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. »

17 sick from hepA in Denmark linked to dates

Since the end of January, the State Serum Institute has investigated a disease outbreak of contagious hepatitis caused by hepatitis A virus infections. This indicates that the source of infection may be dates, and the case is further investigated in collaboration with the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration and the DTU Food Institute. The outbreak is the second national food-borne outbreak of hepatitis A in Denmark.

The outbreak thus includes 17 patients, nine women and eight men aged 17 years. Patients have become ill from December 2017 onwards. Patients are resident throughout the country and 16 have been hospitalized. Virus from seven of the patients has been type-approved for type 3A, and for the time being, genetic studies have shown that four of these are identical, which supports the suspicion of a common source of infection. It is still expected that more patients will come, as about four weeks from eating the contaminated dates until you get sick with hepatitis A.

To investigate the source of infection for the outbreak, the State Serum Institute has conducted extensive interviews with patients and made a so-called case-control study. During the initial interviews, dates, as several of the patients indicated to have eaten, were suspected. The correlation between dates and disease risk was then investigated in the case-control study. Here you compare how often patients have eaten a number of specific foods with similar information from a comparable group of healthy Danes. 

The results have shown that the source of infection was most likely to have been dates since patients had far more eaten this food than the comparable group of healthy Danes. The dates are described by most patients as soft dark stones with stones purchased in Rema1000. The results were handed over to the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, The importer and Rema1000 chose to withdraw the dates on 6 February .

The likelihood of infectious hepatitis infection caused by infection with Hepatitis A virus by eating dates from Rema1000 is considered very small. Therefore, there is no need to consult a doctor if you have no symptoms of hepatitis A infection.

If you have eaten Rema1000 dadels after 1 December 2017 and develop symptoms of hepatitis such as nausea, madness, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea or fever without any other obvious causes or yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, light colored dye and / or dark , porter-colored urine, consult your own doctor. 

Risk assessment ‘tolerable’ for tree that killed woman

Risk assessments are fraught with value judgements scientists make when choosing the upper and lower boundaries of numerical ranges and the assumptions made, especially those involving human behavior.

Conrad Brunk (right) and co-authors explored this in the 1991 book, Value Judgements in Risk Assessment.

For the many food safety risk assessors and analysts out there, a New Zealand tree may offer a lesson.

A tree in Rotorua, known as Spencer’s Oak, was deemed to be of a “tolerable” level of risk when it came down in a Jan. 2018 storm and killed a woman.

The 150-year-old oak, believed to be around 23m tall, blocked Amohia St, trapped 56-year-old Trish Butterworth in her car. She died at the scene.

The risk assessment of the tree has been revealed in documents released by Rotorua Lakes Council to Stuff under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

Benn Bathgate reports that in a tree assessment report from an arboricultural contractor dated February 28, 2017, Spencer’s Oak and a second tree were assessed.

“The assessed risk levels for these trees all fall the tolerable level,” the report said. 

“There is some decay evident in some of the buttress roots and in some old pruning wounds. Sounding the trunk and buttress roots with a plastic mallet did not indicate any major areas of concern.”

The report also found several old wire rope cables installed in the tree which were described as “under a lot of tension”, with one frayed and unravelling.

“Although the cables appear to be under tension there are no signs that these cables are required by the tree.”

The tree was also described as showing signs of decline.

The report also outlines three bands of risk level; broadly acceptable, tolerable and unacceptable.

“This inspection and report will give the three a risk rating and options for mitigation,” the report said.

“It is up to the tree owners to decide what if any action is to be taken depending on their tolerance of tisk.”

The report’s conclusion said if the examined trees had major deadwood removed, their risk level would be considered as low as reasonably practible.

Raw is risky, for pets and humans

I have never fed any of my dogs or cats raw pet food.

They may eat each other’s poop, but I control what I can control.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting pet owners to a history of four recalls of and multiple complaints associated with Darwin’s Natural and ZooLogics pet foods, manufactured by Arrow Reliance Inc., dba Darwin’s Natural Pet Products, over the period from October 17, 2016 to February 10, 2018. In each instance, the company recalled these products after being alerted to positive findings of Salmonella and/or Listeria monocytogenes in samples of their raw pet food products.

In its most recent recall, on February 10, 2018, Arrow Reliance/Darwin’s Natural recalled ZooLogics Duck with Vegetable Meals for Dogs (Lot #41957) and ZooLogics Chicken with Vegetable Meals for Dogs (Lot #41567) because the products may be contaminated with Salmonella and therefore have the potential to cause salmonellosis in humans and animals. The company states that it only sells its products online through direct-to-consumer sales.

The FDA has investigated six complaints of illness and death in animals that have eaten the recalled products.

Arrow Reliance/Darwin’s Natural has notified its customers directly of the recalls, but has so far not issued any public notification announcing this or any of the previous recalls.

This issue is of particular public health importance because Salmonella can make both people and animals sick.

As part of an ongoing investigation into complaints associated with products manufactured by Arrow Reliance/Darwin’s Natural of Tukwila, WA, the FDA has confirmed that new samples of Darwin’s Natural Pet Products raw pet foods have tested positive for Salmonella. These raw pet foods include ZooLogics Duck with Vegetable Meals for Dogs Lot #41957 and ZooLogics Chicken with Vegetable Meals for Dogs Lot #41567.

The latest recall was triggered by a complaint of an adult dog that had recurring diarrhea over a nine-month period. The dog tested positive for Salmonella from initial testing by the veterinarian and by follow-up testing by the FDA’s Veterinary Laboratory Investigation and Response Network (Vet-LIRN). The Darwin’s Natural raw pet food that the dog had been fed was also positive for Salmonella.

Arrow Reliance/Darwin’s Natural is aware of the dog’s illness and the positive results and initiated a recall on February 10, 2018 by directly notifying its customers via email. The firm has not issued a public recall notice.

Since October 2016, Arrow Reliance/Darwin’s Natural has initiated four recalls and had six reported complaints (some referring to more than one animal) associated with their raw pet food products, including the death of one kitten from a severe systemic Salmonella infection. The Salmonella isolated from the kitten was analyzed using whole genome sequencing and found to be indistinguishable from the Salmonella isolated from a closed package from the same lot of Darwin’s Natural cat food that the kitten ate.

In addition to reports of illnesses associated with Salmonella contamination in the products, the FDA is aware of complaints of at least three animals who were reportedly injured by bone shards in the Darwin’s Natural raw pet food products.

‘Multiple illnesses’ Salmonella cases in Iowa linked to Fareway chicken salad

The Iowa Department of Public Safety (IDPH) and Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals issued a consumer advisory Tuesday for chicken salad sold at Fareway stores.

The chicken salad, which is produced and packaged by a third party for Fareway, is implicated in multiple cases of salmonella illness across Iowa. Preliminary test results from the State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL) at the University of Iowa indicate the presence of salmonella in this product.

Fareway voluntarily stopped the sale of the product and pulled the chicken salad from its shelves after being contacted by DIA. “The company has been very cooperative and is working with IDPH and DIA in the investigation of the reported illnesses,” said DIA Food and Consumer Safety Bureau Chief Steven Mandernach, who noted that no chicken salad has been sold to the consuming public since last Friday evening (2/9/18).

IDPH is investigating multiple cases of possible illness associated with the chicken salad. “The bottom line is that no one should eat this product,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “If you have it in your refrigerator, you should throw it away.”

But what does gastro mean? Outbreak hits University of Queensland students

I don’t know what it is about Australians, whether it’s some pseudo-inherited British culture of hierarchy, or just dumbness, but lately, any outbreak of barfing and pooping is called a gastro outbreak.

As in gastroenteritis.

There are microbiology labs in Australia, so figure it out, and let people know.

Janelle Miles of The Courier Mail reports 20 students at two University of Queensland residential colleges have fallen ill with gastroenteritis in the middle of orientation week.

The students are residents of King’s College and Grace College at UQ’s St Lucia campus in Brisbane’s west.

They have been quarantined separated from other students to avoid the infection spreading.

Was it foodborne? Are there any epidemiologists in Australia? Is anyone investigating?

Les Bubbles kitchen in Brisbane ça craint

A customer dobbed (that’s Australian for, to inform against someone) a popular Brisbane restaurant Les Bubbles to food safety authorities after a rat scurried past her during the dinner rush, a court has been told.

Melanie Petrinec of the Courier Mail reports embattled restaurateur Damian Griffiths was today fined $3000 and company Limes Properties Pty Ltd was fined $30,000 after pleading guilty to breaches of food standards.

Griffiths was overseas when the case was mentioned in the Brisbane Magistrates Court last week, and did not appear in person.

Instead, his lawyer made submissions in writing to the court to say Griffiths was “simply unaware of what was going on” at his former restaurant when the rat was discovered in October, 2016.

Les Bubbles is now under new management and a spokesperson says all checks and pest inspections were now up to date.

Brisbane City Council prosecutor Andrea Lopez said it was irrelevant if he was aware or not, and revealed it was a customer who raised the alarm with authorities.

“A live rodent during a busy dinner rush has actually run across the room in the restaurant,” she said.

“The rodent has been quite comfortable in the food business.”

Subsequently, food safety inspectors claimed to find dirty equipment and rodent droppings in multiple areas including under the kitchen bench, under a downstairs bar and near the dishwashing area.

Ms Lopez said the rat droppings indicated “quite a large presence of rodent activity”.

Improving food safety, one thermometer at a time

Sorenne and I were walking home from school yesterday, sweating in the heat and humidity, and were waiting at a light with a young woman who had just got off work at an early childcare place that Sorenne used to attend.

I started up a conversation — it’s a long light – and she told me she had finished university and was taking a gap year, so had to pay the bills and was working.

I asked her what she was planning to do and she matter-of-factly said, “A PhD in clinical psychology.”

“That’s cool, I’ve got a PhD.”

“Oh, what in?”

“Food science, or food safety.”

“I remember you now. You were the parent who was always temping things with a thermometer when we had sausage sizzles.”

“Yup.”

“That was cool.”

Thanks to the barfblog.com community who has wrote back after my personal post about depression and the like.

The little things make a big difference.

Chapman, I need more thermometers.

 

It’s a thing (in theatres Friday): Poop Talk

We were ahead of the curve on mass blogging about barf, we had Don’t Eat Poop T-shirts in four languages (Bill Murray got the Chinese one), but never had the resources to pull off a movie.

Carly Mallenbaum of USA Today asks, should humans be uncomfortable talking about something that everyone does, regardless of age, race, religion, income or gender?.

At least that’s what director Aaron Feldman hopes you do while watching his documentary, Poop Talk (in select theaters Friday in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and other cities, and on demand), which opens a dialogue about doo-doo with the help of dozens of scientists and comedians.

Guests include Dr. Drew Pinsky (who explains that being grossed out by feces has evolutionary purposes), a skittish Eric Stonestreet (the Modern Family actor says he can’t poop in a public restroom), a candid Nicole Byer (she talks about using a plane toilet while eating a burger), a wise Rob Corddry (he owns a tricked-out bidet) and the affable Kumail Nanjiani.

Yes, that’s the same Nanjiani who recently earned an Oscar nomination for best original screenplay for his personal love story, The Big Sick.

The critically acclaimed comedy contains it’s own poop scene, as Kumail tries to figure out why his girlfriend, Emily (played by Zoe Kazan), wants to go to a diner at 3 a.m. for, she says, “a cup of coffee.”

 “Why are you being so weird?” Kumail asks a shifty Emily, who finally reveals her hidden motive: “I have to take a huge (freaking) dookie!”

In Poop Talk, Nanjiani says there are plenty more scatological stories where that one came from.

There’s the joke his dad used to tell about how swallowing gum would make your poop become “a yo-yo.” Nanjiani hated that line, especially because as a child he avoided pooping at all costs.

“I figured (that poop is) all the stuff your body doesn’t need. So if I could figure out the formula and just eat what my body needs, it would all get absorbed into me and then I would never have to poop, right?” he says.

The comedian also recalls a time when he was eight years old. He was talking to another kid at a party, “and I noticed he had (pooped) himself,” Nanjiani says. “He looked me dead in the eyes and said, ‘That’s not poo; it’s party cream.’ “

Hosts on a viral planet: Ancient virus could be the reason humans can think

An ancient virus could be responsible for human consciousness, giving you the ability to think for yourself.

Researchers in the Dept. of Neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School have linked a human gene responsible for conscious thought to a virus that was spread in the early days of humanity.

Two papers published in the journal Cell discuss the origins of the Arc gene, which packages up genetic information and sends it around nerve cells in little virus-style capsules.

Sean Keach of the New York Post writes these packages of information are believed to be critical to how our nerves communicate and could be responsible for our thoughts.

Elissa D. Pastuzyn, who authored one of the studies, said: “Evolutionary analysis indicates that Arc is derived from a vertebrate lineage of Ty3/gypsy retrotransposons, which are also ancestors to retroviruses.”

It’s believed that between 40 percent and 80 percent of the human genome was developed thanks to ancient viruses.

Viruses make active changes to your cells, injecting their own genetic code.

This can often be entirely useless — and sometimes causes harm, including the reproduction of more viruses — but occasionally we end up with useful modifications.

And it seems an ancient virus may have given rise to all human thought — thanks to the Arc gene.

Pastuzyn said that the virus was “repurposed during evolution, to mediate intercellular communication in the nervous system.”

James Ashley, who authored one of the studies, said: “The neuronal gene Arc is essential for long-lasting information storage in the mammalian brain, mediates various forms of synaptic plasticity and has been implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders.”

He added that mutations in the gene have been “linked to autism and schizophrenia,” which suggests that Arc has a pivotal role to play in how we perceive and react to the world around us.

Retrovirus-like Gag Protein Arc1 Binds RNA and Traffics across Synaptic Boutons

 Cell Volume 172, Issues 1-2, p262–274.e11

Arc/Arg3.1 is required for synaptic plasticity and cognition, and mutations in this gene are linked to autism and schizophrenia. Arc bears a domain resembling retroviral/retrotransposon Gag-like proteins, which multimerize into a capsid that packages viral RNA. The significance of such a domain in a plasticity molecule is uncertain. Here, we report that the Drosophila Arc1 protein forms capsid-like structures that bind darc1 mRNA in neurons and is loaded into extracellular vesicles that are transferred from motorneurons to muscles. This loading and transfer depends on the darc1-mRNA 3′ untranslated region, which contains retrotransposon-like sequences. Disrupting transfer blocks synaptic plasticity, suggesting that transfer of dArc1 complexed with its mRNA is required for this function. Notably, cultured cells also release extracellular vesicles containing the Gag region of the Copia retrotransposon complexed with its own mRNA. Taken together, our results point to a trans-synaptic mRNA transport mechanism involving retrovirus-like capsids and extracellular vesicles.