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. »

Where will it end up? Poop train rolling again

Valarie Bauerlein of The Wall Street Journal writes that about 200 shipping containers of rotting sewage from New York City have been removed from a rural Alabama town, putting an end to three months of legal challenges, the mayor there said Thursday.

The waste had been sitting on train tracks adjacent to the small town of Parrish, stalled on the way to the nearby privately owned Big Sky Landfill. Parrish Mayor Heather Hall said the waste was taken by Big Sky to its landfill gradually over the past two weeks, with the last containers removed this week.

Ms. Hall said she was grateful the company was finally able to haul them all away and hopes no more take their place. “Alabama is a beautiful state,” she said. “We’d like to keep it that way.”

Big Sky didn’t respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection said the city had “no plans at the current time” to resume sending biosolids to Alabama.

New York City has multiple contracts for shipping biosolids to landfills in states including Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania as well as upstate New York. The city has set a goal of eliminating landfill disposal by 2030, perhaps by converting biosolids into energy or compost.

The thing that wouldn’t leave from topo morto on Vimeo.

Farm animals quarantined following crypto at Rhode Island petting zoo

I’m getting too old for this shit.

As John Prine famously sang, all the news just repeats itself.

Animals at a Middletown farm are being quarantined after three people got sick, Rhode Island health officials announced last week.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management said one child and two adults came down with cryptosporidiosis after having contact with goats during “pet and cuddle” events at Simmons Farm on West Main Road on March 25 and 31.

“I have never been so sick,” one woman, who did not want to be identified, told NBC 10 News. “I had visited the farm on Saturday, March 31 and by Friday evening, I was extremely ill and it progressively got worse from there.”

She said she went to the hospital April 10 and a doctor asked if she had been to a farm.

“Today, I have had my first real meal and my stomach is already gurgling,” she said. “Up until tonight, I had six Saltines.”

About 60 goats and five cows are being quarantined, Simmons Farm owners told NBC 10 News. They will also be screened.

Hipsters beware: Rare tickborne disease found in Austin-area caves

This has nothing to do with food, but is so cool because of the bugs involved – and that they prey on Austin, Texas, hipsters who sleep in caves.

A rare tickborne disease commonly associated with sleeping in rustic mountain cabins has shown up in caves around Austin, Texas, potentially placing cave workers and the public at risk for infection.

According to researchers, three people working in caves in the Austin area were diagnosed with tickborne relapsing fever (TBRF) last year, and two more tested positive for antibodies against the Borrelia bacteria that cause the disease.

The infections were identified by Austin Public Health (APH) and occurred mostly in people who had given guided cave tours, according to Stephanie B. Campbell, DVM, MPH, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service officer, and colleagues.

Campbell summarized an investigation into the infections during a presentation at the annual EIS conference in Atlanta. She told Infectious Disease News that TBRF has been documented before in Texas caves, though it is unclear whether it has ever been reported in Austin-area caves.

The disease is rare, generally occurring in people who are bitten during the night by Ornithodoros ticks while sleeping in rodent-infested cabins or other rustic buildings where rodents have built nests, according to the CDC. The soft-bodied ticks — different from hard-body ticks like the ones that cause Lyme disease — live among rodents, feeding on them as they sleep. Tick and animal species were not collected as part of the investigation, so the report by Campbell and colleagues did not include which ticks may have been involved and what animals they were feeding on. But Campbell said O. parkeri ticks are found in Texas.

Campbell SB, et al. Evaluating the risk of tickborne relapsing fever among occupational cavers — Austin, TX, 2017. Presented at: Epidemic Intelligence Service conference; April 16-19, 2018; Atlanta.

Dutch food inspectors to get tough on water in meat product labeling

AArrgghh, the Dutch.

The Dutch food safety board has given the meat industry until July 10 to come clean about how much water it adds to packs of meat and fish sold in supermarkets, the Volkskrant reported on Friday.

European meat firms have been required by law to include ‘water’ on the ingredients list since December 2014 and add the percentage of water in the total weight of the product. But checks by the Volkskrant newspaper found a number of products on sale in Dutch supermarkets do not meet the rules.

For example, a pack of pangasius fish fillets sold by Jumbo are labeled as 78% fish, but do not say how much of their weight is water. The NVWA told the Volkskrant it had found faulty labels in the past but declined to say how many. The body now says it will get tough on food processors who do not comply with the rules in the second half of this year.

What will I do with those tossed salads and scrambled eggs? Ditch them

Amy and I agree on this: If we need to fall asleep, put on an episode of Frasier.

Five minutes later we’re in la-la land.

Inspectors with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say they found dozens of rodents and poor worker hygiene at a North Carolina chicken farm operated by an Indiana egg producer that last week recalled more than 200 million eggs.

Vic Ryckaert and Holly Hays of the Indy Star report that according to a FDA report, inspectors spent March 26 to April 11 at the Rose Acre Farms egg operation in Pantego, North Carolina, and found “unacceptable rodent activity” and dirty equipment. They also noted employees touching dirty floors, equipment and their bodies without washing their hands.

The unsafe conditions allow “for the harborage, proliferation and spread of filth and pathogens,” inspectors said.

In an emailed statement, Seymour-based Rose Acre Farms said the inspection report “is based on raw observations and in some cases lack proper context.”

“It’s unfair to be judged on the farm’s operation without proper perspective or a chance to formally respond to an incomplete representation of a massive facility that houses more than three million hens,” the company said. 

Context this.

The company said it will make public its response to the inspection, which is due on April 26.

“Until then, we would urge everyone to wait until all the facts are presented before rushing to judgment,” the company said.

The FDA said at least 23 illnesses have been reported. The eggs were distributed to consumers in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

FDA spokesman Peter Cassell declined to comment specifically about the Rose Acre Farms inspections but said the facility must correct the issues before the next inspection or face repercussions. Consequences could include product seizures or, in a more serious step, shutting down the facility. 

Cassell encouraged shoppers not to assume that they are not exposed to the recall because they are not geographically near the states where cases have been reported.

“Consumers should look for the brands and the lot numbers we provided,” he said. “We want to make sure that people are getting the right information.”

The recall involved eggs sold under the brand names Country Daybreak, Crystal Farms, Coburn Farms, Sunshine Farms, Glenview and Great Value. Also included were eggs sold at Walmart and Food Lion stores.

The cartons were stamped with plant number P-1065 and the Julian date range of 011 through 102.

The company’s Hyde County Egg facility in North Carolina produces 2.3 million eggs a day.

Inspectors found “insanitary conditions and poor employee practices” throughout the farm, according to the FDA report.

The inspectors’ observations in the report included:

Dozens of live and dead rodents, including baby mice, in chicken houses and manure pits.

Employees skipping steps in the cleaning process by wiping off detergent before allowing it to soak in the eggs.

Condensation dripping onto crack detectors, egg graders and other production equipment.

Water pooling on floors and forklift pathways.

Grimy, dirty floors, pallets and equipment. 

Farm workers touching dirty equipment and trash cans as well as their face, hair and “intergluteal cleft” before touching eggs or handling equipment that touches eggs without washing hands or changing gloves.

UK woman who threw vomit over neighbour’s fence sent to prison

A woman who threw vomit over a neighbour’s garden fence and broke glass outside her front door has been sent to prison for 42 days by Truro magistrates.

Susan Karen Northey, aged 42, of Whym Kibbal Court, Wesley Street, Redruth, pursued a course of harassment towards another woman, which also included playing music loud enough to cause her partition wall to shake.

She admitted the offence and also to damaging a black Chevrolet Kalios to the value of £300.

The deli is not safer: Slicer cleaning and Listeria

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 3,000 people die in the United States each year from foodborne illness, and Listeria monocytogenes causes the third highest number of deaths. Risk assessment data indicate that L. monocytogenes contamination of particularly delicatessen meats sliced at retail is a significant contributor to human listeriosis. Mechanical deli slicers are a major source of L. monocytogenes cross-contamination and growth.

In an attempt to prevent pathogen cross-contamination and growth, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created guidance to promote good slicer cleaning and inspection practices. The CDC’s Environmental Health Specialists Network conducted a study to learn more about retail deli practices concerning these prevention strategies. The present article includes data from this study on the frequency with which retail delis met the FDA recommendation that slicers should be inspected each time they are properly cleaned (defined as disassembling, cleaning, and sanitizing the slicer every 4 h).

Data from food worker interviews in 197 randomly selected delis indicate that only 26.9% of workers (n = 53) cleaned and inspected their slicers at this frequency. Chain delis and delis that serve more than 300 customers on their busiest day were more likely to have properly cleaned and inspected slicers. Data also were collected on the frequency with which delis met the FDA Food Code provision that slicers should be undamaged. Data from observations of 685 slicers in 298 delis indicate that only 37.9% of delis (n = 113) had slicers that were undamaged. Chain delis and delis that provide worker training were more likely to have slicers with no damage.

To improve slicer practices, food safety programs and the retail food industry may wish to focus on worker training and to focus interventions on independent and smaller delis, given that these delis were less likely to properly inspect their slicers and to have undamaged slicers.

Retail deli slicer inspection practices: An EHS-Net study, May 2018

LAUREN E. LIPCSEI,1* LAURA G. BROWN,1 E. RICKAMER HOOVER,1 BRENDA V. FAW,2 NICOLE HEDEEN,3 BAILEY MATIS,4DAVID NICHOLAS,5 and DANNY RIPLEY6

Journal of Food Protection, vol. 81 no. 5

https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-17-407

http://jfoodprotection.org/doi/abs/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-17-407?code=fopr-site

Flour power: Raw is risky

When I was a kid, I had this multi-colored swim towel that stated Flower Power (right, not exactly as shown).

I should have known that if a 1960s slogan had been co-opted by towel manufacturers in the early 1970s, it was a sign of corporate greed rather than earth-tone sentiment.

For the past decade, raw flour has increasingly come under the food safety microscope.

Flour was suspect in a 2008 outbreak of Salmonella in New Zealand. In June, 2009, an outbreak of shiga-toxin producing E. coli (primarily O157:H7) in Nestle Toll House cookie dough sickened at least 77 people in 30 American states. Thirty-five people were hospitalized – from flour in the cookie dough.

Hemp seed flour sickened 15 Germans in 2010.

There was the U.S. General Mills outbreak of 2016 which sickened at least 56 people with the outbreak strain of E. coli O121 and O26, followed by a separate outbreak of E. coli O121 in Robin Hood flour in Canada in late 2016 going into 2017, that sickened at least 29.

It’s this latter outbreak that has journalist Jim Romahn’s attention.

Romahn writes the release of 759 pages of mostly e-mails indicates there was a massive effort involved in a recall of flour milled in Saskatoon that was contaminated with E. coli O121.

Twenty-two Canadians were identified as sickened by the flour, including one key case where the person consumed raw dough.

With hindsight, health officials were able to determine the first person sickened was Nov. 13, 2016. The others sickened and linked to the flour were between then and Feb. 26, 2017.

Robin Hood flour was identified as the source in March and on March 26 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency began a recall that eventually grew to scores of brand-name products across Canada and even an export shipment to Guyana.

The recall involved a number of major companies, such as Smucker Foods of Toronto and the Sobeys supermarket chain.

There were some unusual difficulties, including the challenge of contacting Mennonites who have no telephones.

The investigation and lab results eventually traced the source to flour milled at Ardent’s Saskatoon plant on Oct. 15, 16 and 17.

A high percentage of packages of flour milled on those dates turned up with E. coli O121.

But even then it’s not clear where the wheat originated.

Ardent Mills said it was probably spring wheat, but it could have also contained soft wheat, and that it probably was from the 2016 harvest, but might have had some wheat from the 2015 harvest.

That’s reflective of the amount of blending that happens both with the wheat used in milling and the flours that are blended into products for sale.

The documents were released under Access to Information at the request of a woman who spent time in a hospital in Medicine Hat, Alta.

 An Outbreak of Shiga Toxin–Producing Escherichia coli O121 Infections Associated with Flour – Canada, 2016–2017

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017; 66: 705–706

Morton V, Cheng JM, Sharma D, Kearney A.

Waiter, is that romaine from Yuma? At least 53 sick across 16 US states with outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 linked to lettuce

David Meyer of Fortune magazine reports the U.S.’s mysterious E. coli outbreak now has a likely culprit: romaine lettuce grown around Yuma, Arizona. And consumers are being given conflicting advice on what to do to protect themselves.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday that any consumers in the U.S. who have store-bought chopped romaine lettuce should throw it away. If they want to buy romaine lettuce from now on, they should first check with the store or restaurant that it wasn’t grown in the Yuma region, the agencies said.

However, Consumer Reports has gone a step further, advising people to avoid all romaine lettuce for the time being. Why? Because people may find it difficult to establish for sure that their lettuce does not come from the growing region that’s suspected to be the source.

Niraj Chokshi of the New York Times reported that CDC said in a statement, “If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away,” the C.D.C..

The agency was first alerted to the outbreak by health officials in New Jersey, who had noticed an increase in E. coli cases in the state, said Dr. Laura Gieraltowski, an epidemiologist at the C.D.C. After some discussion, it became clear that many of those infected had eaten chopped romaine lettuce at restaurants before getting sick.

Concerned, the agency looked for related cases by checking PulseNet, a national network of laboratories that catalog samples of harmful bacteria from infected patients.

“When we looked back into our PulseNet system we saw that there were other cases in other states with the same DNA fingerprint,” Dr. Gieraltowski said.

The C.D.C. learned that the others infected by that particular strain, E. coli O157:H7, had also eaten chopped romaine lettuce at restaurants before getting sick, she said. It turned over the information to the Food and Drug Administration, which helped trace the outbreak to Yuma, Ariz.

To pinpoint the exact source, though, investigators would need samples of the tainted lettuce. But because of the short shelf life of lettuce and the time it takes for an outbreak to be identified, obtaining such a sample may prove difficult.

However, a cluster of eight illnesses in an Alaska prison may help pinpoint the source.

Dr. Joe McLaughlin, with the Epidemiology Section at the state Department of Health and Social Services, said health officials had responded last week to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 bacteria at the Anvil Mountain Correctional Center in Nome, Alaska.

None of the eight patients have died or been hospitalized, in cases which were noticed between April 5 and April 15. All ate “significantly higher” numbers of salads than other people at Anvil Mountain, however, and have shown the same symptoms.

“Our outbreak is the first one I know of that’s been associated nationally with the consumption of whole heads of lettuce rather than chopped lettuce,” McLaughlin said. “What this outbreak suggests is that the source of contamination may actually be at the farm rather than the actual processing of the lettuce.”

Duh.

CDC reports in its latest outbreak update  that information collected to date indicates that chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region could be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7 and could make people sick.

At this time, no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has been identified.

Consumers anywhere in the United States who have store-bought chopped romaine lettuce at home, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick. If you do not know if the lettuce is romaine, do not eat it and throw it away.

Before purchasing romaine lettuce at a grocery store or eating it at a restaurant, confirm with the store or restaurant that it is not chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. If you cannot confirm the source of the romaine lettuce, do not buy it or eat it.

Restaurants and retailers should ask their suppliers about the source of their chopped romaine lettuce.