Robert Mancini

About Robert Mancini

Robert Mancini hosted and provided research for the television series “Kitchen Crimes” for Food Network Canada, H.G. T.V. (U.S.) and Discovery Asia. He is currently a certified Public Health Inspector in Manitoba and the health protection coordinator/specialist in food safety for Manitoba Health. He holds a Master’s Degree in Food Safety through Kansas State University. He enjoys playing with his 3-year old boy, violin, and running.

Cole Hansberger fights botulism

Every day after work I look forward to playing and hugging my 2 kids, it’s what keeps me going and motivated to enjoy life to its’ fullest. The following story is heartbreaking to read…

Cole Hansberger has been in the Intensive Care Unit at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale since Aug. 6, his first birthday.
The day before he turned 1, Cole’s mother, Jackie Hansberger, noticed his head was drooping as he crawled.
By 5 p.m., that evening, Cole could no longer crawl.
At 3 a.m., the next morning, he could no longer sit up, she said.
The Peoria woman took her son to an emergency room, after which he was then transferred to Banner Thunderbird to be further evaluated.
Cole eventually was diagnosed with botulism, a rare condition that affects about 110 people per year in the United States, 72 percent of them infants, according to Banner officials.
Botulism is caused by ingesting spores of bacteria found in dirt, soil, dusty areas and certain foods.
These spores produce toxins that can lead to paralysis, said Dr. Rahul Chawla, pediatric critical-care physician at Thunderbird Medical Center who is treating Cole.
Jackie Hansberger said she hasn’t been home since Cole was admitted to intensive care.
“I refuse to leave his bedside,” she told The Arizona Republic on Wednesday. “Every day I sit, stare at the monitor all day, just to make sure my son’s breathing and he’s OK.
“Sometimes you get frustrated with your children, but I would pay a million dollars just to hear my son cry right now. I haven’t held him in over a week.”
Hansberger described Cole as rambunctious and amazing. His eyes and smile light up the room, she said.
She also has a 4-year-old son who is at home with her husband.
Chawla works 24-hour shifts and said he often gets close with a patient’s parents.
“Cole’s mom’s a rock,” he said. “I don’t think she’s left the unit.”
Hansberger has been told Cole faces a long recovery, but doctors offer a hopeful prognosis.
According to Chawla, Cole is still critically ill. He is on a ventilator and has minimal movement in his arms and legs. He will remain in intensive care for the next week to 10 days.
Cole will have to learn muscle memory again and undergo physical therapy sessions, which could last months. But Chawla said Cole should be able to return to a normal life.
Chawla said people should know the symptoms of botulism so they can seek medical attention immediately.
He said Cole’s symptoms were a classic indicator: muscle weakness, often starting with the nerves in the face and moving downward to the legs.
Chawla said people should avoid ingesting or being exposed to dirt, and washing fruits and vegetables to reduce the chances of botulism.
Hansberger wants all parents to be aware of botulism, although it is extremely rare.
“As a parent, you never expect it,” she said. “It’s a very scary experience. It humbles you as a person. Nothing else matters except in the moment.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up for Cole and his family

Insect burger and balls

NZ Herald reports
Switzerland’s first insect-based food aimed at humans will go on sale next week after a revision of the country’s food safety laws, a supermarket chain has revealed.
Switzerland’s second-largest supermarket chain, Coop, announced it would begin selling an insect burger and insect balls, based on protein-rich mealworm.
According to the Daily Mail, the products, made by a Swiss startup called Essento, will be available in a handful of Coop branches, including in Geneva, Bern and Zurich, as of August 21.
Switzerland is the first European country to authorise the sale of insect-based food for human consumption, a spokeswoman for the country’s food safety authority told AFP.
Swiss food safety laws were changed in May to allow the sale of food containing crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms, which are the larval form of the mealworm beetle.
The insects, long used in animal feed, must be bred under strict supervision for four generations before they are considered suitable for human consumption, according to Swiss law.
Local production will thus take a few months to get started.
In the meantime, imports are possible under strict conditions: the insects must be raised in accordance with the Swiss requirements at a company submitted to inspections by national food safety authorities.
Insect dishes are already the norm in other countries.
According to the University of California, Riverside, eating insects, called entomophagy, has been practised by humans for thousands of years.
It’s still common in many tropical countries – according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, insects supplement the diets of about two billion people.
A popular snack food in Thailand, called jing leed, features deep-fried crickets served with a soy-type sauce.
In New Zealand, cricket flour and other insect flours are being introduced in specialist stores and at certain Mexico restaurants you can try cricket flour tortillas.

 

Restaurant employee positive for Hepatitis A

A worker at Cliffside Bistro tested positive for Hepatitis A in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada.

City News reports
Toronto Public Health said Monday that anyone who recently ate at a Scarborough restaurant may have been exposed to hepatitis A.
Health officials said an employee at Cliffside Bistro at 22-77 Kingston Rd. near Midland Avenue has tested positive for the illness.
Anyone who ate at the restaurant on July 21, between July 25-29 and between Aug. 2-4 may have been exposed.

The problem with Hep A is the long incubation period and symptoms may not appear until 14-28 days after exposure.

While the risk of infections is low, Toronto Public Health says they will be holding several free hepatitis A vaccination clinics at the Scarborough Civic Centre.
The clinics are open on Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Hepatitis A can be spread by improper hand washing after using the washroom and the coming into contact with food. Common symptoms include fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea/vomiting, stomach pains and jaundice (yellowing of the skin).

 

Source of Hep A outbreak unknown

I enjoy working in the field of public health, it’s challenging and exciting. I have had the opportunity to work with some incredible epidemiologists, public health inspectors, and public health nurses, the work they do is critical during outbreaks. I have had some experience dealing with foodborne outbreaks of Hepatitis A and due to its long incubation period, it’s a nightmare trying to get information from ill persons to identify a common source.

Outbreak News Today reports

In a follow-up on the hepatitis A outbreak in San Diego County, CA, the number of cases reported this year has climbed to 312, including 10 fatalities, according to latest health department data.
Of the cases, nearly seven out of 10 patients required hospitalization for their illness (215).
The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency says the investigation into the outbreak is ongoing.
It has been challenging because of the long incubation period of the disease (15 to 50 days) and the difficulty experienced to contact many individuals sickened with the illness who are homeless and/or illicit drug users. To date, no common source of food, beverage, or other cause has been identified; as a result, the source of the outbreak remains undetermined.

Norovirus…again

I have never been on a cruise ship; just the thought of masses of people in close quarters on open water makes me want to barf. Large norovirus outbreaks are associated with settings where people live in close quarters and can easily infect each other, such as cruise ships, dormitories, and hospitals. Contaminated food, water, an infected person are all potential sources of norovirus. Viral contamination of environmental surfaces (fomites) may persist during and after outbreaks and contribute to further illnesses. The source of the Sun princess cruise ship outbreak is currently unknown. 

A norovirus outbreak has struck at least 91 passengers on a Sun Princess cruise ship.
The affected people were treated for gastro after the ship docked in Brisbane on Thursday morning.
A Queensland Health spokesman told Daily Mail Australia: ‘Metro North Public Health Unit is aware of at least 91 cases of gastro on board a cruise ship that berthed in Brisbane this morning.
‘We have been advised that on-board testing has found norovirus to be the cause of the illness.’
It comes after 140 passengers came down with gastro in February after a Sun Princess cruise returned from a 14-day trip around New Zealand.
A fortnight before that, there was another outbreak on the vessel during a previous cruise.

Norovirus, you don’t want it

Norovirus, one of the leading causes of acute gastroenteritis, is highly contagious and attempts to mitigate the bug can be extremely difficult. Moreover, trying to investigate the source of a norovirus outbreak can be frustrating and laborious for public health types.

I can still recall the pain I exhibited when I was infected with norovirus in Mexico, projectile vomiting, diarrhea, and horrible stomach cramps. Being religious, I think I recited the rosary 16 times for the pain to stop.…..then the week after, bit by 2 wild dogs on the resort….nice trip. 

A quickly spreading norovirus outbreak that’s sickened more than 200 people kept a Maumee doughnut shop closed for the third day in a row Thursday.
Initial investigations show patients had similar symptoms and had eaten food from Mama C’s Donuts at 924 Conant St. Illnesses were tracked to patrons who ate there Friday through Monday.
Health officials said at least 214 cases were reported in Lucas County, and Wood County officials said they are investigating if about a dozen norovirus cases were caused by doughnuts the store provides to businesses there.
Toledo-Lucas County Health Department spokesman Shannon Lands said Mama C’s voluntarily closed for cleaning on Tuesday. It was expected to remain closed Thursday.
Many Toledo area residents had stories of how they or family members were affected.
John Pointer of Port Huron, Mich., was one of the lucky ones.
He said he left his granddaughter’s 8th birthday party in Perrysburg before the doughnut cake was served, and so avoided the illness. Fifteen party guests, including the birthday girl, weren’t so lucky, he said.
“Everybody at the party got sick,” he said.
Delray Busch’s 3-year-old daughter Corrigan started vomiting around 12:45 a.m. Tuesday after eating a doughnut Sunday. Corrigan was feeling much better Wednesday, Ms. Busch said, adding she was thankful that the illness was brief and her 2-month-old didn’t show signs of catching it.
The South Toledo resident said she’s been eating at Mama C’s for two years and will be back.
“They are great to our community,” she said. “I will absolutely keep supporting our small businesses.”
A Wood County Health Department spokesman said that the department had confirmed that Grounds for Thought in Bowling Green sells Mama C’s products, and that the department on Wednesday was trying to determine if any other businesses are supplied by the store.
“All of those doughnuts have been taken off the shelf,” said Alex Aspacher, spokesman for the department.
Symptoms of norovirus include vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, fever, and body aches.

The Australian Institute of Food Safety identifies five high risk food items for poisoning

In the UK each year roughly 20,000 people are hospitalised with food poisoning and 500 people die.
Symptoms are unpleasant and include vomiting, diarrhoea and a high temperature, according to the NHS.
There are a number of causes, including chemicals, toxins and bacteria.
While it’s almost always an accident, food poisoning tends to affect people after they’ve eaten particular foods.
According to the Australian Institute of Food Safety, this is because certain foods are more at risk of bacterial growth than others.
Poultry
Raw and undercooked poultry can be contaminated with campylobacter bacteria and salmonella.
According to the Australian Institute of Food Safety, the bacteria can survive up until cooking kills them – so make sure you cook it thoroughly and don’t contaminate surfaces with raw chicken.

Cook poultry to an internal temperature of 74C (165F) to ensure safety, forget the jargon “cook thoroughly,”doesn’t tell me anything.

Eggs
Last week it was revealed that Dutch eggs contaminated with insecticide may have entered the UK.
They can also sometimes be contaminated with salmonella.
You can avoid being affected by cooking eggs thoroughly, and avoiding foods that purposely contain undercooked eggs, like mayonnaises and salad dressings, according to the Australian Institute of Food Safety.

Leafy greens
Because they are often eaten raw with no cooking process, bacteria like E.coli can easily affect you.
However, according to the Australian Institute of Food Safety, washing them can reduce risk of harmful bacteria as well as chemical pesticides.

Well this all depends if the salad is pre-washed and labelled accordingly, if so, washing lettuce at home will only increase the risk of cross-contamination. Reducing the food safety risk with leafy greens begins well before it arrives in your home.

Raw milk
This is where milk is unpasteurised, meaning it has not been heated up to kill harmful bacteria.
It leaves you at a higher risk than regular milk of consuming bacteria like E.coli, salmonella and listeria.

Raw milk has always left an impression on me ever since I was a food tech in Alberta. The health department submitted a sample of raw milk from a community in Alberta where a significant number of kids became ill. I was responsible in analyzing the milk to determine the etiologic agent and I remember vividly looking at this black, overgrown agar plate, completely taken over by Campylobacter jejuni, poor kids.

Cheese
A bacteria commonly found in cheese is staphylococcus aureus.
It’s heat resistant, so the best way of avoiding cheese becoming contaminated is to store it at or under 5 degrees.

 

BBQ food safety

BBQ food safety tips….in August…a little late in the game for us in Canada, then I realized this story stems from Australia.

Food safety tips for parties and BBQs
Storage:
Ensure you have enough fridge and freezer space
Keep cold foods in the fridge until they are ready to serve e.g. salads
Temperature controls:
The bacteria that cause food poisoning grow rapidly between 5°C and 60°C (also known as the temperature danger zone)
Hot food should be served steaming hot – at least 60°C
Food should be thoroughly cooked before consuming. It is recommended that poultry, minced meats and sausages be cooked until well done right through to the centre. No pink should be visible and the juices should run clear. Alternately, you can use a meat thermometer to check if the meat is properly cooked.

Nope. Always use a thermometer to ensure safety of foods, never rely on color alone. This will also prevent over-cooking meats/fish that would otherwise lend to formation of heterocyclic amines (HCA’s), potent mutagens formed when meats/fish are cooked using high temperature methods. One way to reduce the formation of HCA’s is to marinate your meat/fish before grilling. Studies have shown that marinated meats and fish contained lower levels HCA’s than non-marinated samples with the exception of pan-fried salmon(1). 

Preventing cross-contamination:
Wash and dry hands thoroughly before preparing food (and in between handling raw and cooked foods)
Keep raw and cooked food separate – don’t let raw meat juices drip onto other foods
Use different knives and cutting boards for raw and cooked foods
Ensure that benches, kitchen equipment and tableware are clean and dry
Avoid making food for others if you are sick
Leftovers:
Refrigerate any leftovers straight away
Leftovers should be consumed within 3 days
Reheat leftover food to at least 75°C or until it is steaming hot

1. Heterocyclic amines content of meat and fish cooked by Brazilian methods. 2010. J Food Compost Anal. Feb 1; 23(1): 61–69.

 

Food fraud in Canada

I love Canada except for the ridiculous sub-zero temperatures we get here in the winter-Powell and Chapman can attest to this having lived in Ontario.
Canada is not immune to food fraud and with increase testing of food products, we’ll see just how bad it is. A study conducted by Sylvain Charlebois, the dean of the Faculty of Management and professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University indicates that more than 40 per cent of Canadians believe to have been victims of food fraud already.

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed. – Mahatma Gandhi

Liam Casey of the Globe and Mail writes

A federally funded study has found that 20 per cent of sausages sampled from grocery stores across Canada contained meats that weren’t on the label.
The study, published this week in the journal Food Control, was conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph and commissioned by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
It examined 100 sausages that were labelled as containing just one ingredient – beef, pork, chicken or turkey.
“About one in five of the sausages we tested had some off-label ingredients in them, which is alarming,” said Robert Hanner, lead author of the study and an associate professor with the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario at the University of Guelph.
The CFIA reached out to Prof. Hanner for the study after the European horse meat scandal in 2013, where food labelled as beef was found to have horse meat – in some cases beef was completely substituted by horse meat.
The goal of the study, the federal food regulator said, was to examine scientific methods used by Prof. Hanner to see if the CFIA could use them in its regulatory practices. The scientific tools showed promising results, the CFIA said.
Seven of 27 beef sausages examined in the study contained pork. One of 38 supposedly pure pork sausages contained horse meat. Of 20 chicken sausages, four also contained turkey and one also had beef. Five of the 15 turkey sausages studied contained no turkey at all – they were entirely chicken.
None of the sausages examined contained more than one other type of meat in addition to the meat the sausage was meant to contain, Prof. Hanner said, noting, however that researchers were only testing for turkey, chicken, pork, beef and horse.
“The good news is that typically beef sausages predominantly contain beef, but some of them also contain pork, so for our kosher and halal consumers, that is a bit disconcerting,” Prof. Hanner said.

The undeclared meats found weren’t trace levels, Prof. Hanner noted.
“The levels we’re seeing aren’t because the blades on a grinder aren’t perfectly clean,” he said, adding that many of the undeclared ingredients found in the sausages were recorded in the range of 1 per cent to 5 per cent.
More than one per cent of undeclared ingredients indicates a breakdown in food processing or intentional food fraud, Prof. Hanner explained.

Moscow Mule: cool drink, bad idea

One of the trendiest drinks of 2017 is the Moscow Mule: a refreshing mix of vodka, ginger beer and lime juice.
Much of the cocktail’s appeal is down to the fact it’s often served in very Instagram-friendly copper-coloured mugs.
But now a US state department has issued a warning that these pretty vessels could give you food poisoning if they have not been specially made for cocktails.
The stark message comes from the state of Iowa’s Alcoholic Beverages Division, which has warned that copper and copper alloys are poisonous if consumed.
When these metals come into contact with food or drink with a pH level lower than 6, copper may leak into the edible substance and can be accidentally consumed.
The warning states: ‘High concentrations of copper are poisonous and have caused foodborne illness.’
The pH level of a Moscow Mule is well below 6, which is why Iowa and several other states have issued the warning as these cocktails are often served in copper mugs.

Symptoms of copper food poisoning can occur immediately which includes nausea, vomiting (green), diarrhea and can leave a metallic taste in the mouth.
Never a good idea to dispense high acid foods with anything copper but that drink sounds good.