Doug Powell

About Doug Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Download C.V. »

8 sick with E. coli from Colorado fair

At least eight people are sick with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli after spending time at the Mesa County Fair, which ran from July 25-29 in Grand Junction.

The Post Independent reports Mesa County Public Health officials have been working with representatives from the fair and those who became sick to find the source of the illness.

Shiga toxin-producing E. coli is common in cattle, sheep and goats. It can be contracted through direct contact with these animals or contact with things in close proximity to the animals that may have been cross contaminated.

Mesa County Public Health officials have also been in close communication with child-care providers and health-care providers to determine the magnitude of the outbreak, and to prevent further spread of the illness.

People can become sick between two and 10 days after being infected with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli.

Scots teacher dies after contracting E. coli in Turkey

A teacher who was flown back to the UK after contracting E. coli in Turkey has died.

Caroline Hope arrived back in Glasgow last month following a crowdfunding appeal for a medical evacuation.

Her mother, Catherine Hope, confirmed she died yesterday at the city’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

Lynsey Bews of The Scotsman reports that Ms Hope, who had been living in Turkey for four years, picked up the infection during surgery to treat advanced colon cancer in June.

The 37-year-old English teacher had decided to return home to Scotland after receiving her cancer diagnosis in January but complications from the surgery left her fighting for her life in Medical Park Hospital in Izmir, Turkey.

Desperate to bring her home, her family and friends raised more than £31,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to pay for a private medical evacuation, as there are strict rules around repatriations for medical reasons.

Mrs Hope, of Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, thanked everyone who contributed to the appeal and all the staff on the high dependency units at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital who cared for her daughter.

“I would just like to thank all the people who put money in towards bringing Caroline home,” she said.

 

Food fraud: Inside global bullshit about spices

A bowl of ice cream on a hot day in Shanghai gave American Mitchell Weinberg the worst bout of food poisoning he can recall. It also inspired the then-trade consultant to set up Inscatech — a global network of food spies.

In demand by multinational retailers and food producers, Inscatech and its agents scour supply chains around the world hunting for evidence of food industry fraud and malpractice. In the eight years since he founded the New York-based firm, Weinberg, 52, says China continues to be a key growth area for fraudsters as well as those developing technologies trying to counter them.

“Statistically we’re uncovering fraud about 70 percent of the time, but in China it’s very close to 100 percent,” he said. “It’s pervasive, it’s across food groups, and it’s anything you can possibly imagine.”

While adulteration has been a bugbear of consumers since prehistoric wine was first diluted with saltwater, scandals in China over the past decade — from melamine-laced baby formula, to rat-meat dressed as lamb — have seen the planet’s largest food-producing and consuming nation become a hotbed of corrupted, counterfeit, and contaminated food.

Weinberg’s company is developing molecular markers and genetic fingerprints to help authenticate natural products and sort genuine foodstuffs from the fakes. Another approach companies are pursuing uses digital technology to track and record the provenance of food from farm to plate.

“Consumers want to know where products are from,” said Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, citing surveys the Shanghai-based consultancy conducted with consumers and supermarket operators.

Services that help companies mitigate the reputational risk that food-fraud poses is a “big growth area,” according to Rein. “It’s a great business opportunity,” he said. “It’s going to be important not just as a China play, but as a global play, because Chinese food companies are becoming part of the whole global supply chain.”

Some of the biggest food companies are backing technology that grew out of the anarchic world of crypto-currencies. It’s called blockchain, essentially a shared, cryptographically secure ledger of transactions.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer (and source off the terrible graphic, above, right), was one of the first to get on board, just completing a trial using blockchain technology to track pork in China, where it has more than 400 stores. The time taken to track the meat’s supply chain was cut from 26 hours to just seconds using blockchain, and the scope of the project is being widened to other products, said Frank Yiannas, Wal-Mart’s vice president for food safety, in an interview Thursday.

But will it be advertised at retail, or just some faith consumers will be forced to rely on.

Real transparency means reals data, shared publicly; it’s not a matter of faith.

Toxo: You don’t want it

Toxoplasmosis is a foodborne zoonosis transmitted by Toxoplasma gondii, a cosmopolitan protozoan that infects humans through exposure to different parasite stages, in particular by ingestion of tissue cysts or tachyzoites contained in meat, primary offal (viscera), and meat-derived products or ingestion of environmental sporulated oocysts in contaminated food or water.

The pig is an important species for infection: raw or undercooked pork consumption not subject to treatment able to inactivate the parasite represents a risk to consumers’ health. Broadening knowledge of transmission ways and prevalence concerning this important pathogen in swine, together with a thorough acquaintance with hazard management are key elements to avoid T. gondii spreading within the swine production chain.

This review aims to illustrate why toxoplasmosis should be regarded as a veterinary public health issue through a careful description of the parasite, routes of infection, and inactivation treatments, highlighting the main prevention lines from pig breeding to pork consumption.

Toxoplasma gongii, a foodborne pathogen in the swine production chain form a European perspective

Foodborne Pathogens and Disease, ahead of print, July 2017,  De Berardinis Alberto, Paludi Domenico, Pennisi Luca, and Vergara Alberto, https://doi.org/10.1089/fpd.2017.2305

http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/fpd.2017.2305

Cyclospora: Back to the future

During the summers of 2015 and 2016, the United Kingdom experienced large outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in travellers returning from Mexico. As the source of the outbreaks was not identified, there is the potential for a similar outbreak to occur in 2017; indeed 78 cases had already been reported as at 27 July 2017. Early communication and international collaboration is essential to provide a better understanding of the source and extent of this recurring situation.

Cyclosporiasis in travellers returning to the United Kingdom from Mexico in Summer 2017: Lessons from the recent past to inform the future

Eurosurveillance, vol. 22, issue 32, 10 August 2017, DFP Marques, CL Alexander, RM Chalmers, R Elson, J Freedman, G Hawkins, J Lo, G Robinson, K Russell, A Smith-Palmer, H Kirkbride, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2017.22.32.30592

http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=22854

14 sick, 4 with HUS from E. coli in Calif. lake

An E. coli-contaminated lake in Nevada County, Calif., linked to the illnesses of 14 people will remain closed until at least Aug. 23, county officials announced Wednesday.

Hannah Knowles of the Sacramento Bee reports authorities closed all of Lake Wildwood’s public beaches last week after water testing confirmed reports linking E. coli infections to the lake’s Main Beach, also called Commodore Park. The county also advised against any swimming in the lake.

As of Wednesday, 14 people – 11 children and three adults – are believed to have contracted E. coli after visiting the Main Beach and, in many cases, ingesting lake water, according to the Nevada County Public Health Department. Lab results so far confirm 11 of those 14 cases are connected to the lake’s bacteria.

By Tuesday, nine people had been hospitalized in connection with the outbreak, county Public Health Coordinator Patti Carter said. Six had been discharged by Wednesday evening.

Four sickened children developed a serious condition called hemolytic uremic syndrome, which can lead to potentially fatal kidney failure and anemia.

206 sick: CDC notes increase of Cyclospora cayetanensis infection, United Sates, Summer 2017

Another North American summer, another Cyclospra-induced shit-fest.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), State and Local Health Departments, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating an increase in reported cases of cyclosporiasis. The purpose of this HAN Advisory is to notify public health departments and healthcare facilities and to provide guidance to healthcare providers of the increase in reported cases. Please disseminate this information to healthcare providers in hospitals and emergency rooms, to primary care providers, and to microbiology laboratories.

Healthcare providers should consider a diagnosis of cyclosporiasis in patients with prolonged or remitting-relapsing diarrheal illness. Testing for Cyclospora is not routinely done in most U.S. laboratories, even when stool is tested for parasites. Healthcare providers must specifically order testing for Cyclospora, whether testing is requested by ova and parasite (O&P) examination, by molecular methods, or by a gastrointestinal pathogen panel test. Cyclosporiasis is a nationally notifiable disease; healthcare providers should report suspect and confirmed cases of infection to public health authorities.

As of August 2, 2017, 206 cases of Cyclospora infections have been reported to CDC in persons who became infected in the United States and became ill on or after May 1, 2017. These cases have been reported from 27 states, most of which have reported relatively few cases. Eighteen cases reported hospitalization; no deaths have been reported. At this time, no specific vehicle of interest has been identified, and investigations to identify a potential source of infection are ongoing. It is too early to say whether cases of Cyclospora infection in different states are related to each other and/or to the same food item(s).

The number of cases (206) reported in 2017, is higher than the number of cases reported by this date in 2016. As of August 3, 2016, 88 Cyclospora infections had been reported in persons who became infected in the United States and became ill on or after May 1, 2016.

Impossible Burger, regulatory gaps, and money. Always money

I want hamburgers temperature-verified to 160F.

Blood is a terrible indicator.

Stephanie Strom of the NY Times writes that one of the chief selling points of the Impossible Burger, a much ballyhooed plant-based burger patty, is its resemblance to meat, right down to the taste and beeflike “blood.”

Those qualities, from an ingredient produced by a genetically engineered yeast, have made the burger a darling among high-end restaurants like Momofuku Nishi in New York and Jardinière in San Francisco, and have attracted more than $250 million in investment for the company behind it, Impossible Foods.

Bill Gates is an investor.

That makes me want to run to my Mac.

The genetically engineered yeast thingy is just thrown in there to raise alarm.

My 1985 daily squash partner, Andy, was working on genetically engineered yeast for wine back in the day. Our bottling parties were legend.

Now, its secret sauce — soy leghemoglobin, a substance found in nature in the roots of soybean plants that the company makes in its laboratory — has raised regulatory questions.

Impossible Foods wants the Food and Drug Administration to confirm that the ingredient is safe to eat. But the agency has expressed concern that it has never been consumed by humans and may be an allergen, according to documents obtained under a Freedom of Information request by the ETC Group as well as other environmental and consumer organizations and shared with The New York Times.

“F.D.A. believes the arguments presented, individually and collectively, do not establish the safety of soy leghemoglobin for consumption,” agency officials wrote in a memo they prepared for a phone conversation with the company on Aug. 3, 2015, “nor do they point to a general recognition of safety.”

Impossible Foods can still sell its burger despite the F.D.A. findings, which did not conclude soy leghemoglobin was unsafe. The company plans to resubmit its petition to the agency.

Impossible Foods is finding out what happens when a fast-moving venture capital business runs headlong into the staid world of government regulation.

In the case of Impossible Foods, the debate centers on its use of soy leghemoglobin, which the company’s engineered yeast produces and forms an important ingredient behind the business.

The company was started in 2011 by Pat Brown, a chemist at Stanford University. His approach, involving genetics, microbiology and cutting-edge chemistry attracted venture capitalists also eager to find plant-and lab-based replacements for hamburgers and chicken wings.

Impossible Foods sought to woo top chefs with a splashy sales pitch about how the burger mimicked the aroma, attributes and taste of real beef. When soy leghemoglobin breaks down, it releases a protein known as heme, giving it that meatlike texture.

Within three years of its founding, Impossible Foods landed big-name investors like Khosla, Mr. Gates and the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing. This month, Temasek Holdings, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, joined an investment round that added $75 million to the company’s coffers.

“I love V.C.s and particularly the ones that invested in us,” Mr. Brown said at a TechCrunch conference in May, referring to venture capital firms. “But it’s truly astonishing how little diligence they do in terms of the actual science that underlies some tech companies.”

The F.D.A.’s approval is not required for new ingredients. Companies can hire consultants to run tests, and they have no obligation to inform the agency of their findings, a process known as self-affirmation.

Impossible Foods adhered to that procedure, concluding in 2014 that soy leghemoglobin was safe. But it went further, seeking the regulator’s imprimatur.

“We respect the role the F.D.A. plays in ensuring the safety of our food supply, and we believe the public wants and deserves transparency and access to any information they need to decide for themselves whether any food they might eat is safe and wholesome,” Rachel Konrad, a spokeswoman for Impossible Foods, wrote in an email.

The F.D.A., however, wanted the company to show the ingredient was safe specifically for humans. It told Impossible Foods to establish the safety of the more than 40 other proteins that make up part of its soy leghemoglobin. F.D.A. officials said the company’s assessment of the potential for the ingredient to be an allergen was deficient.

“This product has been touted as the ‘secret sauce’ in the Impossible Burger,” said Jim Thomas, program director at the ETC Group, the Canadian environmental organization that started the Freedom of Information request. “Now we know that the F.D.A. had questions about it, but it was put on the market anyway.”

Ms. Konrad defended the burger, writing it “is entirely safe to eat” and “fully compliant with all F.D.A. regulations.” She said the company was “taking extra steps to provide additional data to the F.D.A. beyond what’s required.”

Impossible Foods, she said, has tested its ingredient on rats fed “well above” the amount of soy leghemoglobin in its burger. Ms. Konrad said the company’s expert panel had determined those tests also demonstrated the ingredient was safe, and that the company would thus resubmit its petition for F.D.A. confirmation this month.

This is a novel food, and makes Canada’s approach to regulation of food safety sane, for a while.