Food safety cleanup: and don’t celebrate International Women’s Day at an all-male club in Australia

Three new cases of hepatitis A linked to recalled frozen berries imported from China have been reported in Australia, bringing the total to 26. Sucks. Cook frozen berries for one minute, see our infosheet at http://barfblog.com/2015/02/new-food-safety-infosheet-hepatitis-a-illnesses-linked-to-frozen-berries-in-australia/

john.oliverWe don’t need no inspection: The farmer who runs an organic dairy farm in Minnesota will appear in court Monday, defending his refusal to allow a state inspection he doesn’t want and contends his farm doesn’t need. Raw milk, live free or die.

Royal China Restaurant in Chamblee, Atlanta, serves some of the city’s best dim sum. Just don’t order the lobster. An employee was observed hitting lobster against the inside of a trash can while prepping the crustacean during a recent routine health inspection. There were also four dead lobsters inside a holding tank at the restaurant at 3295 Chamblee Dunwoody Road.

Fund us: Local health departments that spent more money on food safety and sanitation experienced significantly lower incidences of salmonella and cryptosporidium, according to a University of Washington study published today in the American Journal of Public Health.

From the duh files, and why I ignore Washington: The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report last week stating that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “is not planning to meet” mandates required within the Food Safety Modernization Act and the agency is raising doubts that the high number of required inspections is actually beneficial in any way.

McDonald’s capitulates, saying it plans to start using chicken raised without antibiotics commonly used in humans, and milk from cows that are not treated with rBST. That’s normal. McDonald’s killed off the genetically engineered Bt potato about 2000 because of its purchasing decisions, ensuring increased pesticide use around the fragile waterways of PEI and New Brunswick (in Canada).

There are literally tons of human poop on Mount Everest and it’s now estimated that they leave behind up to 26,500 pounds of excrement annually — and it’s getting to the point where the pits of poop and urine surrounding these camps are becoming a serious environmental and health problem.

How does one eliminate a norovirus outbreak? The Village Manor in Michigan claims to have done that. Probably with laser cats.

And Australia continues to embarrass itself, with the governing party celebrating International Women’s Day at an all-male club. Fortunately, John Oliver is a better comedian than I am (and I may be a better food safety type than John Oliver).

Food safety systems in India challenged by hygiene related problems

Indian food safety systems are challenged by the rapidly growing population, hygiene related problems, incidences of residues of antibiotics and heavy metals, foodborne pathogens, incidence of infectious diseases in food producing animals and anti- microbial resistance.

Pork MeatThese observations were made by experts addressing the recently-held National Symposium on Food Safety of Animal Origin, arranged during the XIII Annual Conference of Indian Association of Veterinary and Public Health.

Expressing his views at the symposium, Prof. Suresh S Honnappagol,animal husbandry commissioner, Government of India, stated, “The traditional production, processing and waste handling systems coupled with unhygienic practices in particular have tainted and tarnished the image of the Indian meat industry.”

Further, a panel of experts pointed out that population and income growth were driving enormous increases in demand for foods of animal origin. Livestock production systems are facing increasing demands for livestock feeds relative to availabilities. Accurate assessments of current and future supplies and demands for livestock feed are needed for national food and feed security policy and planning. The development of National Feed Assessment Systems (NFASs) is suggested to support sustainable livestock sector growth.

Dr C Renukaprasad, vice-chancellor, KVAFSU, Bidar,stated,“There is need to have extensive knowledge about the main health hazards associated with consumption of meat, poultry and eggs and their epidemiology in animals and humans. In addition, the risk analysis and HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). There must be an awareness of international regulation concerning the safety of meat, poultry and eggs and related trade issues.There is also need to put in risk-based inspection procedures.”

Like I tell mommies-to-be: Listeria is prevalent, persistent in retail delis

Purdue University research shows that standard cleaning procedures in retail delis may not eradicate Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause a potentially fatal disease in people with vulnerable immune systems.

amy.pregnant.listeriaA study led by Haley Oliver, assistant professor of food science, found that 6.8 percent of samples taken in 15 delis before daily operation had begun tested positive for L. monocytogenes.

In a second sampling phase, 9.5 percent of samples taken in 30 delis during operation over six months tested positive for the bacteria. In 12 delis, the same subtypes of the bacteria cropped up in several of the monthly samplings, which could mean that L. monocytogenes can persist in growth niches over time.

“This is a public health challenge,” Oliver said. “These data suggest that failure to thoroughly execute cleaning and sanitation protocols is allowing L. monocytogenes to persist in some stores. We can’t in good conscience tell people with weak immune systems that it is safe to eat at the deli.”

In healthy individuals, eating food contaminated with L. monocytogenes may lead to common food poisoning symptoms such as diarrhea or an upset stomach. But the bacteria can cause listeriosis – a serious systemic infection – in immunocompromised people such as the elderly, infants and children, pregnant women and people with HIV. In severe cases, L. monocytogenes can pass through the intestinal membrane and into the bloodstream or cross the blood-brain barrier. The bacteria can also cross the placental barrier in pregnant women, which can trigger abortion.

Ready-to-eat deli meats are the food most associated with L. monocytogenes, which can grow at refrigerator temperatures, unlike Salmonella and E. coli.

Stringent control measures and inspections have tamped down the presence of L. monocytogenes at meat processing plants, but there are no regulations specific to Listeria for retail delis. Recent risk assessments suggest that up to 83 percent of listeriosis cases linked to deli meats are attributable to products contaminated at retail.

oliver-listeria“It’s kind of the Wild West,” Oliver said. “Manufacturing has a zero-tolerance policy for Listeria, but that dissipates at the retail level. The challenge of developing systematic cleaning procedures for a wide variety of delis – which are less restricted environments than processing plants – can make Listeria harder to control.”

Consumers with vulnerable immune systems should buy prepackaged deli meats or heat ready-to-eat meats to 165 degrees, she said. Meat contaminated with L. monocytogenes will not show signs of spoilage, such as sliminess or odor.

The paper was published in the Journal of Food Protection. The abstract is available at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/iafp/jfp/2014/00000077/00000011/art00012

Vaccination works: Hepatitis A rates fall in US children, rise in adults

As all children attending two schools in Portsmouth, UK will be vaccinated against Hepatitis A in light of a potential outbreak, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control report that adults are particularly at risk for Hep A infections.

hepatitis.ABackground. In recent years, few US adults have had exposure and resultant immunity to hepatitis A virus (HAV). Further, persons with liver disease have an increased risk of adverse consequences if they are infected with HAV.

Methods. This study used 1999–2011 National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System and Multiple Cause of Death data to assess trends in the incidence of HAV infection, HAV-related hospitalization, and HAV-related mortality.

Results. During 1999–2011, the incidence of HAV infection declined from 6.0 cases/100 000 to 0.4 cases/100 000. Similar declines were seen by sex and age, but persons aged ≥80 years had the highest incidence of HAV infection in 2011 (0.22 cases/100 000). HAV-related hospitalizations increased from 7.3% in 1999 to 24.5% in 2011. The mean age of hospitalized cases increased from 36.0 years in 1999 to 45.1 years in 2011. While HAV-related mortality declined, the mean age at death among decedents with HAV infection increased from 48.0 years in 1999 to 76.2 years in 2011. The median age range of decedents who had HAV infection and a liver-related condition was 51.0 to 68.0 years.

Conclusions. Although vaccine-preventable, HAV-related hospitalizations increased greatly, mostly among adults, and liver-related conditions were frequently reported among HAV-infected individuals who died. Public health efforts should focus on the need to assess protection from hepatitis A among adults, including those with liver disease.

Trends in disease and complications of hepatitis A virus infection in the United States, 1999–2011: a new concern for adults

Journal of Infectious Diseases [ahead of print]

Kathleen N. Ly and R. Monina Klevens

http://jid.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2015/01/29/infdis.jiu834.abstract

Canberra uses cow shares to get their raw milk fix

A Canberra woman admits “it would be fair to say that pasteurised milk would be safer” but she still intends on using raw milk for her family.

sprout.santa.barf.xmasSaffron Zomer developed a taste for raw milk while living overseas.

She is now involved in a cow share scheme which presently enables her to consume the untreated milk.

Ms Zomer is among around 25 Canberra households who are part of the scheme run by Julia McKay a dairy farmer at Bungonia north of the nation’s capital.

Ms McKay delivers around ten litres of milk on a weekly basis to the various shareholders.

Ms Zomer gets the milk “primarily because its delicious” after living in Switzerland where she and her husband had access to raw milk.

“I did some research and I think the nutritional value is higher.” Ms Zomer said.

Ms Zomer has three children, one who is newly born and not feeding on the milk.

“My oldest isn’t much of a milk drinker, but the little one likes it and he is always excited when it is delivery day because the milk is really fresh and he doesn’t like to drink supermarket milk anymore.” she observed.

Family guy barfShe argues that there is a clear difference in the taste of raw milk when compared to supermarket milk.

Her husband uses some of the milk to make cheese.

Ms Zomer compares drinking of raw milk to eating other unprocessed food.

“I also let my kids eat seafood, sprouts and raw spinach and chicken.

I wouldn’t let my kids eat raw sprouts. Or raw milk.

Republican senator says restaurants should be able to opt-out of mandatory handwashing

As Republican presidential hopefuls like Rand Paul and Chris Christie fall over themselves to claim the live-free-or-die vote by saying vaccinations should be optional, North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis has gone further: laws requiring mandatory handwashing by food service employees are just regulatory burden.

handwashing.sep.12According to Daily Kos, Tillis made the declaration at the Bipartisan Policy Center, at the end of a question and answer with the audience. He was relaying a 2010 anecdote about his “bias when it comes to regulatory reform.”

“I was having a discussion with someone, and we were at a Starbucks in my district, and we were talking about certain regulations where I felt like ‘maybe you should allow businesses to opt out,’” he said, “as long as they indicate through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employment literature, or whatever else.”

Restaurants can just opt-out and let the free market take care of business after word spreads of unsanitary conditions.

“That’s the sort of mentality that we need to have to reduce the regulatory burden on this country,” he added. “We’re one of the most regulated nations in the history of the planet.”

Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet joked that he was “not sure” he would shake Sen. Tillis’ hand when the discussion was over, causing the lawmaker and members of the audience to laugh.

Wyoming Food Freedom Act threatens public safety

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle writes in an editorial that House Bill 56, the Food Freedom Act, is a bad move for public health.

food-freedom-statute-of-libertyThe bill would let Wyomingites make direct purchases of foodstuffs from farmers and ranchers but there are more than a few examples – and plenty of data – that show allowing the unregulated sale of food items from one buyer to another (which HB 56 would do) has the potential to sicken Wyoming residents. Consider:
– The chances of an outbreak from raw milk (one of the items that the bill’s supporters want) are at least 150 times greater than those of pasteurized milk, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
– Non-outbreak (more sporadic) cases of foodborne illness in raw milk are estimated to be 25 times larger than the number of documented cases.
– There have been 41 documented cases of illness from raw milk in Wyoming in five years.
– Some 180 people became ill with salmonella in North Dakota in 2006 when they were served unlicensed food by a caterer. One victim’s family spent $4,000 just traveling back and forth to the hospital. That did not include their medical expenses.

But, supporters of HB 56 say, informed Wyoming residents should have the right to buy these food items if they so choose (meat would be limited to poultry only). Problem is, not all buyers of these products are informed. They see them for sale, they consume them and they get sick.

raw.milk.food.freedomAnd then there is the fact that children could be fed tainted food products. How can they be “informed”? And it is important to note that even if the elderly and pregnant women know what they are consuming, they are at much greater risk for serious illness if the food is contaminated.

This is a bad bill. That it flew through the House without real consideration of its potential impacts shows it simply has become a political statement about individual liberty. HB 56 should be killed before it takes the life of even one Wyomingite.

1 toddler dead, 4 sick, so protesters will demand raw milk be sold for drinking in Victoria

Just weeks after health types in the Australian state of Victoria (that’s where Melbourne is) declared a three-year-old had died and four other children sickened from consuming raw milk, natural types are planning a drink-in Saturday to get even more unpasteurized milk on store shelves.

Spew milkThree of the four children – all under five — developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, usually associated with shiga-toxin producing E. coli, such as E. coli O157, and the other developed cryptosporidiosis.

How many others developed milder forms of illness is unknown.

In response to the outbreak in early Dec., Victoria Consumer Affairs Minister Jane Garrett ordered a gag-inducing chemical to be poured into all raw milk sold in stores from Sunday, ensuring no one is able to drink it (raw milk is legally sold as bath milk, side-by-side with pasteurized milk; that would be an expensive bath).

The move has apparently infuriated food activists, who are now planning a protest on Saturday to demand that the unpasteurized product be made available for drinking.

The government’s approach so far has been a very knee-jerk reaction,” said organic food store owner Rebecca Freer, who is planning the “drink-in” outside the minister’s Brunswick East office.

I think they’re in denial that there’s a large subculture of raw milk drinkers, who are well-informed, educated people.”

The Australian Raw Milk Movement is encouraging people to “BYO cup” and drink raw milk outside Garrett’s office.

Supporters of drinking unprocessed milk like Ms Freer dispute the product’s link with the child’s death and instead stress the supposed health benefits from consuming a natural product.

colbert.raw.milkBut they never mention the other kids who developed HUS.

“It’s our consumer right to define what we eat and drink,” she said. “Australia is really backwards on this issue.”

After being contacted by Guardian Australia, Freer posted to the Australian Raw Milk Movement’s Facebook wall that she had been contacted by journalists and that “the fight is on.”

“I think it is fair to say we are in the midst of a violent resistance,” she wrote.

Nutritionist Arabella Forge, who will speak at Saturday’s protest, said current food safety laws could be amended to get raw milk on store shelves without compromising food safety.

“What we’re really asking for is a system of regulation that supports safe, raw milk,” she said. “People should have access to this product.”

CSIRO research microbiologists Narelle Fegan and Edward Fox, who have studied raw milk safety on Victorian farms, have both warned against drinking raw milk, even from farms with the highest of standards.

“When the milk comes out of the animal it should be sterile, but then it’s immediately contaminated by its environment,” Dr Fegan said. “When things go wrong they can go wrong pretty badly with people getting seriously ill.”

Dr Fox said there was no evidence that raw milk was more nutritious – a common claim made by raw milk supporters.

“Pasteurised milk is as nutritional as raw milk and it has, due to the pasteurisation process, a lower associated risk,” he said.

Victoria’s chief health officer, Dr Rosemary Lester, has also stood behind her recent raw milk health warnings.

Ms Garrett defended her decision to add a bittering agent to raw milk on Thursday, saying it’s meant to prevent illness and death.

“The actions we have taken are designed to stop people from putting themselves and their children at risk,” she said.

Meanwhile, in Adelaide, South Australia, a court heard a temperature rise in samples taken from a farm owned by a couple being prosecuted for selling unpasteurised milk to when it was tested would have caused a “marginal” rise in bacteria readings.

santa.barf.sprout.raw.milkMoo View Dairy owners Mark and Helen Tyler, who on Wednesday brought a cow to the front of the court building, are contesting charges of breaching the food act by selling the raw milk commercially.

The couple have been operating a “House Cow Share Scheme” where people can buy shares in one of their cows which entitles them to a percentage of the milk produced by the herd.

The raw milk was also found to have higher than the legally acceptable amount of bacteria — leading to one of the two counts of selling food in contravention of the food standards code against them in April and May, 2013.

In cross examination on Thursday, SA Dairy Authority general manager John Crosby said that rise would only have had a “marginal affect” on the milk’s bacteria count.

Mr Tyler and shareholder Rachel Tyson, who on Wednesday came to court dressed in a cow suit in a sign of support for the couple, are expected to give evidence on Friday.

Marler gets his New Yorker profile

Late one night in September of 2013, Rick Schiller awoke in bed with his right leg throbbing. Schiller, who is in his fifties, lives in San Jose, California. He had been feeling ill all week, and, as he reached under the covers, he found his leg hot to the touch. He struggled to sit upright, then turned on a light and pulled back the sheet. “My leg was about twice the normal size, maybe even three times,” he told me. “And it was hard as a rock, and bright purple.”

marler.devilSchiller roused his fiancée, who helped him hobble to their car. He dropped into the passenger seat, but he couldn’t bend his leg to fit it through the door. “So I tell her, ‘Just grab it and shove it in,’ ” he recalled. “I almost passed out in pain.”

At the hospital, five employees helped move Schiller from the car to a consulting room. When a doctor examined his leg, she warned him that it was so swollen there was a chance it might burst. She tried to remove fluid with a needle, but nothing came out. “So she goes in with a bigger needle—nothing comes out,” Schiller said. “Then she goes in with a huge needle, like the size of a pencil lead—nothing comes out.” When the doctor tugged on the plunger, the syringe filled with a chunky, meatlike substance. “And then she gasped,” Schiller said.

That night, he drifted in and out of consciousness in his hospital room. His temperature rose to a hundred and three degrees and his right eye oozed fluid that crusted over his face. Schiller’s doctors found that he had contracted a form of the salmonella bacterium, known as Salmonella Heidelberg, which triggered a cascade of conditions, including an inflamed colon and an acute form of arthritis. The source of the infection was most likely something he had eaten, but Schiller had no idea what. He spent four days in intensive care before he could stand again and navigate the hallways. On the fifth day, he went home, but the right side of his body still felt weak, trembly, and sore, and he suffered from constant headaches. His doctors warned that he might never fully recover.

Three weeks later, Schiller received a phone call from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An investigator wanted to know whether he had eaten chicken before he became sick. Schiller remembered that he’d bought two packages of raw Foster Farms chicken thighs just before the illness. He’d eaten a few pieces from one of the packages; the other package was still in his freezer. Several days later, an investigator from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stopped by to pick it up. She dropped the chicken into a portable cooler and handed him a slip of paper that said “Property Receipt.” That was the last time Schiller heard from the investigators. More than a year later, he still wasn’t sure what was in the chicken: “I don’t know what the Department of Agriculture found.”

By the time Schiller became infected by salmonella, federal officials had been tracking an especially potent outbreak of the Heidelberg variety for three months—it had sent nearly forty per cent of its victims to the hospital. The outbreak began in March, but investigators discovered it in June, when a cluster of infections on the West Coast prompted a warning from officials at the C.D.C.’s PulseNet monitoring system, which tracks illnesses reported by doctors. Scientists quickly identified the source of the outbreak as Foster Farms facilities in California, where federal inspectors had discovered the same strain of pathogen during a routine test. Most of the victims of the outbreak confirmed that they’d recently eaten chicken, and many specifically named the Foster Farms brand. On August 9th, investigators joined a conference call with Foster Farms executives to inform them of the outbreak and its link to the company.

Identifying the cause of an outbreak is much simpler than trying to stop one.

During the past twenty years, Marler has become the most prominent and powerful food-safety attorney in the country.

Given the struggles of his clients—victims of organ failure, sepsis, and paralysis—Marler says it can be tempting to dismiss him as a “bloodsucking ambulance chaser who exploits other people’s personal tragedies.” But many people who work in food safety believe that Marler is one of the few functioning pieces in a broken system. Food-borne illness, they point out, is pervasive but mostly preventable when simple precautions are taken in the production process.

And lots more at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/02/02/bug-system.

Public health ispectors are there for a reason: Law frowns on California students’ front-yard, food-sharing fridge

An experiment by University of California, Davis students to share food with the community proved to be a successful, yet illegal, venture.

davis.front.lawn.fridge.jan.15Yolo County health officials say Ernst Bertone and his roommates broke the law by putting a refrigerator on their lawn with a sign reading, “Take what you need. Leave what you don’t.”

The students say their experiment worked because people began sharing food.

Bertone and his roommates charted it all, posting photos of the food people put in the communal refrigerator and what they took out. They kept a database too, showing that 122 items were collected in more than 30 days.

Their neighbors, the Swinehearts, liked it and used it. But someone complained, prompting county environmental health to shut down the sharing fridge.

The director said the open refrigerator doesn’t assure safe and pure food and that it can lead to people getting sick.