Report for UK FSA says pre-packaged sandwiches should not be served in hospitals

Stephan Adams of the Daily Mail writes that a new report commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency concludes pre-packed sandwiches have been responsible for ‘almost all’ hospital outbreaks of listeria since 2003.

listeria4The bug kills around 50 people a year in England, according to official figures, with most deaths thought to be due to food being prepared and stored incorrectly.

Food safety company STS, which advises hospitals and care homes, believes patients may also be dying from eating infected sandwiches at these institutions.

Fiona Sinclair, director of food safety at STS, said: ‘Hospitals and care homes feed the most vulnerable people in society. The last thing these people need is to get something else on top of their illness.’

Pre-packed sandwiches often contain protein-rich fillings such as meat, paté, cheese, prawns and egg, on which listeria can thrive. Days can elapse between preparation and consumption, giving listeria time to multiply, and experts say too few people understand that sandwiches must be kept very cold – below 5C – to stop the bug growing.

The report, written by Ms Sinclair and colleagues, says: ‘Research into previous [listeria] outbreaks in hospitals found that almost all were linked to consumption of pre-packed sandwiches.’

These cases ‘were thought to have been caused by low-level contamination during manufacture in the factory, followed by a breakdown in the control of the cold chain in the hospitals’. During recent inspections, Ms Sinclair found sandwiches were being kept in fridges that were not cold enough, staff were serving packs past their use-by date, and sandwiches were being left on trolleys for lengthy periods before being handed to patients.

The firm’s report, commissioned by the Food Standards Agency, has prompted the FSA to revise its guidance to hospitals and care homes on minimising the risk of listeria.

Measures include cutting maximum fridge temperatures from 8C to 5C.

Welcoming the new rules, STS said: ‘The thought that a loved one should lose their life from eating a sandwich in hospital is ridiculous.’

Ms Sinclair said the research, undertaken with Surrey University, identified nine hospital listeria outbreaks across the UK since 2003. Each case affected between two and seven patients. Ms Sinclair said it was unclear from the data they had seen if anyone died from listeria infection during these outbreaks.

The fact that the bug kills up to 30 per cent of people in ‘vulnerable groups’ – such as pregnant women and the elderly – suggests that some did.

Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said: ‘If somebody is at death’s door, they could be finished off by a sandwich.

Going public: Epidemiology works, especially when so many are sick with E. coli O157

With two dead and at least 151 sick with E. coli O157, believed to be from imported rocket (like bagged lettuce), Public Health England (PHE) says the products are still on supermarket shelves because the source of the outbreak had not been confirmed.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145Instead, officials are reiterating advice to wash vegetables, including salad leaves, thoroughly before eating them.

Washing is not going to remove much E. coli O157.

Stephen Adams of the Daily Mail writes that children are among those ill.

PHE would not say if the more than 60 patients needing hospital treatment were children or among the fatalities.

Several food wholesalers have been told to ‘stop adding some imported rocket leaves to their mixed salad products while investigations are ongoing,’ said the Food Standards Agency.

2 dead, 151 sick: UK says stop using imported rocket (lettuce), but not blaming anyone

Continuing in the fairytale theme that purveyors of food have the best interest of consumers at heart, as do taxpayer funded regulators, Public Health England have told a small number of wholesalers to stop using imported rocket leaves in their salad mixes, as investigations into a major E. coli outbreak continue.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145The outbreak had so far claimed two lives, PHE said today, with a total of 151 cases identified, 62 of which required hospital care.

Director of Public Health England, Dr Isabel Oliver, said  “PHE is using various approaches including whole genome sequencing (WGS) technologies to test samples from those affected. WGS technologies are at the forefront of improving the diagnosis of infectious diseases and this testing has indicated that the strain involved is likely to be an imported strain, possibly from the Mediterranean area.

“PHE is also working closely with the Food Standards Agency to trace, sample and test salad products grown in the UK and other parts of Europe.

“All food sample results to date have been negative for E.coli O157, but it’s important to be aware that where food has been contaminated with E.coli O157, it is not always possible to identify the bacteria on food testing.

“As an additional precautionary measure, we have advised a small number of wholesalers to cease adding some imported rocket leaves to their mixed salad products pending further investigations

The UK Food Standards Agency said in the most bureaucratic way possible – with 2 dead and 151 sick – it is continuing to work closely with PHE and local authorities to investigate an outbreak of E.coli O157. The outbreak has been linked to eating mixed salad leaves, including rocket leaves, however a specific food source has not been confirmed at this stage.

As a precaution, the FSA is reminding people of the importance of good hand and food hygiene practices. All vegetables, including salads, intended to be eaten raw should be thoroughly washed unless they are specifically labelled ‘ready to eat’. Investigations are ongoing.

Fail. Nothing about on-farm food safety.

 

UK girl, 10, ‘could need kidney transplant’ after Egypt holiday

BBC reports that a 10-year-old girl could have to undergo a kidney transplant after contracting E. coli on a holiday in Egypt, her family has said.

emily.bridges.ukEmily Bridges from Queenborough, Kent, picked up the bug while on a trip to the Red Sea resort of Hurghada in May.

She spent a week on life support and is now dependent on immune suppressant drugs and 12 hours of dialysis a day.

Tour operator Thomson said the family had not contacted them but it closely monitored hygiene at its resorts.

Emily’s symptoms were initially diagnosed in Egypt as an upset stomach, but 24 hours after landing in the UK her organs began to shut down.

Her mother, Rachel, said: “Her kidneys stopped working. Her heart stopped working. They said it was like having a heart attack for five days.”

She said they were hoping Emily’s kidneys would recover from the damage but the “worst case scenario” was dialysis at home and “a transplant further down the line”.

The family said they were seeking legal advice about making a complaint.

In a statement, Thomson said it was sorry to hear of Miss Bridge’s situation, adding: “Nothing was reported to our team in resort or since the family has returned home.

“We’re not in a position to comment further, until the family have contacted us and we have had the opportunity to carry out an investigation.”

109 sick from E. coli in leafy greens UK: Best advice bureautypes have is wash your hands

This just gets continuinglyly hopeless. More sick people – that’s good to disclose, know it’s uncomfortable for Brits and most Europeans – but telling consumers to wash their hands is stupid.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145Why wouldn’t Public Health England (PHE) or the farm groups involved say, this is what we do to reduce risk, and talk about on-farm food safety efforts?

Instead, they tell consumers to wash their hands.

To date, 109 cases (figure correct as at 4 July 2016) of this strain of E. coli have been identified (102 in England, 6 in Wales and 1 in Scotland) with the South West of England particularly affected.

PHE has been working to establish the cause of the outbreak and has now identified that several of the affected individuals ate mixed salad leaves including rocket leaves prior to becoming unwell. Currently, the source of the outbreak is not confirmed and remains under investigation. PHE is now reminding people to maintain good hygiene and food preparation practices in response to the current outbreak.

Dr Isabel Oliver, director of PHE’s field epidemiology service, said, We continue to stress the importance of good hand and food hygiene practices at all times. We urge people to remove any loose soil before storing vegetables and thoroughly wash all vegetables (including salads) that will be eaten raw unless they have been pre-prepared and are specifically labelled ‘ready to eat’. These measures may reduce the risk of infection from any E.coli contaminated vegetables, fruit and salad but will not eliminate any risk of infection completely. 

84 sick with E. coli O157: Leafy greens cone of silence – English-style

As if the English weren’t taunted enough, an outbreak of E. coli O157 phage type (PT) 34 linked with leafy salad has prompted regulators to remind consumers “about the importance of good hygiene and food preparation practice” and wash their f*cking hands (that pic, right, is what accompanied s300_Handwashing__NHS_MOORFIELDS_308-10056_960x640the PR; I can’t make this shit up).

This has nothing to do with E. coli O157 on leafy greens, and is a further continuation of Scotland’s it’s-a-f*cking pink chicken educational campaign.

Public Health England says it is investigating an outbreak of E. coli O157 which may be associated with eating leafy salad. To date 84 cases (figure correct as at 1 July 2016) of this strain of E. coli have been identified (77 in England, 5 in Wales, 1 in the Channel Islands and 1 in Scotland) with the majority of cases confirmed in the South West of England.

Dr. Isabel Oliver, director of PHE’s field epidemiology service, said: PHE has put in place heightened surveillance for this strain of E. coli and is and carefully monitoring the reporting of cases across the entire country. To assist with this investigation, we have convened a national outbreak control team to identify the source of infection and to ensure all necessary control measures are put in place.

lettuce.skull.e.coli.O145And collaborate with the U.K. Food Standards Agency, whose idea of science-based verification is to cook meat until it is piping hot, and declared in 2011 that E. coli O157:H7 found on or in leeks or potatoes, was the consumers’ responsibility.

Almost two months after revealing 250 people were sickened and one died with E. coli O157:H7 phage-type 8 over the previous eight months in 2011, linked to people handling loose raw leeks and potatoes in their homes, FSA decided to launch a campaign reminding people to wash raw vegetables to help minimize the risk of food poisoning.

No information on how those 250 became sick and no information on farming and packing practices that may have led to such a massive contamination that so many people got sick, no information on anything: just advice to wash things thoroughly so that contamination can be spread throughout the kitchen.

This outbreak once again combines two of the central themes of conflict and public trust in all things food, which the English are seemingly terrible at: when to go public, and blaming consumers.

And now, John Oliver, again (NSFV).

Surveys are never enough: U.K. Freezer habits edition

Ten years ago, as a bunch of University of Guelph students were barfing in their residence bathrooms with noro, Brae Surgeoner, Doug and I hatched plot to observe hand hygiene practices in situ. We wanted test whether students in the midst of an outbreak would report they were really good at washing their hands or using sanitizer. We guessed that what they said, and what we would see, would be drastically different.IMG_5317

In a self-reported survey, 83 of 100 students said they always followed proper hand hygiene but estimated that less than half of their peers did the same. When we watched them, we saw students following recommended hand hygiene procedures just 17 percent of the time.

Asking people what they know or do is a start. But it’s never enough. People lie, forget or don’t care.

Employing other methods to confirm what they say they do is necessary to confirm actions.

Like using a freezer, according to BBC.

Misconceptions about frozen food are contributing to the seven million tonnes of waste thrown out by UK households every year, the Food Standards Agency says.

Of the 1,500 people it surveyed, 43% wrongly thought food could only be frozen on the day it was bought, suggesting confusion over food safety.

According to the FSA’s research, 38% of people mistakenly thought it was dangerous to refreeze meat after it had been cooked.

Almost a quarter, 23%, said they would never freeze meat that was cooked after defrosting, with 73% of those citing worries about food poisoning.
More than two thirds, 68%, had thrown food away in the past month, mainly bread (36%), fruit (31%), vegetables (31%) and leftover meals (22%).

Households in the UK waste the equivalent of about six meals a week on average, the FSA said.

Fail: Restaurant inspection disclosure programs that remain voluntary

Toronto, Los Angeles and New York City, along with hundreds of jurisdictions have figured this out: public health should disclose public health ratings, at the door, when people make up their mind about entering an establishment to brisbane.stars.scoresspend their money.

But the UK and several Australian states go through this convulsed process where they have scores on doors, but restaurants only have to post them if they want to, and who knows about food in school or hospital cafeterias.

The Brits were never ones for public disclosure (see Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk, 1997, or Yes, Minister).

Australian newspapers are reporting that customers are demanding voluntary food hygiene ratings become mandatory across New South Wales restaurants.

Same in the UK.

As someone who has been involved in these public disclosure efforts, including NSW’s back in the day, and advocated mandatory public disclosure from the beginning, it’s painful to watch the contortions.

According to The Border Mail, “Some retail food businesses in NSW display their  rating in the window, but only if their council signs up to the program and only if the business is happy with its rating.

Councils and industry groups are calling on the NSW Food Authority initiative, Scores on Doors, which issues certificates with three, four and five-star ratings during routine health inspections, to be made mandatory to standardise food safety across NSW and give customers more consistent information about hygiene at food establishments.

Since the program was launched in 2010, only about one-third of local governments in NSW have adopted the system.

North Sydney Council is the latest to announce that from July 1, following annual food safety inspections, it will begin issuing certificates that eateries can then choose to display.

“If a restaurant is displaying the purple and green poster, it has met minimum hygiene and food safety standards during the last food inspection. If it’s not displaying one, they can ask why,” North Sydney mayor Jilly Gibson said.

Wok On Inn at The Rocks, which scored five stars, has been displaying the certificate since the end of last year, and waiter Sunny Dongdang said he thinks that all businesses should be required to do so.

The best places will always come forward.

280 sickened with Norovirus: UK carvery victims a step closer to compensation

Nearly 300 people look set to receive compensation after falling ill as a result of a norovirus outbreak at Exeter’s Toby Carvery.

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Law firm Irwin Mitchell, which is representing those affected, said they have reached the next stage of their legal battle after restaurant owners Mitchells & Butlers Retail Ltd admitted breach of duty to the group.

This means the company will pay compensation to all clients who can establish that their illness and other related losses, such as lost earnings, were caused through the breach of duty.

A total of 280 people instructed the specialist public health department at Irwin Mitchell to investigate the cause of an illness outbreak over the Easter period in April 2015 during which the restaurant was closed on more than one occasion for deep cleaning.

The law firm has now secured the admission from the company which means victims are one step closer to receiving fair settlements for the illness they suffered, which left many unable to work for a number of days and ruined other customers’ holidays in the area.

It is estimated that total damages for the group action will be over £500,000, though lawyers are still gathering medical evidence.

Those seeking compensation include John Williams, 68, from Bangor, Wales, who was staying at the Exeter Arms on holiday when he fell ill with diarrhoea and sickness. The symptoms he suffered lasted three weeks and ruined his holiday.

He said: “The symptoms I suffered were absolutely horrendous and stayed with me long after I left Exeter and returned home to Wales. It really did take its toll on me.

“I don’t think enough was done to control the outbreak at the pub and the hotel and I hope that the management has learned lessons from what happened last year so this never happens again.

“The Exeter Arms failed to inform me before travelling to the restaurant and hotel that there were problems with illness. My holiday was absolutely ruined and I want to know why more wasn’t done to control the outbreak.”

No one checks if it’s followed: UK publishes Listeriosis guidance

New guidance from the UK Food Standards Agency has been published, aimed at healthcare and social care organisations, to help reduce the risk of vulnerable groups in their care contracting listeriosis.

listeria4Like, don’t serve refrigerated ready-to-eat foods such as deli meats to old folks?

Or raw spouts to people in hospital?

But it doesn’t say that.

Instead it bureaucratically meanders and will be pulled out once an outbreak has happened.

This guidance is intended to help these organisations determine what steps can be put in place to reduce the risk of Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods and to complement good practice in the food industry. 

The guidance was the result of collaborative working between stakeholders who contributed to its development, including the Hospital Caterers Association (HCA) and the National Association of Care Caterers (NACC), which will help to promote uptake in these sectors.

The main audiences for this guidance are all types of healthcare and social care organisations that provide food for vulnerable groups. The guidance is also intended for Environmental Health Practitioners and procurement partners.

The project to deliver this guidance formed part of the FSA Listeria Risk Management Programme for 2010 – 2015.