It’s vulnificus, dumbass: Florida reports most Vibrio cases in years

I did an almost one-hour radio interview this morning, and I messed up: I had a brain cramp and couldn’t remember the species of Vibrio that can cause problems, especially in raw oysters.

BC.oystersBut then I saw this story and was reminded that the number of Vibrio vulnificus cases reported in Florida in 2015 to date is the highest seen in the state in years, according to Florida Department of Health data. The 2015 tally, which has reached 42, is higher than any year from 2008 to 2014 (data available on DOH website).

Prior to this year, the high was reported in 2013 with 41 cases. Vulnificus cases have been reported in 25 counties with Hillsborough (5), Duval (4), Bay (3) and Polk (3) counties seeing the most.

In addition, the Vibrio death toll in Florida has reached 13, the most since 2011. Deaths have been reported from the following counties: Brevard (2), Duval (2), Escambia (1), Hillsborough (3), Lake (1), Marion (1), Pinellas (1), Polk (1) and Sarasota (1).

Vibrio vulnificus can cause disease in those who eat contaminated seafood or have an open wound that is exposed to warm seawater containing the bacteria. Ingestion of Vibrio vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Vibrio vulnificus can also cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; these infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulcers.

Healthy individuals typically develop a mild disease; however, Vibrio vulnificus infections can be a serious concern for people who have weakened immune systems, particularly those with chronic liver disease.

Bleach is your friend: produce contamination in the Middle East

My former dean was known as Dr. Clorox while serving in Vietnam.

produce.cloroxI used to give these training sessions to food types headed for Iraq and Afghanistan from Fort Riley (in Manhattan, Kansas) and would sheepishly say, I have no idea what you’re going to face in terms of potable water, but bleach is your friend.

We take so much for granted.

In the developing countries, inaccessibility to safe water, lack of agricultural infrastructures and limitations to implementing good agricultural practices (GAP) are persistent challenges.

To understand the spread of hazards and identify critical areas of transmission in the food chain, a total of 90 samples of raw salad vegetables (parsley, lettuce, radish) were collected from farms and post-harvest washing facilities (n = 12) in an extensively cultivated area in Lebanon, the Bekaa Valley and from wholesale market stalls traced back to surveyed fields.

Our results showed high geometric mean indicator levels ranging from <0.7 to 7 log CFU/g (Escherichia coli), 1.69–8.16 log CFU/g (total coliforms), <0.7–8.39 log CFU/g (Staphylococcus aureus). The mean counts of total coliforms and E. coli on fresh produce followed an increasing trend from fields to the markets indicating potential sources of fecal contamination throughout the food chain. Of more concern was the presence of pathogens Listeria monocytogenes (14%) and S. aureus (45.5%) in fresh produce from harvest to retail, and Salmonella spp. was detected in 6.7% of the raw vegetables from the post-harvest washing areas.

the_first_bleach_bottle_by_thebleachbottle-d5h2xeyThese results along with our observations highlight shortfalls in hygienic farming and postharvest practices, including the use of inappropriately treated manure and chicken litter to fertilize the crops on the fields which contributed to the high levels of S. aureus in the product at retail. Unregulated use of wash water, inadequate transportation and storage conditions with risks of cross contamination was also identified.

Suggested control measures should mitigate the risks at the source and put emphasis on developing strict policies on monitoring the safety of water sources and on the application of the good agricultural and hygienic practices (GAP, GHP) on primary production stages, washing, transportation and storage at retail.

 Understanding the routes of contamination of ready-to-eat vegetables in the Middle East

Food Control, Volume 62, April 2016, Pages 125–133

Dima Faour-Klingbeil, Muhammad Murtada, Victor Kuri, Ewen C.D. Todd


It’s not home-made that’s the risk: Mayo on food poisoning risk list

This isn’t news: Home-made mayonnaise and aioli might taste better (no, they don’t) but experts are urging cooks to take extra care with raw egg dishes to avoid food poisoning.

raw.eggsAnd many Australians are unaware that cooked rice and alfalfa sprouts, usually eaten raw, also can be a poisoning risk.

A national survey, conducted before the start of Australian Food Safety Week on Sunday, found some people couldn’t correctly identify foods often linked to food poisoning outbreaks when not handled or cooked correctly

They include chicken, minced meat and seafood, says Food Safety Information Council chair Rachelle Williams.

The increase in salmonella outbreaks in recent years is linked to raw or minimally cooked egg dishes such as hand made aioli and mayonnaise.

If the risk of Salmonella in an egg in 1-in-20,000, what does that risk become when 100 eggs are pooled together to make mayo or aoili? 1-in-200.

Any restaurant should use pasteurized eggs.

This is news: Today, in 1971, the first record I ever bought was released: Led Zepplin IV. I remember arriving at my grandparents’ house in Cookstown, Ontario (that’s in Canada) and putting it on. They said it was a terrible noise. I loved it.

OMG: safe food Queensland says raw eggs risky (sorta)

The Melbourne Cup horse race starts in a couple of hours and the twitter-comms types at safe food Queensland have said something, in writing, I’ve never seen before:

omg“Avoid eating raw foods such as salad dressings and sauces made with raw eggs e.g. mayonnaise, hollandaise and aioli or uncooked foods containing raw eggs e.g. cookie dough, mousse, cheesecake, tiramisu.

“Check to see if sauces or salad dressings are pasteurized.”

About time.

The safe food advisory also contains poor attempts at humor such as, “It’s the race that stops a nation so don’t let food poisoning have you galloping!”


Almost 300 sickened: Brisbane Convention Centre food poisoning caused by Salmonella on stick blender

Tomorrow is Melbourne Cup day, the (horse) race that stops a nation.

melbourne.cup.hatsIt’s like the Kentucky Derby but nation-wide, and the hats are more outrageous.

The news has focused on fashion tips for Derby Day, but they should instead focus on tips for not barfing from raw egg-based dishes.

Two years ago on Melbourne Cup day, at least 220 people were felled by Salmonella and one was killed at Melbourne Cup functions in Brisbane, all linked to raw egg based dishes served by Piccalilli Catering.

In July 2015, at least 90 people were stricken with Salmonella after a fancy tea at the Langham Hotel in Melbourne. Australian health types confirmed it was Salmonella in raw-egg mayonnaise that was included in chicken sandwiches that were served at the $79 tea.

Fancy food ain’t safe food.

In Jan. 2015, at least 130 diners were stricken with Salmonella after being served ice cream containing raw eggs at Brisbane’s Chin Chin Chinese Restaurant. Dozens were hospitalized. Follow-up? Nothing

In May 2013, 160 diners at the Copa Brazilian restaurant in Canberra were struck down with Salmonella – it was the raw egg mayo that was then used in potato salad.

And so it goes.

The carnage continues from raw eggs in Australia (a table of known Australian-based is available at

There are a few plausible explanations for the uniquely high number of Salmonella outbreaks related to raw egg dishes in Australia. is a particular form of food snobbery that disses the use of pasteurized eggs in the food pornography biz, even though you could lose your restaurant and life savings to one dish. On those few occasions I go out to eat, I ask the server if the mayo or aioli is made with raw eggs. They always come back and insist, of course it is made with raw eggs, the chef wouldn’t have it any other way.

Wrong answer.

In March, 2015, 250 teachers were stricken with Salmonella at a Brisbane conference, and an additional 20 people were sickened on the Gold Coast from the same egg supplier.

Some answers are now available, but only through access to information requests.

The Courier Mail reports this morning that a kitchen stick blender contaminated with Salmonella was the source of a mass food poisoning outbreak in Brisbane early this year.

About 250 people, mostly state school principals, fell ill and 24 people were admitted to hospital after eating at an education conference at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre in February.

Documents obtained by The Courier-Mail show that investigators examining the outbreak found bacteria on several kitchen utensils, with that bacteria “incubated’’ during the cooking process.

Test results from the investigation showed the people who fell ill were sick with the same strain of salmonella found on a kitchen stick blender “which demonstrates the source of the outbreak.”

Not quite. Salmonella has to get on the stick, whether it was introduced by humans or raw eggs or something else.

The documents rule out the possibility the outbreak was caused by eggs being contaminated before they arrived at the convention centre.


“(Redacted) suggested that if the eggs were contaminated when they arrived, that this was the cause, however I advised … that poor cleaning and sanitising of the stick blender was the ultimate cause,’’ the documents say.

“(Redacted) questioned why the Sal. was not killed during the cooking process of the bread butter pudding. I advised that the QH microbiologist suggest that 140deg was not hot enough to kill Sal, but rather it was an incubation temp.’’

Brisbane City Council is now considering prosecuting the operators, with a decision due by the end of this year.

egg.dirty.feb.12Documents show the centre lost their five-star food safety rating from the council in the wake of the test results and they are yet to regain it.

A food safety audit found a “breakdown in cleaning and sanitising processes as indicated by the following positive swabs from 17/03/15”, with poor hand washing the reason for E. coli being found.

They found Salmonella on a larger robotic mixer and B. cereus on a smaller mixer, pastry brush and a whisk.

Convention centre general manager Robert O’Keeffe said the incident was the first of its type in the centre’s 20-year history.

That’s nice.

“Since the reported cases of illness, we have undertaken independent food safety audits, continued our testing processes for the sourcing, processing and delivery of safe food to our guests,” he said.

“All of our cooking practices and processes are monitored and recorded on our 24-hour computerised food safety monitoring system.”

He said the blender at the centre of the controversy had been removed and whole eggs taken off the menu.

“This means no eggshells, which potentially carry pathogens, will ever come into BCEC’s kitchens,” he said.

He said during the salmonella outbreak the eggs were not being sourced from their regular supplier.

I want pasteurized eggs used in mayo and aoili because this isn’t CSI and those UV goggles won’t tell a chef which egg has Salmonella.

In addition to popular culture, the chefs are merely responding to government advice.

Victoria Department of Health spokesman Bram Alexander said the Latham outbreak was a warning to cooks about the dangers of using raw eggs: “You have to store them properly, you have to handle them properly, prepare them properly, and don’t used cracked eggs.”

What the health spokesthingy wouldn’t say is: don’t serve dishes that contain raw eggs.

They say that in Canada and the U.S., but somehow, Australian regulators won’t directly say, don’t serve raw-egg containing dishes.

And that allows people like the Langham’s Melbourne managing director, Ben Sington, to say with a straight face, “we can confirm that all our eggs are sourced from a reputable and certified supplier and stored in accordance with food safety guidelines.”

A table of Australian egg outbreaks is available at

FDA orders Idaho juice company to shut down

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered a juice company in Ketchum to halt operations after concerns that it was violating food safety laws.

Sun Valley Juice CompanyThe Sun Valley Juice Company is barred from receiving, processing, preparing, packing, holding, or distributing juice until the FDA finds that the company is following federal laws and regulations. Sun Valley Juice Company has complied with the demand to shut down.

The company’s website advertises “freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice.” No one answered the phone at the company Friday.

According to the FDA, the company has repeatedly violated the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and terms of a consent decree put in place by a judge in 2006. As part of the court-ordered agreement between the company and the FDA, the Sun Valley Juice Company agreed to put a hazard prevention plan in place. The consent decree was part of repeated attempts to help the company come into compliance before the shutdown, according to the FDA.

Because the company does not pasteurize its juice, it has to follow other regulations to ensure its juice is safe to drink and not contaminated with harmful bacteria. Pasteurization is a process that kills the bacteria leading to illness like E. coli.

Sun Valley Juice Company will not be allowed to reopen until FDA inspectors are satisfied its products are safe and that the company will follow safety laws.

Blame consumers: Unpasteurized cider edition

As a Michigan cider mill became the latest to have its product test positive for Shiga-toxin producing E. coli, a statement has emerged from the owners of the California state cider producer linked to at least seven E. coli O157 illnesses.

high.hill.ciderJerry & Michelle Visman, the owners of High Hill Ranch, in the community of Camino in El Dorado County wrote:

“It was recently brought to our attention by the health department that in mid-October, some people reported getting sick after visiting our ranch. We are very sorry for this. There is some speculation that it may have been caused by drinking the apple juice.

We have always offered free samples at our juice-making facility, so that the people could try the juice before buying it.

Unfortunately, hundreds of people touch the filler nozzle everyday to fill the sample cups. With so many people getting sick this time of the year this very well could have spread a virus to the sample jug. We regret that for health concerns, the free samples will have to discontinue.

 We are also having the juice tested as a precaution to make absolutely sure all is well, because after making juice for 50 years and not having any complaints, we want to make sure that the good track record continues.”

It’s a bacterium, not a virus, and why were you letting hundreds of people touch the juice noozle everyday?

In Michigan, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development issued a consumer advisory for Uncle John’s Old Fashioned Apple Cider produced by Uncle John’s Cider Mill located at 8614 US-127 in St. Johns, MI, because it has the potential to be contaminated. Consumers who have purchased this product at Uncle John’s Cider Mill are urged not to consume it and dispose of the product immediately.

Uncle John’s Old Fashioned Apple CiderA routine, random sample collected by an MDARD food inspector tested positive for Shiga-toxin producing E. coli by the department’s Geagley Laboratory. No illnesses have been reported to date. Uncle John’s has voluntarily ceased sales of cider awaiting further test results.

This advisory affects approximately 1,200 gallons of cider produced on October 17. The cider was sold at the cider mill from the retail cooler, packaged in various sized plastic jugs with a sell by date of October 30, 2015; or served directly to consumers by the cup as cold cider, frozen cider slushes and hot cider, from October 18 through October 21. 

Food safety silliness: 30-second food safety stories

There once was a dentist name Price.

He thought raw milk was all very nice.

miley.cyrus.tongueHe helped invent the Paleo diet.

And even, I’m told, Miley Cyrus likes it.

So it must be true.


But I want my food, like my medicine, to be based in 2015.

Not 1939.

30-second food safety stories.

Don’t get me started on microorganisms.

Seek and ye shall find: Salmonella in raw frozen chicken thingies

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is alerting consumers that frozen, raw, stuffed and breaded chicken products produced by Aspen Foods, a division of Koch Poultry Company, a Chicago, Ill. establishment have been confirmed as having the same Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak strain which was part of a July 15, 2015 recall.

aspen-foods-recallFollowing the July 15th recall, FSIS has been conducting intensified sampling at this establishment to ensure that the hazard responsible for the initial contamination has been controlled by Aspen Foods. Results from FSIS sampling revealed twelve positive results that match the outbreak strain of Salmonella Enteritidis to Aspen Foods products. Three illnesses were epidemiologically linked to the original recall on July 15, 2015. FSIS continues to work with public health partners including the Minnesota Departments of Health and Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on this ongoing investigation.

FSIS is concerned about all frozen, raw, stuffed and breaded chicken products produced by Aspen Foods between July 30, 2015 and September 17, 2015. The twelve positive samples collected during FSIS’ intensified sampling efforts alerted FSIS to a systemic problem at the establishment. FSIS cannot have confidence in the safety of any products produced after July 30, 2015. In addition to issuing this Alert, FSIS has directed its personnel to detain products covered by this Alert that they find in commerce because the company has refused to recall the products.

The frozen, raw, stuffed and breaded chicken items may include the following brands and be labeled as “chicken cordon bleu,” “chicken Kiev” or “chicken broccoli and cheese” and bear the establishment number “P-1358” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These products were shipped to retail location and food service locations nationwide.

  • Acclaim
  • Antioch Farms
  • Buckley Farms
  • Centrella Signature
  • Chestnut Farms
  • Family Favorites
  • Kirkwood
  • Koch Foods
  • Market Day
  • Oven Cravers
  • Rose
  • Rosebud Farm
  • Roundy’s
  • Safeway Kitchens
  • Schwan’s
  • Shaner’s
  • Spartan
  • Sysco

These products were labeled with instructions identifying that the product was uncooked (raw) and included cooking instructions for preparation. As stated in the July 15, 2015 Recall Release, some case-patients reported following the cooking instructions on the label and using a food thermometer to confirm that the recommended temperature was achieved. Therefore, FSIS advises consumers not to eat these products. Special attention should be paid by the food service industry and food handlers. Using a food thermometer to properly cook these products will not protect the health of the consuming public.

Growers upset, but ‘it’s not the handling’ Oyster farms in Mass. remain closed as more Vibrio illnesses reported

Katama Bay oyster farms will remain closed for another week following additional confirmed cases of Vibrio illness tied to the area, a state Department of Marine Fisheries official said Tuesday afternoon.

SUN0705N-Oyster7The 12 shellfishermen harvesting oysters out of Katama Bay were scheduled to resume operation on Thursday morning after a one-week precautionary closure announced last Wednesday by state health and fisheries officials. The closure was prompted because of three reported cases of Vibrio parahaemolyticus caused by consumption of raw oysters from Katama Bay.

Now the closure will be extended for another seven days due to three more confirmed cases of Vibrio from mid-August, state Vibrio program coordinator Chris Schillaci told the Edgartown shellfish committee at a meeting Tuesday. The meeting was attended by a small group of Katama Bay oyster farmers.

Under state guidelines, two to four illnesses within a 30-day period would result in a seven-day closure, while four or more illnesses require a 14-day closure. More than 10 illnesses would require a 21-day closure and a recall.

There have been six Vibrio cases reported from Katama Bay in the past 45 days, Edgartown shellfish constable Paul Bagnall said, and three in the last 30 days.

The Katama Bay closure is the first Vibrio-related shellfish closure in Massachusetts this year.

Katama and other oyster-producing areas around New England have seen more reported cases of Vibrio in recent years. This marks the third year in a row that Katama Bay oyster farms have been closed for some period of time in the late summer because of Vibrio.

Ryan Smith, a member of the shellfish committee and a Katama oyster farmer, said while demand remains high for farmed oysters, the repeated closures are stressful and there is a loss of business.

“It seems like nobody really knows what’s going on,” he said, adding that the closures seemed to start “out of nowhere” three years ago.

Oyster farmers peppered Mr. Schillaci with questions about how the illnesses were reported, accounted for and traced to the growing area, and discussed whether more stringent measures might be put in place in future years. In 2013 the state adopted strict protocols for handling oysters, and Mr. Schillaci said he’s observed Katama oyster farmers following those guidelines.

“It’s not the handling that’s the problem here and I truly believe that,” he said.