Epi works but needs to be stronger than ‘some people ate the cheese ’ Cheese firm in Scotland linked to E. coli outbreak threatens legal action

Victoria Weldon of Herald Scotland writes that a cheese firm at the centre of an E.coli outbreak is threatening legal action to prevent a ban on sales of its popular delicacy.

dunsyre.blue.cheeseDunsyre Blue, a mould ripened, gourmet cheese from Lanarkshire, is suspected of being the source of last month’s outbreak which struck down 16 people, hospitalising two.

Makers Errington Cheese were initially forced to recall two batches but claim they have now been ordered to halt all sales or face enforcement action.

It follows fresh tests carried out by FSS identifying genes that, while not confirmation of E.coli, indicate a “presumptive positive” result for naturally occurring bacteria strains.

Company founder Humphrey Errington claims the ban is “unprecedented” and argues that scientific evidence suggests presumptive positive results are notoriously inconclusive, adding, “The behaviour of FSS is monstrous. They blamed our cheese for this outbreak in the absence of any hard evidence and have refused to share with us details of their investigation. We had independent tests carried out two weeks ago that showed the suspected batches of cheese were not contaminated. We shared these results with FSS and they said nothing to restore public trust in the product.”

Errington said the ban on Dunsyre Blue, which accounts for about two-thirds of the company’s revenue, was a “catastrophe” and revealed that his lawyers will decide today whether or not to take legal action.

“I’m afraid I can see this ending up in the courts,” he told the Sunday Times.

Dunsyre Blue is characterised by its chunky blue-green moulds and is favoured by the Queen and Michelin-starred restaurants, including an eaterie run by renowned chef Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles resort in Perthshire.

It became the focus of the health scare after 14 people in Scotland and two in England were struck down with E.coli in July, suffering stomach cramps, diarrhoea, vomiting and fever.

By the end of the month, health officials announced that Dunsyre Blue was the most likely cause of the outbreak.

However, questions are now being asked over the strength of evidence linking the cheese to the outbreak.

Hugh Pennington, professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, said: “I don’t know if Dunsyre Blue was the cause or not, but if you’re going to accuse Errington’s cheese of being the vector of the outbreak, then without further ado effectively destroy his business, then I think you should have stronger evidence than just ‘some people ate the cheese’.”

A spokesman for FSS said that all victims had been contaminated with the same strain of E.coli O157 and that “there is a strong link with certain batches [C22 and D14] of Dunsyre Blue cheese”.

He added: “Dunsyre Blue cheese remains the most likely source of this outbreak, with confirmed cases becoming unwell between July 2 and 15. It would not be appropriate to respond in more detail as investigations have not yet concluded.”

Pools or animal farms: 223 sick UK crypto could be anywhere

Janet Hughes of Gloucestershire Live writes that scientists are checking to see if summer holiday visits to animal attractions are behind a massive spike in the number of toddlers with cryptosporidium.

crypto.petting.farmPublic health chiefs are asking affected families to fill in questionnaires about where they have been and what they have eaten in an effort to trace the source of the outbreak which is particularly bad in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

Children aged between one and five years are most at risk from the parasite cryptosporidium which is three or four times more prevalent than normal this summer.

Doctors believe a small number of cases could be linked Oasis leisure centre in Swindon, which has been closed as a precautionary measure, and say swimming in contaminated lakes, rivers or swimming pools can cause the disease to strike.

But many of those struck down are young toddlers so other possible theories include the prospect that children might not have washed their hands after petting animals at attractions during the summer holidays.

Hand washing is never enough.

 

Crypto don’t care about borders

With cases of Cryptosporidium linked to public pools reaching 300 in Columbus, Ohio, and 100 in Phoenix, Arizona, reports have emerged that there are now 223 confirmed cases of Cryptosporidium across southwest UK.

diaper.poolAccording to Heather Pickstock of the Bath Chronicle, no source has been found as yet for the cases and it is not known if they are all linked.

Dr Toyin Ejidokun, consultant in Communicable Disease Control for PHE South West, said, “We have had confirmed reports of Cryptosporidium infection amongst a number of people who visited the Oasis swimming pool in Swindon earlier this summer. The swimming pool is one of a number of possible exposures that we are exploring. At this point, there is no confirmed source of exposure. We would like to reassure the public that we have only had reports of these cases, and if visitors to swimming pools have had similar symptoms, to contact their GP.”

Hamburger safety videos: Who’s the bullshitter, UK or US?

How can two different countries come up with two different recommendations – yet equally cheesy videos – on the basics of hamburger food safety?

Value assumptions in risk assessments.

My guess would be the UK Food Standards Agency thinks consumers can’t handle thermometers so they provide misguided and meaningless risk messages. And when talking about steaks, they don’t talk about needle- or blade tenderized steaks, in which the outside is pushed into the inside.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture gets the science right, but fails to expand beyond the simplistic cook-chill-clean-separate mantra and doesn’t mention sourcing food from safe sources, like the World Health Organization does.

I provide information. You decide.

 

Campy overestimates: FSA accused of undermining meat industry

Alex Black of FG Insight reports the UK Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) has claimed the Food Standards Agency (FSA) ’appears to continue to undermine the meat processing sector’ with misleading campylobacter figures.

AIMS_LOGO_2008_002An article in The Meat Trades Journal quoted figures published on the Food Standards Agency website stated campylobacter was believed to cause 100 deaths a year.

However, AIMS pointed out the figure was an extract from a FSA funded paper which said ’We could not estimate deaths attributable to foodborne illness, due to the lack of reliable data sources on pathogen-specific mortality rates’.

AIMS head of policy, Norman Bagley, said: “Selectively quoting from its own commissioned report on its own website has once again undermined the excellent work and progress the industry has made on combating campylobacter.

“Stating that campylobacter causes 100 deaths a year is just not based on science and leads to continuing scary, misleading stories being carried in both the trade and consumer media, which once again, undermines our sector.

“This is far from helpful and needs to stop.”

A FSA spokesman said: “We explain on our website that the campylobacter deaths figure is a previous estimate, and that we are continuing to analyse the full impact that campylobacter has.

“We are determining which updated figures to use in the future.”

UK pub fined £100,000 for mouse infestation

Daniel Woolfson of The Morning Advertiser reports that Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) was slapped with a £100,000 fine after environmental health officers uncovered an infestation of mice at one of its Birmingham pubs.

The  Railway Pub, Birmingham UKThe company, which owns the Harvester and Toby Carvery, pleaded guilty to three food safety offences at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday (19 August) after inspectors discovered rodent droppings and unhygienic kitchen conditions at the Railway, Hill Street.

It was ordered to pay £105,000 as well as £9,528 in costs and a £120 victim surcharge.

Councillor Barbara Dring, Birmingham City Council’s licensing and public protection committee chair, said: “People should be able to have confidence in the safety of the food served and cleanliness of any food business in Birmingham – regardless of whether it’s a pub or a posh restaurant.

“We want the city’s food businesses to thrive and, as such, our officers work closely with premises to ensure they achieve the necessary standards required to operate safely.”

The Railway’s kitchen was ordered to close on the spot after the inspection on February 18 last year but was allowed to reopen two days later when inspectors returned and found improvements to have been made.

Since then it has gone on to achieve a five-star food hygiene rating.

Earlier this summer M&B admitted a breach of duty to 280 customers who were stricken with norovirus after visiting an Exeter Toby Carvery pub in April 2015.

The Exeter Arms was closed after instances of the virus, which causes diarrhea and vomiting, were reported to management.

However, it continued to trade after closing for one day and more people fell ill.

Amandeep Dhillon, partner at law firm Irwin Mitchell, which was instructed by the customers to investigate the outbreak, said at the time it hoped by taking legal action important lessons would be learned when it came to dealing with outbreaks of illness in similar premises.

Brits want Campy reduced in chickens; testing to be resumed

The UK Food Standards Agency reports that two thirds (66%) of consumers think the industry should continue to reduce campylobacter beyond the agreed current target of less than 10% of chickens at the most highly contaminated level. Retailers should also be telling customers what proportion of chickens are at this highest level of contamination, according to 75% of those questioned.

chickenThe research has been released to coincide with the resumption this month of our campylobacter survey, part of our on-going efforts to reduce the high levels of food poisoning caused by the bug. Testing was suspended in April so we could update the way the survey was carried out to ensure results continued to be robust.

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy at the FSA, said, “Publishing surveillance data on campylobacter has prompted action from retailers and processors and we are now seeing progress. Our campaign has also raised awareness of campylobacter amongst the public and it is good to see from our research that it is customers, and not just the FSA, demanding action and information from retailers. We have always said that consumer power will ultimately push industry action.

“Many retailers and processors should be commended for the action they have taken so far.  The majority signed up to the pledge to ensure that campylobacter in chicken ceases to be a significant public health issue, and continued action will be needed to deliver this.”

The FSA’s research shows that 76% of people questioned want retailers to be more proactive in telling them what actions they are taking to reduce the campylobacter levels on the raw chicken they sell. More than half of people (53%) said that they would start buying chicken from another retailer if their usual shop was found to sell more than the industry average ‘high risk’ chicken.

It’s all over now: Another UK E. coli O157 mystery with hundreds sick

There’s a reason the Britain’s contribution to global cuisine is mushy peas and mad cow disease.

mushy.peasI get the UK is a small island, sinking in all kinds of animal shit, but tell us what you are doing for on-farm food safety?

And don’t answer with some bogus certification scheme.

Beginning in December 2010, a subtype of E. coli O157, began sickening Brits and resulted in over 250 sick with 80 hospitalizations, four with hemolytic uremic syndrome, and one death.

Dr. Andrew Wadge, chief scientist at the Food Standards Agency was reported as saying “This outbreak is a timely reminder that it is essential to wash all fruits and vegetables, including salad, before you eat them, unless they are labeled ‘ready to eat’, to ensure that they are clean. It is also important to wash hands thoroughly as well as clean chopping boards, knives and other utensils after preparing vegetables to prevent cross contamination.”

This advice is of limited use. Maybe a 1-log reduction use.

But it blames consumers.

The outbreak was linked to the handling of raw leeks and potatoes, and a public warning was given – reportedly months after a guidance had been issued the food industry on reducing the risk of E. coli cross-contamination.

In Nov. 2015, the BBC reported the number of people infected with E. coli across England rose by more than 1,000 over the previous year.

Public Health England figures show there were 39,604 from September 2014 to September 2015, compared with 38,291 for the same period the year before.

Another mysterious affliction.

Now, once again, the PhD health types are baffled by an outbreak of E. coli O157 in the UK that has sickened at least 161.

Those same health-thingies do say the likely cause of the outbreak was imported mixed salad leaves.

The last recorded case of the bug was on July 5 and now PHE has declared the outbreak over.

People are being urged to remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and thoroughly wash all vegetables and salads that will be eaten raw unless they have been pre-prepared and are labelled ‘ready to eat’.

Because the Brits have a long history of blaming consumers for something that should be controlled on the farm.

It wasn’t us: Cheese firm ‘blamed’ for E. coli outbreak slams ‘untrue’ claims

Jane Bradley of The Scotsman reports that Humphrey Errington, owner of Errington Cheeses, which manufactures Dunsyre Blue cheese, says it was “untrue” the cheese was the likely source of an E. coli O157 outbreak last month.

dunsyre.blue.cheeseHe said that all Dunsyre Blue had tested negative for E.coli and claimed that most of the people who had been diagnosed with the illness and not eaten any blue cheese. Health Protection Scotland said on Friday that the number of people with the infection had risen to 19.

“Health Protection Scotland’s claim that the 19 ill people had consumed Dunsyre Blue is untrue according to the data which they themselves have released; of the 19 ill people, seven may have eaten blue cheese (not necessarily Dunsyre Blue); some never ate any blue cheese.

“We can now say with absolute confidence that, following comprehensive tests and the examination of them by an independent expert microbiologist, there is no evidence whatever for any link to the recent outbreak of illness; the government agency tests have all also proved negative.

“We have to conclude that the HPS/FSS position is based on a malicious prejudice against raw milk cheese, and that this threatens not just our business but the reputation of the whole British artisan cheese industry, one of the great success stories of recent years.”

A spokeswoman for Health Protection Scotland said that Dunsyre Blue “remains the most likely source of this outbreak,” adding, “Based on the detailed information available to the multi-agency team, Dunsyre Blue cheese remains the most likely source of this outbreak, with confirmed cases becoming unwell between July 2 and 15. It would not be appropriate to respond in more detail at present as investigations have not yet concluded. However a formal outbreak report will be produced by the Incident Management Team after the investigation is declared over.”

On the toilet 30X a day: UK couple’s Mexico holiday hell after contracting Cyclospora

Tony Larner of the Mirror reports a British couple’s dream Mexican holiday was left in tatters after they were struck down Cyclospora.

hanging.on.in.quiet.desperationSandra and Lee Harper splashed out £3,700 on an all-inclusive Thomson break to Riviera Maya resort, near Cancun.

But the couple, from Birmingham, were unable to leave their room for almost a week after falling ill with Cyclospora and needing the toilet up to 30 times every day.

The pair claim they complained about their illness and hygiene issues at their hotel to Thomson, but did not got a reply until after they arrived home, the Birmingham Mail reported.

UK Health officials have issued warnings about visiting the area after almost 100 Brits were struck down with the bug since the outbreak began in June.

A spokesthingy for Thomson said: “Public Health England has advised us of a number of sickness cases associated to an issue called Cyclospora in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico.”

An issue called Cyclospora?

“Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way.”