53 sick: Salmonella in raw fish, is anyone surprised

With my advancing age and lower immune strength, I don’t go for the raw seafood.

tuna.sushiI used to like the raw tuna, but now it’s seared.

I never liked sushi.

Now, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Paratyphi B variant L(+) tartrate(+) infections possibly linked to sushi made from raw tuna. 

According to the CDC, 53 people infected with the outbreak strain have been reported from 9 states: Arizona (10), California (31), Illinois (1), Mississippi (1), New Mexico (6), South Dakota (1), Virginia (1), Washington (1), and Wisconsin (1). Most of the ill people have been reported from states in the southwestern United States or reported travel to this area of the country. Among 46 persons with available information, 10 (22%) have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported. At this time, the investigation has not conclusively identified a food source, but most ill people interviewed reported eating sushi containing raw tuna in the week before becoming ill.  At this time, a common brand or supplier of raw tuna has not been identified.

While local and state health officials continue to interview patients, the FDA is increasing its monitoring of tuna. Additionally, FDA is conducting a traceback investigation.  The FDA is evaluating and analyzing records to determine whether there is a common source of tuna.  In this effort, the FDA works with its investigational partners to identify clusters of people made ill in separate geographic areas and works to trace the path of food eaten by those made ill back to a common source.  This is labor intensive and painstaking work, requiring the collection, review and analysis of hundreds and at times thousands of invoices and shipping documents.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

*As of May 21, 2015, a total of 53 people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Paratyphi B variant L(+) tartrate(+) have been reported from nine states.

Ten ill people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.  

*This outbreak is caused by Salmonella Paratyphi B variant L(+) tartrate(+) bacteria.

The illness caused by this bacteria typically includes diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12-72 hours after an exposure. 

Salmonella Paratyphi B variant L(+) tartrate(+) does not cause paratyphoid fever, enteric fever, or typhoid fever.

*The investigation has not conclusively identified the source of this outbreak, but most ill people interviewed reported eating sushi made with raw tuna in the week before becoming ill.

In interviews, 34 (94%) of 36 ill people reported eating sushi made with raw tuna in the week before becoming ill.

At this time, a common brand or supplier of raw tuna linked to illnesses has not been identified, and there are no specific steps for restaurants, retailers, or consumers to take to protect their customers or themselves.

Almond queen takes on raw, pushes food safety

If Chapman is the canning queen, Linda Harris is the almond queen (and was on my PhD supervisory committee all those years ago).

linda.harris.storyHarris, a cooperative extension specialist who researches food safety at the University of California, Davis, told NPR, “There is no legal definition, no federal definition of the word ‘raw,’ ” and that studies show pasteurization doesn’t change the nutritional value of almonds.

She also predicts that sterilization of a lot more foods will soon be required by law.

NPR was going after the what-does-raw-really-mean angle.

All California almonds — which would be virtually all the almonds in the country — are either heat-pasteurized or treated with a fumigant. The processes, which have been required by law since 2007, are intended to prevent foodborne illness. But almond aficionados say the treatments taint the flavor and mislead consumers.

Yup, heard that before, think raw milk.

Aficionados generally don’t have PhDs in food science, but I guess it makes good press.

In a warehouse near Newman, Calif., run by the Cosmed Group, millions of almonds are heated in huge metal containers. The temperature inside the chambers gradually rises to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The goal is to ensure through steam pasteurization that the almonds don’t carry bacteria from the fields to consumers.

“As the steam is coming out, it rolls around in the chamber so it can penetrate everything,” plant manager Dianne Newell explains.

“The whole process from start to finish is about nine hours,” says Newell — though the timing can vary widely at different facilities, depending on how they choose to steam the nuts.

Handlers open hundreds of boxes destined for the steaming vats. Almonds aren’t the only crop treated here: The facility also processes sunflower seeds, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, sun-dried tomatoes, dried apricots, dried strawberries and dried blueberries.

But almonds are the only nut, seed or dried fruit that must — by law — be pasteurized. If they’re not steamed, they must be fumigated with a chemical called propylene oxide, or PPO.

The regulation is a result of two salmonella outbreaks traced to almonds in the early 2000s. Almonds are not any more susceptible to the bacteria than other nuts and dried goods, but the Almond Board of California wanted to prevent future outbreaks. So the industry asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture to implement a rule requiring raw almonds grown in California’s Central Valley to be pasteurized. In 2007 the USDA issued the “almond rule.”

Raw is risky: E. coli in veal tartare sickened 7

An Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak occurred in 2013 that was associated with the consumption of beef and veal tartares in the province of Quebec. This report describes the results of the ensuing investigation.

veal.tartareMaterials and Methods: As the outbreak was identified, all individuals in the province of Quebec affected with the same strain of E. coli O157:H7 as defined by pulsed-field gel electrophoresis were interviewed using a standardized questionnaire. Cases reported from other provinces in Canada were interviewed by their public health authorities and the results were reported to the Quebec public health authorities. Microbiological and environmental investigations were conducted by the Sous-ministériat à la santé animale et à l’inspection des aliments du Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec, by the Ville de Montréal’s Food Inspection Branch, and by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency at the restaurants, suppliers, and slaughterhouses identified.

Results: In total, seven individuals in three different Canadian provinces became ill following infection with the same outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7. Two cases were hospitalized and one had severe hemolytic uremic syndrome. No deaths were reported. Two restaurant locations serving different tartare meals including, beef, veal, salmon, tuna, and duck were identified as potential sources of the outbreak. No deficiencies at the restaurant locations were observed during inspections by food inspectors.

Conclusions: The risk of consuming tartare can be lowered when basic hygienic rules are followed, temperature is strictly controlled, and fresh meat is used. However, even if handling, chopping, and temperature control during storage of the meat are considered adequate, tartare is a raw product and the risk of contamination is present. Consumers should be advised that consuming this product can lead to serious illness. 

Escherichia coli O157:H7 outbreak associated with the consumption of beef and veal tartares in the province of Quebec, Canada in 2013

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease

Gaulin Colette, Ramsay Danielle, Catford Angela, and Bekal Sadjia



Bugs in sushi in Norway

I don’t like sushi.

sushiI don’t like raw fish.

Researchers in Norway found that retail fresh sushi is gaining popularity in Europe. This study was conducted to investigate the microbiological quality of selected samples of fresh sushi with a shelf life of 2 to 3 days offered as complete meals in Norwegian supermarkets.

Analysis of aerobic plate counts in 58 sushi samples from three producers revealed large variations in microbiological quality, and 48% of the analyzed sushi boxes were rated as unsatisfactory (> 6.0 log CFU/g). Mesophilic Aeromonas spp. was detected in 71% of the samples. In a follow-up study, we collected products and raw materials directly from the production facility of one producer and observed a significant decrease (P < 0.01) in aerobic plate counts compared with the initial sampling. The observed difference between products purchased in stores compared with those collected directly from the factory suggests that poor temperature control during distribution and display in stores leads to reduced microbiological quality. Microbiological analysis of the sushi ingredients revealed that potentially pathogenic bacteria such as mesophilic Aeromonas spp. or bacteria belonging to the Enterobacteriaceae can be introduced into sushi through both raw vegetables and fish. The results highlight the importance of high quality ingredients and proper temperature control to ensure stable quality and safety of these food products.

Assessment of microbiological quality of retail fresh sushi from selected Sources in Norway

Journal of Food Protection

Hoel, Sunniva; Mehli, Lisbeth; Bruheim, Torkjel; Vadstein, Olav; Jakobsen, Anita Nordeng


Salmonella sticks to older lettuce better

Salmonella can bind to the leaves of salad crops including lettuce and survive for commercially relevant periods. Previously studies have shown that younger leaves are more susceptible to colonization than older leaves and that colonization levels are dependent on both the bacterial serovar and the lettuce cultivar.

lettuceIn this study, we investigated the ability of two Lactuca sativa cultivars (Saladin and Iceberg) and an accession of wild lettuce (L. serriola) to support attachment of Salmonella enterica serovar Senftenberg, to the 1st and 5–6th true-leaves and the associations between cultivar-dependent variation in plant leaf surface characteristics and bacterial attachment. Attachment levels were higher on older leaves than on the younger ones and these differences were associated with leaf vein and stomatal densities, leaf surface hydrophobicity and leaf surface soluble protein concentrations. Vein density and leaf surface hydrophobicity were also associated with cultivar-specific differences in Salmonella attachment, although the latter was only observed in the older leaves and was also associated with level of epicuticular wax.

 Older leaves of lettuce (Lactuca spp.) support higher levels of Salmonella enterica ser. Senftenberg attachment and show greater variation between plant accessions than do younger leaves.

Microbiology Letters [ahead of print]

Paul J. Hunter , Robert K. Shaw , Cedric N. Berger , Gad Frankel , David Pink , Paul Hand


It’s called a chlorine monitor: If you wash fresh produce, buy one

Maintaining effective sanitizer concentration is of critical importance for preventing pathogen survival and transference during fresh-cut produce wash operation and for ensuring the safety of finished products. However, maintaining an adequate level of sanitizer in wash water can be challenging for processors due to the large organic load in the wash system.

tomato.dump.tankIn this study, we investigated how the survival of human pathogens was affected by the dynamic changes in water quality during chlorine depletion and replenishment in simulated produce washing operations. Lettuce extract was added incrementally into water containing pre-set levels of free chlorine to simulate the chlorine depletion process, and sodium hypochlorite was added incrementally into water containing pre-set levels of lettuce extract to simulate chlorine replenishment. Key water quality parameters were closely monitored and the bactericidal activity of the wash water was evaluated using three-strain cocktails of Escherichia coli O157:H7, Salmonella enterica, and Listeria monocytogenes. In both chlorine depletion and replenishment processes, no pathogen survival was observed when wash water free chlorine level was maintained above 3.66 mg/L, irrespective of the initial free chlorine levels (10, 50, 100 and 200 mg/L) or organic loading (chemical oxidation demand levels of 0, 532, 1013 and 1705 mg/L). At this free chlorine concentration, the measured ORP was 843 mV and pH was 5.12 for the chlorine depletion process; the measured ORP was 714 mV and pH was 6.97 for the chlorine replenishment process.

 This study provides quantitative data needed by the fresh-cut produce industry and the regulatory agencies to establish critical operational control parameters to prevent pathogen survival and cross-contamination during fresh produce washing.

 Inactivation dynamics of Salmonella enterica, Listeria monocytogenes, and Escherichia coli O157:H7 in wash water during simulated chlorine depletion and replenishment processes

Food Microbiology, Volume 50, September 2015, Pages 88–96

Bin Zhou, Yaguang Luo, Xiangwu Nou, Shuxia Lyu, Qin Wang


It’s confusing, and leafy green folks are silent: Taylor Farms recalls fresh spinach

Once again, I messed up in a story yesterday, but the Leafy Greens Marketing types aren’t helping their cause with silence.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145According to Coral Beach of The Packer, few details are available on Taylor Farms’ recall of fresh spinach that was sold to at least two foodservice suppliers and distributed across multiple states under the Taylor Farms and Cross Valley Farms brands.

Michigan officials report they found E. coli and salmonella during routine testing of washed fresh spinach packaged for foodservice operations such as schools, hospitals and restaurants.

Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development collected three samples of the Taylor Farms fresh spinach from one bag in “a food warehouse facility on the west side of the state” on April 7. Test results on April 13 showed E. coli and salmonella were present and Michigan officials notified Taylor Farms and the Food and Drug Administration, said Jennifer Holton, the department’s communications director.

On April 21, officials from the Salinas, Calif.-based Taylor Farms did not respond to calls for comment on the recall, which the company apparently initiated April 14.

And did that spinach go into Canada, where there at least 12 cases of E. coli O157, possibly linked to leafy greens? Michigan is sorta close.


Why I don’t eat sushi: 25 sick with rare Salmonella in Calif

A rare strain of salmonella has been reported in Ventura County and appears connected to sushi and other raw fish, possibly tuna, public health officials said Monday.

sushiAbout 25 cases have been reported in California and other states. There have been four cases in Ventura County, seven in Los Angeles County and one in Santa Barbara County. Other cases have reported in Orange and Riverside counties.

Many of the seven out-of-state cases involve travel to Southern California.

And while the investigation of the exact cause continues, officials say all 10 people who completed a food questionnaire said they ate sushi. Many said they ate raw tuna.

About 20 percent of the patients hit by the illness have been hospitalized.

The species of salmonella is called paratyphi, Levin said. The particular strain being reported had never been seen in animals or people before last month.

Hope there’s a good public health system: Ethiopians are risking Salmonella to eat raw meat delicacies

Instead of chocolate, Ethiopia marks Orthodox Easter Sunday weeks after the Gregorian calendar celebration, with mass animal slaughter and a meat binge of epic proportions. Goat hides piled up to a metre high line busy city corners while goat heads, ox horns, and entrails overflow from neighborhood bins.

raw.meat.ethiopiaRevelling in the meat fest is Beza Selemon. Tradition dictates that the 22-year-old accountant should be at home breaking a 56-day vegan fast with her family. Instead she’s in town eating raw minced meat out of her boyfriend Dawit’s hand—a sign of affection in Ethiopian culture.

Beza and Dawit are a new breed of Ethiopians; those from the booming capital Addis Ababa (affectionately known as “Addisynnians”) who are snubbing Easter at home with the family in favour of joining friends at restaurants to enjoy a variety of raw meat dishes.

The aromatic doro wat, a saucy chicken stew, is traditionally eaten to break the fast but the most prized delicacy in Ethiopia is raw meat. It’s fair to say that Ethiopians are flesh obsessed. Ox is the most common meat consumed raw but the more expensive goat is gaining momentum.

Despite official health warnings, Ethiopians still prefer to buy their animals live and slaughter them at home. It’s a sign of respect for visitors and a practice they believe keeps the meat fresh.

Beza and Dawit are celebrating the end of fasting season by eating a highly desirable delicacy called kitfo, a dish consisting of raw minced ox meat.

“When I eat raw meat in the morning, I can go the whole day without eating anything else,” says Dawit. “It has good nutritional value so it makes me feel strong.”

And her friends are not alone. Fast food such as burgers and fries are now voraciously consumed in Ethiopia especially by the younger generations in Addis.

Ethiopia might have been associated with famines over feasts in the past but the country is now the “lion of Africa” enjoying rapid economic growth. Despite this, per capita income remains some of the lowest in the world and nowhere is this contrast more apparent than in the sprawling capital of Addis Ababa, where sub-Saharan Africa’s first metro train network is nearing completion.

As the wealth of the urban population grows, so too does the appetite for raw meat. Some raw meat dishes can cost up to 240birr (£8) per kilo, a price that is out of reach for most Ethiopians. Even for those that can afford it, raw meat dishes are reserved for special occasions.

Probably cilantro that sickened hundreds with cylospora in 2013; better detection needed

The 2013 multistate outbreaks contributed to the largest annual number of reported US cases of cyclosporiasis since 1997. In this paper we focus on investigations in Texas.

cilantroWe defined an outbreak-associated case as laboratory-confirmed cyclosporiasis in a person with illness onset between 1 June and 31 August 2013, with no history of international travel in the previous 14 days. Epidemiological, environmental, and traceback investigations were conducted.

Of the 631 cases reported in the multistate outbreaks, Texas reported the greatest number of cases, 270 (43%). More than 70 clusters were identified in Texas, four of which were further investigated. One restaurant-associated cluster of 25 case-patients was selected for a case-control study. Consumption of cilantro was most strongly associated with illness on meal date-matched analysis (matched odds ratio 19·8, 95% confidence interval 4·0–∞). All case-patients in the other three clusters investigated also ate cilantro. Traceback investigations converged on three suppliers in Puebla, Mexico.

Cilantro was the vehicle of infection in the four clusters investigated; the temporal association of these clusters with the large overall increase in cyclosporiasis cases in Texas suggests cilantro was the vehicle of infection for many other cases. However, the paucity of epidemiological and traceback information does not allow for a conclusive determination; moreover, molecular epidemiological tools for cyclosporiasis that could provide more definitive linkage between case clusters are needed.

2013 multistate outbreaks of Cyclospora cayetanensis infections associated with fresh produce: focus on the Texas investigations

Epidemiology and Infection [ahead of print]

Abanyie, R. R. Harvey, J. R. Harris, R. E. Weigand, L. Gual, M., Desvignes-Kendrick, K. Irvin, I Williams, R. L. Hall, B. Herwaldt, E. E. Gray, Y. Qvarnstrom, M. E. Wise, V. Cantu, P. T. Cantey, S. Bosch, A. J. Da Silva, A. Fields, H. Bishop, A. Wellman, J. Beal, N. Wilson, A. E. Fiore, R. Tauxe, S. Lance, L. Slutsker and M. Parise