in the current outbreak reported eating raw alfalfa sprouts on sandwiches from several different restaurants.

Federal, state, and local health and regulatory officials performed a traceback investigation from five restaurants where ill people reported eating alfalfa sprouts. This investigation indicated that Sprouts Extraordinaire supplied alfalfa sprouts to all five of these locations.

On August 5, 2016, Sprouts Extraordinaire recalled its alfalfa sprout products from the market due to possible Salmonella contamination. These products were sold in 5-pound boxes labeled “Living Alfalfa Sprouts”.

A historical selection of sprout outbreaks can be found here.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Oysters at Wimbledon edition

Oysters are no longer being served at Wimbledon after a bout of food poisoning at a luxury hospitality tent chefed by the Roux family.

novak djokovic-cropped_1e5jl4dpdlhai17s03p0ksxskiAccording to the Daily Mail, the Gatsby Club’s exclusive clientele pay up to £5,000 for corporate packages which include a champagne reception and a three-course meal prepared by Britain’ s first celebrity chef, Albert Roux, 80.

And with such steep prices, guests are also offered a complimentary bar and oysters upon arrival.

But customers may no longer be getting their money’s worth after organisers were forced to suspend serving the delicacy when a number of guests reported falling sick.

One customer, who did not want to be named, said he was warned about the bout of sickness after dining there this week.

He said: ‘A friend of mine who is a steward rang me up to find out if we were okay.

‘He said over 100 people had been poisoned and they reckoned it was the oysters.

‘We ate at the Gatsby Club last year and it was excellent, but people need to know if they’re spending this much money.’

A Wimbledon spokesperson would not confirm the exact number of people that were effected but said it was ‘less than half’ of 100.

‘We found Salmonella in some of the cooked food from the restaurant, as well as in some raw food.’ That’s not good

In North Carolina folks vacation at the beach or in the mountains. The idea is to get a bunch of people together in a house and cook/eat/drink and recharge. In Ontario (that’s in Canada) people relax and party in cottages that line the hundreds of lakes north of Toronto.

I spent this past weekend in cottage country, as it’s known, celebrating my parents anniversary with a bunch of family and friends.IMG_0978

One of the popular Southern Ontario-to-the-cottage roads travels through Bradford. Home of a marsh, Chicago Blackhawk Brandon Mashinter, and over 20 confirmed cases of salmonellosis linked to St. Louis Bar and Grill.

According to 104.5 CHUM FM, the restaurant has been closed twice in the past three weeks due to illnesses.

22 cases have been confirmed by lab testing and another 18 people have symptoms that are consistent with Salmonella.

Dr. Colin Lee with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit says the restaurant had to be closed on May 31st and then again on June 15th-16th to allow for food samples to be taken and proper disinfection.

“We found Salmonella in some of the cooked food from the restaurant, as well as in some raw food.”

In a statement provided to NEWSTALK 1010, St. Louis Bar & Grill says the safety and well-being of its customers and staff are its highest priorities. The company underlined that it has been working closely with the local health unit and that its Bradford location is open as normal.

“On two occasions (May 31 and June 15), we cooperated fully with the Simcoe Muskoka Health Unit to close the restaurant for inspection, sanitization and disinfection. On both occasions, the Health Unit was satisfied that there was no risk to public safety and cleared us to re-open within a few hours (May 31) and the next day (June 15).”

There is always a risk to public safety when food is involved. It’s up to restaurant operators to reduce the risks. Salmonella in raw and cooked food isn’t an indicator of good risk management.

Sporadic illnesses, outbreak illnesses, are similiar

Outbreak data have been used to estimate the proportion of illnesses attributable to different foods. Applying outbreak-based attribution estimates to non-outbreak foodborne illnesses requires an assumption of similar exposure pathways for outbreak and sporadic illnesses. This assumption cannot be tested, but other comparisons can assess its veracity.

vomit-FBOur study compares demographic, clinical, temporal, and geographic characteristics of outbreak and sporadic illnesses from Campylobacter, Escherichia coli O157, Listeria, and Salmonella bacteria ascertained by the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet). Differences among FoodNet sites in outbreak and sporadic illnesses might reflect differences in surveillance practices. For Campylobacter, Listeria, and Escherichia coli O157, outbreak and sporadic illnesses are similar for severity, sex, and age. For Salmonella, outbreak and sporadic illnesses are similar for severity and sex. Nevertheless, the percentage of outbreak illnesses in the youngest age category was lower.

Therefore, we do not reject the assumption that outbreak and sporadic illnesses are similar.

Comparing characteristics of sporadic and outbreak-associated foodborne illnesses, United States, 2004-2011

Emerging Infectious Diseases, Volume 22, Number 7, July 2016, DOI: 0.3201/eid2207.150833

E.D. Ebel, M.S. Williams, D. Cole, C.C. Travis, K.C. Klontz, N.J. Golden, R.M. Hoekstra

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/22/7/15-0833_article

Going public: Kale sucks and sickened 6 with Salmonella in Minn. in April

Posting a product recall (alert) notice on a company website, and then quickly removing it, is like putting down sugar to ward off ants. For the few remaining investigative journalists, such actions are akin to painting a bullseye on the company for further questioning.

spongebob.oil.colbert.may3.10And it shouldn’t be that way.

There is a scientific, public health and moral reason to make outbreaks known, whether product is still on the shelves or not. It’s how the rest of us mere mortals learn, it’s how to make things better, it’s the right thing to do.

Anyone who hides behind legalese is not worthy of trust – especially the consumer faith and trust that goes into every food purchase — because industry government, and academia rationalize a Chomsky-esque form of self-censorship that is barf-inducing to watch, and made worse by the Salmonella.

Coral Beach, formerly of The Packer and now with Bill Marler’s Food Safety News, reports that government and corporate entities failed to reveal in April that they were investigating a cluster of Salmonella illnesses in which at least five out of six victims reported eating Taylor Farms Organic Kale Medley Power Greens Mix purchased at various Sam’s Club locations.

After a notice on another company’s website — Pacific Coast Fruit Co. of Portland — brought the situation to light, Taylor Farms’ chairman and CEO Bruce Taylor confirmed that Minnesota officials had notified him about the investigation. However, it is not clear to whom Taylor issued his May 6 statement, which was still not available on the Taylor Farms website as of May 15.

Taylor’s statement, provided to Food Safety News on May 14, says:

organic.kale.screen.shot“On Thursday, May 5th, Taylor Farms was informed by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) of an investigation of reported foodborne illness.

“In April, six people with Salmonella Enteritidis infections, with the same rare DNA fingerprint pattern, were reported to the MDH. All of those infected are from the state of Minnesota. All are recovering.

“The FDA is not requiring any action from Taylor Farms and we are not issuing any formal recalls. We will continue to work with the MDH and MDA regarding this issue.

“The safety and health of the consumers who buy our products has always and will always be the highest priority for us. We will continue to strive to deliver the industry highest quality, safest produce in the industry.”

Pleeeeassse.

Although Taylor did not reference a specific product or where it was distributed, the Pacific Coast Fruit Co. notice named Sam’s Club and said the retailer pulled Taylor Farms Organic Kale Medley Power Greens Mix from shelves nationwide on April 4.

The Pacific Coast Fruit notice, dated May 6, was available on the company’s website May 14, but has since been removed. The notice carried the headline “Taylor Farms-Organic Kale Medley Recall” and was addressed to “our customers and the Pacific Coast Fruit Team.”

Minnesota officials did not respond to weekend requests for comment on the situation. Similarly, no one from Pacific Coast Fruit or Sam’s Club responded this weekend to requests for comment.

The Pacific Coast Fruit notice said six people with Salmonella enteritidis infections, all with the same rare DNA fingerprint pattern, were reported to MDH in April. The victims ranged in age from 7 to 69 and their illnesses began between April 3 and April 26. One person was hospitalized, and all are recovering, according to Pacific Coast Fruit.

“Five of the ill people in Minnesota reported eating Taylor Farms Organic Kale Medley purchased at several Sam’s Club locations, and the source of the sixth person’s illness is under investigation,” Pacific Coast Fruit’s notice said.

An external communications spokesman for Taylor Farms said May 15 that the Salinas, CA, company did not need to issue a recall.

“No recall was needed because the issue being investigated was from back in late March early April. So, independent of the findings of the investigation, the product is no longer in the market place due to shelf-life limitations,” the Taylor Farms spokesman said.

OrganicKaleMedley-1web-216x300The failure of public health officials and corporate entities to announce the spike in Salmonella cases and the subsequent investigation is the latest incident in what one food safety professional says is a disturbing, decade-long trend.

After the deadly E. coli outbreak in 2006 that was linked to bagged fresh spinach, companies have increasingly demanded governmental agencies provide confirmation results from time-consuming follow-up laboratory tests before issuing voluntary product recalls, said Douglas Powell, former professor at Kansas State University’s Department of Diagnostic Medicine/Pathobiology.

Powell, who now lives in Australia, is publisher of barfblog.com, which has been monitoring and publicizing foodborne illness outbreaks since 2006 (1993, when Food Safety Network started), coined the phrase “leafy green cone of silence” to describe the lack of transparency on the part of government and industry in the decade since the spinach outbreak.

“This situation fits the pattern,” Powell told Food Safety News May 15. “It’s part of a bigger picture about the question of when to go public about outbreak investigations.

“There’s a question of public health. I don’t care that the product’s not on the shelves any more. The public has a right and a need to know about these incidents.”

do.the.right.thingBill Marler, partner at the Seattle law firm Marler Clark LLP, had similar concerns. Marler has been representing victims of foodborne illnesses since the 1993 E. coli outbreak traced to undercooked hamburgers served by the Jack in The Box chain. He provided testimony to Congress during the drafting of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

“My main concern is the lack of transparency, and that’s not just a comment on Taylor Farms, it’s a comment on FDA, the Minnesota departments of health and agriculture and a comment on the CDC,” Marler said May 15. “I think that anytime, especially when there are illnesses involved, I think the public has an absolute right to know what’s going on.

“My assumption is that someone’s determined that the product is no longer in the marketplace because it’s a perishable product and the public’s no longer at risk. While I appreciate that, it’s not a reason to not let consumers know.

“In order for the free market to work, in order for consumers to know what products are safe or safer, the companies and the government have a responsibility to educate the consumer.

“When they withhold that kind of information, for whatever justifiable reason they think they have, it doesn’t give (consumers) the information to know how to protect themselves and their families and also calls into question public health’s commitment to the public’s health.”

 

When it’s not the potato salad, it’s the ham

I used to eat a lot of ham sandwiches. It was the only lunch meat I’d take to school from about age 8 until I finished high school.

It’s still my preferred quick-service deli sandwich meat.

And we bake one at home a couple of times a year, making one large enough to have a few days of leftovers.

Photo Courtesy- National Pork Board

Ham can be risky though. In 1997 Neil Young missed a bunch of shows after cutting his finger while making a ham sandwich.

According to a paper by Huedo and colleagues in Food Pathogens and Disease, a couple of years ago over 40 Italian school kids got sick with salmonellosis linked to ham.

A multischool outbreak of salmonellosis caused by Salmonella enterica serovar Napoli was investigated in the province of Milan from October to November 2014, following an increase in school absenteeism coinciding with two positive cases. Epidemiological studies detected 47 cases in four primary schools: 46 children and 1 adult woman (51.4% males and 48.6% females, median age 8.9). From these, 14 cases (29.8%) were severe and resulted in hospitalization, including 6 children (12.8%) who developed an invasive salmonellosis. The epidemic curve revealed an abnormally long incubation period, peaking 1 week after the first confirmed case. Twenty-five available isolates were typed by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis showing an identical pattern. The isolate belongs to ST474, an ST composed exclusively of Salmonella Napoli human strains isolated in France and Italy. Antibiotic resistance analysis showed resistance to aminoglycosides, correlating with the presence of the aminoglycoside resistance gene aadA25 in its genome. Trace-back investigations strongly suggested contaminated ham as the most likely food vehicle, which was delivered by a common food center on 21 October. Nevertheless, this ingredient could not be retrospectively investigated since it was no longer available at the repository. This represents the largest Salmonella Napoli outbreak ever reported in Italy and provides a unique scenario for studying the outcome of salmonellosis caused by this emerging and potentially invasive nontyphoidal serotype.