Surveys suck, publication before peer-review sucks, and why aren’t Canadian journalists more discerning?

There’s not many real journalists left, so PR flaks rule the ether.

It’s not surprising that repeat offender of PR-before-peer-review Sylvan Charlebois has climbed the org chart, moving from the University of Guelph to dean thingy at Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Management in Halifax, Nova Scotia (guess that’s like going from Guelph to be president of the University of Windsor).

The best and brightest get promoted up the chain.

The public relations machinery at Dalhousie University announced breathlessly on April 5, 2018 that Canadians are confused about food recalls.

And the National Post faithfully reprinted the PR.

“A new study from Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Management shows that many Canadians aren’t getting enough information about food recalls. In a recent survey, most respondents underestimated the number of food recalls that happened in 2017, and many had trouble correctly recollecting recalls that have occurred.”

The new study is just that – a study.

It has not been peer-reviewed, it has not been published, the kind of standards scientists are used too.

So, no discussion from me – other than PR-before-publication is a dangerous trap.

The best thing Halifax has going for it is underrated power-pop band, Sloan, who released new music a couple of weeks ago.

The role of meat in foodborne disease

Meat has featured prominently as a source of foodborne disease and a public health concern. For about the past 20 years the risk management paradigm has dominated international thinking about food safety. Control through the supply chain is supported by risk management concepts, as the public health risk at the point of consumption becomes the accepted outcome-based measure.

Foodborne pathogens can be detected at several points in the supply chain and determining the source of where these pathogens arise and how they behave throughout meat production and processing are important parts of risk-based approaches. Recent improvements in molecular and genetic based technologies and data analysis for investigating source attribution and pathogen behaviour have enabled greater insights into how foodborne outbreaks occur and where controls can be implemented. These new approaches will improve our understanding of the role of meat in foodborne disease and are expected to have a significant impact on our understanding in the next few years.

The role of meat in foodborne disease: Is there a coming revolution in risk assessment and management?

Meat Science

Narelle Fega, Ian Jenson

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meatsci.2018.04.018

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0309174018300731

A foodborne illness outbreak could cost a restaurant millions, study suggests

A single foodborne outbreak could cost a restaurant millions of dollars in lost revenue, fines, lawsuits, legal fees, insurance premium increases, inspection costs and staff retraining, a new study from researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests.

The findings, which will be published online on Apr. 16 in the journal Public Health Reports, are based on computer simulations that suggest a foodborne illness outbreak can have large, reverberating consequences regardless of the size of the restaurant and outbreak. According to the model, a fast food restaurant could incur anywhere from $4,000 for a single outbreak in which 5 people get sick (when there is no loss in revenue and no lawsuits, legal fees, or fines are incurred) to $1.9 million for a single outbreak in which 250 people get sick (when restaurants loose revenue and incur lawsuits, legal fees, and fines).

Americans eat out approximately five times per week, according to the National Restaurant Association. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die each year due to food-related illnesses, which are often referred to as food poisoning.

For the study, the researchers developed a computational simulation model to represent a single outbreak of a particular pathogen occurring at a restaurant. The model broke down results for four restaurant types: fast food, fast casual, casual and fine dining under various parameters (e.g., outbreak size, pathogen, and scenarios).

The model estimated costs of 15 foodborne pathogens that caused outbreaks in restaurants from 2010 – 2015 as reported by the CDC. Examples of the pathogens incorporated in the model were listeria, norovirus, hepatitis A, E. coli and salmonella. The model ran several different scenarios to determine the impact level ranging from smaller outbreaks that may incur few costs (i.e., no lawsuits and legal fees or fines) to larger outbreaks that incur a high amount of lawsuits and legal fees.

“Many restaurants may not realize how much even just a single foodborne illness outbreak can cost them and affect their bottom line,” says Bruce Y. Lee, MD, MBA, executive director of the Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) at the Bloomberg School. “Paying for and implementing proper infection control measures should be viewed as an investment to avoid these costs which can top a million dollars. Knowing these costs can help restaurants know how much to invest in such safety measures.”

The research team found that a single outbreak of listeria in fast food and casual style restaurants could cost upwards of $2.5 million in meals lost per illness, lawsuits, legal fees, fines and higher insurance premiums for a 250-person outbreak. When looking at the same circumstances for fine dining restaurants, $2.6 million in costs were incurred. The subsequent costs of outbreaks can be major setbacks for restaurants and are sometime irreversible. For example, Chi-Chi’s restaurant went bankrupt and closed their doors in the U.S. and Canada permanently due to a hepatitis A outbreak in 2003. In the past decade, several national restaurant chains have lost significant business due to food-illness outbreaks.

“Even a small outbreak involving five to 10 people can have large ramifications for a restaurant,” says Sarah M. Bartsch, research associate at the Global Obesity Prevention Center and lead author of the study. “Many prevention measures can be simple, like implement adequate food safety staff training for all restaurant employees and apply sufficient sick leave policies, and can potentially avoid substantial costs in the event of an outbreak.”

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.

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.

Obit: Des Sibraa

Widely admired former Chief Food Inspector for New South Wales, Australia, (NSW), Des Sibraa, sadly passed away on Saturday, 7th April 2018.

Des was a truly special soul, with an infectious humour and passionate about the important things in life –  his family, animal welfare and of course, food safety. Des was an avid advocate for food safety, constantly seeking to improve the integrity and expected standards of the food service industry in NSW. In later years, he also became very passionate and vocal about animal welfare.

His legacy lives on through his family. Des was a loving husband to Helen, father of Tatiana, Veronica and Paul, and doting grandfather to Mick, Natalia and Ivan.

Taxes, folks and WKRP

Like any good American, I spent the early hours of the Australian morning to finalize and submit my 2017 U.S. taxes.

Wasn’t too hard, I don’t get paid, but we have to declare any foreign income to avoid future troubles with the IRS.

The Canadian one is next and then will be starting on the Australian one, where the tax year runs from July 1 rather than Jan. 1.

Filing in the U.S. is joint for me and my partner, but separate in the other countries.

I get confused.

And when I get confused, I watch TV (was WKRP in Cincinnati a great TV show or the greatest?).

Or go to the supermarket.

When I started in the food safety stuff, my friend Gord told me, pay attention to the farmers.

Those that produce the food.

I agreed, did that for years, then expanded further to customers, the people that actually buy food.

Yesterday I went to my supermarket-lab after a few hours in the city.

Half of the meat section was cleared out.

I asked if they had a power outage, but the young dude said, nah, it’s all monitored at HQ, the temp went down so we had to pull the stock to the back cooler.

OK, cool, way to be responsive, until a manager walked by, tapped the worked on his shoulder, meaning get back to work or stop talking to the food safety dude, or both.

At the checkout, I overheard a number of staff had called in sick.

That prompted me to ask, are you told to stay at home when you’re sick, and they both said yes, until the one said the other was sick, and at work.

They said it’s a great policy but lousy in action.

I learn so much just goofing around.

Sainsbury’s recalls beetroot over glass fears

But, but mom, I don’t like beets.

A catch-phrase from my youth and I have no idea why, other than pickled beets were a staple of 1970s funky glassware along with pickled cucumbers and pickled onions.

Dinner at my parent’s house has its traditions.

I had some chicken pate and beets on crackers the other evening as an homage to my Danish carpenter friends, who would eat endless amounts of the stuff on rye bread.

I was chatting with a friend the other day, and we were remarking on the quality control from the ladies watching the beets in the past, to sophisticated glass and metal detectors in the present.

One of my better on-farm food safety tips for processing vegetables in Ontario about 2002 was, if you’re gonna shoot groundhogs, pick up the damn shell so it doesn’t end up in someone’s meal.

Sainsbury’s is recalling a batch of its Sliced Beetroot sold in jars as a “precautionary measure” because the product may contain small pieces of glass.

The presence of glass made the product unsafe to eat and presented a safety risk, according to the recall notice issued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

In its recall notice, the FSA advised consumers to return the product to the store from where it was bought for a full refund.

Sainsbury’s said it had identified the possible presence of small pieces of glass in one batch of its Sliced Beetroot product.

35 in 11 states sick with E. coli from Romaine lettuce grown in Arizona

It’s time to end the leafy greens cone of silence.

Top view of romaine lettuce that has been sliced on a wood cutting board.

This time it has made people unnecessarily sick.

I wouldn’t touch their product.

But how would I know?

On Sept. 14, 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that an outbreak of E. coli O157: H7 had killed a 77-year-old woman and sickened 49 others. The FDA learned from the Centers for Disease Control and Wisconsin health officials that the outbreak may have been linked to the consumption of produce and identified bagged fresh spinach as a possible cause.

Eventually, four would die and at least 200 sickened.

One of the responses was to form the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) which apparently overseas most of the leafy greens production in the U.S.

They are known primarily for self-aggrandizing press releases.

And lots of rumors about how they inhibit epidemiological investigations into outbreaks of foodborne illness linked to their products (search ‘cone of silence’ on barfblog.com for plenty of examples)

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, since the last update on April 10, 2018, 18 more people from 9 states were added to this outbreak.

How many of those could have been prevented if CDC or State health types fingered chopped Romaine lettuce when rumors started circulating? Is the goal of LGMA really to forego epi and demand absolute proof before going public?

As of April 12, 2018, 35 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O157:H7 have been reported from 11 states. Illnesses started on dates ranging from March 22, 2018 to March 31, 2018. Ill people range in age from 12 to 84 years, with a median age of 29. Sixty-nine percent of ill people are female. Twenty-two ill people have been hospitalized, including three people who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome, a type of kidney failure. No deaths have been reported.

Illnesses that occurred after March 27, 2018, might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill with E. coli and when the illness is reported. This takes an average of two to three weeks.

Epidemiologic evidence collected to date indicates that chopped romaine lettuce is the likely source of this outbreak. Twenty-six (93%) of 28 people interviewed reported consuming romaine lettuce in the week before their illness started. This percentage is significantly higher than results from a survey[787 KB] of healthy people in which 46% reported eating romaine lettuce in the week before they were interviewed. Most people reported eating a salad at a restaurant, and romaine lettuce was the only common ingredient identified among the salads eaten. The restaurants reported using bagged, chopped romaine lettuce to make salads. At this time, ill people are not reporting whole heads or hearts of romaine.

Traceback investigations are ongoing to determine the source of chopped romaine lettuce supplied to restaurant locations where ill people ate. At this time, no common grower, supplier, distributor, or brand has been identified. However, preliminary information indicates that the chopped romaine lettuce was from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.

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.

Advice to Restaurants and Retailers:

  • Restaurants and retailers should not serve or sell any chopped romaine lettuce, including salads and salad mixes containing chopped romaine lettuce, from the Yuma, Arizona growing region.
  • Restaurants and retailers should ask their suppliers about the source of their chopped romaine lettuce.

That’s right, consumers, it’s up to you.

It should be up to the restaurant or retailer, who markets food safety at point-of-purchase.

And LGMA, which covers Yuma growing, should be forthcoming about risks, rather than blowing themselves in nonsensical tweets.

My super-smart partner and I meet: Prion disease in Algerian camels

Amy says I shouldn’t cut-and-paste so much and that I’m better when I just write my own stuff.

Howard Stern’s wife said that to him, at least according to the movie version in Private Parts, 1997, but I counter with I only cut-and-paste the really interesting stuff.

Algeria, French and prions, we’re in a zone.

Everyone else is recall.net, where the copy is provided by 100K-a-year hacks who write and vomit press releases.

Journalism used to be a viable activity.

No worries, story-telling about the Tom-Wolfe-styled-vanities of the food safety privileged retain currency. And those stories are what I have been working on,

I’ll go with a Paul Giamatti,-style, who I am enjoying in Billions and was great in John Adams, Cinderella Man, American Splendor, and so on.

Everyone needs a Paul.

Or an Amy.

Her accomplishments over the seven years since we moved to Australia, including caretaking me and Sorenne, have been extraordinary.

Much love.

Prion disease in Dromedary camels, Algeria

6 June 2018

Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol 24, no 6

Baaissa Babelhadj, Michele Angelo Di Bari, Laura Pirisinu, Barbara Chiappini, Semir Bechir Suheil Gaouar, Geraldina Riccardi, Stefano Marcon, Umberto Agrimi, Romolo Nonno, and Gabriele Vaccari

https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/24/6/17-2007_article

Prions cause fatal and transmissible neurodegenerative diseases, including Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans, scrapie in small ruminants, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

After the BSE epidemic, and the associated human infections, began in 1996 in the United Kingdom, general concerns have been raised about animal prions.

We detected a prion disease in dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius) in Algeria. Symptoms suggesting prion disease occurred in 3.1% of dromedaries brought for slaughter to Ouargla abattoir in 2015–2016. We confirmed diagnosis by detecting pathognomonic neurodegeneration and disease-specific prion protein (PrPSc) in brain tissues from 3 symptomatic animals.

Prion detection in lymphoid tissues is suggestive of the infectious nature of the disease. PrPSc biochemical characterization showed differences with BSE and scrapie.

Our identification of this prion disease in a geographically widespread livestock species requires urgent enforcement of surveillance and assessment of the potential risks to human and animal health.