Not the Sopranos: Police in Europe break up network selling illegal horse meat

Raphael Minder of The New York Times reports police in Europe have dismantled a criminal network that was selling horse meat across the Continent that was “not suitable for consumption,” arresting 66 people as part of a four-year investigation prompted by the discovery in Ireland of horse meat in burgers sold as beef.

Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, said on Sunday that all but one of the arrests had been made in Spain. But the Spanish police said in a separate statement that their part of the investigation had accounted for “a small portion of a network stretching across the whole of Europe, under the control of a Dutch citizen.”

The Dutch citizen, who has not been publicly identified and was taken into custody in April in Belgium, was described in a Europol statement as the leader of a criminal gang that had acquired horses on the Iberian Peninsula that were judged to be “in bad shape, too old or simply labeled as ‘not suitable for consumption.’ ”

The animals’ meat was processed and sent to Belgium, one of the European Union’s biggest exporters of horse meat, and the criminal organization modified the animals’ microchips and documentation to facilitate the fraudulent export, the statement said.

The Pan-European investigation began after a scandal over horse meat in burgers in Ireland in 2013, and it was widened to other European countries as dishes like frozen lasagna labeled as containing beef were found to have horse meat.

In addition to the arrests, the Spanish police said on Sunday that they had seized property and luxury cars, and that they had frozen bank accounts. The police in Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Switzerland also carried out interventions, according to Europol, although the statement did not provide details.

Thermometers, cats and the UK Food Standards Agency: Piping hot for the world?

I watched our veterinarian stick a thermometer into the ass of our cat(s) the other day while they were getting vaccinated for feline immunodeficiency virus (because they’ve now become outside roaming cats).

They didn’t care.

The UK Food Standards Agency is bragging that one of its own, Steve Wearne, got elected to the Codex Alimentarius Commission as vice-chair.

That’s an impressive bureaucratic achievement.

UK Food Minister George Eustice bubbled that, “The appointment of Steve Wearne to this important leadership role is testament to the strength and reputation of the UK’s food quality and safety standards. 

“This is a great opportunity to bring the UK’s renowned expertise to the table as the committee continues to pioneer global policy for food safety – increasing consumer confidence in the food we eat around the world.”

Heather Hancock, Chairman of the FSA said: ‘Steve’s appointment is a real vote of confidence in the UK’s leadership in modern, accountable food regulation. I’m delighted that he and the FSA will be taking such a significant role in setting the standards for food globally.’

I’m not.

This is an agency that ignores science and continues to tell consumers to cook things until they are piping hot, apparently because consumers are too low on the British caste system to understand how a thermometer works.

My cats know how thermometers work.

At least 5 sick with crypto: Raw milk from Moo View Dairy recalled by South Australian health types

There was this one time, about 1979, when me and my high school buddies fell into some tickets for Can-Am car racing, which none of us cared about.

So we stayed up all night as high school students do, and then I was the designated driver to Mosport, Ontario, a few hours away.

On the way we stopped at a truck stop off the 401 near Bowmanville, Ontario, and my friends, who were quite stoned, couldn’t stop laughing about the moo-moo cow creamer on every table.

It was pasteurized.

The stuff from Willunga Hill’s Moo View Dairy is not, and the dairy will be prohibited from selling and distributing raw cow’s milk after it was linked to at least five cases of gastroenteritis.

Brad Crouch, medical reporter at The Advertiser, writes, SA Health has taken the action under the Food Act 2001 and the South Australian Public Health Act 2011, after the sicknesses were linked to drinking unpasteurised (raw) cow’s milk.

SA Health Director of Public Health Associate Professor Kevin Buckett said the sale of raw cow’s milk for human consumption is illegal in Australia due to its high risk of contamination.

“We’ve confirmed at least five cases where people aged between three and 70 contracted gastrointestinal illness caused by the Cryptosporidium parasite after consuming raw cow’s milk products purchased from Moo View Dairy, and this number is likely to be higher,” he said.

“Luckily, these people did not require hospitalisation, but it is important to remember that raw cow’s milk products should not be consumed as they can contain harmful bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella, campylobacter, and listeria, as well as cryptosporidium.

“In June we noticed higher than expected numbers of cryptosporidiosis cases and following interviews and investigations, we identified Moo View Dairy’s raw cow’s milk as a common factor between five cases,” Assoc Prof Buckett said.

“We’ve also identified another two potential cases that implicate raw cow’s milk as the cause of illness.

And the next year, Mosport had this (and yes, that’s John (J.D.) Roberts doing some of the interviews for Much Music. He can be now found as chief White House correspondent for Fox News (gag me). Oh, and I arranged Teenage Head to play our high school in 1979.

Raw is risky.

24 sick in 16 states: Salmonella Typhimurium infections linked to clinical and teaching microbiology laboratories

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and public health officials in several states have identified a multistate outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium infections linked to various clinical, commercial, and college and university teaching microbiology laboratories.

Public health investigators used the PulseNet system to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. PulseNet, coordinated by CDC, is the national subtyping network of public health and food regulatory agency laboratories. PulseNet performs DNA fingerprinting on Salmonella bacteria isolated from ill people by using techniques called pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE) and whole genome sequencing (WGS). CDC PulseNet manages a national database of these DNA fingerprints to identify possible outbreaks.

Twenty-four people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium have been reported from 16 states, including California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington. WGS showed that the strain of Salmonella Typhimurium causing illness in this outbreak is closely related genetically to a strain from an outbreak in 2014 and an outbreak in 2011, both of which were linked to microbiology laboratories. As a result of the 2011 outbreak, several laboratory professionals across the country developed a set of guidelines for handling microorganisms safely in a teaching laboratory.

Among people for whom information was available, illnesses started on dates ranging from March 17, 2017 to June 22, 2017. Ill people ranged in age from less than one year to 57 years, with a median age of 24. Seventy-five percent of ill people were female. Among 21 people with available information, six (29%) were hospitalized. No deaths were reported.

In interviews, ill people answered questions about different exposures in the week before they became ill. Nine (69%) of 13 ill people had laboratory exposures. Ill people in this outbreak reported behaviors while working in the laboratory that could increase the risk of Salmonella infection. These included not wearing gloves or lab coats, not washing hands, and using the same writing utensils and notebooks outside of the laboratory.

This outbreak highlights the potential risk of Salmonella infection associated with working in microbiology laboratories.

All students and staff in clinical and teaching microbiology laboratories should receive laboratory safety training. Either nonpathogenic or attenuated bacterial strains should be used when possible, especially in teaching laboratories. This practice will help reduce the risk of students and their family members becoming ill.

A giant E. coli statue in New York City

John Metcalfe of City Lab writes there is now a giant statue of an E. coli microbe in City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan.

“Earth Potential: E. coli” is based on a 10,000-times magnified electron-microscope image of the fecal bacterium that causes 265,000 infections in the U.S. yearly, with symptoms including cramps and diarrhea. Made from a digital print on cut-out aluminum, it rests in City Hall Park as part of the larger exhibition, “Earth Potential,” by the Estonian artist Katja Novitskova. The show intends to portray “organisms and bodies” that have “significant research value within the scientific community for their potential to advance our understanding of our species and world,” according to the non-profit Public Art Fund. Aside from E. coli, the other pieces in the show include a huge earthworm, a slippery nematode, and a human embryo magnified to resemble a clump of moldy peaches.

Only certain strains of E. coli cause gut-churning maladies; others are beneficial components of the human intestines and boons to science. As the show’s primer explains: “E. coli has been at the center of groundbreaking research: Genetic engineers have used new synthetic biological techniques to recode the bacteria’s genome, potentially changing the organism’s functionality and radically increasing the prospect that humans will have the ability to rewrite the codes for life.”

 

Jennifer Lawrence barfs during Broadway show

Mike Moffitt of SF Gate reports “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence vomited during a Broadway adaptation of George Orwell‘s “1984,” but she says it was not the harrowing torture scene that made her toss her cookies.

The actress’ stomach problems were first reported by Page Six.

The play’s upsetting staging has reportedly caused audience members to faint, although until Monday night, no one apparently has thrown up.

Those who have read “1984,” are well aware of a nausea-inducing scene involving a cage and a rat.

According to a Page Six source, “Midway through the show, Jennifer Lawrence bolted from her seat. Several people saw her getting sick in the lobby. The ushers were very helpful and courteous in helping her out.”

The site quoted a friend of Lawrence, who said the visceral staging had nothing to do with the actress’ stomach distress. “She caught the stomach flu from her nephews,” the source said.

It’s not the first time Lawrence has publicly puked.

At a Guy Oseary-Madonna party in 2014, she got sick and threw up on a porch.

She told Seth Meyers: “I was in such bad condition, and I look behind me while I’m puking, and Miley Cyrus is there like, ‘Get it together.'”

I can’t make this shit up: Chipotle taps Wu-Tang Clan for marketing buzz

I can’t make this shit up: here’s a company with billions invested in it, and Chipotle decides to reach out to the Wu-Tang Clan.

A company that sucks bonding with a band that sucks and hoping that two negatives make a positive?

In April, 2017, Chipotle tapped hey-now Hank Kinsley and some other actors for some spots about how real Chipotle’s food was.

Guess that hasn’t gone so well.

Now, the aptly-named Mark Crumpacker, Chipotle’s chief marketing officer and convicted cokehead, told Bloomberg that Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., has enlisted rapper RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan to unveil a new website that spotlights Chipotle’s ingredients. The company’s so-called clean menu — free of artificial preservatives and other additives — was a major selling point before a 2015 food-safety crisis sickened hundreds of customers and sent its shares plummeting.

Yup, real hardcore reaching out to the Wu-Tang Clan.

RZA, whose real name is Robert Diggs, helped design Chipotle’s new Savor.Wavs site. The rapper created 51 snippets of music, one for each ingredient on the menu, that lets people hear a audio interpretation of their typical Chipotle order. The new site doesn’t let customers order food, but it’s meant to drive home the simplicity of the chain’s menu.

“That might be lost on some, but people who are into the music will appreciate it,” said Crumpacker.

Crumpacker touted Chipotle’s simple menu at a party in Manhattan on Tuesday that featured a performance by RZA. He noted that fast-food hamburgers can have as many as 47 ingredients.

While the company declined to say how much it spent on the RZA campaign, Chipotle indicated it was less than the $5 million that a Super Bowl ad would have cost.

Chipotle’s stock, which hit a closing high of $757.77 in August 2015, has been battered by the food-safety concerns. The shares had been up for the year until Tuesday, when reports surfaced that customers had been sickened after eating a restaurant in Virginia. That location, which was closed on Monday, was slated to be reopened on Wednesday.

The stock is now trading around $368, about half its peak.

Canadian family tested for HIV after catheter found in ice cream tub; Australian kids pricked at supermarket

There’s some weird things in food.

A family gathering in Quebec to celebrate the arrival of a new baby boy suddenly turned sour this weekend when someone discovered a piece of a catheter inside the ice cream the family was eating.

Three people had already started eating the Coaticook brand ice cream flavoured with pecan nuts, chocolate and double caramel when one of the guests – the new grandfather of the family – felt something hard in his mouth.

He spit it out and saw it was a piece of a catheter.

There was something dark on the tip and the family couldn’t tell if it was caramel or blood.

“He put it in his mouth and found the tip of syringe,” Carole-Anne Christofferson told Radio-Canada.  

“He’s the worst off, the most affected. He’s not even able to speak about it.”

Coaticook said it will be conducting an internal investigation into what happened.

Representatives for the ice cream producer say it’s the first time the company receives a complaint like this.

Based on the product’s lot number, they know the exact date the ice cream was made and are checking surveillance video.

The company maintains it is safe to consume its products.

“We have so many internal controls here and in food production in general, that having something like that show up in a food item, it’s not normal,” said Jean Provencher, the owner of Coaticook.

Yeah, but it apparently did: try empathy.

In Australia, two children have been pricked by a hidden syringe in separate incidents at Coles supermarket in Melbourne’s north-west, which is being described by police as “malicious.”

The first incident happened at the supermarket on Pascoe Vale Road, Broadmeadows, on Monday at 1:30pm, when a child was pricked by a needle hidden under a rail.

Another child was pricked about an hour later, and the needle was then discovered by the mother.

A spokesperson for Coles said the supermarket was working with police to investigate the incident.

“Our thoughts are with the customers affected by this event and their families,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Raw is risky: 25 sickened by oysters in Seattle

A foodborne illness outbreak linked to raw oysters has sickened at least 25 people who dined at local restaurants recently, King County reported on Tuesday. The news comes after the county reported last week that a handful of people got sick eating raw oysters at two Seattle restaurants – The Salted Sea and The White Swan Public House.

The restaurants, however, are not the source of the outbreak, King County says. Most likely, the oysters were mishandled or contaminated before reaching local restaurants, although no specific local oyster beds have been connected to the outbreak.

County health officials believe diners have been sickened by Vibrio, a marine bacteria commonly found in oysters.

“Eating undercooked or raw shellfish, especially raw oysters in warm-weather months, is the main risk for acquiring vibriosis from infection with Vibrio parahaemolyticus,” King County said.

No risk messages are risky: Chipotle still doesn’t get it

I played hockey today, had an early evening nap – my partner is a saint – and then stayed up late so I could be on news radio in San Francisco at 6:20 a.m. their time — KCBS All News 740 and FM 106.9 — trashing Chipotle.

I said I wrote a book 20 years ago – Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk – that concluded no risk messages were really risky.

Yet here’s Chipotle, with their chief-science thingy, saying “Norovirus does not come from our food supply.”

As Chapman noted yesterday, there is on average one outbreak of food-related norovirus every day for all 365 days of the year in the U.S.

And rather than provide supporting statements for their claim, Chipotle took to Twitter to proclaim such insights as, “Why be full of potential when you could be full of burritos?” and “Summertime sadness is when you forget your guac.”

Al Gore had only just invented the Internet for everyone else when Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk was written.

Today, consumers demand data-based assurances, not platitudes.

I miss Phil Hartman (also born in Brantford, Ontario, Canada).

This scene from News Radio reminds me of when Chapman visited Kansas and shit for a couple of days because he had Campylobacter.