Pennsylvania funeral director dismayed by court ruling reinstating food ban

“I drove down your road

to Hazeldean where I tasted

greasy.jungle.hipyour funeral home’s sandwiches and coffee

I saw your hands melt into one another

I saw you grieve and grow

care a lot about one another”

Greasy Jungle, 1994, Tragically Hip

A federal judge has ordered no more food service at Pennsylvania funeral homes.

The food ban at Pennsylvania funeral homes was instituted in 1952 out of food safety concerns.  Then, in 2012, a federal judge deemed the earlier ruling unconstitutional.

Now, a federal appeals court has reversed the reversal, once again banning food at funeral homes in the commonwealth.

Chad Snyder, director of Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home in Lancaster, Pa. says he’s baffled and  disappointed by the ruling.

“There are many other places that would come to the conclusion of health hazards,” he said today.  “I mean, retirement communities, hospitals — they also provide food service.”

He says it was an ancillary service that gave comfort to families.

5 sick, again, from Campylobacter linked to Penn. raw milk

In Jan. 2010, the owners of The Family Cow, a producer of raw milk in Pennsylvania, in partnership with Whole Foods, took the Intertubes to extol the virtues of raw milk (video below).

In Jan. 2012, after a preliminary investigation had linked 12 people sick with Campylobacter to raw milk consumption, Edwin Shank, the owner of Shankstead EcoFarm, trading as The Family Cow in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, wrote in an e-mail to customers, “In spite of some over-eager reporting, there have been NO positive raw_milk_family_cow(1)campylobacter tests from unopened container of our raw milk either by the PDA lab or from QC Labs, the certified lab that we use.

“When your emails started pouring in, one thing became immediate obvious. There is an unusually powerful stomach and lower gastrointestinal illness with acute 7-10 day diarrhea going through our communities. Some say it’s nationwide.

“So, if we were looking for an easy way out, and looking to shift the blame, it looks like we could have our answer. It’s not us! It’s not our milk! It’s a virus. It’s the flu. It is nationwide so don’t blame us!”

At least 65 people were sickened in that outbreak.

Now, the Pennsylvania Departments of Agriculture and Health has advised consumers to discard raw milk produced by The Family Cow because of potential bacterial contamination, based on laboratory tests and five sick people.

Again Campylobacter.

Again, epidemiology works.

The Family Cow, owned and operated by Edwin Shank, sells directly to consumers in an on-farm retail store and at drop off locations and retail stores around Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the Lehigh Valley, as well as south-central Pennsylvania.

Agriculture officials ordered the owners of the farm to stop the sale of all raw milk until further notice.

Shank, 43, told Trib Live, “We’re working with the state, doing additional testing and strengthening safety protocols. We have our laboratory. We test and hold every batch.”

Raw milk sickened scores despite inspections

The majority of those sickened in raw milk outbreaks is children under 10-years-old. And there’s good immunological reasons for that. If adults want to take the risk with raw milk, they will, just like with cigarettes and alcohol. But parents generally don’t have a scotch and smoke with their 4-year-olds.

That’s what I told Karen Rowan of My Health News Daily in her report about a report appearing in Clinical Infectious Diseases, summarizing a Jan. 2012 campylobacter outbreak linked to raw milk that sickened 148 people in four states.

The dairy that sold the milk had a permit for selling unpasteurized milk, and had passed all inspections. The farm was among the largest sellers of unpasteurized colbert.raw.milkmilk in the state.

The dairy also tested its own milk for E. coli bacteria more often than was required. The vast majority of the sick people drank the milk before its “best by” date.

The only deficiencies that investigators found were that a mechanical milk bottle capper was broken, so employees had capped the bottles by hand, and that the water used to clean equipment was cooler than recommended (110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, instead of 160 to 170 degrees F).

But these issues were “minimal,” and this campylobacter outbreak demonstrates “the ongoing hazards of unpasteurized dairy products.”

Douglas Powell, a professor of food safety at Kansas State University advises that raw milk not be given to children. “As adults, you’re free to choose. But don’t give it to your kids.”

The people sickened in the outbreak ranged in age from 2 to 74, the report said. Typically, campylobacter infections cause diarrhea, abdominal pain and fever that last about a week, and most people get better on their own. In the outbreak, 10 people were hospitalized.

The dairy immediately suspended unpasteurized milk sales when it was informed of the outbreak.

The researchers recommended that state officials consider more regulation of unpasteurized milk, such as monthly pathogen testing.

Pennsylvania student recovering from E. coli after farm visit

The Mercury reports a recent trip to a local farm left a Perkiomen Valley School District student sick with a strain of E. coli.

A letter sent out to parents Tuesday signed by district Superintendent Clifford Rogers announced the student did not attend school “for the duration of the illness and the case was reported to the Montgomery County Health Department.”

Jessica Lester, Perkiomen Valley’s manager of school and community engagement, said the student attends South Elementary School but his exact grade wasn’t being released for his privacy.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/petting-zoos-outbreaks.

Erdozain G, Kukanich K, Chapman B, Powell D. 2012. Observation of public health risk behaviours, risk communication and hand hygiene at Kansas and Missouri petting zoos – 2010-2011. Zoonoses Public Health. 2012 Jul 30. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2012.01531.x. [Epub ahead of print]

Outbreaks of human illness have been linked to visiting settings with animal contact throughout developed countries. This paper details an observational study of hand hygiene tool availability and recommendations; frequency of risky behavior; and, handwashing attempts by visitors in Kansas (9) and Missouri (4), U.S., petting zoos. Handwashing signs and hand hygiene stations were available at the exit of animal-contact areas in 10/13 and 8/13 petting zoos respectively. Risky behaviors were observed being performed at all petting zoos by at least one visitor. Frequently observed behaviors were: children (10/13 petting zoos) and adults (9/13 petting zoos) touching hands to face within animal-contact areas; animals licking children’s and adults’ hands (7/13 and 4/13 petting zoos, respectively); and children and adults drinking within animal-contact areas (5/13 petting zoos each). Of 574 visitors observed for hand hygiene when exiting animal-contact areas, 37% (n=214) of individuals attempted some type of hand hygiene, with male adults, female adults, and children attempting at similar rates (32%, 40%, and 37% respectively). Visitors were 4.8x more likely to wash their hands when a staff member was present within or at the exit to the animal-contact area (136/231, 59%) than when no staff member was present (78/343, 23%; p<0.001, OR=4.863, 95% C.I.=3.380-6.998). Visitors at zoos with a fence as a partial barrier to human-animal contact were 2.3x more likely to wash their hands (188/460, 40.9%) than visitors allowed to enter the animals’ yard for contact (26/114, 22.8%; p<0.001, OR= 2.339, 95% CI= 1.454-3.763). Inconsistencies existed in tool availability, signage, and supervision of animal-contact. Risk communication was poor, with few petting zoos outlining risks associated with animal-contact, or providing recommendations for precautions to be taken to reduce these risks.

1 sick; cheese recalled from Whole Foods in Pennsylvania

The Allegheny County Health Department and Whole Foods Market announce that Jean Perrin Edel de Cleron cheese sold in the East Liberty Whole Foods Market store is being recalled because some samples tested positive for listeria.

The recalled cheese was cut and packaged in clear plastic wrap with a Whole Foods Market scale label, and a code beginning with 293351. The recalled cheese was sold between May 20 and July 3, 2012.

One illness has been reported.

Salmonella in raw milk leads to Pennsylvania recall

The Pennsylvania departments of Agriculture and Health Monday advised consumers and retailers who purchased raw milk and raw milk cheese from Norman Z. and Edith B. Sauder in Kutztown, Berks County, to discard or return the products immediately. Raw milk and raw milk cheese are products that have not been pasteurized.

On April 1, an independent lab confirmed the products tested positive for Salmonella. It was found in raw milk sold in a plastic bottle and raw milk cheese with a date code of March 25, 2012.

To date, the Department of Health is not aware of any illnesses related to these products.

65 now sick from campylobacter in Penn. raw milk

The recent outbreak of sickness linked to a local farm ranks among Pennsylvania’s three most severe outbreaks of disease linked to raw milk in the past five years.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reported on Monday that raw milk produced at the Family Cow farm near Scotland was linked to 65 cases of campylobacteriosis in four states – 56 in Pennsylvania, four in Maryland, three in West Virginia and two in New Jersey.

Since 2006, Pennsylvania has had at least seven disease outbreaks linked to raw milk consumption, according to Pennsylvania Department of Health spokeswoman Holli Senior. Campylobacter bacteria has caused most of the outbreaks, and salmonella caused the remainder. More than 250 people became ill.

The two largest outbreaks were in 2008. An outbreak originating in Lancaster County sickened 72 people and another in Montgomery County made 68 people ill.

A table of raw milk-related outbreaks is available at http://bites.ksu.edu/rawmilk.

It’s-not-us raw milk toll rises to 20 sick with campylobacter

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the number of confirmed cases of Campylobacter infection has increased to a total of 20 confirmed cases – 16 cases have been confirmed in Pennsylvania and and four cases in Maryland.

Testing of the product is still underway at the Department of Agriculture.

Samantha Krepps, Press Secretary for the Department Of Agriculture told Fox 43, "Once the family found out there was a problem – they voluntarily stopped production."

’It’s not us! It’s not our milk! It’s a virus. It’s the flu. It is nationwide so don’t blame us!’ 12 now sick with campylobacter tied to Penn. raw milk

The number of confirmed cases of campylobacter infection has increased to 12 — eight in Pennsylvania residents and four in Maryland residents.

Edwin Shank, the owner of Shankstead EcoFarm, trading as The Family Cow in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, voluntarily halted the sale of milk today but insisted that raw milk samples that the farm sent last week to QC Labs has tested negative for pathogens.

In an e-mailed letter to customers, Shank wrote:

“In spite of some over-eager reporting, there have been NO positive campylobacter tests from unopened container of our raw milk either by the PDA lab or from QC Labs, the certified lab that we use. There are 4 samples, between us and the PDA which are being tested presently. We expect them later today.

“When your emails started pouring in, one thing became immediate obvious. There is an unusually powerful stomach and lower gastrointestinal illness with acute 7-10 day diarrhea going through our communities. Some say it’s nationwide.

“So, if we were looking for an easy way out, and looking to shift the blame, it looks like we could have our answer. It’s not us! It’s not our milk! It’s a virus. It’s the flu. It is nationwide so don’t blame us!”

Testing of the product is still underway at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, which will update the situation daily, according to a spokeswoman.

Epidemiology and DNA fingerprinting are much better tools for solving outbreaks of foodborne illness than simple testing.

E. coli O157 toll up to 11 at Pennsylvania park lake

There are now 11 confirmed and two probable E. coli infections linked to the outbreak at Cowans Gap State Park, and most of the afflicted were in the lake on the same weekend.

Pennsylvania Department of Health spokesperson Christine Cronkright released the updated numbers Thursday. Nine of the confirmed E. coli O157:H7 cases involved people from Pennsylvania, and two are from Maryland. All but one of the sick people are children.

In the weeks since her son contracted E. coli O157, Melanie Royer has been a mother on a mission to encourage illness reporting and the closure of the lake at Cowans Gap State Park.

Royer is thankful the lake was closed as a precaution because she watched the bacteria ravage her 12-year-old son’s body.

"This whole thing is so scary because you’re helpless as a parent," she said.

She encourages people with suspected E. coli cases to not only seek medical attention, but also ensure their cases are being reported to the state health department.

Royer criticized the delay between when children were being diagnosed and when the lake closed.