E. coli O157 is always tragic, but probably not because of the last thing you ate

McDonald’s is a big, semi-popular fast-food chain in the way Semi-Tough (the movie) depicted American professional football as big and semi-popular.

When Shiga-toxin producing E.coli were discovered in 1977 (named verotoxigenic E. coli) and then the first outbreaks were linked to human illness in 1982 at McDonald’s in White City, Ore., and Traverse City, Mich., McDonald’s completely revamped its beef sourcing and cooking procedures.

Over the past three decades, I’ve heard everyone blame McDonald’s for everything, especially on food safety, and especially what used to be known as hamburger disease.

South Korean lawyers are apparently catching up to where North Americans were 25 years ago, but perpetuate semi-stereotypes.

According to The Korea Herald, a mother on Wednesday filed a complaint against McDonalds Korea, claiming her daughter was diagnosed with the “hamburger disease” after eating a burger with an undercooked patty in one of its outlets.

“The 4-year-old victim had no health problems, but caught hemolytic uremic syndrome after eating a McDonald’s hamburger,” lawyer Hwang Da-yeon said at a press conference held in front of the Seoul District Prosecutors Office, before submitting the complaint. 

HUS is serious shit.

McDonald’s has known about it for a long time.

The complaint claims McDonald’s violated local food safety rules by serving contaminated meat that was not fully cooked.

The plaintiff also made a tearful plea, asking state prosecutors to investigate and hold McDonald’s Korea responsible for her daughter, who has suffered irreversible damage to her kidneys and must undergo eight to 10 hours of peritoneal dialysis on a daily basis.

According to the mother, the child ate a hamburger at a McDonald’s outlet in Gyeonggi Province in September and fell ill about three hours afterwards.

HUS is always tragic, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

She was brought to an intensive care unit three days later, where she was diagnosed with HUS, a food-borne disease that can cause acute kidney failure. The child was discharged from the hospital two months later, but had lost 90 percent of her kidney function.

The McDonald’s outlet denied any link between its product and the child’s illness, saying the meat is machined-cooked, eliminating human error.

I’m not sure who’s right, but Shiga-toxin producing E. coli – the kind that lead to HUS – take 2-4 days to develop – not 3 hours.

As Kate Murphy of The New York Times explained last week, when you’re fine one minute and barfing the next – what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls an acute gastrointestinal event — happens to all of us at least once a year. The bouts, while extremely unpleasant, usually don’t occasion a trip to the doctor or require any medication.

But such events tend to make us spin our gears trying to pinpoint what made us so miserably sick. While it’s hard to know for sure, there are clues that might help you determine the source and reduce your risk in the future.

“People tend to blame the last thing they ate, but it’s probably the thing before the last thing they ate,” said Dr. Deborah Fisher, a gastroenterologist and associate professor at Duke University School of Medicine.

It takes the stomach around four to six hours to empty a full meal, and then the small intestine takes about six to eight hours to squeeze out all the nutrients and empty into the colon. The remains linger there for another one to three days, fermenting and being formed into what ultimately is flushed down the toilet. So-called bowel transit time varies significantly from person to person, but gastroenterologists said you can easily find out what’s normal for you by eating corn and watching for when the indigestible kernels appear in your stool.

Gross, perhaps, but with that baseline, the next time you get sick, you’ll be better able to estimate when you might have eaten the offending meal. For example, if you throw up something and don’t have diarrhea or roiling further down, it could be that what made you ill was something you ate within the last four to six hours. If you wake up in the middle of the night with cramps and diarrhea, it’s more likely something you consumed a good 18 to 48 hours earlier, depending on the results of your corn test.

We stopped at a McDonald’s on the way home from the Glass Mountains yesterday. Quality was semi-OK, but safety was there.

(No McDonald’s money was involved in this blog post; there was no money at all; I just like to write).

Where’s the fun in that? BPI settles with ABC in pink slime defamation case

There’s no settlement details; both sides claim victory; lawyers get rich – pink slime and media are both disappointing.

4 T

BPI said: “We are extraordinarily pleased to have reached a settlement of our lawsuit against ABC and Jim Avila. While this has not been an easy road to travel, it was necessary to begin rectifying the harm we suffered as a result of what we believed to be biased and baseless reporting in 2012. Through this process, we have again established what we all know to be true about Lean Finely Textured Beef: it is beef, and is safe, wholesome, and nutritious. This agreement provides us with a strong foundation on which to grow the business, while allowing us to remain focused on achieving the vision of the Roth and BPI family.”  

ABC said, “ABC has reached an amicable resolution of its dispute with the makers of ‘lean finely textured beef.’ Throughout this case, we have maintained that our reports accurately presented the facts and views of knowledgeable people about this product. Although we have concluded that continued litigation of this case is not in the Company’s interests, we remain committed to the vigorous pursuit of truth and the consumer’s right to know about the products they purchase.”

This after three weeks of jury trial and testimony in a courtroom in South Dakota.

What can be learned?

Not much that isn’t already known.

People want to know about their food. Where it was grown, how, what’s been added and if it’s safe.

The N.Y. Times, as usual, gets that little bit right in a commentary in 2012, but wrongly thinks right-to-know is something new, that media amplification is something new because of shiny new toys, and offers no practical suggestions on what to do.

The term pink slime was coined in 2002 in an internal e-mail by a scientist at the Agriculture Department who felt it was not really ground beef. The term was first publicly reported in The Times in late 2009.

In April 2011, celebtard chef Jamie Oliver helped create a more publicly available pink slime yuck factor and by the end of 2011, McDonald’s and others had stopped using pink slime.

On March 7, 2012, ABC News recycled these bits, along with some interviews with two of the original USDA opponents of the process (primarily because it was a form of fraud, and not really just beef).

Industry and others responded the next day, and although the story had been around for several years, the response drove the pink slime story to gather media momentum – a story with legs.

BPI said pink slime was meat so consumers didn’t need to be informed, and everything was a gross misunderstanding. BPI blamed media and vowed to educate public. Others said “it’s pink so it’s meat” and that the language of pink slime was derogatory and needed to be changed. USDA said it was safe for schools but quickly decided that schools would be able to choose whatever beef they wanted, pushing decision-making in the absence of data or labels to the local PTA. An on-line petition was launched.

Sensing the media taint, additional retailers rushed to proclaim themselves free of the pink stuff.

BPI took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, the favored reading choice for pink slime aficionados, and four mid-west governors banded together to repeat the same erroneous messages during a media-show-and-tell at a BPI plant. Because political endorsements rarely work, and the story had spread to the key demographic of burger eaters, others sensed opportunity in the trashing of BPI. Wendy’s, Whole Foods, Costco, A&P, Publix and others launched their own media campaigns proclaiming they’ve never used the stuff and never would.

Guess they didn’t get their dude-it’s-beef T-shirts.

These well-intentioned messages only made things worse for the beef producers and processors they were intended to protect.

Here’s what can be learned for the next pink slime. And there will be lots more.

Lessons of pink slime

  • don’t fudge facts (not really 100% beef?)
  • facts are never enough, although facts are the underpinnings of journalism, ABC
  • changing the language is bad strategy (been tried with rBST, genetically engineered foods, doesn’t work)
  • telling people they need to be educated is arrogant, invalidates and trivializes people’s thoughts
  • don’t blame media for lousy communications
  • any farm, processor, retailer or restaurant can be held accountable for food production – and increasingly so with smartphones, facebook and new toys
  • real or just an accusation, consumers will rightly react based on the information available
  • amplification of messages through media is nothing new, especially if those messages support a pre-existing world-view
  • food is political but should be informed by data
  • data should be public
  • paucity of data about pink slime that is publicly available make statements like it’s safe, or it’s gross, difficult to quantify
  • relying on government validation builds suspicion rather than trust; if BPI has the safety data, make it public
  • what does right-to-know really mean? Do you want to say no?
  • if so, have public policy on how information is made public and why
  • choice is a fundamental value
  • what’s the best way to enable choice, for those who don’t want to eat pink slime or for those who care more about whether a food will make their kids barf?
  • proactive more than reactive; both are required, but any food provider should proudly proclaim – brag – about everything they do to enhance food safety.
  • perceived food safety is routinely marketed at retail; instead market real food safety so consumers actually have a choice and hold producers and processors – conventional, organic or otherwise – to a standard of honesty.
  • if restaurant inspection results can be displayed on a placard via a QR code read by smartphones when someone goes out for a meal, why not at the grocery store or school lunch?
  • link to web sites detailing how the food was produced, processed and safely handled, or whatever becomes the next theatrical production – or be held hostage

AI and dairy

Why did I write the other day about an artificial intelligence dude who I knew 25 years ago, and whose primary application at the time was ensuring elevators in skyscrapers were efficiently dispersed to floors that needed them – oh, and vision?

Because he made the N.Y Times with an hyperbaric headline about making Toronto a high-tech hotbed (he didn’t write the headline) and because his AI basics are making their way into food safety.

Caroline Diana of Inquisitr writes IBM and Cornell University, which primarily focuses on dairy research, will make use of artificial intelligence (AI) to make dairy safe(r) for consumption.

By sequencing and analyzing the DNA and RNA of food microbiomes, researchers plan to create new tools that can help monitor raw milk to detect anomalies that represent food safety hazards and possible fraud.

While many food producers already have rigorous processes in place to ensure food safety hazards are managed appropriately, this pioneering application of genomics will be designed to enable a deeper understanding and characterization of microorganisms on a much larger scale than has previously been possible.

Only a PR thingy could have written this paragraph: “This work could eventually be extended to the larger context of the food supply chain — from farm to fork — and, using artificial intelligence and machine learning, may lead to new insights into how microorganisms interact within a particular environment. A carefully designed informatics infrastructure developed in the IBM Accelerated Discovery Lab, a data and analytics hub for IBM researchers and their clients and partners, will help the team parse and aggregate terabytes of genomic data.”

Better than a poorly designed informatics infrastructure.

7 sick: Outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to raw frozen breaded chicken thingies in Canada, again

The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with lotsa other bureau-types to investigate an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections in four provinces with cases of human illness linked to frozen raw breaded chicken products.

PHAC feels compelled to tell Canadians the risk is low and illnesses can be avoided if safe food handling, preparation and cooking practices are followed when preparing these types of food products. This outbreak is a reminder that frozen raw breaded chicken products contain raw poultry and should be handled and prepared no differently from other raw poultry products.

It’s the just-cook-it stance, which doesn’t account for cross-contamination, and utterly fails to account for the BS marketing that companies use to market this shit (see video below, when we had no idea how to shoot video).

Currently, there are seven cases of Salmonella illness in four provinces: British Columbia (1), Alberta (4), Ontario (1) and New Brunswick (1). Two people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between April and May of this year. The majority of cases (71%) are male. The average age of cases is 26 years.

It’s the end of June. How much time is needed to go public with an identifiable foodborne risk? And no company identified? A public health disgrace.

Direct video observation of adults and tweens cooking raw frozen chicken thingies (not the real title)

01.nov.09

British Food Journal, Vol 111, Issue 9, p 915-929

Sarah DeDonder, Casey J. Jacob, Brae V. Surgeoner, Benjamin Chapman, Randall Phebus, Douglas A. Powell

http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContentItem.do;jsessionid=6146E6AFABCC349C376B7E55A3866D4A?contentType=Article&contentId=1811820


Abstract:

Purpose – The purpose of the present study was to observe the preparation practices of both adult and young consumers using frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products, which were previously involved in outbreaks linked to consumer mishandling. The study also sought to observe behaviors of adolescents as home food preparers. Finally, the study aimed to compare food handler behaviors with those prescribed on product labels.


Design/methodology/approach – The study sought, through video observation and self-report surveys, to determine if differences exist between consumers’ intent and actual behavior.


Findings – A survey study of consumer reactions to safe food-handling labels on raw meat and poultry products suggested that instructions for safe handling found on labels had only limited influence on consumer practices. The labels studied by these researchers were found on the packaging of chicken products examined in the current study alongside step-by-step cooking instructions. Observational techniques, as mentioned above, provide a different perception of consumer behaviors.


Originality/value – This paper finds areas that have not been studied in previous observational research and is an excellent addition to existing literature.

Ideas, not geography or institutes, make for public advances

When you haven’t seen a prof dude for 25 years, and then he’s being featured in the N.Y. Times as “The man who helped turn Toronto into a high-tech hotbed,” it’s time for a reality check.

The webs we spin over time.

I was a lousy grad student.

Not the PhD one but the eventually aborted MS one.

I spent hours staring through a microscope – sometimes the electronic kind – at tomato cells artificially infected with a fungus called Verticillium.

I spent months trying to extract and sequence DNA from this slimy fungus.

After 2.5 years, I quit.

I became newspaper dude – that’s right kids, in my day, newspapers existed, and we even started our own paper using a Mac SE and a program called PageMaker.

That was 1988.

It was all because of a girl.

Now, I’ve been to Kansas and Brisbane.

All because of another girl.

But after working for a year at a computer trade magazine in Toronto, I landed a job at the University of Waterloo in Jan. 1990, with an Ontario Centre of Excellence.

I had ideas to try out with my science, computing and journalism experience, and the powers that be said sure, play along.

Within a couple of years, I got tired of writing about other people’s science, and wanted to write about my own science, which led to be starting a PhD at the University of Guelph in the fall of 1992.

But there was this prof at the University of Toronto who I helped promote – specifically his artificial intelligence course, which I sat through a couple of times because it was fascinating – and at one point he said to me: all this targeted research money, and all these oversight committees with their expenses, just get rid of them all and give profs some basic funding and see what happens.

I sorta agreed.

I knew my job was BS, that could be exterminated when the next provincial government came around, and when chatting with Dr. Hinton, he made a lot of sense.

So I soon quit, went and got a PhD, and got to write about what I wanted.

And then Dr. Hinton shows up in the N.Y. Times.

Craig S Smith writes as an undergraduate at Cambridge University, Geoffrey Everest Hinton thought a lot about the brain. He wanted to better understand how it worked but was frustrated that no field of study — from physiology and psychology to physics and chemistry — offered real answers.

So he set about building his own computer models to mimic the brain’s process.

“People just thought I was crazy,” said Dr. Hinton, now 69, a Google fellow who is also a professor emeritus of computer science at the University of Toronto.

He wasn’t. He became one of the world’s foremost authorities on artificial intelligence, designing software that imitates how the brain is believed to work. At the same time, Dr. Hinton, who left academia in the United States in part as a personal protest against military funding of research, has helped make Canada a high-tech hotbed.

Dictate a text on your smartphone, search for a photo on Google or, in the not too distant future, ride in a self-driving car, and you will be using technology based partly on Dr. Hinton’s ideas.

His impact on artificial intelligence research has been so deep that some people in the field talk about the “six degrees of Geoffrey Hinton” the way college students once referred to Kevin Bacon’s uncanny connections to so many Hollywood movies.

Dr. Hinton’s students and associates are now leading lights of artificial intelligence research at Apple, Facebook, Google and Uber, and run artificial intelligence programs at the University of Montreal and OpenAI, a nonprofit research company.

“Geoff, at a time when A.I. was in the wilderness, toiled away at building the field and because of his personality, attracted people who then dispersed,” said Ilse Treurnicht, chief executive of Toronto’s MaRS Discovery District, an innovation center that will soon house the Vector Institute, Toronto’s new public-private artificial intelligence research institute, where Dr. Hinton will be chief scientific adviser.

Dr. Hinton also recently set up a Toronto branch of Google Brain, the company’s artificial intelligence research project. His tiny office there is not the grand space filled with gadgets and awards that one might expect for a man at the leading edge of the most transformative field of science today. There isn’t even a chair. Because of damaged vertebrae, he stands up to work and lies down to ride in a car, stretched out on the back seat.

“I sat down in 2005,” said Dr. Hinton, a tall man, with uncombed silvering hair and hooded eyes the color of the North Sea.

Dr. Hinton started out under a constellation of brilliant scientific stars. He was born in Britain and grew up in Bristol, where his father was a professor of entomology and an authority on beetles. He is the great-great-grandson of George Boole, the father of Boolean logic.

His middle name comes from another illustrious relative, George Everest, who surveyed India and made it possible to calculate the height of the world’s tallest mountain that now bears his name.

Dr. Hinton followed the family tradition by going to Cambridge in the late 1960s. But by the time he finished his undergraduate degree, he realized that no one had a clue how people think.

“I got fed up with academia and decided I would rather be a carpenter,” he recalled with evident delight, standing at a high table in Google’s white-on-white cafe here. He was 22 and lasted a year in the trade, although carpentry remains his hobby today.

When artificial intelligence coalesced into a field of study from the fog of information science after World War II, scientists first thought that they could simulate a brain by building neural networks assembled from vast arrays of switches, which would mimic synapses.

But the approach fell out of favor because computers were not powerful enough then to produce meaningful results. Artificial intelligence research turned instead to using logic to solve problems.

As he was having second thoughts about his carpentry skills, Dr. Hinton heard about an artificial intelligence program at the University of Edinburgh and moved there in 1972 to pursue a Ph.D. His adviser favored the logic-based approach, but Dr. Hinton focused on artificial neural networks, which he thought were a better model to simulate human thought.

His study didn’t make him very employable in Britain, though. So, Ph.D. in hand, he turned to the United States to work as a postdoctoral researcher in San Diego with a group of cognitive psychologists who were also interested in neural networks.

They were soon making significant headway.

They began working with a formula called the back propagation algorithm, originally described in a 1974 Harvard Ph.D. thesis by Paul J. Werbos. That algorithm allowed neural networks to learn over time and has since become the workhorse of deep learning, the term now used to describe artificial intelligence based on those networks.

Dr. Hinton moved in 1982 to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh as a professor, where his work with the algorithm and neural networks allowed computers to produce some “interesting internal representations,” as he put it.

Here’s an example of how the brain produces an internal representation. When you look at a cat — for some reason cats are a favorite subject of artificial intelligence research — light waves bouncing off it hit your retina, which converts the light into electrical impulses that travel along the optic nerve to the brain. Those impulses, of course, look nothing like a cat. The brain, however, reconstitutes those impulses into an internal representation of the cat, and if you close your eyes, you can see it in your mind.

By 2012, computers had become fast enough to allow him and his researchers to create those internal representations as well as reproduce speech patterns that are part of the translation applications we all use today.

He formed a company specializing in speech and photo recognition with two of his students at the University of Toronto. Google bought the business, so Dr. Hinton joined Google half time and continues to work there on creating artificial neural networks.

The deal made Dr. Hinton a wealthy man.

Now he is turning his attention to health care, thinking that artificial intelligence technology could be harnessed to scan lesions for cancer. The combination of the Vector Institute, a surrounding cluster of hospitals and government support, he added, makes Toronto “one of the best places in the world to do it.”

Toronto is not Silicon Valley north.

You got where you are because of your ideas, not geography.

 

Food Safety Talk 128: It’s the Esters, John

The show begins with a discussion of Ben’s recent travels. From there the discussion moves on to obligatory talk about beverages, Canadian and Philadelphia accents, Apple, and other podcasts. The food safety talk begins in earnest with the discussion about what is meant by the words ‘risk assessment’. From there the discussion turns to ‘food safety programs’, restaurant inspections and what customers might want to know, the humor of David Lloyd, and then back to meat safety and proper thermometer use. The show ends with The Onions humorous take on handwashing water temperature. The After Dark contains the usual nonsense including talk about music videos.

Episode 128 can be found here and on iTunes.

Show notes so you can follow along at home:

 

31 sickened by E. coli O55 in Dorset: 3 years later, health-types’ report remains a secret

In Dec. 2014, an outbreak of E. coli O55 was identified in Dorset, U.K. with at least 31 sickened. Public Health England (PHE) and local environmental health officials investigated and found nothing, other than cats were also being affected.

Tara Russell of Bournemouth Echo reports again this week that a review into the outbreak in Dorset was carried out, health chiefs have insisted – but the report is not available to the public.

Public Health England (PHE) says the public can only request to see the report detailing exactly what happened when 31 people contracted the O55 strain between July 2014 and November 2015 through a Freedom of Information request.

Families including some whose children have been left with lifelong health complications say they did not know the review existed and have branded it ‘disappointing and disgusting’ they have been kept in the dark.

The Daily Echo has lodged an official FOI request on behalf of the affected families and will receive a response in July.

Nurse Jessica Archer, who today suffers crippling head pains, fatigue and depression while her nephew Isaac Mortlock (right) endures severe seizures, must be peg fed every night and will need a kidney transplant as a result of the outbreak, said: “Without the Daily Echo we wouldn’t even know this report even existed and we are very interested to see it and we have the right to know. The families affected have so many unanswered questions and have to live with the effects of this outbreak forever but yet again we feel Public Health England are trying to sweep it under the carpet and hope that it will just go away.

“It is disappointing and disgusting this report has not already been made public let alone having to wait and wait still. We feel there have been a series of failures and this is the latest.”

The news comes after Jessica last month called for PHE to be held to account telling how her and her five-year-old nephew’s Isaac Mortlock’s lives have changed irreversibly, and accused the organisation of ‘a cover up.’

In response, PHE told the Daily Echo it carries out ‘routine outbreak reviews once investigations have ended’, adding it is ‘a learning organisation and reflects on outbreaks to identify lessons learnt and to continually improve our response.’

However at the time, the organisation refused to tell the Daily Echo exactly which lessons were learned.

It was only following a further request from this newspaper, PHE said a report was compiled however it has not been available to the public.

A spokesman said: “This report was not intended for external publication – it’s not standard procedure to publish outbreak reports externally due to patient confidentiality – however if interested parties would like to request a copy they can do this via our Freedom of Information portal.”

That’s bullshit.

Outbreak investigations are routinely published while ensuring patient confidentiality.

Families say it is the latest in a string of ‘failures’ by Public Health England.

A spokesman from PHE added: “As with all outbreaks, PHE Health Protection Team ensured throughout their investigation that those affected were kept informed of any information that was uncovered at that time.”

That’s also bullshit.

And why UK health types feature prominently in our paper on when to go public for the benefit of public health.

Three years seems a bit long.

Going public: Early disclosure of food risks for the benefit of public health

Mar.17

NEHA, Volume 79.7, Pages 8-14

Benjamin Chapman, Maria Sol Erdozaim, Douglas Powell

http://www.neha.org/node/58904

Often during an outbreak of foodborne illness, there are health officials who have data indicating that there is a risk prior to notifying the public. During the lag period between the first public health signal and some release of public information, there are decision makers who are weighing evidence with the impacts of going public.

Multiple agencies and analysts have lamented that there is not a common playbook or decision tree for how public health agencies determine what information to release and when. Regularly, health authorities suggest that how and when public information is released is evaluated on a case-by-case basis without sharing the steps and criteria used to make decisions.

Information provision on its own is not enough. Risk communication, to be effective and grounded in behavior theory, should provide control measure options for risk management decisions. There is no indication in the literature that consumers benefit from paternalistic protection decisions to guard against information overload. A review of the risk communication literature related to outbreaks, as well as case studies of actual incidents, are explored and a blueprint for health authorities to follow is provided.

Handwashing is never enough: Texas family says sons infected with E. coli at petting zoo

An Azle family wants to warn others after both their young boys were hospitalized with E. coli earlier this year.

“It’s awful. You can’t do anything but just sit there and watch your child hurt,” Emily Miller told WFAA.

Miller’s sons Brayden, 7, and Dylan, 5, were both diagnosed with an E. coli infection, and Dylan’s case impacted his kidneys. Miller said he required dialysis, and he was hospitalized for 27 days, including several nights in the ICU.

“It’s such a crazy thought that this could happen,” Miller said.

She was surprised by the intensity of the illness, but also by where her boys may have come into contact with E. coli. She said doctors believe they were likely contaminated while the family was visiting a petting zoo.

“I wasn’t aware that you could get it from animals and livestock,” Miller said.

She took the boys to the petting zoo back in January, and four days later her oldest was in the hospital.

Both brothers are now doing well, though Dylan is still on blood pressure medicine due to the illness, Miller said.

The Centers for Disease Control says petting zoos do pose risks, as livestock can carry E. coli bacteria. The CDC’s advice is to wash hands with soap and water immediately after being near animals, whether you touch them or not.

The CDC also says that soap and water is more effective than instant hand sanitizers, and if sanitizers are the only option, go ahead and use them but follow up with soap and water as soon as possible.

A table of petting zoo outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Petting-Zoo-Outbreaks-Table-4-8-14.xlsx.

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 Jul 30. doi: 10.1111/j.1863-2378.2012.01531.x. [Epub ahead of print]

Abstract below:

Observation of public health risk behaviors, risk communication and hand hygiene at Kansas and Missouri petting zoos – 2010-2011Outbreaks 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.

Best practices for planning events encouraging human-animal interactions

Zoonoses and Public Health 62:90-99, 2015

G. Erdozain , K. KuKanich , B. Chapman  and D. Powell

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/zph.12117/abstract?deniedAccess

Educational events encouraging human–animal interaction include the risk of zoonotic disease transmission. It is estimated that 14% of all disease in the US caused by Campylobacter spp., Cryptosporidium spp., Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) O157, non-O157 STECs, Listeria monocytogenes, nontyphoidal Salmonella enterica and Yersinia enterocolitica were attributable to animal contact. This article reviews best practices for organizing events where human–animal interactions are encouraged, with the objective of lowering the risk of zoonotic disease transmission.

petting1-791x1024

petting2-791x1024 

Blame Qatar? No, blame poor food handling as 825 sickened at Mosul camp

The first time I understood the term displaced person, was from my carpenter friend John Kierkegaard who, in the Danish tradition, had a beer at morning coffee, one at lunch, and one at afternoon coffee.

John would often tell me, it tastes good, but the work is not so good.

He told tales of bicycling 20-30 km/h with full infantry gear during WW II, and how he migrated to Canada at the end of the war as a displaced person.

On June 12, 2017, at sundown, hundreds of residents of one of the many tent camps that have sprawled across the barren landscape around Mosul gathered for iftar, the evening meal to break the day’s Ramadan fast. They were treated to a meal of chicken, rice, soup, beans and yogurt — paid for by a Qatari charity and prepared by a restaurant in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region.

Within hours, hundreds fell sick, vomiting and suffering from diarrhea. Overnight, until about 4 a.m., ambulances and cars rushed victims to hospitals, said Alaa Muhsin, an ambulance driver from Baghdad who works at the camp.

The period between when the food was cooked and then transported to the IDP camps resulted in the food poisoning of over 825 displaced persons from Mosul in southwestern Erbil.

 

“After we carried out an investigation of the case, we found out the cause of the food poisoning was due to the long period between preparing and consuming the food as it was packed in plastic containers and transferred to the camps,” Erbil Governor Nawzad Hadi said on Monday in a press conference.

“There were no deliberate intentions to poison IDPs by those who cooked the food,” he added.

“The food itself was okay, but the delay between the preparation of the meals and their distribution, along with the improper storing of the food, was the reason hundreds of IDPs became ill,” Hadi emphasized, stating the case had been sent to court.

The Governor previously mentioned the food was cooked at 9:00 a.m. then transferred to the camp at 1:00 p.m. The food was later distributed between 4:00 and 5:00 p.m.

Following the incident, seven people were arrested, six from the restaurant where the meals were prepared and one from a charity organization.

The restaurant was also closed, Erbil police previously informed.

Hadi noted the food should be prepared at the camps and that premade meals are forbidden.

He thanked the Peshmerga and security members for quickly transporting 638 IDPs to hospitals in Erbil to receive prompt medical treatment, while the remaining were treated at the camps.

The Erbil Health Department’s Director-General Saman Hussein Barzinjy told Kurdistan24 the group which delivered the donation did not take into consideration health hazards related to food preparation and distribution.

At the time, Barzinjy mentioned one of the camp’s inhabitants had died from food poisoning.

However, a statement released on Tuesday apologized for the misinformation, assuring no one had died, adding the condition of the child who was thought dead was “stable.”

The Kurdistan Region is home to almost two million IDPs and refugees who fled from the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Color sucks: Use a thermometer and stick it in for food safety

safefood Ireland has joined the UK Food Standards Agency in providing terrible advice about how to cook burgers.

A recipe for summer beef burgers (may a fine solstice greet our Northern and Southern friends) endorsed by safefood says:

“Before serving, ensure that the burgers are cooked thoroughly. Cut into them with a clean knife and check that they are piping hot all the way through, there is no pink meat remaining and that the juices run clear.”

Meanwhile, FSA issued a Safe Summer Food guide as UK picnickers head out in the sun (there’s sun in the UK?). The guidelines were in part based results of a self-reported survey, which is largely meaningless but something FSA likes to do.

The Morning Advertiser has more details on the hoops FSA seems willing to jump through to ensure the safety of rare burgers including:

  • sourcing the meat only from establishments which have specific controls in place to minimise the risk of contamination of meat intended to be eaten raw or lightly cooked;
  • ensuring that the supplier carries out appropriate testing of raw meat to check that their procedures for minimising contamination are working;
  • Strict temperature control to prevent growth of any bugs and appropriate preparation and cooking procedures;
  • notifying their local authority that burgers that aren’t thoroughly cooked are being served by the business; and,
  • providing advice to consumers, for example on menus, regarding the additional risk.

The advice from these self-proclaimed science-based agencies is at odds with, uh, science.

It has been known for over two decades that color is a lousy indicator of safety in hamburger.

The latest addition to this work comes from Djimsa et al. in the Dept. of Animal Science at Oklahoma State Univ., who wrote in the Journal of Food Science earlier this year that:

Premature browning is a condition wherein ground beef exhibits a well-done appearance before reaching the USDA recommended internal cooked meat temperature of 71.1 °C; however, the mechanism is unclear.

The objectives of this study were: (1) to determine the effects of packaging and temperature on metmyoglobin reducing activity (MRA) of cooked ground beef patties and (2) to assess the effects of temperature and pH on thermal stability of NADH-dependent reductase, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and oxymyoglobin (OxyMb) in-vitro.

Beef patties (lean: fat = 85:15) were packaged in high-oxygen modified atmosphere (HiOX-MAP) or vacuum (VP) and cooked to either 65 or 71 °C. Internal meat color and MRA of both raw and cooked patties were determined. Purified NADH-dependent reductase and LDH were used to determine the effects of pH and temperature on enzyme activity. MRA of cooked patties was temperature and packaging dependent (P < 0.05). Vacuum packaged patties cooked to 71 °C had greater (P < 0.05) MRA than HiOX-MAP counterparts.

Thermal stability of OxyMb, NADH-dependent reductase, and LDH were different and pH-dependent. LDH was able to generate NADH at 84 °C; whereas NADH-dependent reductase was least stable to heat.

The results suggest that patties have MRA at cooking temperatures, which can influence cooked meat color.

Effects of metmyoglobin reducing activity and thermal stability of NADH-dependent reductase and lactate dehydrogenase on premature browning in ground beef

Journal of Food Science, 2017 Feb, 82(2):304-313, doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.13606. Epub 2017 Jan 18.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28099768