Could Brexit make British food worse than mushy peas and mad cow disease

Fortunately I live in the sub-tropical climate of Brisbane, with an outstanding variety of food.

But I grew up in Canada, and cherished the orange in my Xmas stocking.

east.india.trading.co.jun.16Now it’s routine.

Has no one seen Pirates of the Caribbean, terrible movies that make gazillions and it’s about conquest and trade, because British food royally sucks.

I try to mention that every time someone preaches about eating local: coffee and tea are not local to Canada or Britain. Neither are bananas.

Bee Wilson writes in The New Yorker that for most of her 42 years, she has been eating bananas in Britain.

The classic anti-European Union joke was that faceless Eurocrats banned “wonky” bananas and imposed a single, standardized fruit on the British people. Bureaucracy gone crazy! This Euromyth—one of many—was based on a 1994 E.U. ruling that bananas should be “free from abnormal curvature.” In fact, this rule applied only to bananas of the very highest grade. The normal British Class I and Class II bananas sold in most shops have always been allowed “defects of shape.”

Now that the Leave campaign has won the referendum on Europe, it is clear that far more was at stake for British food in the E.U. than our right to misshapen fruit.

On June 24th, Tim Lang, a professor at City University and the leading U.K. food-policy expert, tweeted, despairingly, “EU shock. Very sad.” And then, “Food Plan B now needed. Will the people who voted Brexit be prepared to dig for Britain, work in picking fields and factories for low pay?”

One of the main reasons for establishing the E.U. in the first place—aside from peace—was to insure a plentiful food supply for entire populations.

121114_richardsdeppAs Lang sees it, Europe not only nourished the British but changed British palates. With Britain’s membership in the union, sunny new produce flooded in from southern Europe: apricots, peaches, tomatoes, garlic. During the decades of our membership, the food on British dinner tables changed beyond all recognition. We developed a penchant for wine and soft French cheeses. In 1973, the U.K. was a country where olive oil could be bought—if at all—in tiny bottles from the chemist shop, as a cure for earwax. Now you could get lost in the olive-oil section of a British supermarket, from the kalamata varieties of Greece to the Arbequina of Spain.

In April, Lang co-authored—with Victoria Schoen—a “briefing paper” on the far-reaching impact of Brexit on British food. Lang and Schoen point out that, as of 2015, twenty-seven per cent of all food eaten in the U.K. (by value) was imported from the E.U. (compared with just four per cent from North America and four per cent from Africa). When it comes to fruits and vegetables, Britain is dependent on the E.U. for forty per cent of fresh produce. Lang sees this as a question of health as much as economics.

As Lang and Schoen write, “A vast array of agreements, policies and standards now underpin UK food.” Brexit could entail the renegotiation of thousands of exceedingly complex E.U. regulations, many of which concern the food system. E.U. law extends from environmental law and farm subsidies to food safety and nutrition. Brexiteers would say that it is precisely this complexity that Britain could do without.

Now, about the safety of that food.

 

E. coli O157 outbreak linked to salad, Bristol, UK

Public Health England has issued an alert about the increase in the number of cases of E.coli O157 infection involving people eating salad then being taken ill.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145No individual salad item or supplier has yet been identified, and PHE is working with environmental health officers in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and B&NES to try to trace the source of the outbreak.

Mike Wade, director of Health Protection for PHE South West said, “We also urge people to remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and thoroughly wash all vegetables, fruit and salad items that will be eaten raw.”

Not quite.

But it’s a good blaming consumers strategy.

No children have been affected to date.

Irrigation water safety in Penn.

Recent produce-associated foodborne illness outbreaks have been attributed to contaminated irrigation water. This study examined microbial levels in Pennsylvania surface waters used for irrigation, relationships between microbial indicator organisms and water physicochemical characteristics, and the potential use of indicators for predicting the presence of human pathogens.

A total of 153 samples taken from surface water sources used for irrigation in southeastern Pennsylvania were collected from 39 farms over a 2-year period. Samples were analyzed for six microbial indicator organisms (aerobic plate count, Enterobacteriaceae, coliform, fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, and enterococci), two human pathogens (Salmonella and E. coli O157), and seven physical and environmental characteristics (pH, conductivity, turbidity, air and water temperature, and sampling day and 3-day-accumulated precipitation levels).

Indicator populations were highly variable and not predicted by water and environmental characteristics. Only five samples were confirmed positive for Salmonella, and no E. coli O157 was detected in any samples. Predictive relationships between microbial indicators and the occurrence of pathogens could therefore not be determined.

Microbial survey of Pennsylvania surface water used for irrigating produce crops

Journal of Food Protection®, Number 6, June 2016, pp. 896-1055, pp. 902-912(11)

Draper, Audrey D.; Doores, Stephanie; Gourama, Hassan; LaBorde, Luke F.

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/contentone/iafp/jfp/2016/00000079/00000006/art00002

1036

Epi works: Over 300 sickened from crypto on pre-cut salad greens in UK, 2012

In May 2012, people in England and Scotland started getting sick with Cryptosporidium. In June, 2012, the UK Health Protection Agency first announced 267 people were sick with Cryptosporidium across four areas of the UK, double the normal rate.

lettuce.harvestTen months later, HPA said the crypto that sickened about 300 people was most likely linked to eating pre-cut bagged salad products which were likely to have been labeled as ‘ready-to-eat.’

The outbreak was short lived and the numbers of cases returned to expected seasonal levels within a month of the first cases being reported. Most of those affected had a mild to moderate form of illness and there were no deaths associated with the outbreak.

During the investigation, an initial link was found between illness and pre-cut spinach. When specific retailers were included in the analysis, the strongest association with infection was found to be with consumption of ready to eat pre-cut mixed salad leaves from a major supermarket chain.

In this analysis, exposure to pre-cut spinach only reached conventional levels of significance for one retailer – a second major supermarket chain. A link to spinach from a number of other retailers was also suggested but these were not statistically significant. Together these findings suggest that one or more types of salad vegetables could have been contaminated.

Dr Stephen Morton, regional director of the HPA’s Yorkshire and the Humber region and head of the multi-agency Outbreak Control Team, said, “Our findings suggest that eating mixed leaf bagged salad was the most likely cause of illness. It is however often difficult to identify the source of short lived outbreaks of this type as by the time that the outbreak can be investigated, the affected food and much of the microbiological evidence may no longer be available

Dr Alison Gleadle, director of food safety at the FSA, took the opportunity to further confuse consumers, stating, “We’d like to remind everyone of our usual advice to wash all fruits and vegetables, including salad, before you eat them, unless they are labeled ready-to-eat.”

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145But wasn’t this outbreak linked to ready-to-eat salads? How is that advice of any use? Could have offered some details, like, additional washing of ready-to-eat products is largely ineffective. FSA is refocusing its efforts on farm management to limit such contamination, before it happens.

A spokesthingy from retailer Morrisons said, rather defensively, “Morrisons is not the source of this outbreak. We have received no complaints of illness and no Morrisons products have tested positive for Cryptosporidia.

“The HPA’s claim is based solely on statistics, not testing. The very same statistics also implicated products from other retailers that the HPA recognize as ‘implausible’.”

Why doesn’t Morrison’s say what they do to enhance the safety of products they sell rather than trash epidemiology?

In the scientific paper on the outbreak, McKerr et. al reported a widespread foodborne outbreak of Cryptosporidium parvum in England and Scotland in May 2012. Cases were more common in female adults, and had no history of foreign travel. Over 300 excess cases were identified during the period of the outbreak. Speciation and microbiological typing revealed the outbreak strain to be C. parvum gp60 subtype IIaA15G2R1.

METHODS: Hypothesis generation questionnaires were administered and an unmatched case control study was undertaken to test the hypotheses raised. Cases and controls were interviewed by telephone. Controls were selected using sequential digit dialling. Information was gathered on demographics, foods consumed and retailers where foods were purchased.

RESULTS: Seventy-four laboratory confirmed cases and 74 controls were included in analyses. Infection was found to be strongly associated with the consumption of pre-cut mixed salad leaves sold by a single retailer. This is the largest documented outbreak of cryptosporidiosis attributed to a food vehicle.

An outbreak of cryptosporidium parvum across England & Scotland associated with consumption of fresh pre-cut salad leaves, May 2012

PubMed

McKerr C1, Adak GK2, Nichols G3, Gorton R4, Chalmers RM5, Kafatos

PLoS One, 2015, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0125955. eCollection 2015.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/26017538/

Salmonella positive triggers habanero pepper recall

Montero Farms of McAllen, Texas is recalling Orange Habanero Peppers, because they have the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

salm.pepper.recallOrange Habanero Peppers were shipped to Indianapolis, Indiana and to McAllen, Texas from April 28 2016 to present.

The product comes in 8 pound cardboard boxes marked with lot #41142-41143 on the top. In total 154 boxes are being recalled.

No illnesses have been reported to date in connection with this problem.

The potential for contamination was noted after routine testing by the FDA.

Production of the product has been suspended while FDA and the company continue their investigation as to the source of the problem.

Are ready-to-eat salads ready to eat?

We investigated a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella Coeln in Norway, including 26 cases identified between 20 October 2013 and 4 January 2014. We performed a matched case-control study, environmental investigation and detailed traceback of food purchases to identify the source of the outbreak.

lettuce.skull.noroIn the case-control study, cases were found to be more likely than controls to have consumed a ready-to-eat salad mix (matched odds ratio 20, 95% confidence interval 2·7–∞). By traceback of purchases one brand of ready-to-eat salad was indicated, but all environmental samples were negative for Salmonella.

This outbreak underlines that pre-washed and bagged salads carry a risk of infection despite thorough cleaning procedures by the importer. To further reduce the risk of infection by consumption of ready-to-eat salads product quality should be ensured by importers.

Outbreaks linked to salads reinforce the importance of implementation of appropriate food safety management systems, including good practices in lettuce production.

Are ready-to-eat salads ready to eat? An outbreak of Salmonella Coeln linked to imported, mixed, pre-washed and bagged salad, Norway, November 2013

F. Vestrheima1a2 c1, H. Langea1a3, K. Nygårda1, K. Borgena1, A. L. Westera1, M. L. Kvarmea4 and L. Volda1

Epidemiology and Infection, Volume 144, Issue 8, June 2016, pages 1756-1760, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0950268815002769

http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=10299069&utm_source=Issue_Alert&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=HYG

Version II: Don’t eat poop, and if you do, cook it

The link in the previous story was wrong, but now corrected thanks to an eagle-eyed readerer.

french.dont.eat.poopHere’s another version about the latest don’t eat poop paper.

Consumers don’t buy leafy greens and other healthy supermarket produce anticipating the food might make their families sick. Or at least, they didn’t used to.

But high profile recalls of fruits and veggies seem to be a new normal in the American food landscape. The recalls follow outbreaks of foodborne illnesses caused by microbes like E. coli. These outbreaks can send unsuspecting veggiephiles rushing to the nearest toilet or, worse yet, the hospital. Some outbreaks can even result in deaths.

The average American is still unlikely to wind up at the emergency room after eating tainted produce. Still, outbreaks have major consequences for supermarkets and growers. After outbreaks, they must regain public trust or face possible financial ruin.

Of concern is how nearby farming practices can taint produce with bacteria. This can happen when farmers apply animal manure to fields near fresh produce. Tiny particles, including bacteria, may go airborne and drift to nearby fields. But scientists weren’t sure just how likely microbes can travel from manure application sites to downwind produce.

That is, until now. New field research out of Clarkson University in upstate New York is providing an answer. Shane Rogers, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, led a research team that looked into the issue. They measured how far common bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli, are likely to travel downwind from manure application sites. They hoped to better understand how fresh produce might be contaminated by nearby animal agriculture practices.

“Our goal was to provide a logical framework to study this pathway,” Rogers said. This helped them make science-based recommendations for setback distances that protect human health.

The team used field data to understand how these bacteria travel from manure application sites to produce. The research lasted three years. They took samples at several distances from manure application sites and measured the presence of illness-causing bacteria.

The researchers used computer models to expand their understanding. “It is not possible to obtain measurements for every possible set of circumstances that may exist,” Rogers said. “The models allow us to predict produce contamination over a larger range of probable conditions than our raw measurements would provide.” These include the type of manure, the terrain of the farm, and weather conditions at the time the manure is applied.

The team also evaluated the risk of illness. This gave the team a better understanding of how likely someone is to get sick from produce when a certain amount of bacteria is present.

Combining all that data, the team found that produce fields should be set back from areas of manure application by at least 160 meters. That distance should help lower the risk of foodborne illness to acceptable levels (1 in 10,000).

Rogers emphasized that the advice is for a minimum setback. “(160 meters is) the minimum distance that produce growers should maintain between manure application activities and produce growing areas,” Rogers said. Additional distance and delay between manure application and harvest would provide further protection.

The study appears in Journal of Environmental Quality. This project was supported by National Research Initiative Competitive Grant and the Agricultural Food and Research Initiative (AFRI) from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Air Quality Program.

American Society of Agronomy

Michael A. Jahne, Shane W. Rogers, Thomas M. Holsen, Stefan J. Grimberg, Ivan P. Ramler, Seungo Kim

Journal of Environment Quality, 45 (2): Page 666 DOI:10.2134/jeq2015.04.0187

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160413140124.htm

Don’t eat poop, and if you do, cook it: Manure application research aims to improve food safety

New field research out of Clarkson University in upstate New York is attempting to answer how likely microbes can travel from manure application sites to downwind produce.

lettuce.skull.noroShane Rogers, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, led a research team that looked into the issue. They measured how far common bacteria, including Salmonella and E. coli, are likely to travel downwind from manure application sites. They hoped to better understand how fresh produce might be contaminated by nearby animal agriculture practices.

“Our goal was to provide a logical framework to study this pathway,” Rogers said. This helped them make science-based recommendations for setback distances that protect human health.

The team used field data to understand how these bacteria travel from manure application sites to produce. The research lasted three years. They took samples at several distances from manure application sites and measured the presence of illness-causing bacteria.

The researchers used computer models to expand their understanding. “It is not possible to obtain measurements for every possible set of circumstances that may exist,” Rogers said. “The models allow us to predict produce contamination over a larger range of probable conditions than our raw measurements would provide.” These include the type of manure, the terrain of the farm, and weather conditions at the time the manure is applied.

The team also evaluated the risk of illness. This gave the team a better understanding of how likely someone is to get sick from produce when a certain amount of bacteria is present.

Combining all that data, the team found that produce fields should be set back from areas of manure application by at least 160 meters. That distance should help lower the risk of foodborne illness to acceptable levels (1 in 10,000).

Rogers emphasized that the advice is for a minimum setback. “(160 meteårs is) the minimum distance that produce growers should maintain between manure application activities and produce growing areas,” Rogers said. Additional distance and delay between manure application and harvest would provide further protection.