Mugabe says his family ice cream business didn’t make his VP sick

Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, has a past filled with genocide and tyranny. He’s a generally terrible person, described in a 2002 New Yorker profile as presiding ‘over the country as a tyrant in the classical sense of the word: an autocrat who rules exclusively for his own gratification, with contempt for the common good.’

In a country that has been mismanaged by an egomaniac, the unemployment rate is as high as 95%. Just don’t tell Mugabe that his family’s business made his vice president ill.

According to IOL, Mugabe is denying that his family’s ice cream made Emmerson Mnangagwa sick.

President Robert Mugabe on Friday, said his deputy, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s sickness three weeks ago was not a result of “food” poisoning.

Mugabe told close to 30 000 Zanu-PF supporters in Gweru on Friday afternoon, that they had conducted all tests on possible “food” poisoning, but the results showed that Mnangagwa’s sickness was not because of anything he had ingested.

“There was no food poisoning. It is not food poisoning, no!” the 93-year-old Zimbabwean leader thundered, without ruling out the “poisoning” aspect.

Mugabe said allegations that Mnangagwa fell sick because he had eaten ice cream from Alpha and Omega Dairies – a company owned by the Mugabes – was disturbing.

Three weeks ago, Mnangagwa had to be airlifted to Gweru for immediate attention, before being flown to South Africa for further treatment, where doctors said they had detected traces of palladium poison, which had partly damaged part of his liver.


E. coli O91 in food and environmental samples

Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) strains of the O91:H21 serotype have caused severe infections, including hemolytic-uremic syndrome. Strains of the O91 serogroup have been isolated from food, animals, and the environment worldwide but are not well characterized. We used a microarray and other molecular assays to examine 49 serogroup O91 strains (environmental, food, and clinical strains) for their virulence potential and phylogenetic relationships.

Most of the isolates were identified to be strains of the O91:H21 and O91:H14 serotypes, with a few O91:H10 strains and one O91:H9 strain being identified. None of the strains had the eae gene, which codes for the intimin adherence protein, and many did not have some of the genetic markers that are common in other STEC strains. The genetic profiles of the strains within each serotype were similar but differed greatly between strains of different serotypes.

The genetic profiles of the O91:H21 strains that we tested were identical or nearly identical to those of the clinical O91:H21 strains that have caused severe diseases. Multilocus sequence typing and clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat analyses showed that the O91:H21 strains clustered within the STEC 1 clonal group but the other O91 serotype strains were phylogenetically diverse.

IMPORTANCE This study showed that food and environmental O91:H21 strains have similar genotypic profiles and Shiga toxin subtypes and are phylogenetically related to the O91:H21 strains that have caused hemolytic-uremic syndrome, suggesting that these strains may also have the potential to cause severe illness.

Shiga toxin-producing serogroup O91 Escherichia coli strains isolated from food and environmental samples


Applied and Environmental Microbiology

Feng et al.


Food Safety Talk 133: You had me at Murder She Wrote

Don and Ben talk Hurricane Harvey and food safety during power outages, British TV, podcast prepping, some food safety in the mainstream media American Greed.

The guys then talked about the science behind ice cream, frozen yogurt went went to cutting melons, selling eggs stored at room temperature and tomato jam.

Episode 131 can be found here and on iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

Handwashing is never enough, bureaucrats have no spine: E. coli O157 from animals at Ekka edition

The EKKA, Queensland’s agricultural showpiece, concluded last week in Brisbane, about the same time an uncomfortable memory was finally published in the peer-reviewed cyber-sphere.

In Aug. 2013, 56 people became sick with E. coli O157 after contact with animals, or hanging out in the animal facility at the EKKA.

No child, or family, should have to go through grief and anguish because they took the kids to a petting zoo at the local fair.

Being repeatedly told they failed because they didn’t wash their hands is condescending. And ignores the science.

Handwashing is never enough.

At the time, a Biosecurity Australia dude said, “This highlights the importance of people practising sound hygiene measures following all contact with animals, their body fluids and excretions.”

How many want bureaucrats talking about body secretions?

As Anderson and Weese found in 2011 at a temporary petting zoo in Guelph (that’s in Canada) using video observation, 58 per cent of visitors performed some form of hand hygiene (either using water, soap and water, or hand sanitizer), and two interventions (improved signage while offering hand sanitizer, and verbal hand hygiene reminders by venue staff) were associated with increased hand hygiene compliance. U.K. health officials currently recommend handwashing stations with soap and water only (no wipes or sanitizers).

And while some studies suggest inadequate handwashing facilities may have contributed to enteric disease outbreaks or washing hands was protective against illness, others suggest relevant infectious agents may be aerosolized and inhaled.

In the fall of 2009, an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at Godstone Petting Farm in the U.K resulted in 93 illnesses – primarily little kids.

The investigation into the Godstone outbreak identified evidence of environmental contamination outside the main barn, indicating acquisition of illness through both direct animal or fecal contact, and indirect environmental contact (e.g. contacting railings or soiled footwear).

Aerosolization of potential pathogens is also possible, as suggested in an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak at a county fair in Oregon, in which 60 people fell ill.

As part of the response to the Godstone outbreak, U.K. health types recommended handwashing stations with soap and water only (no wipes or sanitizers, because they don’t work that well under certain conditions).

Ihekweazu et al. subsequently concluded that in the Godstone outbreak, “handwashing conferred no demonstrable protective effect. …

“Moreover, from the findings of many previous published studies, it must be assumed that all petting or open farms are potentially high-risk environments for the acquisition of VTEC O157 infection (an STEC).”

This is what the Ekka folks had to say about the 2013 outbreak (which no one in Brisbane seems to know about).

The 2013 Ekka agricultural show displayed >10,000 animals and included sections where direct contact between visitors and animals could occur. The animal boulevard included a large animal nursery where visitors could pat and feed farm animals, including goats, lambs, calves, piglets, chicks, ducklings, donkeys, and turkeys. A milking demonstration took place in an area adjacent to the animal nursery and visitors were invited to milk a cow. Unpasteurized milk was not served. Visitors could also view the birth of lambs that took place in an enclosed booth. The birthed lambs were available for supervised petting after >24 h after veterinary clearance. Other animals displayed in the animal boulevard and other pavilions were less accessible to the public for direct contact. 

The number of visitors in the animal nursery was not restricted. Limited unsupervised handwashing facilities were available opposite the exit of the animal nursery. Hand sanitizers were available in other areas. Signs in animal contact areas encouraged visitors to wash their hands. Staff at the agricultural show regularly removed animal waste from animal contact areas. 

Stool samples from 56 of 57 case-patients showed identical virulence gene profiles, consisting of stx1, stx2, eaeA, and ehxA . The virulence gene profile of the remaining probable primary case-patient was only stx2 and ehxA. Twenty bovine, 4 ovine, and 2 caprine fecal samples were tested from animals traced to other properties after the show had ended. Serotype O157:H- was confirmed from 51 of the human cases, and also from ovine, caprine, and bovine feces, and the animal bedding sample. All O157:H- isolated from animal and environmental sources displayed the same MLVA profiles (6_8_2_9_4_7_8_2_3_8 and 11–7-13–4-5–6-4–9) (Technical Appendix Table 2), stx1a and stx2c subtypes, and sequence type ST11, and 2/51 of human isolates differed by 1 allele in 1 of the MLVA profiles. Although E. coli O157 has frequently been reported to belong to sequence type 11 (13), the MLVA profiles were novel to the Queensland collection of previously typed STEC isolates (n = 112). 

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at

Mild illness during outbreak of shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli O157 infections associated with agricultural show, Australia

Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 23, no 10, October 2017, Bhakti R. Vasant, Russell J. Stafford, Amy V. Jennison, Sonya M. Bennett, Robert J. Bell, Christine J. Doyle, Jeannette R. Young, Susan A. Vlack, Paul Titmus, Debra El Saadi, Kari A.J. Jarvinen, Patricia Coward, Janine Barrett, Megan Staples, Rikki M.A. Graham, Helen V. Smith, and Stephen B. Lambert

During a large outbreak of Shiga toxin−producing Escherichia coli illness associated with an agricultural show in Australia, we used whole-genome sequencing to detect an IS1203v insertion in the Shiga toxin 2c subunit A gene of Shiga toxin−producing E. coli. Our study showed that clinical illness was mild, and hemolytic uremic syndrome was not detected.

Erdozain G, Kukanich K, Chapman B, Powell D. 2012. Observation of public health risk behaviours, risk communication and hand hygiene at Kansas and Missouri petting zoos – 2010-2011. Zoonoses Public Health. 2012

Outbreaks of human illness have been linked to visiting settings with animal contact throughout developed countries. This paper details an observational study of hand hygiene tool availability and recommendations; frequency of risky behavior; and, handwashing attempts by visitors in Kansas (9) and Missouri (4), U.S., petting zoos. Handwashing signs and hand hygiene stations were available at the exit of animal-contact areas in 10/13 and 8/13 petting zoos respectively. Risky behaviors were observed being performed at all petting zoos by at least one visitor. Frequently observed behaviors were: children (10/13 petting zoos) and adults (9/13 petting zoos) touching hands to face within animal-contact areas; animals licking children’s and adults’ hands (7/13 and 4/13 petting zoos, respectively); and children and adults drinking within animal-contact areas (5/13 petting zoos each). Of 574 visitors observed for hand hygiene when exiting animal-contact areas, 37% (n=214) of individuals attempted some type of hand hygiene, with male adults, female adults, and children attempting at similar rates (32%, 40%, and 37% respectively). Visitors were 4.8x more likely to wash their hands when a staff member was present within or at the exit to the animal-contact area (136/231, 59%) than when no staff member was present (78/343, 23%; p<0.001, OR=4.863, 95% C.I.=3.380-6.998). Visitors at zoos with a fence as a partial barrier to human-animal contact were 2.3x more likely to wash their hands (188/460, 40.9%) than visitors allowed to enter the animals’ yard for contact (26/114, 22.8%; p<0.001, OR= 2.339, 95% CI= 1.454-3.763). Inconsistencies existed in tool availability, signage, and supervision of animal-contact. Risk communication was poor, with few petting zoos outlining risks associated with animal-contact, or providing recommendations for precautions to be taken to reduce these risks.

5-year old in coma with HUS

My son is 6-years old, stories like this are sickening. But hey, food safety is simple….

A 5-year-old girl is unconscious and two others are in hospital after a case of food poisoning from a batch of potato salad sold at a supermarket deli counter here.
The 5-year-old has been diagnosed with hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS) — acute kidney failure plus anemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells and a low platelet count.
A total of eight people aged 4 to 60 who ate the potato salad purchased at the “Delicious” deli counter in the Shokusaikan Marche supermarket branch here reported food poisoning symptoms including diarrhea. Tests found the O157 strain of E. coli bacteria in six of the patients.
The Saitama Prefectural Kumagaya Health Center has determined the potato salad as the cause of the outbreak, and suspended business at the “Delicious” deli for three days starting from Aug. 21 based on the Food Sanitation Act.
According to prefectural authorities, the potato salad was produced by a company outside Saitama Prefecture. The deli then added ham, apple and other extra ingredients and put it on sale starting Aug. 7.


Sprouts still suck: FDA sampling shows sprouts a problem

There’s a reason Walmart and Costco and Kroger stopped selling raw sprouts: they suck, meaning that, like raw milk, they cause a disproportionate percentage of illness based on low consumption rates.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration wrote in a recent report sprouts are especially vulnerable to pathogens given the warm, moist and nutrient-rich conditions needed to grow them. From 1996 to July 2016, there were 46 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness in the U.S. linked to sprouts. The U.S. outbreaks accounted for 2,474 illnesses, 187 hospitalizations, and three deaths (and, tragically, many more in Canada, Australia, Japan and Europe).

A table of sprout-related outbreaks is available at

From the executive summary:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set out to collect and test sprouts in 2014 as part of a new proactive and preventive approach to deploying its sampling resources with the ultimate goal of keeping contaminated food from reaching consumers.

The new approach, detailed in the Background section of this report (page 4), centers on the testing of a statistically determined number of samples of targeted foods over a relatively short period of time, 12 to18 months, to ensure a statistically valid amount of data is available for decision making. This approach helps the agency determine if there are common factors – such as origin, season, or variety – associated with pathogen findings.

The FDA issued the sprouts assignment in January 2014 under its new sampling model. The assignment targeted sprouts at three points in the production process (seeds, finished product and spent irrigation water), with the aim of collecting and testing 1,600 samples to determine the prevalence of select pathogens in the commodity. As background, the FDA designed its sampling plan such that if contamination of one percent or greater was present in the commodity, the agency would detect it. The FDA monitored the assignment closely to gather lessons learned and make changes to its sampling procedures if needed to address trends or food safety issues. About one year into the assignment, the FDA decided to stop its collection and testing at 825 samples because it had already collected samples on more than one occasion from many of the sprouting operations known to the agency and its state partners. The sample set acquired was sufficient for the FDA to estimate the bacterial prevalences in the commodity with a 95 percent confidence interval of 0% to 2% for a one percent contamination rate.

The FDA tested only domestically grown sprouts for this assignment because virtually all sprouts eaten in the United States are grown domestically due to the commodity’s delicate nature and relatively short shelf-life. Of note, the industry features a preponderance of relatively small operations.

The FDA tested the sprout samples for three pathogens: Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes and Escherichia coli (E. coli) O157:H7. Based on the test results, the FDA found the prevalence of Salmonella in the finished product sprouts to be 0.21 percent. The agency also found that the prevalence of Salmonella in seeds (2.35%) was significantly higher than in finished product (0.21%) and in spent irrigation water (0.54%). Based on the test results, the FDA found the prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes in the finished product to be 1.28 percent. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of Listeria monocytogenes based on point in the production process. None of the samples tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. The agency did not test seed for E. coli O157:H7 due to limitations associated with the test method.

Among the FDA’s other findings, the agency found most of the positive samples at a small number of sprouting operations. Specifically, the FDA found violative samples at eight (8.5%) of the 94 sprouting operations visited for purposes of this assignment. The fact that the agency found multiple positive samples at some of these operations underscores the need for sprouting operations to comply with the agency’s Produce Safety Regulation (published November 2015), which seeks to prevent outbreaks of foodborne illness and improve sprout safety.

To address the positive samples, the FDA worked with the firms that owned or released the affected product to conduct voluntary recalls or to have their consignees destroy it, and then followed up with inspections. Of particular note, this sampling assignment helped detect and stop an outbreak of listeriosis while it still entailed a small number of cases, as described in the Public Health Impact section of this report (page 14). This assignment also prompted six product recalls.

The FDA will continue to consider microbial contamination of sprouts and how best to reduce it. Such contamination remains a concern to the FDA given the aforementioned outbreak and the recalls initiated. Going forward, the FDA intends to inspect sprouting operations to ensure they are complying, as applicable, with the Produce Safety Rule, which includes new requirements for sprouts growers. The agency has no plans to conduct additional large-scale sampling of sprouts at this time but may sample the commodity in accordance with its longstanding approach to food sampling, which centers on (but is not limited to) the following criteria:

  • A firm has a previous history of unmitigated microbial contamination in the environment (e.g., human illness, recalled or seized product, previous inspectional history, or environmental pathogens without proper corrective actions by the facility), or
  • Inspectional observations that warrant collection of samples for microbiological analyses.

The complete report is available at

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.


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.


“They trust me; They don’t think I am going to poison them.”

Someone told me today that tomatoes are in. Lots of people are canning. This morning I had two friends ask me about the safety of recipes and how long they can keep the stuff they canned. During one of the conversations I got this admission ‘oh, yeah, so, I didn’t actually process the salsa, do you think that’s why I’m seeing discoloration?’

I dunno, maybe.

I stick with the evidence-based, data supported recipes that my friend Elizabeth Andress at University of Georgia’s National Center for Home Food Preservation evaluates. 

Canning isn’t really a fad, but revisiting generations old techniques of food preservation is a thing right now. And it can go wrong if not carried out with safety as a focus.

That’s why regulations and enforcement exist, including making canned goods in a safe environment and having some science behind the recipe and process. Just like what a farm stand owner in NY is encountering, according to the Watertown Daily Times.

Rhonda M. Fletcher has been selling produce from her two-acre garden and canned and baked goods from her kitchen for nearly 10 years in front of her house on County Route 28.

This week an agent from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets stopped by Fletcher’s Garden Goods and told Ms. Fletcher her canned goods and baked goods had to be removed from her shelves.

Word of the action caused a bit of a firestorm among Ms. Fletcher’s friends on Facebook. Many of the posts pointed out that most farm stands, including those run by the area’s Amish population, have been selling canned goods for years without consequence.

Representatives of the Agriculture Department in response to emailed questions said there is no crackdown on farm stands.

“During an investigation of Fletcher’s Garden Goods on August 8, 2017, a Food Safety Inspector with the Department of Agriculture and Markets seized several canned foods being sold at the farm stand,” the email stated. “If processed incorrectly, these products pose a serious risk of botulism. They were also being sold without the required documentation and license. The Department provided contact information to the owner of the farm stand to assist them in acquiring the appropriate license and documentation.”

Ms. Fletcher said she was aware that her kitchen was not certified, but that she had been selling canned and baked goods to her customers, many of whom are her friends, for years.

“I understand he is doing his job. That’s his job,” Ms. Fletcher said. “I’ve been doing this for over 10 years. My clientele trust me and look forward to my stand opening every year.”

“They trust me,” she said. “They don’t think I am going to poison them.”

Fletcher’s Garden Goods remains open for business, but has only fresh produce for sale.

Ms. Fletcher said she is considering getting her kitchen certified for jams but thinks the process for getting certified for canned goods is too involved.

Following grandma’s recipe from the 1930s might be okay, or maybe following it creates the right environment for bot toxin formation. I’m wary of the amateur canned goods (because everyone’s an expert). Knowing the hazards and how to reduce risk is  what I look for in a food vendor though – and having regulators around to check protects folks.