Norovirus in UK food outlets to be mapped for first time

The University of Liverpool is leading a £2 million Food Standards Agency (FSA) project to map the occurrence of norovirus in food premises and industry workers.

NorochickNorovirus outbreaks can rapidly affect large numbers of people. In 2012 a batch of frozen strawberries infected 11,000 people in Germany, but there are significant gaps in the authorities’ understanding of which strains cause infection and which foods are the most likely to harbour the bacteria.

Researchers will produce data that will help the FSA to develop plans to reduce the infection by collecting swabs from work surfaces at more than 200 pubs, restaurants and hotels in the North West and South East of England.

It is not clear what proportion of the infections come from food itself and which come from the people and environment involved in bringing it to the plate. The team will also investigate occurrences of the virus in shops in three of the highest risk foodstuffs: oysters, salad and berries.

They will combine the information with the outputs of the other research strands to generate an assessment of the true impact of the virus to infection in the UK.

Epidemiology and population health expert, Professor Sarah O’Brien said: “The FSA has been hampered by a lack of data on the origins of outbreaks in the past, but this research should give it enough information to work on prevention strategies, and insight which allows it to focus its resources most effectively.”

Tofu yum: liquid effluent, stagnant water and mice infestation found at illegal UK tofu factory

An illegal tofu factory in Erith has been busted by Bexley Council twice in a month after it was found to be infested with mice.

Food safety officers first visited the business, Soy, in Hailey Road on March 18 following a tip-off and found the illegal production of tofu.

The unregistered property was not only operating unlawfully but found to be unhygienic, ridden with mice and full of “stagnant water and liquid effluent”.

tofu.productionThe officers ordered the owners to close it immediately and had the food destroyed.

However last week, officers were suspicious and did a follow up visit with police and discovered the factory still operating.

A Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Order and a food Condemnation Order has since been granted by Bromley Magistrates’ Court for the premises. All food and equipment was seized from the premises.

Bexley Council will now pursue further legal proceedings against the business owners. 

Aberdeen’s typhoid outbreak remembered 50 years on

Sheena Blackhall was a 16-year-old schoolgirl when Aberdeen was brought to its knees by the largest typhoid outbreak in recent British history 50 years ago.

More than 500 people of all ages had to be quarantined in hospital.

The infection was eventually traced back to a single tin of Argentinean corned beef sold in a supermarket.

typhoid.canned.beefIt happened in the summer of 1964, and led to speculation across the country of many deaths.

In reality, and somewhat remarkably, the outbreak was contained without a single related death.

Most patients spent many weeks in hospital until they were allowed home.

Ms Blackhall told BBC Scotland: “The GP that we had had been in a Japanese prisoner of war camp so he knew right away that I had typhoid and phoned for an ambulance, by which time I had a very high temperature and I was delirious.

“I remember nothing about this but apparently when they took me down the stairs I said ‘dinna cremate me! I want to be buried!’ – which upset everybody.

An inquiry into the outbreak later found that a large can of Argentinean corned beef had been sold sliced from the cold meat counter of the William Low supermarket.

The can had been cooled in Argentina using untreated water from a river.

The typhoid organism was assumed to have entered the meat through a small hole in the seam of the can.

It was then passed on to anyone who bought the corned beef, or other products which had come into contact with the shop’s meat slicer.

The media attention helped raise the importance of cleanliness and hygiene.

Hygiene lessons from the Aberdeen typhoid outbreak are still relevant today.

Prof Hugh Pennigton, the renowned bacteriologist, said it was an “enormous” outbreak.

80 crypto cases a year; handwashing is never enough: UK health chief warns over risk of infection from region’s petting farms

We have a paper coming out shortly about best practices at petting zoos and farm visits and state fairs and just hanging out with animals.

I’ll follow my own best practice and wait until it’s published to talk about it, but Dr Ken Lamden, the health chief of Cumbria and north Lancashire in handwashing.ekka.jpgthe UK is urging parents to be aware of potential infections that can be caught at farm attractions.

Over the past 20 years, an average of around 80 cases of cryptosporidium infection linked to visits to petting farms have been reported to Public Health England each year. This is out of a total of around two million visits to the 1,000 plus farm attractions in the UK, with peak visitor times during school and public holidays.

Dr Lamden, of PHE’s Cumbria and Lancashire Centre, said: “Visiting a farm is a very enjoyable experience for both children and adults alike but it’s important to remember that contact with farm animals carries a risk of infection because of the micro-organisms – or germs – they carry.

 “Anyone visiting a petting farm should be aware of the need to wash their hands thoroughly using soap and water after they have handled animals or been in their surroundings. Children are more at risk of serious illness and should be closely supervised to make sure that they wash their hands thoroughly.

“It is also very important not to rely on hand gels and wipes for protection because these are not suitable against the sort of germs found on farms.” 

First cases documented of TB caught from cats

There was this one time, I went to the U.S., and when I returned there were two Persian furballs in the house.

I vacuumed this morning and reminded Amy, you wanted fluffy cats, right?

jacques.salamader.2.14She laughed as she went out the door.

The New York Times reports the first documented cases of people catching tuberculosis from their cats were revealed in England this week, but TB experts there and in the United States reassured pet owners that they had virtually nothing to fear.

The four human cases were all related to a rare cluster of sick cats in southern England, and all were instances of bovine tuberculosis, which is carried by cows.

Public Health England, which released the report, said the risk to cat owners was “very low.”

The English medical report was a follow-up to a veterinary TB outbreak, in which one veterinarian diagnosed the illness in nine very sick cats from different households within a few miles of one another in or around Newbury, England, from late 2012 to early 2013. Twenty-four people connected to those cats were screened; two had latent TB without symptoms, and two had active infections. DNA testing showed that all four had the same strain as all the cats.

The cats roamed through local woods, the report said, and probably got infected either by eating rodents that had picked up the disease from cows or by fighting with badgers, which also carry it. They may have passed it among themselves through bites.

Bovine TB is more common in England than in the United States, said Dr. Paul P. Calle, chief veterinarian for the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo.

“This may very well have happened before, in the days before milk was pasteurized and cats were kept in barns for mouse control,” he said. “But for an apartment cat, the risk is nil.”

Although there could be a Salmonella risk from hunting salamanders and skinks, and the little ones enter the townhouse routinely.

£18000 fine and costs; food firm which supplied UK primary schools had ‘filthy conditions’

Boston Magistrates heard on March 24 that Food for Thought GB Ltd admitted 12 different food hygiene charges involving raw meat being stored next to cooked ready-to-eat ham, dirty cups being supplied to a school, dirty plastic bowls and colanders, dirty and mould-stained Unknowncutting boards, dirty floors, flaking paint and dirty walls, dirty cleaning cloths and inadequate labelling of food.

They were fined £13,800 and ordered to pay £4,300 costs.

Magistrates reduced the potential fine by 30 per cent in recognition of the guilty pleas. A victim surcharge of £130 was also made.

Environmental Health Officers from Boston Borough Council visited the premises at Unit B8, Boston Trade Park, Norfolk Street, following an alert from colleagues at South Holland District Council.

There were concerns about the cleanliness of equipment supplied to a school in the South Holland area by Food 4 Thought GB Ltd.

A visit to the unit on October 4 found poor standards of hygiene, controls and management.

Caroline Clark and Moira Clark, both company directors who were on site at that time, agreed that the standards were not acceptable for premises producing food for vulnerable school children and agreed to deep clean the premises over the weekend.

On October 8 a re-inspection was undertaken and the environmental health officer noted that although a deep clean had been carried out there were still outstanding detailed cleaning issues to be addressed before the premises could be considered to be of an acceptable standard.

Magistrates expressed surprise that someone with even a basic knowledge of food hygiene had not identified issues before the visit.

Widespread food fraud in UK county

Widespread contraventions of food labelling law were found in a nine-month programme of meat product testing carried out by Leicester City Council, but no food safety concerns were raised.

The council launched the city-wide programme in May last year in response to the horsemeat scandal, when lamb burgers labelled as halal, and supplied to a city primary food.fraud.adulterationschool, were found to contain pork DNA.

One-hundred-and-five meat products were tested from local businesses. Of these, 47 samples were found to contain meat from species other than that declared, and at levels regarded as gross contamination, said the council.

Last month a West Yorkshire public laboratory published findings from a six-month study, showing that 38% of food products, including meat, were mislabelled or had compositional faults.

On-farm food safety; don’t keep cattle next to watercress; 25 sickened with E. coli O157

Public Health England has provided an update on two separate E. coli O157 outbreaks linked to watercress – that stuff on cucumber sandwiches and in salads — in 2013.

In September 2013, a national increase in cases of verotoxigenic E. coli O157 phage type 2 VT2 was observed in England. Between 30 August and 19 September, 19 cases (14 in England, four in Wales and one in Scotland) were reported sharing the same distinct Multi Locus Variable Number Tandem Repeat Analysis (MLVA) pattern (and single locus variants), not cucumber-tea-sand-300x202previously seen in the UK. Onset dates ranged from 17 to 29 August and the cases had an unusual demography for VTEC cases: they were predominantly female with a median age of 64 years. Seven cases were hospitalized, although no deaths or cases of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) were reported. Interviews with patients and the use of detailed food questionnaires revealed the link to the consumption of pre-packaged watercress purchased from a particular supermarket chain. This led to the prompt voluntary withdrawal and recall of watercress products by the retailer.

Despite trace-back investigations, microbiological testing of watercress and environmental sampling at farms, the source of contamination of the watercress remains unclear. Two additional cases with an identical MLVA profile were retrospectively identified with onset dates in February 2013. One had consumed watercress and one pre-packaged salad, both from retailers representing a different supply chain, suggesting that the contamination is unlikely to have occurred at the farms. Following restocking of watercress at the supermarket chain, one additional case was reported with an onset date of 21 October 2013. The case reported consuming bagged mixed salad containing watercress from that supermarket. No further cases of the outbreak profile have been reported.

During outbreak investigations, a second, smaller outbreak of six cases of VTEC O157 PT 2 VT2 with a different MLVA profile was identified: two cases reported consuming watercress from the implicated retailer prior to watercress.ukthe recall, one consumed watercress prior to the recall but with no detail on where it was purchased, and one consumed mixed salad from the retailer during the period that watercress was withdrawn from sale. Two further cases with onsets of 1 October 2013 were members of a family who had consumed watercress as part of a meal at a pub. Local trace-back confirmed that the pub purchased unwashed watercress from the same supplier as was involved in the first outbreak.

During sampling of the farms supplying watercress, VTEC O157 PT 2 VT2 identical on typing to isolates from the second outbreak was isolated from one of the watercress beds. Environmental investigations revealed that this watercress bed was in close proximity to an adjacent field containing cattle – the primary reservoir for VTEC. It seems likely that the cause of this second cluster of cases was transfer of VTEC from the field to the watercress bed either from wildlife entering the watercress farm or run-off water. 

£11,000 fine for UK Chinese restaurant owner

Kams Palace Ltd admitted five offences under the Food Hygiene Regulations and two offences under Health and Safety legislation.

The prosecution at Fareham Magistrates’ Court follows a routine food hygiene inspection in February last year.

Officers from Fareham Borough Council visited Kams Palace in Bridge Road and found poor standards of cleanliness in the kitchen and storage fhrs_0_en-GBareas.

The council says many food safety hazards were found including poor stock control, food stored in dirty containers, dirty equipment and evidence of mice.

No evidence of food hygiene training for the employees was available.

Kams Palace Ltd was fined £11,000 and ordered to pay full costs to the council.

Following the inspection the company has re-trained staff in food hygiene and the hygiene procedures and cleanliness have improved.

Look harder, there’s more fraud; fake-food scandal revealed as UK tests show third of products mislabeled

Consumers are being sold food including mozzarella that is less than half real cheese, ham on pizzas that is either poultry or “meat emulsion”, and frozen prawns that are 50% water, according to tests by a public laboratory.

The checks on hundreds of food samples, which were taken in West Yorkshire, revealed that more than a third were not what they claimed to be, or were mislabelled in some way. food_fraud_adulterationTheir results have been shared with the Guardian.

Testers also discovered beef mince adulterated with pork or poultry, and even a herbal slimming tea that was neither herb nor tea but glucose powder laced with a withdrawn prescription drug for obesity at 13 times the normal dose.

A third of fruit juices sampled were not what they claimed or had labelling errors. Two contained additives that are not permitted in the EU, including brominated vegetable oil, which is designed for use in flame retardants and linked to behavioural problems in rats at high doses.

Experts said they fear the alarming findings from 38% of 900 sample tests by West Yorkshire councils were representative of the picture nationally, with the public at increasing risk as budgets to detect fake or mislabelled foods plummet.

Counterfeit vodka sold by small shops remains a major problem, with several samples not meeting the percentage of alcohol laid down for the spirit. In one case, tests revealed that the “vodka” had been made not from alcohol derived from agricultural produce, as required, but from isopropanol, used in antifreeze and as an industrial solvent.

Samples were collected both as part of general surveillance of all foods and as part of a programme targeted at categories of foodstuffs where cutting corners is considered more food-fraudlikely.

West Yorkshire’s public analyst, Dr Duncan Campbell, said of the findings: “We are routinely finding problems with more than a third of samples, which is disturbing at a time when the budget for food standards inspection and analysis is being cut.”

Ham, which should be made from the legs of pigs, was regularly made from poultry meat instead: the preservatives and brining process add a pink colour that makes it hard to detect except by laboratory analysis.

Meat emulsion – a mixture in which meat is finely ground along with additives so that fat can be dispersed through it – had also been used in some kinds of ham, as had mechanically separated meat, a slurry produced by removing scraps of meat from bones, which acts as a cheap filler although its use is not permitted in ham.